Alfa Romeo Montreal

Alfa Romeo Montreal

quarta-feira, 10 de outubro de 2007

From Lisbon to Cambrils, northeast Spain

From Lisbon to Cambrils, Northeast Spain
21st Alfa Romeo Montreal International Meeting 2007

(Or the modern adventures on classic car's paradise, described in Technicolor)

Eversince my participation in the previous 2004 Wales Montreal Meeting, hosted by Chris Slade, I decided not to miss any other.

These must be the funniest, friendliest people among the classic cars scene, and believe me I know quite a lot of them.

I couldn’t be present at the 2005 Sweden Meeting in Bäckaskog Castle, hosted by Leif Gustafson, but I was on the 2006 Italy Meeting at Rovigo, Padova, hosted by Sistillo Marcheselli.

Tuesday, the11th September
At the end we were only three Montreals departing from Lisbon, heading to Cambrils.

Zé Pacheco Alves, a young man in his mid-thirties, from the Lisbon-Costa de Caparica area, his 75 years old father Manuel Pacheco Alves, driving their golden Montreal registration plate number BM-59-95, Fernando Leal Machado, in his mid sixties, together with his wife Armanda, who split their residence between Lisbon and Luanda-Angola, at the wheel of his copper Montreal reg. plate no. AT-53-66, and Mario Bandeira da Palma and me, both of us 54 years of age, true “baby-boomers”, both from the Lisbon-Estoril area in my white Montreal reg. no. FP-88-74.

Both the others live on the oposite side of Lisbon to me, so they took the northern Lisbon bridge Vasco da Gama, while I took the southern 25th April bridge. Meeting point was at 09:45 in Vendas Novas service area, 100 kms. south of Lisbon.

Finally we met there, and we three introduced ourselves to each other’s co-drivers: Zé’s father Manuel Pacheco Alves, Maria Armanda, and Mario B. da Palma.

My wife was supposed to come with me, but at the last minute excessive work at her job kept her from coming. So Mario was "drafted". I made him an offer he could not refuse. Although his name is Mario B. da Palma, he is not Mario Puzzo. (And certailnly not Brian de Palma...)

Mario is a good old friend of mine, from since we were twenty years of age. We were in the army together, in the Portuguese colony of Guinea, in the so called Colonial War during the early seventies. This was a place where Portugal held a “Vietnam-like” gerrilla war from the early 60's till the mid 70's.

Guinea was the most ferocious, compared with all our other colonial wars (Angola and Mozambiq), with lots of casualties, constantly under enemy attack fire. We were drafted at the same time, and we lived together with two other military colleges, in a house we managed to rent outside our military barracks. As a joke, I use to introduce him as “someone with whom I have shared the best years of my life; we were living together”…

Mario had recently broken his right foot, while walking the dog. He is getting better, but still uses a crutch.

Oops! Some excess fuel dropped on the floor...

After a coffee and a petrol refill, we were finally on the move.

Soon we entered Spain, and were cruising on the plains of Spanish "Extremadura".

With the help of our huge Michelin Eurpean Route Map we kept "thundering" across those "planes where the rain stays mainly", so I heard... And it didn't rained, although we were in Spain...

Our GPS was there merely for extra information, and to get a pre-view of the road curves...
We had decided to take advantadge of this trip, doing some tourism in between.

So we choosed to split the journey in two, staying our first night in Cuenca, a lovely medieval village next to Madrid on the way to Valencia, in order to visit it’s wonderful medieval stone houses built over the cliffs.

Everything was going well, and we were experiencing "the real joy of classic motoring" in great style, at the wheel of our babies, who had been carefully prepared for this "pilgrimage" for several months.
First fuel refill with no problems so far. Fuel consumption of my car around 18 litres per 100 kilometers was quite "thirsty".

Zé claimed a much lower figure of 12 litres per 100 kilometers, and kept me proposing to use his mechanic instead of mine untill we split in Toledo...

Cruising speed around the 140/150 KPH, at a range of 4000/45000 RPM was comfortable and effortless.

Old castles and old vllages were a constant sight for our eyes.

Toledo was the old Spanish capital, before it was changed to be Madrid, at the end of the Middle-Ages. We had decided to stay in Toledo at the end, on our return home.

Most of the time there was no traffic, allowing us to languish along the motorway.

From time to time there was a little more traffic, but we coped with it well.

My Fulda Carat Assuro tyres, the Harvey-Bailey handling kit including new springs and Bilstein shock absorbers, and the BMW brake calipers made my car a real joy to drive, mainly on motorways. Safe, comfortable and very accurate steering, I must say.

Suddenly, Fernando Leal Machado’s Montreal started to overheat. We were not far from Merida.

We pulled over in a service area. Water was filling the compensating reservoir, and missing inside the radiator. We realised the water hoses were not in very good condition, and the electric fan was not operating.

Based on my experience with previous overheating situations on my car, I disconnected the wiring terminal contacts on the radiator’s temperature valve, and connected the wires together with a metallic clip (used on clamping papers), so the fan was always working, even if there was not enough water in the radiator in order to trigger the valve, as was happening.

The compensating reservoir was removed, and cleaned, for it was full of mud and slime at the bottom.

I refilled the radiator blowing with my mouth the hot water from the plastic compensating reservoir, and later extracted all the air bubbles from it’s interior, pressing the water hoses with my hands.

Fernando Leal Machado’s car had only less than real 50000 kms on the clock, and apparently, all the rubber hoses were original. They seemed faded and melted, with a sticky feel to the touch. We hoped they’d survive the whole trip, without leaking or blowing.

We went on until the next lunch stop, somewhere in a small location, not far from Lobon, Merida. With a few more stops in order to recool Leal Machado’s radiator, we soon realised the water hoses wouldn’t last much longer.

So, we left the motorway, and searched for some workshop, or some auto parts supplier, in order to replace at least the upper water hose, that was “melting away”.

Fortunately we managed to find an auto parts supplier in the next small village.

A water hose made for a “Seat” car, proved to fit the Montreal after some retrimming…

Before sunset we were on our way.

Some Kilometres after passing the Madrid area, we left the motorway, and drove through a National Road on the way to Cuenca, arriving at a small village between Madrid and Cuenca for dinner.

We had dinner at a Restaurant called "El Cruce", while Fenando’s car was cooling down.

We arrived at Cuenca just before midnight, were we had reservations at NH Hotel, a very modern and comfortable hotel.

Friday, the 12th September

Next morning we went to visit Cuenca, starting at “Plaza Mayor” and the old Cathedral.

We peeped inside an open door...

In Spain, there may always be a secret hidden behind a door...

Another surprise was to be seen on the next wall...

This cross on the wall is a kind of "memorial" evocative of the Nationalist "Falange" victims who died during the 1936/39 Spanish Civil War. Underneath we could clearly see the "Falange" (Nationalist troups) symbols, sculptured on 3 small square stones below the cross.

Wounds from those terrible days are still open, for we could see red paint stains thrown against the "memorial", clearly showing that hate still survives today...

