In September we did something that is turning into an annual thing for us as a family. We loaded everyone up in the car, put the bikes on the roof and drove across the continent to a rented accommodation for a week.
This year it was Portugal via Andorra on the way there and Bordeaux on the return, which is over 3,500km. The stops being perfectly located to be able to spend the night with the kids, explore the places a little in the morning before continuing the journey. Even though this is not the first long trip with the kids they are starting to get a bit bigger and a bit more demanding about stopping, eating and being entertained on the trip. The mornings in Andorra and Bordeaux were both very useful for tiring them out before getting in the car to continue and having them sleep a bit. But of course, we did end up resorting a little to a screen. It just could not be helped.
We took a cute little villa that we found through tripadvisor.com in the Terras de Bouro region of Northern Portugal. We were in a nice little forested area that was very quiet and out of the way (some might say a little hard to find especially at night when arriving late). It is not a classic destination for Portugal holidays but it was nice to be a bit closer to nature, within driving distance of Porto for a day trip and close to the large national park up on the boarder with Spain.
The are had plenty of walking for us and the kids, great views and few tourist attractions (old forts, Roman road ruins, huge dam and resulting lake and old village with stone granaries. There were also some farms near to where we were staying so we could take the kids down to look around them with the animals.
We did take a day tip to Porto as mentioned above. Highly recommend it! But we did get to the city late as we first stopped in Braga to look at the monastery there. A tip for you if you go there, park up at the monastery, walk down the famous steps and then get the little cable car back up. Those steps would not be fun to walk up and were lucky to notice the cable car to bring us back up with the tired children. And then from Braga we headed for the coast and took the costal road all the way to Porto. It is a great little drive with some nice villages and beaches on the way to the city.
Once in Porto, arriving later than we really wanted to we found we would not have enough time to see all that we wanted to and that is when I saw some tourists in tuktuk. Now, normally we would avoid this sort of tourist thing as it seems a bit tacky. But, this ended up being a great idea from me (like most of them ). We had a fantastic driver who grew up in the city and was able to pass on so much good knowledge, saw loads of the sites much faster than we could have walked between the, and the kids loved riding around in the open TukTuk (not to mention us too).
Some other notable things for me from this region of Portugal, is just how much like Australia it felt at times. After some large fires a lot of the area we were in was replanted with Bluegums and with the warm dry climate the colours and Australian trees gave me a real feeling of walking through some of the forests back home in Australia.
And don't trust your satnav as it has not idea what roads are actually drivable and what is not. I had a few times when I had to back the car out of a tight situation as the road was just impassable.
So the kids and us continue to clock up the miles in the car and add to our countries visited. But more importantly, we are having a lot of fun on the way.
Travelling with kids in the car over such distances can be a bit of a struggle some times but we feel we have lucked out with our kids and they seem to love it almost as much as us. Lets hope it keeps being this way.
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