Tuesday 24th June 2008
Valenca – Ponte de Lima – Arcos de Valdevez
„… a big, extensive fort by the sea. Kevin and me are inside, the fort is in fact a jail and we are prisoners. On the battlement, way atop the ramparts, hundreds of skeletons are riding bicycles, all around, again and again. It looks like it is a bike competition, but they never stop riding. Outside on the sea are many sailing boats and on each of them is a soldier with a gun shooting at the skeletons on the bikes.
Inside the ramparts there is a big swimming pool. The floor of the swimming pool is made out of millions of precious stones in many different colours. Teams of 3 persons are created for a swimming competition. Kevin and me are in a team, with an older Dutch, bald guy. The team which wins regains its freedom, and may then leave the fort after diving to the bottom of the swimming pool and getting as many stones as possible to be able to survive outside. There are laws for swimming and the ones who do not follow the laws are shot at once in the water. The competition starts. Our team partner makes a mistake and is shot. It is my turn then. I say to Kevin, crying, that I can´t do that because I haven´t understood the laws. He says that we have no choice, this is our only possibility to win back our freedom. He forces me to jump into the water. I start swimming. Suddenly I see a tunnel opening in the floor of the swimming pool, between the precious stones. I dive down and disappear inside the tunnel…“
This morning we rapidly left Valenca, and when I say rapidly I mean that we were already on the road by 11am! A big exception for us, as we like to take our time in the morning, starting the day tenderly and quietly, hugging, kissing, discussing, laughing, making plans, drinking a lot of big cups of coffee with milk, writing…
This time, scared by the normal roads, we took the toll highway… quite an expensive pleasure here in Portugal, I must say! And I thought highway tolls were so expensive in Spain… really everything connected to driving seems to be badly done here in Portugal. I wonder why it is so, where we generally find that everything else is so well-done and generous. Is it perhaps because they are sailors in their blood and souls?
We arrived in Ponte de Lima by midday and were happy to find a very lovely town by the Rio Lima, in fact the most ancient town of Portugal, with a gigantic almost empty parking area by the river. The perfect place for us. But then we saw that it was forbidden to caravans and motorhomes! How small-minded, really! Strange, the mentality of upsetting motorhomes away is much more common here in the northern half of Portugal. One should not wonder that we hardly met any, for about 10 days… awful roads and parking restrictions, everywhere… but well, we are tough and we are still here! Just because it is such a beautiful and interesting part of Portugal!
Upset, we parked on the main road just in front of a police car, using 2 parking, places and then went for a lovely bike ride along the river. I thought we would get some hassle, but, as we returned, the motorhome was still there (this is the good thing with the motorhomes, the police can´t remove them so easily with their bloody beloved cranes…). We decided to ignore the other sign posts and went and parked by the river. Nothing happened there either, although the parking became fuller and fuller. The reason being that it was the town festivities today, again, and an immense quantity of cars and people and fair attractions invaded the parking. We wanted to spend the night here, I wanted to make many sketches, but after some hours listening to the accordion music coming out of the loudspeakers all around the town, Kevin lost his mind. He decided to put his own rock music on at maximum volume in the motorhome to overpower the accordion, but this time I got quite angry and applied my veto!
So we had to leave the town, after some new shopping, wonderful lemon body butter and purple framboise hydrating lotion… we both love all that stuff, and the more coloured they are and the better they smell, the more we love them! We had already bought some in Lisbon „vanilla creme brulee“ and „chocolate toffee“ body butter, extraordinary stuff, which we are trying to find again everywhere, without success until now…
We tried to find a nice new place for the night but every little town or village we crossed had its own festival. We finally arrive here, in Arcos de Valdevez. That seemed a quiet, lovely place, with its own river and a complex of medieval bridges, and above all without loud accordion music in the air. We found a great parking area near to the river, ignored the signs and put the motorhome at a place reserved for buses, enjoyed watching at the children and teens playing in the water, jumping from road bridges into the water, crossing the river with their bicycles, etc… we both had a lot of happy reminiscences of our own childhood, when we did with great pleasure all the dangerous and forbidden things (unfortunately not together! I would have loved to have been a child with Kevin, I guess we would have set the whole world on fire!). About 8 in the evening everything calmed down, the children went back home, the parking became totally empty and later on we enjoyed a wonderful dinner by candlelight, discussing again our love for Portugal and the Portuguese and all the wonderful things we see here. We deeply enjoyed the peace which was emanating from the whole area around us.
Later on, as we started looking at our evening film (another Hercule Poirot) we noticed that there was some new movement around us. We could not seen what it was as most of the curtains were drawn and Kevin came again with the repressed Catholics theory. But it became gradually more, and finally we noticed that there were even people, adults and children, looking at Poirot with us, through the windscreen behind our backs! Hard to maintain the repressed Catholics theory, really!
We decided to have a look what was really going on and saw that the whole parking was totally full again, and more than that, cars were parking even on the lawns. Entire families were there in the night, parents discussing, children playing football (with a preference for throwing the balls against the motorhome), teens laughing and flirting around.
„What the hell is going on here!“
swore Kevin. I must admit that I was quite amazed and upset myself. We
wanted to see the end of Poirot, well, the big movements outside had started in the most crucial moments of the intrigue, and we needed to know who was the murderer. We decided to ignore the world outside, and had just switched the TV back on as an explosive sound invaded the motorhome, then another, and another.
„Oh God, this is really worse than the accordion!“
I said to Kevin. He was very pale.
„And now we have the Nazis bombarding us!“
was his commentary. Well, a fresh glance outside made us understand that we were parked just in front of a big fireworks display. The entire town was gathered around our motorhome, on the banks of the river, on the medieval bridges, on the little islands and watched at a grandiose firewworks…
„We have done it again!“
I said and started laughing. I could not stop laughing for a long time, and the more upset Kevin looked, the more I had to laugh. It was so hilarious, after all the efforts we’ve been making for days, even weeks, to avoid the crowd and their festivities!