Local Heart, Global Soul

October 8, 2014

The Activities Are Right On Target … Even If We Are Not.

Filed under: ENGLAND,PHOTOGRAPHY,South Coast,The New Forest — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Last summer on a holiday to England, Family Kiwidutch got their first taste of what it was like to stay at a large camping ground with all modern conveniences.

Ok… granted, if you were tent and needed a trip to the lavatory in the night it would mean a walk to the nearest amenity block but we had a camper that had it’s own toilet so I was saved any risk of stumbling around the camp-site in the dark.

Talking to a few friendly neighbours we also discovered that many of serious campers who make frequent use of camp grounds have their own port-a-loo lavatories for emergency night time use, so clearly I’m not alone in being reluctant to wander far in a sleepy state (even if I were more mobile).

The deep reservations I had about camping alongside so many other people turned out to me largely unfounded, noise was minimal later at night, many of our fellow campers also had younger kids who were going to be waking them up at the crack of dawn so any ideas of hard partying by parents into the wee hours was not really an option. Generally there was the odd burst of laughter from somewhere down the rows of family tents as adults from multiple families congregated around a bottle of wine (or box) and nibbles  and even that petered out as the clock edged towards midnight.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Considering that the long hours of daylight were keeping our kids up until ten at night, it was all relaxed and very friendly.

The relaxed atmosphere was also vastly aided by the sheer amount of activities available on site. T

hey were “extras’ in the price of the camp site so we didn’t let our kids go wild and choose every activity on the list, but they got to choose several each, and then we added one that we could do as a family.

The downside of the list of activities was that some activities were only on specific days, both our kids wanted to take a baking class but it was scheduled for later in the week  after our expected departure date so they had to settle for decorating some biscuits (cookies) instead.

The pool was available at specific times too, scheduled to fit in with things like aqua-aerobics for adults. Although our kids are getting older now they can still be kept happy for a while with a playground or a magic show or just making a few new friends and making up silly games. On one hand I sometimes get concerned that they aren’t very street-wise or old beyond their years, on the other I think that childhood is a fleeting time and if they want to stick to slightly more childish things for a little longer then why not? None of us should be forced to grow up too soon in this ultra fast paced world.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Both Kiwi Daughter and Little Mr made full use of as many of the pool slots as possible and both opted for a drawing /colouring in session and a tie-dying lesson too.

In both they were the only kids in the class so had the instructors full attention.

The instructors are university students earning some cash to get them through their next year of study, the young lady helping with the tie-dying lived locally in the New Forest and was really great with the kids.

Both kids still use their tie-dyed bags and are very proud of their handiwork.

We choose archery as the activity we wanted to do as a family, and whilst the participants were expected to walk to the archery site down a rough track some distance away, as an exception they arranged for the instructors to take a vehicle down there and to give me a lift because otherwise I won’t have been able to take part. Two groups take turns doing archery so I photograph the other group whilst we wait our turn. The kids were very much inspired by the instructor’s promise of twenty packets of sweets (beers for adults who preferred that) should anyone hit a perfect bullseye, but in spite of enthusiasm all four of us quickly demonstrated that the none of us had the William Tell gene and that the prize stood no chance of accompanying us home. None of the other people managed it either and apparently it had been some years since the prize has had to be paid out so we didn’t feel too disappointed.

Himself and the kids also had fun eavesdropping on a magic show intended for younger children: it was a classic cause of them feeling far too old to take part but secretly enjoying the jokes, magic and repartee, they took the pocket camera with them whilst I had a sleep back at the camper and judging by the detailed update I got later the show was good fun no matter how old the  audience was.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

One parent gets a hard hat and a plate spinning on her head…

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

(photograph © Kiwi Daughter)

October 6, 2014

Sandy Balls Is All “Mod Cons Camping” Compared To Anything I Know….

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family Kiwidutch have finally arrived in the New Forest and at our accommodation for the next few days.

