The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

Days 6 to 8 Down to the Iberian Peninsula (Gijon to Chaves)

Gijon to Chaves

We had a leisurely breakfast, Special K, Linda with a banana and I with my orange, we drank our lemon tea, packed the camper and headed off into the sunshine (or so we hoped) our next port of call would be in Portugal and in the border town of Chavis. I picked this one as it is smack bang in the middle of two National Parks. The route took us over some quite high mountain passes, the peaks still had a good deal of snow on them.

We took it at a leisurely pace (100km/hr) stopping for lunch at a filling station, we sat in the camper on the lorry park and ate cold pork cutlet, rabbit and duck pâté , cheese and crisp breads, very relaxed and the height of sophistication.


We then headed down the A52 and then the A24 to cross the border after Verin on the Spanish side, at Feces de Abaixo, we were immediately informed that to proceed on the motorway would incur Tolls, but luckily enough the Sat Nav took us along the N2 and into Chaves. The Sat Nav had been unable to find the exact address, but the site was marked so we found it with no problem. We were welcomed by the site keeper, who told us find a pitch and I will come and find you and switch on your electricity, this we did close to the reception and the ablutions, we are by now becoming quite adept at getting the best pitches.

We levelled up the van, connected up the electricity and headed off to assess the ablutions. Next was to peruse the restaurant not that we were aiming to eat but I was gasping for a pint. It is a very nice site set in mature woodland, the pitches being set on various levels rising up to the restaurant. Once inside Linda ordered a coffee and I a beer, this was followed by another coffee and of course another beer. We asked to look at the menu as we were aiming to eat there this evening. The menu was comprehensive and the wine list very adequate. I was looking forward to my first real Portuguese meal in 15 years.

Returning to the camper we went across to the reception to ask about busses for the next day, we got a bit of information and maps, so that was us set up for the next day. It was now time for a siesta, well why not, when in Rome!

A short snooze does one the world of good, so at 18:30 it was time to get dressed for dinner, long jeans, long armed fleece and anti-mosquito slap it on. We headed up to the restaurant and found a few other campers already eating or waiting to be served. The waiter recognising us from that afternoon brought us the menu. We ordered, but first came to cover, olives and bread, we had ordered (or at least the waiter had selected it for us) a very nice crisp dry Vino Verde.

Then came a very nice green leaf salad. I had ordered a starter to share, Bacalhau croquettes, beautifully cooked, crispy on the outside and creamy and soft inside, not a semblance of saltiness.

Linda had ordered Espetadao Camarao (Prawn skewers)  with chips.

I had ordered rabbit and floury boiled potatoes, this plain cooked meal was very nice indeed. Linda then had a chocolate dessert and I finished off the wine.

Then back down to the camper to the accompaniment of the call of the crickets and bed.

Day 2, up early as we were going for the 09:30 bus into town (about 5 km), it was a leaden sky as we walked to the bus stop we arrived in loads of time so spent this admiring the BBQs and lime baking ovens being manufactured and sold across the road, rather too large to get in the campervan. The bus arrived, and we got into town getting off of course way too early, but it was a nice walk into the old town. We followed the signs to the Tourist Information Office (TIO), sheltered under a restaurants external covering, to the right of us was a large fortification (a castle keep) that looked interesting, but not in the rain. We found the TIO and got some information, it was also a museum of Chaves past, very good with some interesting artefacts.
The Tourist office and San Franciscos keep
Leaving the TIO we walked across the town square, to a small café. The square was framed by two large churches and the town hall and some real Portuguese houses, balconies, shutters and all.
The Townhall with King Afonso complete with sword
Church of A Misericórdia

The mother church -Santa Maria Maior
Some of the many balconies in the town square

The café only had 4 tables and a couple of seats at the counter, in the vitrine were sweetmeats, of course Pastel de Nata, but also savouries, so ordering a pastel for Linda and I, a minced meat pasty (Pasteis de Chaves, a local speciality), after we had finished them Linda said she fancied another, so she had a one (you just can’t hold this Lass back) and I reluctantly  had a ham and cheese turnover, very tasty indeed. We left and went across the road to the Church of the Holy Mary, we opened the door, but inside there was a service in progress, so as silently as is possible with groaning ancient church doors we decided to return later.