Some of my forefathers were from Cuenca in the late 18th century, but I didn't manage to trace any names "Amaral Lorenzo" in the phone book there.

The main reason for us to visit Cuenca was the stone medieval houses “Casas Colgatas” built over the cliffs.

On the roof top of one of those houses, we saw two men replacing tiles.

I took a picture of them, using all the power of my camera zoom.
This picture was taken with no zoom at all, showing the same scene.

It was quite breathtaking to see them work in such a dangerous place, without any kind of safety ropes or security system, over such an huge abyss...

There was an iron bridge over a "grand canyon"... Zé was there, doing "der Hampelmann"...

Behind him we could see the Parador de Cuenca, an old monastery converted into the best Hotel in Cuenca, that sadly had no garage, so we had to stay at the other, rather modern hotel in the new part of Cuenca.
Most of these houses were literally "on the rocks"...

We just loved Cuenca.
Before lunch we left, heading for Valencia, intending to have our lunch there, in order to drive along the Mediterranean coastline until Cambrils during the afternoon, a very scenic road trip, we thought.

Things were running fine, until Mario at the wheel by then,suddenly asked me : “Hey, what does that red warning light on the dashboard indicate?”

I peeped into the driver’s dash (the information on the Monti’s dials is only to be seen by the pilot), and saw the “ALIMENT” red warning light on, and meanwhile Mario said: ”The car is loosing power, and the fuel warning light is on, and the fuel indicator points empty, and it stinks of petrol in here …”

I quickly told him to turn the engine off, fearing some misfire on the exhaust might ignite a fire. I thought it should be some leak on the brand new fuel pumps.

My first impression was: “Ok, fun is over. The car must be returned home. How the hell can I manage to fix the fuel pumps here?” I was feeling miserable.

We stopped just after passing Cheste, about a couple of kilometres away. We could see the town right behind us.

The first thing to do was to remove all our baggage from our small trunk, in order to get the safety reflective jackets, the two safety triangles (in Spain 2 triangles are compulsory), and the rest of the tools. So everything was taken out, and everything had previously been organised so tightly inside the trunk…

Zé Pacheco Alves was a great help by then, crawling under my car in order to remove the fuel pumps cover, unscrewing all those little screws, and also removing the back right wheel, in order to get access to the pumps, so we could figure out what was going on. Also the comprehensive tool box from Fernando was a major help by then.

Soon we realised the fuel out-hoses were blown. We tried to get a tow in order to bring the car into the nearest garage, and see if it could be fixed.

Fernando stayed with us, while Zé was trying to find a workshop with an available tow in the surrounding area.

Zé found more than one workshop in the area, but none of their tow trucks was available for us . They asked for an insurance call, and refused to be hired directly by a private car driver. Crazy way of helping cardrivers in trouble.

After a few unsuccessful calls, I decided to contact my Portuguese travel assistance from ACP, (Automóvel Club de Portugal), that promptly sent us a local Spanish tow. It took more than an hour, probably two, until the tow arrived. There are some agreements between ACP and Spanish RACE (Real Automovil Club de España).

Meanwhile Zé was heading towards Valencia, where he knew a lady friend, who promptly indicated us a workshop she knew.

Fernando Leal Machado and Armanda stayed with me, just for moral support. With this kind attitude, they went without lunch until dinner time... Fortunately we didn't starve to the point of starting cannibal actions, but we got close to that...

We could see the city of Cheste around a couple of kilometres behind us.

So on the tow truck we went, Mario, the Monti and “this humble servant of yours”, praying things would go right, hoping we could put the car back on the road with the problem solved as soon as possible.

The tow truck driver was a very funny guy. He was also a big mouth, talking all the time, and during the whole trip he kept entertaining us with the description of how his wallet had been recently stolen by a junky drug addict, with all his money inside, which was to pay for the buying of his house... His detailed description of all the tortures he had in mind if he would ever find him, made a medieval dungeon a nursery rhyme in comparison...

The rest of his talk was about the detailed location of all the prostitution whereabouts in Valencia, area, prices, discotheques and places where and how you could find them. With all this information I am considering doing a PHD on that subject... At least a theoretical one...

Once we reached the workshop in Valencia, the Montreal was lifted up on the elevator.

We asked the mechanical to replace all the fuel hoses, for although they were covered with a steel mesh protection, they probably were not suitable for petrol, but rather for water instead. We suspected this was the reason why they blew.

The damaged hoses where replaced by new rubber ones, that Zé promptly went to buy for me on the next autoparts shop on the corner.

The mechanic insisted that all the other hoses were alright, and that he was only trying to put our car back on the road. It was too late for extensive repairs, and they were about to close. As soon as the hoses were fixed, the car was back on the road.

Nobody had lunch that day, and at sunset, the car war fixed with new fuel hoses.

Now everybody was starving, and Zé told me to park at the end of the street, while we should all have dinner together.

I followed his instructions, but soon after I realised that we had just lost each other, for they went driving, turned the crossroad right before me, and there were lots of dead end roads due to roadworks and roads under construction. All those streets were one way only, but the opposite way.

As I was trying to locate them, I decided I’d rather look for a gas station first, since all my fuel got lost on the motorway.

Driving in circles around Valencia, everytime I saw a petrol station, it was on a one way road in the opposite direction, and everytime I tried to reach it, one way streets kept me away from it. Quite a nightmare. And night was coming down, as the word nightmare suggests

I ended heading the motorway out of Valencia to Cambrils, expecting to find a gas station as soon as possible.

Some 10 or 15 kms later, after lots of "giggling", the engine finally stopped with no fuel at all, but fortunately I managed to get off the motorway. I pulled over, and at that very moment, suddenly a petrol station was to be seen on the horizon. (God still exists, after all…)

After "hitting the road" on foot, I managed to return with an "emergency bag" with 5 litres of petrol. It seemed to me as if I had walked from Paris to Peking.

At last, when I finally managed to drive the car into the gas station, it was already closed. That was unbelievable... (There’s not such a thing called God, I thought…)

I knocked on the door, or should I say I hammered the door with my fists, and finally the employee was kind enough to re-open the pump (Oh, Gosh, if he didn't do that, I think I’d have killed him...).

Back on track with a full gas tank, we headed to Cambrils, looking for a service area in order to have a decent meal.

Next stop at the service area of Pianola, where we had a hot meal at last, while we waited for the rest of the crowd.
They arrived just as we had finish dinner, and we carried on our journey, with a few more stops in order to cool down Fernando’s car.

Things were running smoothly, despite the fact that we lost all the scenic Mediterranean coastline trip we had meant to see, due to night driving.

After we had refuelled, I asked Mario to do the driving. Soon after, a few kms before reaching Cambrils, “fuel pumps strike again!!!” : The very same situation we have had that afternoon in Cheste. One of the remaining fuel hoses blew out. It happened a few kms after we had refilled. I watched all that “precious fluid” pouring onto the ground. (Those Spanish roadside ants must be full of gas by now…)

Once again baggage out, in order to pick up safety triangles and safety jackets.