It’s the Sandy Balls Camp ground and whilst Himself and I would usually be the kind of people who prefer hiking out into the wilderness far away from crowds, it’s not a scenario idea when I have limited mobility on crutches and we two kids who feel the need for better entertainment than constantly squabbling with one another.

It’s a world away from any camping experience I’ve ever seen before,  in New Zealand as a kids I was used to just a tent, or even on occasion no tent at all, just a thin camping mat and sleeping bag under the southern hemisphere stars , running water in an ice cold mountain stream and kilometres of open space without another soul around.

It’s a shock to find that “camping” here comes with a heated swimming pool on site, activities galore, even restaurants and snack bars on the premises. Not only that, but there are not just a few rows of campers or tents like back in Folkestone, there are entire “neighbourhoods” of campers, caravans, tents and even some more of the semi permanent caravans. Almost next door to us there is even another Dutch family who have a daughter fractionally older than Kiwi Daughter but is who hesitant to mix with other kids because unlike our bilingual brood, or he much older brothers,  she doesn’t (yet) speak much English.

She’s quick to join our two and they go off to explore, leaving Himself and I to evaluate the damage to the camper more fully. The paintwork has been completely scratched off in places and Himself reports there are dents on the roof too. We resign ourselves to that fact that what is done is done and that we shouldn’t let it overshadow the rest of our holiday. The music can wait until we get back to the Netherlands.

Once again we are too lazy and tired to cook and decide on a simple meal of fish and chips, but first Himself hauls his bike out of the large internal compartment of the camper and rides off around this large complex to round up the kids who have warned us they can be found at the large playground they spotted on the way in.

I’ve already spotted several German car number plates as well as a Belgium and French one, so places like these international gathering places it seems.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

June 24, 2014

Friesian Cow Cousins, Down On The Farm…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Last summer my brother-in-law, Himself and several of our friends organised a group camping long weekend during the summer holidays.

Whist my foot injury meant that it wasn’t possible for me to join them camping, they were located  close enough to home that Himself could drive home and pick me up for a short visit, and then drive me back home afterwards.

The camping spot is situated in an area known as Delftsland, a heavily industrialised agricultural area of mostly flower farms, dairy herds and thousands of glass houses.

The farm they are staying on is called “Hoeve Bouwlust” and  is also a working dairy farm and of course visiting the calves and being entertained by the milking of the cows was also one of it’s many attractions.

Most of the day the cows were away in the pasture and anyway the children were rather nervous of the cows, but the calves left behind in the stall were a completely different story, they had a small fan club all to themselves. Just in case any visitor should miss the calves, the shed was helpfully signposted with klompen (wooden clogs / wooden shoes) painted up in the most famous of Dutch cow colours: Friesian black and white.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

June 23, 2014

Finding A Little Camp-site In Between The Agricultural Industry Of South Holland…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We like to spend time outdoors and summer school holidays are an ideal time for our kids to get out of our apartment and experience nature at closer hand than several floors up.

Last summer Himself organised a camping  long weekend with several friends, one of my brothers-in-law and family and with a collection of tents they set out into the wilds of South Holland.  That’s a rather tongue in cheek comment on my part because South Holland is a very built up province and there aren’t too many wilds to be found at all.

Luckily about half and hours drive out of  The Hague some farms in the intensive glasshouse and agricultural area of Delftland have expanded their business to include small scale camping and various activities.

One of these,”Hoeve Bouwlust” is where the extended group were staying and having a ton of fun. My foot injury meant that I was unable to camp with the others and was staying home alone, which was ok for the first day or so but started to be a bit lonely after that. Himself phoned me regularly and invariably gushed with news about what a wonderful time everyone was having.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Suddenly the penny dropped that being told about it wasn’t nearly as exciting as being there so he hit upon a solution: the next morning he would come and pick me up and we could have a big communal picnic together, and later in the day he could bring me back home for the night. It was an excellent solution because the other adults in the group could look after our kids whilst Himself fetched me from home and by chance we managed to bring out another family for the day as well.

