Richard and Catherine Thorley along with their children Lottie and Libby are an outgoing family of 4. Their intention was to travel as many European countries as possible in a year which they completed, however they have now decided to get back behind the wheel and continue their tour in their Adria motorhome.
With a series of countries already explored and thoroughly enjoyed, including Andorra, Croatia, Italy, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden they are now enjoying some beautiful winter sunshine in the Algarve.
With a series of ‘hidden gem’ coastlines boasting endless golden sands and crystal clear waters, it is easy to see why some people want to get away from the chilly winter and embrace some sunshine.
Take a look here at some extracts from the Thorley family winter sun travels and find out for yourself some of the exciting things they have encountered on their journey.
Heading for some winter sun in the Algarve
Heading for some winter sun on Portugal’s Algarve, we’ve left a a decidedly wet Seville after yet another wonderful visit! We headed off from our overnight stop at Puerto Gelves for Portugal and a chance to set about discovering a country we’ve only briefly visited before…. hoping to find other special places like Sintra, Lisbon & it’s Escape Room or the Ossification Chapel at Evora !! Read more here….
So perhaps this might just be one for ‘Adria Motorhomes‘ enthusiasts… but we arrived in Seville to see the Banks Family… who are touring Europe in you guessed it!! An Adria Silver Matrix… just like our trusty motorhome!! So we couldn’t resist grabbing this picture of our vans together outside a Mercadona supermarket in Seville.. stocking up with essentials before heading west and the lure of Turiscampo on the Portuguese Algarve.. (It’s been really interesting to take pictures from the supermarket shops from the 26 countries so far.. we can’t wait to write an article on what we’ve found on our European Food Journey! But that’ll have to wait till after this next leg across Portugal!!)
So it’s all set up for a perfect few days enjoying hearing about another fellow motorhomers adventures whilst grabbing a slice of Portuguese paradise on the Algarve… we’re hoping it gives both girls a chance to spend some time socialising with this lovely family.. but also offers a chance to gather our breaths before we complete the hectic 26 days dash back across Portugal, Northern Spain & France!!! So how better to start than with a brilliant family BBQ!!! Not forgetting the ‘fresh orange juice’ that all the kids had fun making!!! The sun’s set to shine tomorrow so let’s hope for another great day on the Algarve!
Discovering why the Algarve does the best beaches in Europe…
So does the Algarve have the best beaches in Europe? Having just written an article on our 5 favourite ‘hidden gems’ of coastlines, they say that Portugal has the best beach in the world, that’s if you believe the Huffington Post who recently wrote about it…and it’s easy to see why! Click here to read more
So whilst it’s easy to see why the Ponta da Piedade has all that anyone might need, spare a thought for Praia da Luz as you won’t regret an afternoon enjoying the crystal clear waters, endless golden sands or the stunning ochre red clips that overshadow this quaint Algarve seaside village.
But as any parents knows, the beach needs to fit the needs of the people using it… so both of the girls and their new friends (the Banks Family ) set about exploring this beautiful beach (near to Lagos)… jumping in and out of the sea, snorkelling and even finding time to grab a quick ice cream on the beach.
So whilst the lure Ponta da Piedade will have to wait until another day, the kids loved every moment of sprinting across the achingly beautiful sands towards the warm sea (for this time of year)… but the short, if hilly bike ride meant a quick withdrawal from the beach as the sun started to set on the stunning cliffs that overlook Praia da Luz…. so with the sun setting and casting beautiful shadows across the bay, we made our way back to Turiscampo and our site for the night.
The campsite had yet again proved a real hit with all the kids as they flew around the campsite on their bikes, ducking and weaving amounts the palm thronged roads that lie around the centre piece… a lagoon style pool (complete with well being centre) that sits astride a rock with waterfalls cascading from it… it really is a perfect place to grab some respite on a ‘Round Europe Roadtrip’
For those visiting the region, you’d do a lot worse than to grab some time here.. its quiet and peaceful and offers a great package that the long term residents seem to love… the girls loved chatting to some of them whilst squeezing fresh orange juice this morning… it seems a perfect place to park up and enjoy a few days rest ‘n ‘relaxation before we head north through Portugal!!
Love encouraging your kids to learn science? Visiting Portugal soon?
Mention needing to ‘Learn about Science’ and you might ordinarily think of places like the Science Museum in London, Deutsches Museum, Munich or even the CosmoCaixa in Barcelona… but as we reckon this will be one of the most important aspect of our road schooling curriculum, we take each and every chance to grab some interactive science exploration with our girls. Such as an afternoon at Lagos’s Science Centre (even sharing this with the Banks Family too)
Ever since the girls disappeared down the amazing mining expedition at the Deutsches Museum earlier this year, they’ve been hooked on Science… we’ve had great fun making video blogs about Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions, explored ‘Green Energy Sources‘ or ‘Salty Solutions‘! So imagine finding a place where science is fun with hands-on learning & interactive exhibitions available for people of all ages…. across 3 levels and including a Discovery Garden.