We lost no more time. I told the other two cars to keep going, and I called the Portuguese ACP tow once again.

As soon as the ACP tow was called again, they recognised I was not a newcomer to their service, for they asked me: “Is it the same car we towed this afternoon from Cheste area? In that case, we already have all your details.”. They turned out to be quite competent, and extremely helpful…

We waited rather more than an hour for the tow, listening to the sound of ocean waves not far away from us.

At a certain point, we considered there could be a remote risk of being hi-jacked, so we hid our credit cards and money inside the “secret” under part of the glove compartment, keeping little money in our wallets. We were “sitting ducks” for any possible hi-jackers, and we have heard some spooky stories about hi-jacks on Spanish roads, made by motorbikers on the move breaking the car’s windows with axes and so. Nevertheless, we kept cool, otherwise, we never would have told the others to go away, and leave us there alone.

More than one hour later, our car was once again upon a tow truck.

The tow truck had to refuel, so I suspect this could be contagious...

The car was brought to the road near the Monica Hotel, where it was left overnight.

We picked up the luggage from the trunk of our car, and finally went to the Monica Hotel...

We arrived after 03:00 in the morning, with our clothes pretty stained. (These are the marks from our previous struggles…).

We had left a message adressed to Agusti Vilella at the front desk, in order to ask him for a suitable workshop and a tow in order to carry our car there.

Thursday, the 13th September

Early in the morning Agusti was expecting us, in order to solve our car's problem, which he did right away.
A third tow took our car from the Hotel Monica into Agusti Villela's recommended workshop.
Agusti was extremely kind and helpful, not only to me. He was always smiling, while everybody kept him busy with all sorts of questions and so on.

... Our experience in tow trucks and lorries was starting to become quite outsanding...

The workshop was small, tidy and clean; people there looked skilled and seemed as if they knew what they were doing.

After a quick inspection, it became obvious that the rest of the fuel hoses had to be replaced.

There was a fancy dressed elegant lady working at the workshop’s small office. We were kept inspired by her vision, while we were there.

Her two small little dogs were kind of mascots there, and I wonder if the dogs were there in order to wipe off dirt and oil out from the mechanic's hands…

More Montreals were arriving at Hotel Monica, coming from different places like Austria, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, etc.. Strangely no French Montis were around, and the only Spanish one was Agusti Vilella’s car.

While our car was being fixed throughout the whole day, the mechanic took us to the hotel in his lunch break.

At the Hotel Monica we took a wonderful swim in the hotel’s swimming pool.

After that, a decent lunch at last in a wonderful Italian restaurant called Pasta e Basta, right next to the hotel.

We didn't knew there was another italian restaurant less than two blocks away, but it was rather meant for other than Montreal people... Fellow competition, I should say...

Participants were slowly arriving one by one.

Sistilo's car still carried his Padova Meeting signs on the doors.

Axel and Isabel arrived, but we still hadn't been introduced to each other...

After check-in at Monica Hotel, cars had to be removed, and parked elsewhere.

All during the morning and early afternoon, some participants arrived in small groups.

The Monica Hotel seemed a small hotel at first glance, but by the end it turned out to be much bigger than it looks from the outside. The inside space takes up almost the whole block.

Agusti's car was the only Spanish Monti atn the meeting. Also strange, there were no French plate Montreals around.

His car was parked in front of the Monica Hotel most of the time, showing he was always involved in supporting things there.

After lunch everybody was ready for some action

At three o’clock we took a lift with Agusti Vilella’s son, joining the group of early participants, who were many, by the way.

Meanwhile my car was being fixed at the workshop.

Our first destination was the magnificent medieval monastery of Escornalbou, on top of the mountains.

So we went up to a road climbing high into the mountains.

We followed the other cars, along a lovely scenic road up to the hills, into the region where Agusti Vilella was born, so we were told.

Finally, we arrived at a plateau, where our cars were parked.

It was a joy to see all those Montis aligned together, just like in a family reunion...
After all, only less than 4000 were built. If we were able to join up 40 Montreals, it means more than 1% of the whole production was there together... If we consider those scraped and derelict, much less that those 4000 still exist. In this case, the percentage of participants among actual running cars should be much higher.

Fernando's car was next to Zé's car, while mine was being fixed at the workshop.

The Montis were a splendid view from high above.

The Monastery was quite impressive, but climbing up there on foot was quite an exercise...

Around five o'clock we were leaving, heading for the surprising Marc Vidal’s private classic cars museum. There is a huge amount of interesting cars there, some very rare. Also some other sorts of vehicles.

Quite an impressive classic cars collection, with such a huge amount of interesting and rare cars for a private collection.

An early Ford T. A 20's Buick with round radiator, like the pre WW one Delauney-Belleville, or some early Hotchkisses.

A 30's Peogeot, reputed to be quite reliable when new, and a common sight in the Monte Carlo Rally in its' days.

Some thirties Citröens were displayed simulating a movie picture filming set scenario, with dummy actors operating a camera.

This is a long-chassis Mercedes 170, with an extra lateral side rear window. It is a very unusual example, and I had never heard of one before. Some of the walls in the museum were mirrors, so we had a fantastic perspective from the cars at different angles.

A Rolls Royce and another one behind...

One more Rolls Sedanda de Ville, those meant for the "chauffeur" to drive under inclement weather ... Like the Spanish would say: "Pero que esso es un coche señorial..."

And even one more Rolls, this one in roadster form, "For the discerning gentleman driver..."...

More and more Rolls Royces for you to choose from, of different shape and style...

A late 20's Hispano-Suiza front view.

Rear view from the above mentioned glorious Hispano Suiza.

A late 40's Buick Roadmaster convertible à la "Rainman" movie picture. I also recall one of those Buicks in a "Tintin" movie, where the bad guys were chasing Tintin's car in such a Buick.

Even a "Brit" pre or post-war humble Standard was there.

A glamourous 50's Ford Thunderbird, à la American Grafitti.

A late 50's Chevrolet Corvette, between a recent Corvette and a late 50's Ford Thunderbird.

Chrome, chrome, lots of chrome and huge fintails on this late 50's Cadillac Eldorado.

There were both American and European cars of all kind. Here's a mid 60'sconvertible Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
A row of late 60's and early 70'sReault Alpines, the rally winners from that era.

Several rooms on two floors were full of all kinds of classic cars, automobilia, bikes and .even aircraft stuff... I only managed to picture part of the displayed material, for otherwise it would have been too exhaustive to picture them all.

Even airplanes were suspended in the air alongside bikes and cars...

Peculiar gear change details and odd kick pedal on this motorbike.

Rows of more recent trial and moto-cross bikes.

More moto-cross bikes. Someone was talking about Marc Vidal having been a moto-cross racer in a recent past. Incredible bicycle with auxiliary engine mounted on the rear wheel.

A closer view of the same motorbike.

This motorized bicycle is even more strange, but in the old days there was a big tradition in Spain to build auxiliary engines into pedal bicycles, turning them into motorcycles.

Also this Katana commercial tricycle is pure delight...

