Saturday, June 3, 2023


We charted a heading of 270 degrees and followed the sun due west from Seville to the heart of the Algarve. Diesel smells like freedom. Barraveigh, Elsie and now Encore; all my freedom machines drink it down. 

Climate Refugees

Normally it's the “whooshbang” of the van doors, and the engines starting that wake us up. Not here. This is a campground populated by retirees escaping the frost of their northern countries. They aren’t tourists in a hurry to go see attractions. They live here, and there are no spectacles here anyway. Nothing to see or do. It’s just a large converted farm on the outskirts of a tiny village. It’s a George Miller movie sans the violence. This is what the future might look like. It holds little appeal for me, but for the wizened little raisins of France who can’t get enough of their pagan sun worship it’s a gooey lil flytrap of wonderful. #VanLife has a few different subcultures. We move on.


My sailor friend John lives here. We met in Panama back in 2007. We were part of the Pacific crossing fleet that braved the Big Salty that year. We shared a few anchorages along the way. I beat him to Bali and when he arrived, I showed him around. We lived on that island together for a long time. Friendships forged in foreign lands have a special element to them. He’s carved out a nice little existence here surfing the Atlantic swells and sailing a Polynesian catamaran he built with his own hands. That’s a man.

This aqueduct was built in 1573. It's 3.4 km long. Obidos

I love the way this medieval city has a high and low road upon entering


I love a walled city. This one follows the typical timeline: Roman origins, then Visigoth vultures, occupied later by Moorish Muslims, and eventually retaken by the Catholic kings. That will be a repeating chronology in this part of the world. Memorize it.


It’s important to keep the Freedom Machine purring so we went to this town only to pay a Fiat dealership to change my timing belt. It was painless except for the expense and she’s been running great ever since.

I also doubled my amp hours by putting in 2 new batteries in parallel


This was a very pretty little village with the typical cobbled medieval streets and ancient fortified walls. We would never have stopped here if we hadn’t gone so far out of our way to get to the Fiat dealership. I’m glad we stopped. Aleja even met another Colombian from Medellin. She gets so happy when she meets a Paisa. 


It didn’t grab me. It happens. Sometimes a place just doesn’t deliver the shine. My Wednesday just wasn’t as good as your Tuesday. Here’s the only pic I took:


This place on the other hand…. We loved it! It’s a city split by a river. That always offers dramatic shots. Having two environs to explore makes one feel attached a little quicker. “I like the north side with those quaint steep alleyways.” “I like the south side with the riverfront restaurants”. The debate need not be contentious for both are splendid. We gallivanted all over until our exhaustion was complete. 

Can you read the placard? This house was built in the 8th century. That's the 700s!!! That's 1300 years old and it's 5 stories!!!!

This bridge is iconic and a large part of most pictures. This is the backside. You can see the 2 different elevations at which you can cross. The lower for those with vertigo.


Who doesn’t love a Knight’s Templar fortress! This is the one to see. A little history: 

Beneath the modern city are the Roman ruins, but we aren’t going back that far. In 1160 the Grand Master of The Templars laid the first stone for this enormous fortification and convent. The Templars are utterly fascinating. You know of them as the Christian warriors who waged war against the Muslims for the Holy Land in what was called The Crusades, but they are also arguably credited with being the first multinational corporation and an early form of banking. However, even with all their power, it didn’t end well. Betrayal and burnings at the stake for the leaders brought it all to an end in 1307. 

This is looking into the cathedral floor where the pews used to be


Jimmy Robinson and I flew into Lisbon in 1991. We took a cab from the airport to the crummy hostel in some horrible neighborhood, dropped our packs and went straight to the bar. Within minutes some old lady was rubbing Jimmy’s knee and making herself obvious. I felt the hand on my shoulder moments later. Even without a common language it was obvious what was happening. We were 23. “Let’s get out of here!” We ran away and stopped beneath a streetlight howling with laughter. A young girl approached with a big smile. Laughter is contagious. She wanted to know what was so funny. We pantomimed and butchered her language with our bad Spanish as we tried to pass it off as Portuguese. She understood and said, 

“Yes, that is old lady hooker bar. This whole area is hookers. I am hooker too. You want come with me?”

“Run Away! Run Away!”

I told that story months later to a South African girl on a beach in Greece and she said, “You didn’t do it? You’ll never be a writer.” 

Bijou on the left and Encore on the right
This visit to Lisbon was a lot more wholesome. We parked next to friends at the campground and spent a night and a day hanging out with Linda and Steven from Bijou fame. This is the lady who coached me on how to buy a vehicle in Europe. You might remember them from our visit to Edinburgh last year. 

I like Steven and Linda better than Lisbon. Lisbon couldn’t outshine their light. I’d go back for a 3rd try, but Lisbon just didn’t have the charm of Porto. 


My good friend Anders is a Swede that I’ve been pals with for 4 decades. His sister lives in the Algarve of Portugal. She was our last stop as we pushed south back to Spain to catch our ferry to Morocco. We had a wonderful boozy night laughing and eating and holding up the Swedish traditions to the light. That is one culture I just adore. It has nothing to do with Portugal and doesn’t really belong in this dispatch but I’m so enamored with those kindhearted Vikings I’ll never miss a chance to brag about them.

In Conclusion 

It was a rather quick spin around Portugal, only 20 nights. We really only met a couple of true Portuguese and they were old world wonderful. I’d like to come back, and I’d like to meet more. We are now in their ridiculous toll road system so why wouldn’t we? The prices are lower than the rest of Europe. The food is excellent. The people are correct. If they weren’t so isolated from the rest of Europe I could live there. Portugal! 

Your man on point,

Capt Bobby

1 comment:

Steven Dempsey said...

Nice disjpatch and such kind words, Bob. We also really enjoyed our visit with you and Aleja. May we meet again somewhere down the road. - Steven


When you drive around Europe, you begin to see a pattern: Hard scrabble peasants colonized by the civilized Romans. From England to Spain, F...