Later we found out that Hoeve Bouwlust also has two very small apartments for hire which would have been ideal for me had we known about them earlier.

The farm has a reasonably small camping ground at the rear, complete with toilet block and a whole range of activities to entertain children. Aside from a playground and other play facilities this is also a working farm so there are sheds with cows and home-made ice cream made from their own milk for sale. Once all of the families had gathered together their contributions, the table was soon groaning under the weight of the food and hungry children from friends and family needed no encouragement to get stuck into the fresh fruit, vegetables, sushi and cold meats. Even though the surrounding area is packed with agricultural industry, it’s a quiet space with plenty of space fo the kids to let off steam. A little gem and so close to the city… Who knew?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 17, 2014

Camping In The Ardennes… For The Active And The Lazy By The River…

Filed under: BELGIUM,La Roche-en-Ardenne,The vaguarities of Parenting — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The reason that we’ve come to La Roche-en-Ardenne in the first place stems from a friend’s invitation to join him and his daughter who are camping there.

They’ve got a large tent and the idea is that the kids will all sleep together in one part and our friend in the other, leaving Himself and I to the rented accommodation in the town close by.

In practice Kiwi Daughter had tummy troubles and ended up in the single bed in our room both nights and Little Mr. slept well in his sleeping bag in the tent.

The tent is literally metres away from the water: fortunately the Dutch have an amazing 96%   participation of the populations children  in national swimming certificate programmes and all of the kids  in the group are confident swimmers.

They are still not left unsupervised of course, but it severely lowers the risks if you already know they have an excellent grounding in water safety.  The water is particularly shallow at this point in the river, the kids can wade with ease and the inflatable dinghy is a huge hit as they paddle, splash and generally mess about on the water with the boat.

The adults get to sit just outside splashing distance on the bank and offer advice and encouragement to whoever is loosing the water battle at the time, the weather is excellently warm and even after a BBQ dinner the kids play until fading light (and parental persuasion) forces them to get ready for bed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

At least all this non-stop physical activity  ensures they sleep well.  Himself and I  give Little Mr. our kisses Goodnight and take Kiwi  Daughter back to our rooms. Her tummy problems are frequent, partly because she doesn’t drink enough water and gets blocked up and partly because despite being the oldest she often the kid who chickens out of  new situations that she’s unsure of.

In this case I think the night noises, the idea of there only being a thin tent wall between her and “the nature” and Himself and I not being there the whole night to reassure her are enough to make her prefer to be with us.

It’s also happened before (and since) when we had either a camper or a cabin plus a tent as a family: Kiwi Daughter’s bravado at  the idea of tenting lasts until nightfall and then suddenly  she’s inside with Mama, usually because “her tummy hurts”.

She’s getting braver and more mature on many levels but the “great outdoors” is still somewhere she finds a little daunting. Back on this weekend in 2012   we figure that forcing the issue isn’t going to make her feel any braver so,  just as well there is a back-up option. (Kid photos edited for internet privacy). In the end everyone sleeps brilliantly and the next day were were all up bright and early to enjoy yet another day of beautiful weather.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 3, 2011

Finding Accommodating Accommodation… a Pipo Wagon!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

What on earth is a “Pipo Wagen”? (Pipo Wagon).

Apparently, according to Himself, every Dutch citizen “of a certain age”  knows instantly what a “Pipo wagen”  is because of a famous television show that is ingrained in the memory of many a Dutch childhood.

The programme, called ” Pipo de Clown ” aired in one variety or another  from 1958 to 1968 and from 1974 to 1980 and was later transformed into a stage production, shows of which still run today.

“Pipo” the clown who starred as the central character of the series, lived with his family in an old fashioned wooden gypsy style wagon and due to the TV programmes popularity, any wagon with this shape and style quickly became known as a “Pipo Wagen”.

