We had a leisurely start to our Sunday morning. Walk with the dogs on the beach and a home cooked breakfast it seemed to be a drier start than the last few days. We paid for our pitch, emptied / refilled tanks and hit the road. Next stop Portugal. After being advised about the difficulties of the new electronic tolls on Portuguese roads without toll booths where you could pay as you go, we planned to enter Portugal by a main road so we could sort that out first. I understood from RAC online advice we needed a ticket. Therefore we crossed into Portugal via the AP-9/55 which becomes the A3 when you cross the border south of Tui.
It was an easy journey, though the cloud thickened into fairly heavy rain as we went over some hills. As we passed into Portugal the architecture and density of housing changed noticeably. The fairly dense and rather mixed style of Spanish houses because much more traditional and more consistently rural houses as we came into Portugal. It is national parkland as you join Portugal though and the pretty rolling countryside was welcoming as the sun began to shine.
We soon hit a toll road as we entered Portugal but one with a ticket / pay machine. However, luckily there was also a helpful English speaking attendant who explained very clearly there are two types of toll, these with the roadside machines (or electronic pass through lanes) and those which are only cameras and with no machines. He explained we needed “a machine” for the full electronic type, however, that would not work on the first type and we should still use the manual lane / get a ticket and pay. He recommended for the full electronic type, se should take the second exit to the A27, then take the A28 to Porto, then after ~4km we could get a machine from the petrol station.
As it happened, we had a potential overnight stop in Darque which was not far from there anyway. So we followed his advice and found the A28 petrol station. It turns out that this is because this part of the A28 is the first of the fully electronic tolls over the border, hence there were signs as you approached the tolls for foreigners to pull of to the services at the right. We stopped for diesel, note it is more expensive in Portugal than Spain. I asked in side and although the lady at the petrol station could not help an official looking guy in fluorescent jacket pointed me to two lanes with machines beside and stop signs. You pull up, it reads your number plate. You insert you credit card and gives you a receipt. It is good for 30 days.
We duly pull up and followed the process and got our receipt. Only realising when I got the receipt we could have registered directly online without driving to the toll statio. Ah well! I did not find anything online to advise of that, but am you do is effectively register you credit card against your number plate.
Thankfully this was only a small detour and 15mins later we were pulled up in a designated free spot with services at Darque beside the estuary. It was a reasonable spot with a few vans there. One semi resident on the verge opposite with a slightly aggressive dog untied outside it. A brief walk around and stretch out legs we decided to move on. We had another option literally 10mins away at a small restaurant in the woods just back from the enormous Praia de Amorosa beach where you can stop free for the night if you eat drink there.
We went easily down the rutted track to pull up outside the restaurant. Despite being a little out of the way there were quite a few locals there enjoying drinks / lunch by the time we arrived at mid afternoon. the helpful staff said we were welcome to stay, they had free showers and they would close but not lock the gates when they close but we could just lift them to go. They were also closed the next day so we would have the place to ourselves.
We were ready for some food by now so we had a simple burger each, I even got a vegan burger plus two drinks each for €28.30. Certainly cheaper here in northern Portugal. It is wonderful quiet with the faint sound of the waves in the distance. Ideal for a Sunday afternoon / evening. They have a large beer garden with a menagerie of animals from terrapins to pot bellied pigs and peacocks.
Finally a lovely walk through woodland along the glorious Praia de Amorosa beach. Stunning. Nature at its best. No sticks though, will need to bring Lola entertainment with us next time 😂