We decided to take another three straight weeks for a holiday this year and to give Marilyn a few kilometres to gobble up. After all, taking on beautifully long motorways is what she likes to do most. What our sat nav told us was: 2,200 kilometres – one way. We want to get to know Portugal a bit! The north of Portugal, to be more exact, to make sure it isn’t too warm for us “Northerners”.
We travelled 800 km on several days, which is not typical for us. It went well. Of course the good and wide and straight and empty motorways through France and Spain also play a role. You basically don’t even notice the kilometres. That was how Marilyn received her nickname pretty early on: motorway monster. It’s just around cities that you need to watch out, as you never know whether you’ll be passed on the left or the right. But in general, you can flow along with traffic well as long as you make it clear where you want to go. And that means with more than just blinkers.
We drove as far as France on the Atlantic coast with one stop and took a break for a day. Then a bit further along, we spent a day in Santander. We made such good progress from there, that we drove all the way to the Lagoon of Óbidos on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. It’s located in Portugal’s Centro Region, which is indeed almost exactly in the middle. From there, we cruised northwards, then took in a bit of northern Spain and spent some relaxing days in the summer sun of southern France on the Atlantic. We completed the trip by fleeing from the heat towards Normandy. And before you knew it, the three weeks had come and gone. In the end, we drove 5,350 kilometres with about 72 hours of driving time. We think we did a good job balancing a road trip with relaxation. We tend to just keep travelling along, but this time we even stayed in some spots for two days and considered ourselves retired ;). It worked well in three weeks. But four weeks would have been better for the route. Now we want to take you along with us to share our greatest adventures and favourite stops from a road trip that truly had so many different things to offer.
After our first day by the sea in Capbreton in France, we would recommend Santander as a worthwhile stopover in Spain. It’s a reasonably sized port city with a beautiful city beach, a boardwalk, an impressive casino and a lovely city centre with enticing tapa bars and bodegas – or so we’ve been told. We somehow managed to get there on a holiday and felt like we had the city to ourselves. That has something going for it, too.
Foz de Arelho / Lagoa de Óbidos
Bo and Marilyn then gave their all and drove us straight from rainy northern Spain through a big empty stretch of land to the sun: to the Lagoon of Obidos and the town Foz de Arelho. It has a biiiig campsite right next to the lagoon that already had plenty of visitors for this time of year. We instantly fell in love with the gorgeous spot and its “inhabitants” and stayed three nights. Ultimate campsite living is what you’ll find here: the fish delivery car comes in the morning and stops at every corner of the site while everyone carries on happily with one another. When friends arrive, four people loudly instruct the poor driver how to park in the spot. He’s used to it, natters away with them and simply doesn’t react and drives another metre. Everyone is incredibly nice and friendly! In a combination of four languages, our site neighbour let us know what we still needed to see.
During the drive and while on the trip, we also noticed a major difference compared to Germany: Marilyn gets even more thumbs-up than ever accompanied by overt and sincere admiration. The experienced folks just stood in a group right in front of her talking about le grande campingcar or in whatever language was being spoken at that moment. We were always getting inquisitive looks from people walking past, construction workers, people sitting in cafés; we got big thumbs up from all around.
What drew us here was the kite surfing spot, of course. We were lucky: it wasn’t peak season yet (which is when it isn’t allowed on the main beach), there was plenty of water in the puddle and even wind as well!!! That’s basically the Stranddeko surprise egg: three things at once, and we had two perfect kite surfing days! They were, unfortunately, the only ones during the whole three weeks. But that’s how it is when you have to juggle both your route and wind. In exchange, we had some other enjoyable water adventures.
During our first stroll along the coast, we quickly learned that Portugal is the land of wooden boardwalks. Every beach has a boardwalk with beautiful wooden walkways complete with seating areas, benches and viewpoints. We think it’s awesome!!
We paid a visit to the namesake of the lagoon: the medieval town of Óbidos. Even though the city extensively markets its well-maintained origins and attracts tons of tourists, it is absolutely worth a visit in the morning to stroll through its side streets. Those with a head for heights should take a walk on the narrow town wall. Far from busy areas, we stuck to the colourful little streets, shopped for some souvenirs and continued on.
Sao Pedro de Moel
Our favourite place to stay the night was near the lighthouse in Sao Pedro de Moel. It’s a simple beach campsite on a cliff with a 180° ocean view.
A small sand bay on the left, a seemingly endless sand beach on the right. From this point on, the diverse cliff coasts transition into loooooong beaches. That means we were in just the right place :)
We thoroughly enjoyed the view. Marilyn was visited by a Porsche, and we saw a fantastic sunset followed by light from a full moon and beams from the lighthouse.
Costa Nova do Prado
This is the town we were sent to by our site neighbour in Óbidos. The day was still young, so we just made a park-and-meander stop. But there were enough campsites there. Ah yes, we understand. The town seems to have fallen into a large bucket of colour. Not in an unpleasant way, however, but more like a Mediterranean explosion of colour. With typical Portuguese tiles and small fishing cottages from the past that have been reconditioned and decorated with care. A small fishing harbour, a fish market – everything is very, very colourful. We would like to come back!
I don’t think a colour exists that we didn’t see on that day.
Heading north up the coast
We then continued northwards. We opened our eyes in Furadouro to once again find ourselves in a mini fish market. At first you wonder why so many cars are suddenly driving up. Then the fish crates are unloaded and auctioned off with the utmost seriousness to be sold under colourful sunshades, which offer protection from both the sun and seagulls.