I get the idea that any Dutch person who remembers the TV Pipo instantly is reminded of the dream of childhood adventures whenever they see a “Pipo  Wagen”, and why not? the wagons are very cute after all.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The camp site here has a Pipo Wagen that houses a double bed, a couch and a small table and chairs, but in addition the owners have built a permanent veranda next to it so that there is a bigger sitting area under-cover outside. This summer they added a small kitchenette on one end of the veranda and a toilet cubicle as well, so this meant that I didn’t need to hobble to the camps toilet block in the middle of the night it nature called.

It is however not insulated so not suitable for winter stays, but the camp-site closes for the winter months at the end of October anyway and although the evenings are getting noticeably more chilly, we are still comfortable enough sitting outside under the cover of the veranda.

Each kid wanted to spend one night in the tent with Himself, and the tent we took with us is a decent sized two-person tent but a tad too tight a squeeze for three, so I would bunk down in the double bed inside the Pipo wagon with Little Mr. one night and with Kiwi Daughter the next.

The Pipo wagon isn’t on a lean btw, I was, on the crutches…

The weather was iffy, intermittent drizzle  and dry so we were very pleased to have a cover outside as the interior of the Pipo wagon is rather small for the four of us and especially for the likes of boisterous six year old Little Mr’s.

The camp site also has various other accommodations hidden in the trees…  There are “trekkershuisjes” (also known as “Trekkershuts”) This translates to “Treker’s  Houses / Huts” and they come in various forms. They are found throughout the Netherlands on camp-sites and  they vary in size, but the most basic of them are a square wooden huts with two sets of bunk beds, a tiny table, some extend to having electricity and a hotplate with two elements…  and others, like the one we saw here is larger and built of more permanent materials and even has a log burner inside.

All are very basic accommodation though… the sort of thing you want if you just need a bed on a budget and don’t want the hassle of carrying around your own tenting equipment. Our tent is put up and the kids sort out the finer details of who is sleeping where… and et voila! our city kids are suddenly “campers” (of sorts).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 2, 2011

Camping on Crutches… Can be Done, (to a Point).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It was way back at Easter when we went to France, before and since then I’ve been busy with physiotherapy, hospital appointments, extending my work hours and Himself has been busy with work, running around looking after me and the kids and trying to renovate the house.

(Had we ever dared  hope to be finished by August?  Fat chance!)

It’s still  ongoing but at least now there’s only one large room to go and the two hallways and stairs we will defer until next year… ok, ok … and a bathroom.

Our French friends didn’t end up coming to visit  in August after all, (the hubby and wife couldn’t get matching holiday dates from their respective workplaces so were forced to stay at home) but since our house still looked then like a bomb had hit it, it’s probably for the best that everything  to  do with that plan got deferred to next year too.

The trouble with Himself working free-lance is that Murphy’s Law kicks in with alarming regularity: this week (again) we have the last room cleared, sorted and ‘ready to go” on the renovating front and the work from  Clients is suddenly rolling in. Good for the bill-paying part of the plan, less good for having the hours in the day to do the work.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Especially since my contribution with asthma and on sticks  consists of a nice fat zero. (Hold on, I chose the paint colour, does that count?)

Our only other excursion this year was to a camp-site so that the kids could double their sleeping-in-a-tent- experience  from one time to two.

We actually thought it wasn’t going to happen for me at least because  ” sleeping bag +  low mattress + crutches =recipe for disaster” that I had no intention of cooking up, but friends of ours found a place that had “pipos wagon” on site, so this would mean I could sleep in a ‘real” bed whilst Himself and the kids camped out beside me.

The “holiday”was short (two days) because I had a hospital appointment to get back to, midday the following day, but since summer was rapidly departing, I’ve been going stir crazy sitting  looking at the same four walls at home and we could squeeze it in before the kids headed back to school we decided to give it a go.

This is how we arrived at “Kampeerbosje Leerdam”… it’s a camp-site that is small(er) than many in the Netherlands, situated in the countryside just outside Leerdam. There are lots of trees separate the campers, plus various cabin-type accommodation and plenty of space for tents.