The Roman Bridge the crosses the river Tâmega

Chaves is a very old town, founded in 78 AD, by the roman emperor Flavius Vespasian, calling it because of its thermal springs Aquae Flaviae.  By crossing the bridge you come to this fine Barock Church.
Igreja Sâo Joao de Deus
Much of it, despite a lot of money being invested in it from the EU, is in a sad state of repair and many of the houses and apartments are for sale. The blight of rural towns all over Europe, no work for the young and an aging population, we did notice a lot of funeral parlours in the town, but I suppose, that even these would die out (excuse the pun). 
Heathens to the left, Pilgrims to the right
 We picked up on a couple of scallop shell signs, the pilgrims route once again, two routes of St. James meet in Chaves before heading Northwest to Santiago de Compostela,  one coming from the South via Lamego, Régua, and Vila Real, the other from the east , called the Silver Way of St James. This runs from Salamanca in Spain crossing the river Douro (a famous wine growing area in the hills) and then on towards Santiago de Mogadouro and joining the southern way in Chaves. The pilgrims were protected along the way by various orders of the Knights Templars (Macedo, Vilarandelo), there were at one time 5 Pilgrim Hostels in Chaves, but these have long fallen into disuse and decay).
A tray of fresh baked Chaves Pasties
Chaves has some nice local food, besides the fine agricultural products such as the wonderful white, floury potatoes, turnip greens, cabbages and Pulses, there is a large selection of the local peasant foods, such as Bandullo, a stomach filled with meat (Haggis), carne ao caldeiro ( a meat stew) and polvo á feira (traditional boiled octopus stew). The surrounding hills are full of game, rabbit, hare, partridge and boar. I had tried a rabbit dish the previous evening. The area of Chaves and Verin are famous for their Empanadas with a variety of fillings both sweet and savoury, such as the meat one I had tried that morning, but also with fish, conger, cod, mullet, scallops, sardines or squid.

The fresh fish arrives each day, not as you would expect from Portugal, but along what was the old smugglers route from the fishing ports in Galicia’s in Spain. The town of Verin is famous for its pastry chefs and their range of products (the pastel de natas, caferterios petisús, and linguas) and the wonderful breads of the area.

We wandered the streets, returning to the massive defence tower which was built first in 1346 by King Dinis, the part that is still standing today is part of the fortress of Sao Francisco   between 1658 and 1662, but if you are going, you don't have to wear a flower in your hair.

With its turrets, defensive casement walls and cannon, it is an impressive structure with its commanding position over the river and approach roads.
There was a little Black Redstart was hopping from the walls and alighting on the remnants of stonemasonry.

We then went back to the Town Square and the church, the square was full of folks in all their finery, I popped back into the café to inquire for the reason of all these goings on and was informed that this was the Christening day, the children in Portugal do not get Christened until they are of school age, this was that special day.
The Bapstmal Thong (think wearing one is compulsory)

We then went to the ancient Roman Bridge that crosses the Rio Tamega, took some photographs and as the romans had built it for a purpose, we crossed it.

At the other side were some very nice public gardens, we had a good looky-looky and then leaving via another gate, Linda got a little confused and asked where we were heading, (orientation is not one of her better skills). We headed out to a Leclerc supermarket to revictual for the next couple of days.
A row of well pruned Plain Trees, just starting to leaf.

Prior to doing our shop, we decided on a spot of lunch, Linda had a plateful of Bacalhau and I some grilled octopus, fried potatoes and salad. Linda a bottle of water and I, my first Sagres  beer. Total cost €10,-.

