So this is the first time we’ve driven to Portugal since 2008 when I was pregnant with Wallace and moving back there for the third time!
13 months ago I decided to book Portugal for the whole summer. We spent the summer there in 2013 and I’m surprised it’s took us this long to do it again. I’m also surprised I’m actually sat here now in Portugal ready to tell you about my journey.
Booking the journey
So the accommodation is a 2 bedroom apartment on a great condominium that we’ve stayed at a few times before. It’s our friends rental company so if you’re ever after a place in Portugal (The Algarve – Southern Portugal) with a 1st class service then look them up. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the website then it’s always best to contact them as they can get other properties.
Packing the car
So this was fun! Not only was I saving a fortune by travelling by car, I also could take more stuff and bring more stuff home. I decided not to put our belongings in bags or cases. The only bag was our gym bag which was packed ready to take into the hotels on the way. I went to the shop and had bought toiletries etc and I had a first aid kit. By not using bags, I fit tonnes in! I actually did it over a few days and folded everything perfectly into piles, the others thought I was funny to watch! The stuff I bring home though from Portugal, you’d understand why I didn’t want to waste space! Also, because we were driving, for safety, we did not want anything on view in the car and wanted to be able to close the parcel shelf. Here is the AA Travel Abroad Checklist so you can make sure you know what you need for your car in each country. Don’t worry if you forget something, the ferry company give you a checklist as you’re waiting to board and you can buy things at their onboard duty free.
Planning The Journey
With planning the journey we had to work out how many hours drive time we had. We had decided to go from France this time rather than the mini cruise to Spain as we thought we could plan a great adventure. We thought 10-12 hours driving each day would be ok. We wanted to drive in daylight so this would be ok. I’m more nervous than I used to be (by like a million) so I thought for safety, day time driving was best. When I book hotels, 9 times out of 10, I use Hotels.com . There’s two reasons for this, a great easy to use website with plenty choice and I collect a free nights stay for every ten bookings I make.
For the ferry, we used DFDS Ferry Crossings and they are fantastic. The crossing was nearly £170 but I could have got it cheaper had I booked earlier. I also then paid some more on top and amended the return journey. I think I’m going to change it again whilst I’m here so it’s later still. The last two times we travelled with them they let us on the earlier ferries. On this trip we left at 2.30am for a 12.30 ferry. I knew we’d be early but rather early than late. When we arrived it was just after 9am and they let us straight through and straight on the next ferry, it was perfect.
So our first night I booked not too far away from Calais so we could relax a bit as we knew we had a lot of driving to do. It took about an hour and a half to reach it and it was an aparthotel. I wanted secure parking so I could relax fully and not worry about the car. The hotel was called Olivarius Apart’hotel and it was a fantastic 2 bed apartment in the hotel with great things inside. There wasn’t anything to do nearby but we were fine with that. The hotel sold food to prepare in the apartment, it was such a cool place with a really chilled vibe. The hotel cost £125 and I used £25 of my Tesco Clubcard points transferred into £75 with Hotels.com. So it only cost me £50 of my money!! Another perk! Also, remember my blog on how UK hotels don’t accommodate larger families!?
Why can’t we be more like the rest of Europe?
I was so excited to go to my next destination, the really holy and spiritual town in the Pyrenees mountains, just magical. I was gutted to have lost time to explore the place. When we finally made it to the hotel after driving around in circles because the town centre was cut off, we got checked in as quickly as possible so we could get out and explore! This hotel cost £107, plus 10 euros to park on the secure car park. Also, don’t forget, the adults are charged tax on the stays but its hardly anything. The hotel room was ACE! It was a duplex room and the views outside of the river ‘Gave’ were fantastic. I actually really want to go back and have more time to explore. The place had an amazing buzz about it. It was boiling and the streets were rammed. We found a great restaurant and got some tea around 10.30pm. All nice and chilled, we made our way back to the lovely Hotel Alba where we had some drinks in the classy hotel bar before going to the room to chill and prepare for a lot more driving.
So, up and out early today, we were leaving France to pass through Spain and hopefully arrive in Portugal in the early evening. This drive had been planned as 12 hours driving but ended up taking 15 hours. Because of yesterdays events, we decided to avoid the toll roads again. The morning was lovely and as we were in the mountains we got some slight rain in a lovely mist. I have driven through the Pyrenees many times but it was a long time ago. If you go to my Instagram Tutsilife you will find lots more photos and videos added daily of my amazing trip. Cows, donkeys and dogs by the roadside in the most jaw dropping views. Apart from Tia complaining of car sickness the whole way (quite comical), it was fantastic.
It wasn’t long before we hit Spain and not long before you could tell the difference. The terrain quickly started to change to a more orange desert like backdrop as we followed signs for Madrid.
Finally we passed through Seville and the border was nearly in sight. Please note, the A22 toll road in Portugal is not like other tolls and is very awkward. If you’re not quick enough to notice a pull off then you’ll be wondering how you pay this electronic toll. I was told to go to the post office but when I went they said I could not pay a UK car registration there and I was given a website. When I put my details in, it did not find my car and this was 5 days after travel. I tried again the next day and it finally came up. Not what you want to be worrying about when you arrive for your holiday. So if you ever come over to Portugal in a none Portuguese car, here is the website Pay Portuguese Toll Road.
That’s it, we’d crossed the border! With only around 30 minutes to travel from the border, we could finally feel the full excitement that we were here for summer! I’m home!!! Welcomed at the apartment by our good friends John and Jackie, nothing beats seeing the faces of people who’ll always be classed as amazing friends, no matter how far away they are and no matter how long you don’t get to see them!
I’ll be posting lots more of my Portuguese adventure, but for now, “Ciao”!