But then go one step further… a brilliantly interactive ‘yellow submarine’ to explore all aspects of man’s exploration into the depths of the ocean since Jacques-Yves Cousteau invented the ‘Diving Saucer’ in 1959… or learning to tie knots that would make a hearty sea-man beam with pride!!!
The varying levels across the Science Centre offered challenges for both the brain and your brawn…. try building your own working lighthouse (complete with mirror aligned solar power to light the main beam!) or an opportunity to rediscover the Archimedes Screw that we found on the Stubai Glacier in Austria…
Nothing beats the opportunity to share these learning experiences which we value so much… even if we did get a little wet on the wave refraction pool!
Perhaps a new element was introduced today, with both girls now accompanied by two fantastic ‘new friends’ who enjoyed sharing the learning experience with us… in fact they positively ran through the centre, so much so that we had to do two full circuits to ensure we covered everything from map projections to learning semaphore signalling or Morse code!
Sadly it was over too quickly, but it’s easy to find in Lagos town centre (near the historic centre) and offers amazing views across Lagos Harbour… so we’ll know where to find it when we come back again… perhaps we’ll give it more than 2hrs next time as it really is a brilliant place for children of Lottie & Libby’s age!
With dusk falling and the harbour graced with a stunning rainbow against the gathering storm clouds… we headed into Lagos to see what we could find… and you’d never guess it, but we ended up finding an Ale-Hop shop (the first we’ve seen since we visited Valencia a while back)… so a few euros poorer but with two smiling girls, we walked onwards (now with resplendent pink neon head scarves!!!) into the centre to try and find some of those tasty egg tart / pastries that Portugal is famous for – ‘Pastéis de Nata‘
Considering visiting Sagres or Silves? We know which one we preferred?
If you only had one week to explore Southern Portugal, you’d be hard pushed to fit it all in… There’s Faro and the magnificent Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. So perhaps a day of roman floor mosiacs, moorish oil lamps and the views of the Sé from the cathedral’s bell tower..followed by a cruise of the nature reserve on the lagoon?
Or you could consider heading out like we did towards the Sagres peninsula, a short drive on the N125 from Lagos. Visiting the imposing fort, stand over the pebble wind compass and be amazed at the isolated headland with it’s rocky crags and crashing waves.. Windblown doesnt do it justice! but I guess if you arrive on the 31st November you can’t expect to enjoy the summer warmth of the waters off the Martinhal beach..
Or perhaps you could head inland though, move away from the sandstone cliffs and spectacular sea caves and visit Silves to roam around the Moorish castle, one of the region’s most eye catching monuments… or even find time to enjoy the Museo Arqueolgico with it’s amazing 12th Century Arab well cistern… sadly we arrived late in the day and never really took to Silves… the lure of the Algarve coastline proved too much!!!
With so much to see and so little time, we’d happily have taken a visit to Tavira too… to enjoy the Moorish Castle with it’s own pousada (Convent of Nossa Senhora) where you can catch a glimpse of the original Moorish street foundations or the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his seven knights!! But as you can see from the pictures above… the Sagres peninsula proved a real hit.. with both girls clambering over the windswept promentary… It’s fortress built to allow Henry the Navigator to see beyond the Canaries & Cape Bojador!! It’s easy to see just why the Portuguese were such great explorers… from Vasco de Gama to Christopher Colombus … the remoteness and lure of lands across the sea must have been an amazing opportnity in years gone by…
That said, the biblical rain storm that battered us as we arrived was something else (just grab a quick look at the picture below to see the aftermath)… but given an hour, it was soon back to sun (if a little more windy)… but the chance to see lightning crashing down into the Atlantic Ocean was a truly breath taking sight as it danced across the sea towards the lighthouse (we wondered how light houses deal with this?
With Silves still yet to see, we headed back along the N125 before dipping into small winding roads to the coast and the sheltered beaches that line this part of the Algarve (if you’re in a motorhome, you might want to visit Salema but the free parking at our favourite cove at Boca du Rio might just tip the balance – )
But if you’re into true Algrave beaches, then head on a little further east towards Praia da Luz, Senhora da Rocha or perhaps our favourite beach at Ponta da Piedade (Dona Ana)!!! Either way, you’ll love this part of Portugal… full of history, natural beauty and some of the best beaches we’ve seen across Europe (in fact we’ll have to re-write our ‘Top 5 Family Friendly Coastlines across Europe’ article after this trip!)