We knew it was a good place when the owner greeted us warmly and said he would “just go get the wheelbarrow so that Himself could cart the tent stuff and our things to our spot” it certainly made things easier, and the kids provided themselves as giggling cargo on the “empty” return journeys to the car.

They tried to entice me to take a wheelbarrow ride too … but since my middle name is for a foreseeable future “paranoid cautious” I declined.

It’s not huge for an able bodied person, but it’s bigger than it first looked for me so I explored carefully on different days as part of my physio exercise requirement.   I’ll take you around the various sorts of accommodations later,  in the meantime let’s take a look around the camp-site itself.

On our explorations we spied an outdoor kitchen/washing up area, and a massive tent that had stretchers inside that you could also book. The kids burned off energy sprinting down paths and disappeared over the bridges, squealing with pleasure but disturbing no-one because this late in the season we are the only ones here.

http://www.kampeerbosje.nl/kamperen_huren.htm
Kampeerbosje Leerdam , recht van ter leerde 25, 4143 LN Leerdam, Netherlands +31 345 623 600 ‎

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 16, 2010

Your First meal on the House, very Convivio…

Filed under: PORTUGAL — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are staying at the Convivio Camping in northern Portugal, close to the Spanish border.

Our Hosts, Bing Müller and Gea Mulder have been here since 2001 and they are constantly busy around the camp.

It’s our first evening here and since we have booked a longer stay, our first main meal is on the house.

I was interested to see on their website the following information:

The name Convívio has an important meaning for us. In Holland we already had a foundation with this name promoting an society with different cultures living together peacefully.To our surprise convivio is a used word in Portugal, meaning a nice get together of people where they drink, eat, talk and dance.

The Italian philosopher Alghieri Dante gave it a more intense meaning. He stated that when people from different classes (economically, socially, culturally and/or educationally) would have a meal together, they could widen there scope and understanding, of the world.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

For an individual he added that convivio is living your life without seperating one part from the other. Work, family, friends, relaxation, interests should all be in balance and a combined experience. A harmonious dynamic between the different aspects, instead of separating them.

The word in English that this translates to is “convivial”  …

and that pretty much sums up not only dinner, but also the campsite in general.

There was a starter (which I forgot to photograph) , then BBQ chicken, Spareribs, potato salad and coleslaw…  dessert was a chocolate mousse.

The meat wasn’t entirely my cup of tea as I recover from loosing breakfast earlier in the day due to the car ride here,  but the salads were good and a very hungry Himself happily polished off the meat that I didn’t fancy. Dessert was great (but then, isn’t anything with chocolate?) All in all ….yum!

Parque de Campismo Convívio  //  Rua de Badão 1   //   Candemil VNC 4920-020  //   00 351 251794404    // campingconvivio@sapo.pt

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 15, 2010

Lunch Snacks Portuguese style…

Filed under: PORTUGAL — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s about 2.30 p.m. in the afternoon and Portuguse dinners are usually scheduled for 7.00 in the evening  or later.

Since we  have now recovered our stomachs and haven’t had lunch we decided to order some warm snacks from Convivio’s little Cafe.

In no time at all we are enjoying a little tray of Portuguese snacks,… fried bacalao,  shrimp balls and something with meat in it. Yum!

The earthenware pottery is also very traditional of this region…

…shame we are flying or I’d be seriously considering buying some local things to take home.

September 14, 2010

Getting to Where we are Going and the View once we are There…

Filed under: PORTUGAL — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s easy to opt for the little coastal road north of Oporto instead of taking the motorway, because our campsite  is only just over one hour  drive from the city.

After all, we have all day.

As we wend our way up the coast the magic of Portugal floods back into our veins and the holiday feeling is here with a vengeance. Suddenly we find, so too is the car sickness that plagues Kiwi Daughter and myself. Darn, we have pills with us but were supposed to take them half an hour before we set out and forgot. We are greenly reminded that we aren’t in totally flat The Netherlands any more.

The rental car is as much the culprit as the winding roads, it’s a Renault Megane, and both Himself and I quickly confirm that if ever we were looking for a new car, this one would not be it.