This unidentifyed misterious manual gearchange old motorbike looks German, or Central European, I presume... I wonder what make it is... I wonder if it could be Spanish.

Moto-Guzzi's, Montesa's, Bennelli's, Ducatti's, Bultaco's, you name it...

An extraordinary old tandem with front engine...

These look rather sporty for their age, don't they?

This bike's petrol tank and engine are placed in a very odd place.

Airplane engines were also there.

Here's a record breaker car with a jetplane engine...

Marc Vidal told me this record breaker is a replica of an American one, and he used a non-functioning aircraft engine, for a good working one is impossible to buy. The Spanish Airforce don't allow working aircraft engines to be sold to civilians. So he made this mock.

Everything there was in very good condition, clean, no dust, and the whole display was very properly and professionally done, as in the best public museums.

Outstanding for a private collection.

Mark Vidal is also an olive oil producer, and also makes sparkling “champagne” like white and rosé wine and Moscatel sweet wine, all of them absolutely delicious.

He offered us a delicious meal, with tapas from cheese, ham (spanish ham must be the best in the world), all sorts and varieties of fruit, cakes, and all kinds of drinks, mainly his own “champagne”.

Once again a gas station overcrowded with these thirsty people was becoming an usual sight.

After refilling, we returned to Monica Hotel.

It was then that Agusti brought me to the workshop in order to pick up my car that, meanwhile, had been fixed.

The car was fine. I drove it into the carpark, near the Hotel after a fuel refill.

All Montreals were parked in private underground parking, about 6 blocks from the hotel, so we had to walk a little bit, for safety's sake.

Returning from the car park, as I was walking into the Monica Hotel, I suddenly heard someone calling me from one of the upper room’s balcony: “Hey Joseph!!! Remember me?”

It was Thor Trouvandy from Sweden, the guy who always wears a pair of shoes equal in shape, but different in colour. I instantly recognized him, and told him “Show me your shoes, so I can make a positive ID!!!...” He answered, laughing: “You do!... You do remember me!!!”

I remember Thor and his lovely wife back from the 2004 Therafod Wales Meeting, promoted by Chris Slade, where we had a wonderful time together. This time Thor came alone at the wheel of his red costumized Montreal. Both Thor, his wife, Timo Jaakinen and Eva from Finland stayed at Chris Slade’s home in Birmingham, before and after the 2004 Meeting in Wales promoted by Chris. It’s always wonderful to meet old friends again, specially when they are so friendly and such fun. Timo Jaakinen is also the president of Alfa Romeo Club in Finland.

Timo Jatinen only managed to arrive later, for he broke his car’s halfshaft in Sweden. But fortunately, with the help of Leif Gustafsson, who organized the Montreal Meeting 2005 in Sweden, he managed to sort it out and join us at the wheel of his black Montreal..

At dinner in the hotel the food was excellent. All of us, were the six Portuguese who had the wonderful company of Chris Slade and Matt Bartleet from England, and also Axel Wiesmann and Isabel Metzler, a lovely German couple from Frankfurt, who brought a red Monti. We had a wonderful time together, talking, joking and laughing all the time.

Chris Slade, (the Membership Secretary from the UK Montreal Register, of the UK Alfa Romeo Owners Club), came as co-driver for Matt Bartleet, in his white Monti.

Meanwhile, almost all the participants had arrived during the afternoon.

After dinner most of us had a drink at the swimming pool, talking about the adventures on our way to the meeting. The friendly crowd from Germany is always very, very funny, laughing and joking all the time.

But time was rushing, and we had to wake up very early next morning, for departure was at 08:00.

Friday, the 14th September
After a quick sleep, a quick breakfast and a quick walk in order to pick up the car from the carpark, at 08:15 we were heading for the Calafat Racing Circuit.

All our cars were parked in the exterior park of the race tracks. We were waiting for the moment we could take our babies onto the racetracks.

The Finnish crew... Waiting for the start...

Fernando and Armanda were waiting their turn to enter the circuit.

We had lots of fun speeding our cars at full throttle during most part of the morning. About ten cars each bunch.

Sistilo here seems to be recovering from the whole excitement on the racetracks.

Everything was very well organised by Agusti, and on the circuit everything went fine for all the cars.

After the circuit, our babies had to "quench their thirst". We were beginning to get used to that...

Once refilled we were on the move again, driving up to the hills.

About 11:00 we left the Calafat Circuit, driving through the mountains on very narrow roads, but very scenic ones.

At a certain point, Fernando’s Monti blew out all the water hoses. Fortunately. More than 30 years of dirt inside the radiator core were taking their toll… Chris Slade was right behind him, and he had brought along brand new spare water hoses sets, made from silicone. Soon Fernando was on the road again, with new water hoses, but heat problems on the radiator were not solved.

We went on, heading towards a fantastic monastery called Scala Dei,

Scala Dei are the Latin words for Stairway to God, a Carthusian monastery and vineyard. On the horizon we could see the high stone cliffs of Montsant. Legend goes that the Holy Graal could be hidden somewhere there. We must warn the Monty Python crowd about that...

Nowadays a ruin, this monastery belonged to the “Cartujos” (Karthaus), This is a religious order founded in the 10th century by St. Bruno from Germany. The monks were supposed not to talk to each other, and to live alone in their rooms, to plant their own vegetables, and not to eat meat. In the early 19th century, the monastery was nationalised by the state, and abandoned, so the local population went picking up stones from there and taking them to their own private houses and buildings, dilapidating almost everything in the monastery.

The Scala Dei monastery is presently being slowly rebuild.

A special word for the British lady guide, who did a terrific job, explaining everything with such accuracy, that no questions were ever needed to know more. This must be the best tourist guide I ever met, and believe me, I have met many.

Timo from Finland was finally (or finnl'y) having a good time, always smiling...

Next stop was to have lunch at Cornudella del Montsant, way beneath the mountains, above Scala Dei. Our babies overcrowded the central "Plaza".

Once again, Agusti provided us with some typical regional dishes, that were outstandingly delicious.
The main dish was stewed cow's tongue, and this is something you may not want to eat. But once you taste it, you change your opinion about eating tongue. Tongue in cheek...

(I can't help it, but I can' resist telling the old joke about the guy in the restaurant, when they told him that the main dish was stewed tongue, he replyed:

...Tongue!? That's digusting!!! It lays inside the animal's mouth!!! Instead, bring me some fried eggs, please...)

After lunch we went further up the mountains, into a beautiful village called Prades, where we parked our cars at the “Plaza Mayor”, the Marketsquare, and had a wonderful time together.

We took photos, had some refreshment, a beer and a good talk, getting to know other participants better. Suddenly someone managed to take a pic of the whole group.

Here I am with Chris and Thor, who always wears shoes of a different color on each foot...
Finally we turned back to the hotel, coming down from the mountain heights.

The "Long and Winding Road" always offfered beautiful scenarios for our eyes.

At dinner, Axel and Isabel joined us at table, and once more we had a wonderful time together. A “caipirinha” drink at the swimming pool after dinner, and it was about time to go to sleep. Next morning at 08:00 we were supposed to leave.

