31st May to 7th June
The wedding still fresh in our minds from the night before we woke up in our car park and decided to have a day of rest. We wandered the sunny harbour and avoided the umbrella led tourists and slipped into the HUGE modern art gallery and mooched through over 200 years of art movements for a good few hours, much to Alex’s disappointment, he has only so much patience for such things. Next we set off on the road to Sintra for the afternoon.
When we arrived we cringed at the number of people milling around but, sucked it up, bit the bullet and dived in head first. There is no other way to describe Sintra other than ‘enchanted’. Fairytale castles, underground dripping grottos and deep dark wells abound.
As we walked around the castle the stone-works and decorations bring all of the famous Disney classics to mind. Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia, Snow White, they all dance around in my head as I look at tusked boars, hounds and stags all staring down from the cornices. The green coating of dripping moss adds to the atmosphere of this stunning place and every turn of the maze that is the gardens produces a gasp of astonishment that there is yet more beauty to behold. It is quite literally the prettiest place we have ever been!
After we were all fairytale’d out we drove on to Nazare and camped near the beach, we were worn out with all of our Disney exploring and stopped at a camp site with a free book swap!!!! (insert angels singing here!)
The following morning we wandered the blustery beach and watched the women gut and lay out fresh sardines / kippers to dry on racks in the sand. It was quite a sight…and as I’m sure you can imagine, a smell too!
Our next stop was in Luso, we had been so enthused by the fairytale castle in Sintra that we decided to visit another. We arrived at the gates and noted it was 7 euro’s to park and decided to walk instead. We parked Peggy in a lay-by and walked past the small kiosk and the lady taking the parking payments very happily waved us on.
We laughed at our cunning and started the walk to the castle…after 3 hairpin turns on the road n the midday heat we were questioning our value versus stupidity decision and wondered how much further it could possibly be! In answer, it was 2.5 km UPHILL to the damn castle, which was not even HALF as pretty as Sintra AND then we were so parched after our hike we had to buy a drink which cost 5 euros so we were not totally thrilled with our decision!
We mooched around moodily for a whole 15 minutes and set off back down the damn hill! As we stropped along we made a decision about our next adventure. Should we get going to Spain and our next stop or should we continue North and visit the Douro Valley…one of, if not THE oldest (protected) port wine growing region in the World…obviously we chose the wine and that afternoon set off in search of the famous Portuguese grape.
We spent a good day driving, mostly lost through tiny village streets trying to find the Douro river and therefore some Douro Valley wine to taste.
Grape vines grew like well tended weeds everywhere we looked yet not a grape in the form of wine was anywhere to be found!
Once we found the 108, the road winding along the famous river we followed several promising looking signs to vineyards to find them overgrown and abandoned. By all accounts the recession seemed to have hit the pretty wine growing towns and villages hard.
We finally found a house selling white wine and cherries and bought 5 bottles and 1.5 kg of the delicious little glowing red berries…and all for 12 Euros and decided to head hard and fast back to Salamanca in Spain after our failed wine adventure!
Of course by the time we arrived we were far too tired to wander the city streets. We crashed into a campsite and caught up on some sleep. The following day we did have a drive through the city with its beautiful churches and tiny cobbled streets. The history of the place is fascinating but it is just too much to take in with a tired brain!
We continued onto Madrid and had great intentions of heading to the worlds oldest restaurant, Botin which opened in 1725. We called to book a table and the earliest available was at 10.30. We accepted it and then looked at how to get there Peggyless…and realised it would be 2 changes on the bus and then 3 changes to get back around midnight…we are not great at late nights (we may turn into pumpkins) and decided to find something more local within walking distance and maybe a little less touristy. We looked on-line and found a small local restaurant and decided to walk. Only 2 km there we set off and had a great night. We ate great tapas of octopus and potatoes, jamon and cheese and the most heavenly garlic laden artichokes…and of course great wine!
The next day we fought hangovers as we completed our journey to Valencia to meet our next wedding team! We listened to Sherlock Holmes on audio books as we covered the 400 km and looked forward to finally meeting Alejandro and Susana for our 48th wedding!
We really enjoyed our drive across Spain, such beautiful scenery. Like paint splashed onto a rich green canvas, the yellow and purple flowers mingle in a carpet of summer dotted with regularly shaped gnarly old olive trees. We watched the nesting storks in their huge basket nests precariously balanced on telegraph poles and enjoyed the hazy blue skies as we covered the miles.
It was a different side of Spain to the one we had both seen regularly in the past. Being from England, Spain is very cheaply accessible and of course with good weather and decent beaches it is a Brit’s paradise come the school holidays!
This time we were enjoying the countryside rather than the beach and were about to embark on a very Spanish wedding adventure in very cultural Valencia.
As we arrived in the coastal Spanish city of Valencia we realised that we had a special anniversary to celebrate…not ones for celebrating the day we got together, the day(s) we got married or Valentines day, we felt that this day deserved a note. We had been on the road for 2 whole years!
We tried to think about all we had done in the last 730 days and found ourselves still pinching one another, still not believing this is really happening! We are doing it, we are living our dreams and have been doing for a looong time! We thought about how much we have changed as people, about our feelings about what is important in life and about all of the friends we had made on our journey. We considered our ‘marriage’, how happy we are together and how lucky we are to still make one another laugh every day and to both still get that tingly feeling in our tummies when we kiss.
We even tried to think of the next two years but that was pushing it! We have only made it this far because we don’t really think too far ahead…our heads may actually implode if we tried!
We continued our drive with big silly grins on our faces and every now and then coming up with something else that we just remembered about the last 2 years on the road.
“…that time we forgot to take towels to the shower in Canada, that time we got stuck down that hill in Mexico, the time we were invited to the shark-attack-iversary and made friends for life, the time we got blocked into camp by a giraffe”…remember the chapel of bones we visited just the other day! You can only imagine!
When we arrived in the small town near Torrente, we met with Alejandro who would be filming the wedding. We had been in touch with him for 18 months as he planned the wedding and were thrilled to finally meet him! We met at Josefina Huerta’s wedding dress boutique to choose and a dress and suit fitted for the wedding which was to be in a few days.
I tried on 2 stunning dresses and they were both perfect. One long flowing flamenco style dress with ruffled skirts and slinky bodice, the other rather 60’s in style, short in length and adorned with ruffled lace flowers. Fab high heels were added to the ensemble and I was ready to look the part.
Alex slipped into his snug silk pants, fitted shirt and waistcoat and looked VERY handsome, we were ready to rock this wedding!
We sat and drank coffee in a street cafe while the seamstresses worked their magic and made the dresses fit. They got the two dresses ready in record time and we stored them in Peggy while we wandered the beautiful city of Valencia getting to know Alejandro in person.
We met with Susana Barbera who would be taking the photographs, Alex was so excited as her work is just incredible and he had been questioning whether to ask her if she would shoot a wedding for us when she got in touch with us! We grabbed a beer and waited for the TV crew we were due to meet and did an hour filming with them and then sat in a street bar and shared a bottle of wine with Ale and Susana.
We chatted and got to know each other a little more and got excited, for the following day was wedding 48….the weddings are happening thick and fast!