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Saturday, 6 March 2010

If you see a faded sign by the side of the road

Portugal is not a huge country, but travelling through the Alentejo you might be forgiven for thinking it is vast; we drove between large wheat fields and pasture for cattle, passed rows and rows of olive trees, with sheep and lambs grazing below them and extensive forests of cork oak trees, we meandered along the shores of enormous reservoirs.

In the midst of this agricultural abundance, a sign, hand-painted in white gloss on a slab of rock, announced the Serro de Bica campsite; without this we would never have found this small Dutch-run oasis which provided us with the facilities we need for a night.

Occasionally, the vast green-ness of the Alentejo is punctuated by an isolated white town or village, often with stone ramparts and a castle. We stopped in Beja for a look around the castle and splendid squares and bumped in to Mike and Theresa, the Australians last seen in Ronda and at that time on their way to Morocco. We caught up with their thoughts on motorhoming in Morocco and continued on to Serpa, a little gem of a town.

The campsite in Serpa is a municipal site and they warned us there was a strike of municipal workers the next day; we could stay at the site, but the Blue Bus would not be able to leave, as the gates would remain locked. Fortunately, we could come and go as pedestrians and we strolled in to the fantastic walled town of Serpa. The castle, museums, swimming pool and municipal park were all closed, due to the strike, but there was still plenty to enjoy. The narrow cobbled streets of the old town are very picturesque; lined with white, single-storey buildings, ranging from total decay to gentrified cottages, all with large and decorative chimney pots, cats made their way from place to place over the red-tiled rooftops or were curled up on a sunny wall, pots of geraniums and lines of washing provided colour in the streets.

There were not many other tourists around, but at one of the town wall’s gates who should we meet up with again, but Mike and Theresa! We drank coffee and put the world to rights for a while, sending them on their way with our battered old camera, as theirs had broken and some DVDs we have watched. We expect to meet them again.

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