We found another fantastic and simple place to stay the night complete with a glowing sunset on the beach of Sao Pedro da Maceda. We also stayed a night on a campsite under pine trees near the colourfully embellished city Viana do Castelo.
Generally speaking, Portugal is an ideal motorhome country. You basically don’t have any problems finding a nice place to park. Most places were simple car parks where overnight stays are tolerated and free of charge, but then without any extras. But you can do without! The biggest problem is having to decide which one is most beautiful.
Fortunately with a motorhome, you are completely free to stay where you please. And like so often, we were two to three days further along on our route than planned and already reached northern Portugal on day eight. Sometimes it was because the scheduled site wasn’t as perfect as hoped for or because it was too early in the day and we were in the mood to explore. But fortunately, northern Spain was still calling to us with Galicia. We also always go by the weather. For instance, we can’t just wait around on a grey, cloudy day when the sun is shining a mere 200 km away. Its pull is simply too strong! And even greyer weather was forecasted for the next few days anyway.
Galicia and Asturias
So that was how we found ourselves on Illa de Arousa in Galicia. A true gem. And we were so lucky! Towering mountains of clouds were on the left and right, creating an amazing backdrop (they’re really good at that!), and we had a gorgeous summer sky in the middle. It beckoned us to take a stand-up paddle tour of the white sand beach. One of our best adventures! Probably also because it wasn’t planned or expected. And that’s exactly what we love about motorhome living! We paddled over crystal clear water, counted the fish and saw a mini ray – the surprise of which almost made Frohmi fall off her board.
The weather in northern Spain was not looking so great. A “driving day” along the northern coast of Spain meant we made considerable headway towards France. We spent the night near Caravia in Asturias. The weather and scenery made us feel like we were in a combination of Scotland, Bavaria and the tropics. That’s something else we love; getting to see such an amazing array of landscapes on such a long drive through Europe.
The Atlantic coast of France
Ok, so there we were back in our beloved France, which was the sole reason we even planned the trip to begin with. We’re so in love with how open, causal and friendly Portugal is and definitely want to go back. But then you’re constantly thinking about all those kilometres you need to cover. The 1,000 kilometres from the French Atlantic coast to home seemed like a piece of cake.
We had already been here ten years ago and wanted to go back to a few places. First and foremost to Dune du Pilat, a large shifting sand dune. We know, it’s no surprise for us to be magically drawn to such a huge sand pit, right?
A top recommendation is the camping panorama offered at the lower end of the dune, far away from day trippers, with a view over the water. We spent a Stranddeko-worthy anniversary there and could not get enough of looking at the spectacle of nature. We hiked the entire dune, which boasts impressive slopes, barefoot on the soft sand (ouch – sore muscles), enjoyed outdoor cooking life and went to eat at a tasty restaurant on the site with a sensational ocean view.
After a short bout of panic about our holiday already being over after our Portugal adventures, we realised that no holiday is complete without France, so we pottered about for a few days there. The area around Bordeaux is full of nice and big motorhome sites under pine trees (Biscarrosse) near the beach or a lake (Hourtin-Port). We made another kite surfing attempt without any proper wind and took another SUP tour on the super clear lake water of Lac Hourtin. We really liked it there – even without the ocean!
We plundered the humongous supermarkets that we so adore, stocked up on wine and goodies and just basically enjoyed a few days of wandering here and there. Perfect after so many exciting kilometres.
The temperatures started to rise relentlessly, which put parts of us Northerners into a coma-like state.
A 36 degree day was enough for us to decide to seek refuge elsewhere. 750 kilometres in air conditioning were needed to reach 25 degrees and Normandy. It wasn’t much of a detour on our way back home. Bingo, change of plans and off we went!
Dieppe & Le Tréport
We ended up in Dieppe in the evening after a ten hour drive and were once again blown away by spontaneously discovering such a beautiful place! It was so worth it! The finals for a regatta were planned for the weekend and the entire harbour was being turned into a place of festivity. The regatta boats were happily rocking on the waves while sporting their decorative flags.
We are always so pleased to be in Normandy, so we decided to spend our last day in Le Tréport.
That’s where we stood on Europe’s highest limestone cliff, which can measure up to 110 m. Wow! From there, steps go down to the city and offer amazing views of the homes from above. No need to get your drone out. You’re basically at seagull height. You can go back up for free with the inclined railway. It was a successful end-of-holiday outing.
We hope you enjoyed our little reading excursion! It was a very, very multifaceted journey for us with a whole lot of ocean through three countries! We spent a total of eleven nights in France, eight nights in Portugal and three nights in Spain. Apart from one night, we spent all of them close to the sea. Yay! Absolutely everyone we met was friendly. Such as helpful people in the supermarket who point you to the port wine as you stand there lost in front of the shelf. Or the French who somehow let us know they were about to leave and that we could have their bigger spot further down. A great experience!
We definitely cannot say which place we liked best. It really was beautiful everywhere, just beautiful in different ways! The route is a good one because there’s always a motorway that runs close to the ocean. You can make good headway and still plan or decide against small stops without any major detours. The motorways through France and Spain are super relaxed and no problem at all. The motorway in northern Spain is more on the winding side. But there was always enough room to stop and see if you could turn or what not.
Bo’s holiday realisation was: if he hadn’t already married Frohmi, he would marry Marilyn. Frohmi’s realisation: if you’re going to spend that many kilometres going south, then with sun, please. If we want mystical rain photos, we would rather drive back to Scotland.
If you’re interested in more detailed information about the route, road tolls and all of the campsites, take a look at the following link. Here are all the facts!
Frohmi, Bo & Marilyn