Animalcouriers docked at the Spanish port of Bilbao yesterday morning and headed straight for Madrid to collect Charlotte from AAH Vets. Her owners have gone on ahead to England, and neighbours have been looking after her in the meantime.

From Madrid we headed into Portugal where, thanks to out-of-season deals, we were able to book a room at the Pousada Hotel in Extremoz. (Pousadas are luxury, traditional or historical hotels — a bit like the Paradors in Spain.) Called La Rainha Isabel, our hotel was set in the 13th century Extremoz castle, with a fine view over the surrounding countryside where white marble deposits are found. Extremoz has a history of Roman and Muslim occupancy, and has always been important geographically because of its proximity to Spain.

Charlotte is a rather shy and feisty cat, who didn’t want us to get too close to her at first. But last night, with lots of quiet chatting and gentle handling, we managed to persuade her out of her carry box and into her much more comfy travel compartment. This morning, after a light breakfast, Charlotte was willing to have a little conversation with courier M, without any of the throaty growls and hissing we heard yesterday.

After a spot of sightseeing around our hotel, we set off to collect a ferret called John Dorian Silva. He off to join Marta who’s moved from Lisbon to Leicester where she works as a nurse. He’s been staying at LIsbon Zoo’s pet hotel, which seems a rather special place. With fine facilities and expertise on hand, the zoo set up the pet hotel as a commercia enterprise to raise extra funds for the zoo.

Our next stop was to meet Jacqueline and collect her cat called Banca who’s heading to Birmingham. ‘Banca’ is Portuguese for doll or dolly — a thoroughly appropriate name for this very sweet little cat.

Continuing the theme of castles, we drove to Queluz National Palace to meet handsome TomTom, a white German Shepherd Dog. He’s travelling with us to Luton to rejoin his owner Chris who works at the airport. We wonder if TomTom’s name was inspired by Chris’s job?

Debi and her family are returning to Wales from Portugal, and we’re transporting their cats and terrapins for them. Cats Cerys and Dylan are 16 years old and have been together ever since they were kittens. The terrapins are called Thor and Odin — with these names, we suspect they may have been responsible for all the thunder and lightning that was going on when we met them!

Extremoz castle is built of stone faced with marble — it's in excellent condition

Extremoz castle is built of stone faced with marble — it’s in excellent condition

When we climbed up the tower of the Pousada this morning, we found we had company!

When we climbed up the tower of the Pousada this morning, we found we had company!

Looking down from up there made our knees go a bit wobbly — we can understand why she looks so terrified!

Looking down from up there made our knees go a bit wobbly — we can understand why she looks so terrified!

Vista of the local countryside and marble quarries

Vista of the local countryside and marble quarries

The view of our van and the statue of queen Isabel

The view of our van and the statue of queen Isabel

La Rainha Isabel — queen Isabel — herself

La Rainha Isabel — queen Isabel — herself

This beautiful little chapel overlooks the queenly statue…

This beautiful little chapel overlooks the queenly statue…

…and faces this monastery

…and faces this monastery

Symbols of the crucifixion on the side wall of the monastery

Symbols of the crucifixion on the side wall of the monastery

Here's how it all fits together — the statue, chapel and monastery

Here’s how it all fits together — the statue, chapel and monastery

One-eyed Charlotte, who is gradually coming round to us

One-eyed Charlotte, who is gradually coming round to us

John Dorian Silva, who was sound asleep when we met him and only woke up when his carer stroked him!

John Dorian Silva, who was sound asleep when we met him and only woke up when his carer stroked him!

The super environment at Lisbon Zoo where John Dorian's been staying

The super environment at Lisbon Zoo where John Dorian’s been staying

Jacqueline flew in to Lisbon last night to oversee Banca's departure

Jacqueline flew in to Lisbon last night to oversee Banca’s departure

Sweet Banca gets settled in

Sweet Banca gets settled in

The forecourt of the rather wonderful Queluz Palace

The forecourt of the rather wonderful Queluz Palace

Sit TomTom! No thanks, I'll just have a lie down instead!

Sit TomTom! No thanks, I’ll just have a lie down instead!

Cerys (L) and Dylan (R)

Cerys (L) and Dylan (R)