Saturday, the 15th September

Early morning we went to Masllorenç. We parked next to a vineyard, outside a wine production cellar, for a tour to visit the Magrinya private classic car collection.

No one would guess there could be such a magnificent classic cars and bikes collection hiding inside these facilities.Wonderful cars and extraordinary motorbikes were to be seen here. Among others, a fantastic red convertible special body Pegaso was being tuned at the museum workshop, alongside a stripped down gorgeous dark blue Delahaye saloon. More than two pristine Vincent motorbikes were shown there. Several pedalbikes with propshaft instead of chain were also to be seen. All this, and more, much more wonderful rare automobiles and motor bikes.

A Sorrano Pardo special racer must be older than the early 20's. It must be a Spanish special racing car, for I had never heard the name.

A gorgeous late 30's Lagonda Drophead Coupé with very good company.

A pristine mid 30's SS100 between two of his younger brothers: an early 50's Jaguar XK 120 FHC, and a late 60's E-Type Roadster.

Next to the E-Type there was another extremely rare Jaguar roadster, "dressed" in proper the British Racing Green shade, that I only managed to identify on the emblem... I don't remember having ever seen such a "big mouth" Jag... Or is it a Tojeiro, Lister or Climax? A Fiat 500 Abarth is hiding behind. Or is it a Neckar or a Jagst?

Italian sleeping beauties below lots of beautiful headlamps and automobile publicity signs.: a late 50's Maserati convertible and a more recent Lamborghini Contacht.

A late 20's refined Auburn, alongside a magificent 30's Cord were some of that period's most distingushed American transportation.

A late 30's Horch "Kraut car"from the "Uncle Adolf" era (DONNERWETTER!!!) evocative of Berlin and Unter den Linden-Kurfürstendamm Hotel Adlon before WW2, right next to a pre WW1 Delauney-Belleville in Sedanca de-Ville form.

Two highly desirable Hispano-Suizas: the one on the left must be a 30's car, while the other on the right side looks like a 20's example. This color scheme was very fashionable in the 30's, and these cars could very well have been used by "Tintin" in the Hergé comics...

This drophead coupé is an Aston Martin pre-Sean Connery. This is a true, much sought-after pre-war classic.
A pre-war charming Delahayé Cabriolet in drophead coupé form shows its' style.

A bunch of early Rolls Royces, and one of them with lots of stories to tell.

Also very old and other very rare motorbikes were to be seen there.

A pair of precious Vincents in superb condition.

There were all kinds of strange bikes and sidecars.

Countless classic bikes of all kinds.

19th century bicycles, tricycles and even four-wheelers too... All kinds of everything.

I had never seen shaft driven pedalbikes, mainly because they are so old.

This shaft-driven pedalbike has skirt protection from the rear wheel spokes, very fashionable on German lady bikes between the early 30's and late 50's.

Here we can appreciate the shaft drive gear in detail.

There was a workshop garage, where a gorgeous stripdown 30's Delahayé saloon was undergoing a ground up restoration.

Next to the Delahayé an extremely rare special body Pegaso roadster was being prepared.

This Pegaso is absolutely superb. Pegaso cars are said to be unreliable, nevertheless they still are one of the most desirable classics ever.

We got an "overdose" on rare classsics of all kind...

After leaving the Magrynia private classic vehicles collection, we went for a break near a church Montferri.
Here we were able to pray, and thank God for allowing such collections to exist...

The church of Montferri was designed by Jujol, a Gaudi's disciple.

The interior is very evocative, mainly due to the light shade of the vitrals and the gothic shape of the vaults.

The construction of these vaults, although inspired by medieval gothic architecture, carried on during the thirties, was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1936/39.

Next we drove up the hills in order to have lunch at a nice restaurant beneath the woods.

The idea was to have lunch in the open, but a few drops of rain made us quickly change our minds, and soon we were all inside.
We had a splendid lunch. Once again everything was typical food from Catalunya. Agusti managed to provide us with typical food all the time, but also always different dishes. Not an easy task, I must say.
Scandinavia was well represented here.

Rob Jones, on the left smiling at us, turned out to be a very friendly chap. Although Chris Slade kept referring to him all the time, in the previous 2004 Wales Montreal Meeting I hardly had the chance to talk with him then. Fortunately this time I managed to talk with him a little bit more, in order to realize he is a great chap, and with lots of sense of humour.

On the rear window of his Montreal, he has written in white addhesive small lettering: "THE ITALIAN JOB WITH V8 VROOOM..." and "TUCHA MY CAR, I SMASHA YA FACE!.."

He has a fantastic airhorn mounted on his Monti, that performs the first bars of "The Godfather" musical theme. You may listen to it at this link:

He claims these airhorns sound terrific inside the garage... Imagine these airhorns echoing The Godfather's theme inside the garage...

Rob Jones' car is quite a star, featuring all over in Classic Cars Magazines articles.

Here it is in a studio for one more photographic session. Who knows if this was not the car on the XXX porn movie I heard about, filmed in 1976 in Cascais featuring a Montreal. I haven't given up yet from getting a copy, but it has turned out to be almost impossible.

Rob Jones is also the designer who created those stickers with the Montreal Meeting logo.

After a visit to Montferri and lunch, the party returned to Cambrils with time for a chat before the gala dinner in the evening.
After the gala dinner, Willy received his prize: the Giuliano Mazzuoli watch.

Agusti Vilella's team (family & friends) were fantastic, providing us with constant support.

Next there were some speaches from Agusti and our "Registerführer" Omar Trinkler "auf Deutsch gesprochen".

Then I spoke, and I submitted a proposal to host the 2009 Montreal Meeting in Portugal, Estoril-Cascais area.

Portugal is a bit far away from most Northern European countries, and this Cambrils meeting had already been in the Iberian Peninsula.

Even so, my proposal has been voted, and approved by all.

So, the 2008 Alfa Romeo Montreal International Meeting will be in Luxembourg, and in 2009 it will be in Portugal, Estoril-Cascais area.
Now, I am in trouble...

After a quick drink we went to sleep, for next day we had to be up very early in the morning.

Sunday, the 16th September
Hotel checkout before 07:30, and cars picked out from the carpark, heading for the marina.

At 08:15 the whole group photo was taken at the Fishermen's Wharf.

A magnificent seafarer's breakfast was served before the Montreals started for home.

Sardines and white wine were part of the menu, a bit strong for such an early morning hour.

Now I realize how difficult it can be for a cat to eat a sardine without a fork and a knife... (Miau!)

Also some spaghetti with seafood was served, a typical Cambrils dish, they said.

Some TV and radio interviews were made with the participants. Zé Pacheco Alves got his moment of fame, for he was interviewed by local TV.

Our babies were ready for the trip back home...

Then we went for a last coffee at a local cafeteria, for a final chance to be with other participants.
Fernando Leal Machado decided to take a plane to return home with his wife, while his copper Montreal was to be towed to Lisbon. He was afraid of his car’s overheating problems. It was a pity he didn't come along. He even tried to hire a car to come with us, but it was Sunday, and he didn't manage to get a car in time.