We next done our shop, we took much longer than normal, as you wander the aisles and wonder at the different types of charcutier, hams, smoked pigs ears, snouts, tails and sausages. They of course butcher their meat differently and we watch the female butcher, cutting up a sucking pig to the older lady customers wishes, fascinating. We had no such wishes just a pair of Esplanade (pork skewers) and Merguez (spicy paprika sausages) for our Sunday BBQ. We bought a bag of Mexiloao (mussels) and Ameijoa (cockles) we bought a rubber mat to put outside of the camper door (we don’t have our large grass covering down and tend then to carry grass and sand into the interior)   and the kind lady at the service desk ordered us a Taxi to take us back to our campsite.  

Returning to our Camper, we got things ready to the evening, while I emptied the chemical toilet (one of the less thankful tasks in a campervan) Linda had been up to the reception to enquire about were there was a possibility of seeing the Eurovision Song Contest (a fixation of hers). She was a little crest fallen when she returned, there was nowhere that was showing the caterwauling contest. A short time later the site supervisor came by and said that they would try and fix up a TV in the covered eating area but unfortunately it would be in Spanish, Linda said that she didn’t mind what language it was transmitted in and I thought, yes caterwauling is the same in any language.

We prepared our evening meal Linda was having Linguini Vongole and I was having mussels in a garlic/onion/ tomato sauce. We drank a very nice glass (I two) of cider (Spanish Sidra).  We then took the dishes up to be washed on the way passing the site supervisor, who said that everything was being set up for her, what a service your own personal caterwauling show, you don’t get that every day of the year.

I gave her a couple of euro’s so that she could buy herself an ice-cream or a bag of popcorn and off she went with a hop and a skip, happy as Larry or as we would say in Geordie Land “a pig in shite” to watch the International Caterwauling Competition.

I settled down to drink another glass of Sidra, get up-to date with my blog and find out how to get onto the Portuguese motorway system without breaking the law and getting fined.

Chaves Sunday 13th May

We had decided today was to be a lazy day, and so about 09:00 there was much hooting, I looked out the door and low and behold, the bakers van had arrived, so I thought that as Linda was having a shower, I would buy rolls for our breakfast. I also noticed that he had a loaf of bread that we had seen being baked on a screen on the ITO, so I thought we shall have a loaf of that.

Linda returned, made scrambled eggs with mushrooms and speck, what with the brown rolls and a pot of black coffee we were ready to take on the world. After breakfast I decided that as we were BBQing that afternoon I would make a ratatouille so I got out the pan and all of the ingredients, diced and had poured some oil into the pan, I didn’t put the top on the oil properly, there followed a chain reaction, I reached up to get the Herbs de Provence from the cupboard, a packet of finger wipes fell knocked over the  oil it fell and spilt onto the camper mat. Resulting in Linda taking it up to the wash house, me getting out the Vacuum cleaner, the hard brush, boiling some water and cleaning the floor, with the result we now have a scrupulously clean floor and rugs, some things are just meant to happen. We also have the ratatouille made for this afternoon.

We decided to have a walk through the small aviary above the campsite, they are turning this into a nature walk and planting trees both indigenous and from abroad.
The Peacock was strutting his stuff to the hens next door

A Lady Amherst Pheasant

These two were going hammer and tongs at each other
A herd of Iberian Goats

We stopped to wonder at a column of ants wandering from a food source back to their Ant nest.

It was spitting on with rain, but not enough to stop these pair of hardy wanderers, that was until a fence stopped us.

Linda decided to go back the way we had come, I ever the adventurer decided to follow the stream as I knew it would lead to the campsite. Well it did, but it was culverted under the fence, thus I had to climb a not inconsiderable bank (you know the kind, nettles, shale, loose rocks), but I did eventually make it arriving back at the campsite, Linda had of course been there long before me.
I done a bit of blogging and Linda snoozed, it was almost time for the BBQ to be lit, but still enough time to have a glass of cider and a slice of the Chaves speciality, Saffron bread stuffed with bacon, chorizo and lard, not too healthy, but ever so tasty.
In the end it was so miserable outside that I cooked our BBQ on the gas stove, so we had our pork skewers, merguez, the ratatouille, slices of that bread and all washed down with a nice Pink.

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