For a start we have a far smaller car back in the Netherlands, but the steering wheel lifts upwards, allowing my 6’5″ Himself to fit his pins in the driving seat with even a centimeter or two to spare.. The Megane is a bigger car but there is zero room to spare for Himself’s legs, so it’s a tight fit.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Apart from what I would call the thoughtless design of the interior of the car, (no place to set a small box of tissues), a glove compartment that would barely hold a glove, doors that couldn’t hold a small bottle of water completely upright because of the intrusion of the door handle and a  badly designed, bulky smokers ashtray that completely dominated the area between the driver and passenger seat but was useless to us as non smokers, there was also the bigger issue of the way this car drove.

The brakes seemed overly sensitive so a small touch had the car lurching forward as they gripped, and the accelerator had a habit of giving nothing at first and then making up for it as you touched a tad harder, so together the ride into and out of  tight corners on winding road was an experience of jerky responses in forward and backward motion.

It was quickly apparent that this isn’t a car to love for those of us born with long legs or weak stomachs or both.

I’ve got my license with me but very quickly decide that I have no wish to drive this very temperamental car.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The second phase of the trip is taken as slowly as possible, and it’s a big relief to arrive at the campsite and take a deep breath of fresh air.

“Convivio” is a campsite that  mostly accommodates tents, caravans and campers , but which also has several small villas available for rent. We’ve opted for one of those. It’s basic, there’s a wood stove ( for winter cooking I assume) an gas stove with oven, but nothing fancy  like a dishwasher, or any great array of cooking utensils for the oven for instance. Its basic, but basic is fine. The bedrooms are upstairs … and downstairs there’s a bath in the bathroom, a novelty for our kids as we have two giant showers at home but no tub.

Outside is where the real gems are.. down the hill is more land, an orchard of various fruit trees where instructions are quickly given that any ripe fruit may be picked and eaten, here’s a table-tennis table, a small swimming pool, (not too deep, but totally sufficient) and a little cafe where warm nibbles, cold drinks and ice-creams can be ordered from the owners between set hours of the day.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There’s  the delightful possibility to have fresh bread delivered by the local baker each morning if you put your order in the day before, and with the owners of the camping,  there is a main evening communal meal prepared by them that you can order and join in with if you also give one days notice that you’d like it.

The owners are a Dutch couple who have lived in Portugal for nine years, they are friendly and helpful and since we had booked an extended stay of two weeks, our first evening meal was on the house.  Even better, there is a great mix of families and since the two channels on the TV in the villas are Portuguese language language only, the kids quickly head for the cafe where a heap of games and books await their perusal, and new friends are keen to play along with them.

Best of all there is no disco and other than the sound of kids playing, the campsite is wonderfully quiet. Jackpot!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s clear that most of the clientèle are Dutch families here via a Dutch website, so we do end up speaking mainly Dutch during our stay, instead of extending our Portuguese, and this is possibly the one down-side, but a minor one. There are also some French families here and since their young children speak no English (and naturally, also no Dutch) I do at least get to give my French a work out.

All of the Dutch nationals here, do of course also speak English, so we switch to this several times when there are joint meals involving camping guests from Spain, and for when the French family adults want to converse  and not everyone has the same level of French.

The kids make themselves at home quickly and so do we. It’s the kid of place where you can relax and after 24 hours you think that you must have surely been here for longer than a day?

It’s called “Convivio”, and convivial it certainly is…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

View from the window… (Spain in the distance on the left hand side)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Facilities for those in tents, caravans…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Looking down on the owners place, note the very typical Portuguese BBQ /oven outside on the wall…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

View by the pool. looking down the hill…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

If you were to take the center of the map as a clock face, then the village we are in is at the “8” point… the river just a few kilometers away is part of the Portuguese/Spanish border (close to the sea)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The area is dry and hot, so widfires are a problem, this is the BBQ area for the campers…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Hmmm. I think we can certainly relax here! First and most vital mission? Sign up for fresh bread with the baker!

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