At the end, we were two Montreals on our way home: Zé’s and mine. We decided to take the route through Valencia, and sleep at Toledo, in order to visit this beautiful medieval city, ancient capital of Spain. My proposal was to visit Caceres after Toledo, and if time allowed, we could also visit Merida, or even the “Vale de los Caidos”.

Zé said he had much work expecting him in Lisbon, and he claimed he already knew Cáceres, for he "had participated in a regatta there, a boat race"… (I wonder in what part of Caceres) He probably confused the name Caceres with Cadis, I hope… Anyway, he was a bit reluctant to extending our trip to other places.

So, we left before 10 o'clock.

At the first fuel stop in a service area after we left Cambrils, we saw three big vans full of a family of an ethnic group, or rather of a tribe, which seemed to me like gypsies. They must have been around 15, 20 or more people, from elderly people to little children. Of all ages and both male and female. Quite a crowd.

All the women had their heads covered with scarves, they looked more like Turkish, or Muslems. There was a thin older man, wearing a grey suit, white shirt bottoned up at the neck, with no tie and a kind of Borsalino hat. He looked very respectable, and very dignified, with a distant look in his eyes.

While I was paying for the fuel inside the shop, Zé was refuelling his car. As I came out, Zé was holding a very friendly conversation with them, in French. They told him they were from the city of Fez, in Morrocco, but French immigrants. So they seemed to be Touaregs dressed in European clothes.

The boys and men were fascinated with our cars, asking him all type of questions, technical questions included.
I asked the "Patriarch" (the older man) to take a picture of the four of us with our cars, which he kindly did.

We waved goodbye, and while I was walking away to my car, Zé made to them the Moroccan salutation called "Salamalek", quite an emphatic gesture. They all returned the salutation, very respectfully towards all of us, more than once, looking at us very respectfully.

When I was getting close to my car, I heard the "patriarch" saying a word loudly, that sounded to me like the nastiest Portuguese word he could ever say to us: "Foda-se". In English it sounds like "foh-dass".

I couldn't believe my ears. This word in Portuguese means literally "fuck you".

Now, whoever knows me well, knows I would never loose such a chance for a good joke, and I instantly turned me back, and still saw the Patriarch with his right hand raised up, saluting us very kindly, after saying what sounded like the nastiest Portuguese word he could ever say to us.

I instantly returned him a very kind but much louder "FODA-SE", and all those people at once, from the oldest to the youngest, raised up their right hand, looked at me very seriously, and said "FOOODA-SSSE" as if they intended to say something like "God bless you", or something.

Everytime I said FODA-SE to them, they all returned the compliment, more and more friendly and louder.

The fifth time I said FODA-SE to them, I just couldn't hold my laugher any longer, and trying to hide my uncontrollable laughs, I plunged into my car, that fortunately was a little further away, and laughed until I cried, for more than 10 minutes. My co-driver Mario did the same.

I started to disengage the parking brake, in order to start the car and leave in a quick getaway, so they couldn't see me laugh like that, but my uncontrolled laughing didn’t allowed me to do anything else, except laugh more, and more, and more, to a point that I just couldn't breathe anymore. I was chocking with my own laughter.

Meanwhile, the car was rolling free, slowly down onto the motorway, until Mario managed to pull the brake handle up.

He stopped laughing, when he realised my laughs were completely out of control. I laughed until I had completely lost my breath, and when I was trying to breathe in some air, I laughed even more and more. My God!!! I have never, never ever laughed so much in my whole life.
This story, in the telling, has only 5% of the fun it had on the spot.

Unfortunately I didn't took a picture to all the Moroccan people, and after this, I'd never dare to approach them again, for they would probably "lynch" me.

Now, I have tried to find out if there is any salutation in Arab sounding like the Portuguese word "Foda-se", (foh-dass in english), but there is none. My wife asked a colleague of hers at the Lisbon University, who lectures Arabic culture, and he says no such sounding word appears to be Arabic.

So, the most likely, is that these people have worked in France, possibly with some Portuguese fellow, who always kept saying "Foda-se", and they kindly saluted us with the only Portuguese word they knew.

Or some naughty Portuguese chap must have told them that "Foda-se" is the most polite way to wave somebody goodbye in Portuguese...

Whatever the reason for them to say that, I never ever had such an hilarious situation in my whole life, believe me.

We continued our trip.

At a certain point we saw a guy driving a motorbike with a sidecar.

We overtook him and waved to each other. Unusual vehicle drivers always do that, it seems.

Here's Mario's "self-portrait".

Our cars were behaving very well, and the trip was a breeze.

A car crash had caused a queue, but soon things were settled, and the road was reopened. I wondered if it could have been the sidecar biker, that hit the car and ran...

We stopped for lunch before Madrid, at a service area.

After lunch we headed towards Toledo.

Suddenly we started to notice an increasing strange whining sound, apparently due to some worn out gearbox bearing. I insisted on a gearbox noise, because in 5th gear there was no noise. Mario insisted it should be the alternator belt, for he had the same problem on his sailing boat auxiliary engine recently, and it was only noticeable at higher revs, and cruising under 4500 revs shouldn’t be enough to produce that whining sound.

Anyway, it could also be lack of oil inside the gearbox, so we decided to search for a workshop in Toledo next morning, in order to lift the car in an elevator, so we could check the gearbox oil level.

We went untill our next fuel refill stop. We went into the service area in a very deserted region of the southern Madrid area.

There was a truck parked on the service area. It was towing a huge giant fan blade used on giant windmill turbine electricity generators . The fan blade was so huge, that we decided to take a picture with the car next to it, which was dwarfed by it's incredible gigantic size.

We asked the two girls working there to take a picture of us, which they did. But it was not easy, for they were shy, and very careful with apearances.

Once we were all having a great time, and were in a very good mood, I asked the girls to be pictured with me. A bit reluctantly, they accepted to do so in the end.

Always joking and laughing, I was telling the girls that I was an Arab Sultan, and that I had lots of wives. After all, if having two wives is considered "bigamy", that should mean that having only one wife should be considered "monotony"... (Oh, boy, oh boy, oh boy!... )

Ten feet taller, and "little old me" feeling like a true "Porfirio Rubirosa" we followed the route to Toledo, laughing and having a really good time enjoying the drive at it's full (breakdowns included)...

Just before Toledo, while we pulled over for a quick "leak", we saw a street called: "Calle Carretera", that literally means "Street Road"... (Those Spaniards...)

We arrived near Toledo by the end of the day, just before sunset.

Before Toledo there is a huge plain, and the sun was shining down in a most "biblic way"... In such scenary, we expected to see Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, directly from the hand of God Himself, stretching out of the clouds. It must have been here that Cecil B. de Mille got the idea...

Another pic of this fantastic sunlight, shining through the clouds as we were approaching Toledo.

We arrived at the hotel just in time for a quick plunge in the swimming pool. (Save the whales...)