Want to enjoy Portugal’s Algarve with your family: Try Life in our Van’s Beaches Guide
ng people that we are in LifeinourVan we decided to make a beach guide to help your family fully explore the Western Algarve’s best beaches. In fact we’ve been so impressed with Portugal’s Beaches… we might just have to rewrite our article ‘5 Family Friendly Coastlines from across Europe’
With a coastline that faces North Africa you’d expect the water to be as warm as places like Nice (a great place that we loved snorkelling earlier this year) yet the Atlantic Waves combine to make this a rugged coastline that has a something for everyone… Small secluded half moon beaches are flanked by imposing ochre red cliffs that hide many caves or grottos… yet every once in a while there are wide flat expanses of sandy beaches to enjoy too!
We decided to head towards Sagres and Lagos… as this section is known to be the prettiest of all the coastlines on the Algarve… if a little colder and rougher than the comparatively warmer South/East Algarve it does have tides to be wary of… yet the magnificent scenery makes it our favourite side of the Algarve..
The stunning series of sandy coves are only broken by the chance to find something special like the viewpoint at Ponta de Piedade… but there are almost too many to choose from! For motorhomers, you might love the ample parking on the beach at Boca de Rio whilst families with active children might prefer the watersports on offer at Praia da Rocha….
Either way you can’t go wrong with a visit to this scenic coastline (although I’d imagine it’s more packed in the height of summer!!)… but don’t forget alongside all the others above, some of these below beaches are also worthy of mention including:
- São Rafael (near Albufeira)
- Monte Gordo (near Vila Real de Santo Antonio)
- Carvoeiro (near Lagoa)
- Meia Praia (near Lagos)
- Ilha de Tavira (near Tavira)
From Nazare to Batalha….a glimpse into differing aspects of central Portugal
Thankfully, we’ve found a great campsite (ValeParaiso) here in Nazaré that is proving to be perfect for both girls! We’ve seen huge smiles on their faces yet again today as they’ve enjoyed the outdoor play parks, bike trails from the campsite and the padel tennis courts (after their recent efforts at La Marina in Spain) if only it was summer and we could enjoy all the things this place offers!!!
But as ever our itching feet were just waiting to see what else the region of Estremadura & Ribatejo has to offer.. so we headed out in the van!!
With time to spare and the winter sunshine on our faces, we headed out of the campsite to first explore Nazaré and then onto Batalha. Nazaré enjoys a truly breath-taking sweeping bay that seems to be endless at first glance…It still retains some of it’s old fishing village atmosphere with the folk of the village mending nets on the side of the beach but each steep cliff is lined with gleaming new villas that must have ‘views to die for’! The name Nazaré apparently bears links to Nazareth (very apt as we write this in the lead up to Christmas!) as a monk hauled a statue of the Virgin Mary to these very shores in the 4th century… But is perhaps best known now for it’s truly extraordinary waves.. with surfers being pulled out by jet ski… it reminded us of the San Sebastian surfers from earlier in our adventure
In fact this whole region has a similar feel to ‘Ile de Re‘ on the western coast of France… maybe it’s the crashing waves, the authentic seaside life that still seems to exist or maybe it was just those endless beaches…. so spare some time if you do visit.. there’s not just the North Beach of Nazaré! In fact there’s 65km of some of the best coastline/beaches you could imagine… running north from Nazare… these include Paredes de Vitoria – São Pedro de Moel – Samouco – Vieira – Pedrogão – Ervideira Lake and Osso da Baleia…
Heading North East, we enjoyed the drive to Batalha which also enjoys a well located aire but as the drive from Nazaré is less than an hour away… we’d opt again to stay in Nazaré at the ValeParaiso… the kids just love it when we can park up.. even if it’s for a short time, it just seems to keep everything on an even keel!
The UNESCO site is something to behold though… full of Gothic architecture to rival anything we’ve seen in places like Chartres yet it is also famous for its Manueline elements (much like the ones we’d seen in Tomar) It’s walls take many shades of colour from pale limestone to golden sandstone.. yet its master builder (Alfonso Domingues) certainly built something to last! Started in 1386 it took over 200 years to complete and perhaps you could still say it lies unfinished in the year 2016 due to it’s famous ‘Unfinished Chapels’… when funding was cut to finish Belem’s Jerónimos monastery
Gothic Arches line the courtyard allowing for some stunning views of the cathedral towers but also provide opportunities to see the various audio visual presentations (in small ante rooms).. perhaps the best was the exhibition on Space & Time which both girls particularly loved… yet the best part of the day was the chance to see the changing of the guards who watch over the tombs of the two unknown soldiers from Flanders… this historic monument to the sacrifices of the Portuguese people in both wars (but particularly WW1) took us back to time spent earlier this year at the Somme, Flanders Field and Juno Beach Centre… It was certainly a poignant and fitting end to the visit before we headed back to try and catch the sunset overlooking Nazaré.