After that, Zé Pacheco Alves called a taxi, because the hotel was outside the city walls, and private cars are not allowed in those beautiful narrow medieval streets.

After a wonderful dinner in a typical restaurant recommended by the taxi driver, we returned to the hotel, in order to have a good night's sleep.

We were not far from Portugal, and so we decided to go on our separate ways, for Zé had lots of work to do back home, and Mario and I wanted to visit Caceres and Merida on our way back home.

We had a wonderful night's sleep.

Sunday, the 16th September
First thing in the morning, after leaving the hotel, we went to look for a workshop in Toledo, in order to check the oil level in the gearbox, while Zé Pacheco Alves and his father were probably still sleeping.
We drove around Toledo, and it took us a couple of hours until we managed to find a suitable workshop. The car was lifted up on an elevator, but fortunately the oil level was correct. We were afraid of some other kind of major gearbox problem, like a worn out bearing or gearshaft.

The river Tagus is the same that flows through Lisbon, although in Toledo it is only a small river. The small white dots are in fact a flock of ducks swimming on the water.

Here we can recognize the ducks, pictured with my camera zoom.

It was not an easy task to find a workshop with an elevator to lift our car up. After some unsuccessful attempts, we finally managed to find one.

Car was lifted up, and gearbox oil level was fine. On one hand it was good news, there was no gearbox oil leak. On the other handhand we couldn't figure out what could be the reason for the whining sound. It could be a worn out gear or some bearing inside or outside the gearbox...

We went on, fearing some major gearbox problem.

We entered the old part of Toledo, inside the medieval walls, and parked the car in a carpark near the Alcazar, and went for lunch in central Toledo, at the McDonalds in order to save time to see Toledo.

We decided to take a small touristic train pulled by a tractor, and have the guided tour around Toledo. Mario and his "dog leg" kept him from big footwalks.

We managed to see parts of Toledo otherwise impossible to reach on foot, mainly thanks to Mario's "bigfoot"....

We had a good time on the train.

Here we can see part of the Toledo's medieval defense walls.

A curious ancient window hidden behind the carpark lateral walls, between two buildings, was shown to us by the employee there, who opened the garage lateral window for us to see it.

After that we left Toledo, heading for Caceres, where we considered visiting the medieval part, one of the most beautiful and well preserved medieval cities I ever saw.

Mario was at the wheel, and after driving some hundreds of kilometres, the alternator belt suddenly broke on the motorway. That’s when we finally realised what that strange whining noise was all about. My fault anyway. I had replaced the alternator before by a stronger one, just after the “Volta a Portugal Rally”, and my electrician told me I had to realign the pulley, and I had simply I forgotten to do that.

We left the motorway, and went looking for a workshop.

We found one at Navalmoral. And it was an Alfa Romeo authorized workshop.

Fortunately Mr. Cortes, my mechanical, had provided us with a spare alternator belt, and although the workshop we found was an authorised Alfa Romeo workshop, they didn’t had a belt of the correct Montreal size.

But at first glance, there was another dented belt together with the alternator belt, so it seemed to us there was not an appropriate alternator belt. We got into a panic, so to speak. In the end, the correct alternator belt was hiding beneath the other water pump belt, thank God…

We replaced the belt, and continued our trip, joking with the people at the Alfa Romeo workshop, claiming they should ask our help whenever they needed some skilled Alfa Romeo specialists like us...

Before entering the motorway, we had a small meal at Navalmoral village.

It was getting darker, and Mario was driving, when a storm was approaching on the horizon.

We were on the Palensia motorway, and it suddenly started to rain heavily, and... Windscreen wipers didn’t work. "Kaput!!! Donnerwetter!!!"

We pulled over at the first gas station, and went to check the fusebox, and in the end one fuse had to be replaced.
Fortunately Mr. Cortes provided us with lots of spare fuses. He must be aware of the usual electrical troubles on temperamental Italian cars… Also the self-rechargeable pocket lantern bought in a gas station at Cambrils was once again of great help.

Soon after we were on the road again, with the wipers in full working order, and full of self-confidence at our McGyver skills.

We were talking about the wonderful time we were having, breakdowns included, praising the Montreal for its' fantastic road manners, when he started to complain about the weak headlamps. I told him they were ok for 1970’s standards, just like many other cars from that period. He also claimed engine was starting to fail, and soon I realised it really was. Lights were fading, engine power was decreasing, electric wind-up windows were malfunctioning, and I decided to make another phonecall to Mr. Cortes. He instantly told us it should be low battery (obvious now), and we should check the battery terminals, as well as alternator belt tension.

We left the motorway on the first exit, and there was the village of Malpartida de Plasencia some 8 kms. away.

It was as dark as hell, and the lights of the village were some kilometres away from us.

Without the correct tools, we needed to find a place where we could get a hammer, an extra wrench for we only had one, and enough light to do the job of retensioning the alternator belt.

We kept on driving for more than 7 kilometres with headlamps off until the next village, through the darkest road, without any kind of moonlight, only with the parking lights on. Absolutely blind as bats. All lights were off, and only from time to time we used the parking lights when we felt it could be too dangerous to keep so dark.: when some car was aproaching or if we suspected some road curve or so. We drove in complete blindness, with doors open, so red warning light on the doors could allow us to see the ditch more or less... We felt like the old Lucas slogan: "The Prince of Darkness"...

Finally we entered the village almost at midnight, and there was a carpenter workshop still open.

As I was entering the carpenter workshop, a fearsome dog jumped at me, barking furiously. The owner said: “Don’t worry, it’s just a young dog…” And it was little big dog, and very friendly after all. (Dog gone!!!...)

We borrowed a hammer and a piece of wood, and retensioned the alternator belt. It took quite a while, due to incorrect tools. We had only one wrench. So we had to improvise. I held the lantern, with one hand, taking pictures with the other, while Mario was doing the work. Equality, I mean.

We were afraid excessive tension could break the belt, because we had no other spare belt.

Around midnight we were ready, returning the tools to the carpenter shop, and preparing to put everything back in the trunk of our car.

Finally we headed for the motorway, on our way to Caceres.

After driving 3 or 4 kilometres, the lights started to fade again, mainly when high beam headlamps were on, causing more resistance on alternator, and the belt slipped again...

Quick "U" turn back to the village, but meanwhile carpenter workshop had closed.

We went on to the centre of the village, and searched for a good place under a lamp post.

We only found a well illuminated place in front of the shop window of an insurance agency, where the car could remain in a position that would enable us to push it in order to start the engine without the starter motor, just in case.

But suddenly the shop window lights closed automatically. Once again our lantern proved to be quite useful.

After pushing the car in order to fire the engine, finally we were on our way to Caceres, where we arrived late at night.

There were no rooms avayable at several hotels we tried inside the old part of Caceres. We managed to get a room for ourselves at a new hotel in the new part of town.

We went for a petrol refill, and to get something to eat at the gas station near the hotel, but the battery was still low, so we push-started the engine, and car was left in the Hotel’s garage, in such a a way that we could easily push it to start next morning.

Next morning we visited Caceres, and Mario said his father used to go there, but he was too young to remember, and as he grew older, he didn’t come along with his father.

He was overwhelmed with Caceres.

We visited the old part, and had lunch at the Plaza Mayor.

After lunch and a wonderful "politically incorrect" Cuban cigar, we picked up the car at our hotel's garage.

We had to push it in order to fire the engine.

Soon after were heading for Merida, in order to visit the fantastic Roman Theatre and the Coloseum, as well as other major Roman ruins there. Although Merida is not beautiful as a city, its' Roman ruins are absolutely outstanding.

But the motorway entrance towards Meridawas was closed due to roadworks, and so we went on following the other road leading to Badajoz, close to the Portuguese border. We must have missed the alternative entrance from the motorway to Merida.

We went on and on, and at a certain point, the page we were reading on our Michelin Map was ripped of by the wind, swallowed through the open window...

A huge truck was on our tail, and the road was under work, so there was no hard shoulder for several kilometres.

I even tried to find the missing page. As soon as we could, we made an "U" turn. But after several atempts along the road, we gave up, and followed on our way .

We brought out the GPS, but it was not up dated, and recently built roads were missing on the GPS maps.

So, we decided to follow the road to Badajoz instead, and get back home without visiting Merida.

We talked about a funny thing regarding all the breakdowns we had. They only occurred while Mario was driving. We considered that the car, being Italian, was very temperamental as a true Italian should be. For this reason, it only allowed the owner to drive, and we made lots of jokes about this subject all the time.

We also considered ouselves true McGyvers, solving all our troubles with a clip and a pocket knife.
When we were passing through Estremoz, already in Portugal, I asked Mario if he ever visited Olivenza.

Olivenza is a small Spanish village near the Portuguese border. It stands for Portugal just like Gibraltar stands for Spain. During the Penisular War, in the early 19th century, the Napoleonic French Army invaded Portugal. Our old English allies came to help us fighting the French, commanded by General Beresford and the Duke of Wellington. Our Royal Family escaped to Brasil, a Portuguese colony by then. Taking adavantage of that, Spain invaded Portugal, taking lots of territory from us in the south, including the city of Olivenza, a fortified village. A few years later, was signed the treat of Fontainebleau through which Spain was meant to return Olivenza to Portugal, which they never did. So Olivenza is now a Spanish city, but lots of palaces and beautiful churches remind us of the old grandiosity of Portuguese Olivenza. Although several treaties later signed decided that Olivença should be returned, it still has never been until today.

This was one of the old main entrances into the fortified city of Olivença, through a 17th century defense wall.

Upon the entrance vault, there is a Portuguese shield bearing the Portuguese arms.

Inside the 17th century walls, there's an older castle and the walls form the ancient Citadel, that was built in 1304 by the Portuguese King Denis the First.

The church of Saint Mary from the Castle (Santa Maria do Castelo, or Santa Maria del Castillo) is from 1584. It was built on the very place where the first Olivença church was built before the 13th century.

The interior of the church of St. Mary of the Castle.

Detail from the later 17th century outer defense walls, that were built between 1640 and 1688, after Portugal regained its indepence from Spain.The original 14th century citadel and medieval walls were swallowed by the city's growth over subsequent centuries, and by the 17th century another exterior wall was built under the instructions of John the Fourth Portuguese King, in order to prevent Spanish attempts to reinvade.

A detail from the 14th Century medieval walls. The main defense tower, from the beginning of the 14th Century.The beautiful façade of the Saith Mary Magdalene church, a jewel from the early 16th Century.

Maria Magdalena church main entrance door. A fine example of Renaissance art from the 15th century.
A lateral door of St. Mary Magdalene church.

Lateral door of Saint Mary from the Castle church.

This door belongs to the old Portuguese Duque of Cadaval's palace, today the Town Hall.

Another perspective of the Duque of Cadaval palace.

A painted tile, typically Portuguese, with the name of the Duque, inside a vault that crosses under the palace.

The "pelourinho" a public place where criminals were tied in medieval ages. This one shows the "armilar sphere", a Portuguese symbol still seen today on the Portuguese national flag.

During the Discoveries, the Portuguese ships sailed across the seas, and in architechture there were lots of sailing symbols, like the columns inside the buildings were sculpured with the shape of ropes as those used on the ships. Sometimes the sculptured ropes form knots or ties. Also the armilar sphere was a constant representation of that time. This was whenour king Manuel the first reigned, at the end of the 15th century and in the early 16th century. This architectonic style is nowadays called "Manuelin", and is typical of Portugal in that era.

Here we can clearly see some "Manuelin" columns.

The interior of several churches in Olivença are of an unexpected richness and exhuberance...

A baptistery with a very peculiar representation of Jesus' genealogy...

Driving across "Olivenza", we saw the old 17th century wall on our left. Two smart little dogs were crossing the "zebra" like cosmopolitan pedestrians. This dog was holding me up, while calling his other dog friend behind him.

And so they both crossed the street as they were entitled to on the pedestrian zebra crossing, quite aware of all their civil rights... Dog gone...

Some locals wear those kind of t-shirts we could only describe as "quite inspirational"...

Typical "Manuelin" Portuguese style on this late 15th century old Portuguese church of Saint Mary Magdalene.
The interior of the Saint Mary Magdalene church, with painted tiles and beautiful "Manuelin" style columns.

Unnoticeable on this picture, but there's a Portuguese symbol on the window.

After Olivenza we continued our trip back home, having dinner at Arraiolos in one of my favourite restaurants, the “Alpendre”, that I strongly recommend. We were homesick for Portuguese traditional dishes.

Before midnight we were arriving in Lisbon, realizing how small distances are in Portugal, compared to Spain.

I must say I was missing everybody from the meeting, even before we left Cambrils.

Fortunately there’ll be the chance to meet everybody again next year at the Luxembourg meeting, and in 2009 in Portugal.

Yours for longer engine roars,

Joseph Santos-Fernandes
Av. Infante Santo, nº 4-1º esq.
1350-179 Lisbon PORTUGAL

1973 White Monti reg. no. FP-88-74

My name is Joseph, and I am from the Lisbon-Estoril area. Loyalty, friendship, good mood and style are values that I praise. My interests are many, including sixties music and pop culture, psychadaelia, collecting old vinyl records (mainly late 60's), playing the keyboards in a sixties pop-rock revival band (, classic and sports cars that I own and race, history of mankind (mainly Roman Age and Renaissance), old postcards from places and locations I know well, old wrist watches, old photograph cameras, among other things. Hidhuism was something I got involved with during the early seventies, but now remains "in the canyons of my mind". Having survived a "near death experience" in the late seventies (a severe Guillain-Barré Syndrome paralisy), I managed to recover 95%, gaining extra weight, and a new attitude of facing life, and other people. They say that what I lost in elegance has been gained in charm and understanding. I must admit I agree, because "one of my many virtues is my HUGE modesty". Would you believe??? (À la Get Smart).