By now I was becoming quite the pro in getting out of “Dodge”, or in this case cities in Spain. My drive to Tavira Portugal was uneventfully peaceful and I loved the scenery as I rode the impeccable highways to my destination. Tavira is the home of a British ex-pat I know named Pauline, and the sister of Gloria, a woman I have known for many years in Zihuatanejo. I decided that I would definitely pay Pauline a visit, a prearranged dinner with Pauline and another sister Christine, and friends Penny and Delia from England. The other two days I decided to leave completely open with no agenda, no pre-booked tours of any kind and just take the time to chill before heading to Lisbon, and my final stop before flying home.
Tavira is a small city on Portugal’s Algarve coast. It straddles the Gilão River, which reaches the sea through the inlets and lagoons of Ria Formosa Natural Park. Tavira Island has a long, sandy beach, plus salt pans that attract flamingos, spoonbills and other wading birds. In the center, medieval Tavira Castle has city views. The Santa Maria do Castelo Church houses the tombs of 7 knights killed by the Moors. (Wikipedia)
I arrived early afternoon, and quite by accident, took the road towards an area called Santa Lucia, as it looked as if it ran down the coastline, with Tavira the city a few miles in the distance. I had a couple hours before I could check in to my Airbnb, and so parked my car near a launch that took river tours down the Ria Formosa. I decided to take it- one because I was throwing all caution and plans to the wind, and two because Formosa is the name of the town I grew up in, in Ontario Canada. I thought it was a good omen.
The large riverboat meandered along quite some ways before she dropped everyone off at a beach area. I walked the sandy path to the wide-open ocean and promptly found a chair with an umbrella, and near the bar. Out of the hot sun I reveled in the gloriousness of the day for a few hours and even took a dip in the frigid ocean.
Once back on shore, I saw that my google maps no longer worked, due to the fact that I didn’t have a Portugal chip yet and my Spain one was out of data. I decided to have a glass of wine at a local restaurant across the street from my vehicle, to ponder my predicament.
When I had finished, the waiter assisted me in getting a taxi to lead me into town. He allowed me to use his internet and I was able to call ahead and let my host Ana know I was on my way. Her son met me at the charming little house, advertised as House sea in historic Center Tavira.
The little 2 storey house was close to everything as I was soon to find, and a well stocked kitchen- including a jar of instant coffee and milk for the next morning. I was in heaven, but first I knew I had to get to a store to purchase a chip for my phone. I wasn’t able to park directly in front of the condo, but there was a free spot in the lot above me.
My host directed me to a modern shopping mall, about a 20-minute walk away, which gave me a great opportunity to stretch my legs. I had to cross a great span of bridge that separated one part of town from another which gave me a lovely picture of the Rio Formosa and the town. I saw that there were numerous cruises I could take the next day if I wanted, as well as a wide variety of cafes that dotted the banks of the Formosa on either side. The scene was like a postcard and I fell a little in love with it.
The purchase of a chip was relatively easy once I found the right store, and the young man spoke English which always helps as I do not speak Portuguese. It was a nice mall- very modern with everything from a full-size grocery store to several chain clothing stores, as well as mom and pop type businesses.
On the way back, I decided to explore the area a bit. By now it was early evening, and I planned to call it an early night. Besides my accommodation had a TV and an excellent internet connection. I crossed the river again and turned down the canal which was already filling with early diners like myself and I people watched throughout my meal.
The next day I strolled past a large indoor market that looked as if it were about to open. There, fruits vegetables, cheese and even clothes I think were on display, but I was too early, and no one seemed eager to serve me, so I left. I returned instead to the same canal for breakfast, a mere few blocks away and had breakfast, this time at a different café. Although I craved bacon and eggs, it appeared that this was not on the menu and I ordered my usual of buttered toast with a side of olive oil.
As a side note, due to my RA (Rheumatoid arthritis), I am following quite a strict diet in Canada of no carbs, high fats and protein, which has worked fairly well. Here, in Spain and Portugal, it is not as easy to do, especially if you eat out a lot. It seems that bread is a staple, smothered or dipped in olive oil, small tapas which are often too salty and sometimes grilled but mostly deep fried. Vegetables at restaurants are scarce and a salad can cost over 8-12 euros which is a lot, while the less healthy choices are very cheap. Throughout my trip, while doing the best I could to eat healthy, I chose to eat like a local. Surprisingly I never felt better and wondered if perhaps it was the flour that had less gluten, or the copious amounts of olive oil I was consuming. Either way it was a treat to eat fresh delicious bread and croissants on a daily basis.
Once breakfast was over, I noticed a few people lining up at several kiosks that dotted the street and I went to investigate the tours each one was offering. I finally decided on another river cruise down the Formosa, this time to another beach. I chatted with several people on the boat, tourists like myself, (everyone was always so friendly I found), but we parted ways at our destination. This beach whose name I cannot remember, was nearly deserted as well, but there were a few that looked like good restaurants to have lunch at later. I spent a wonderful day just basking in the sun, but unlike the day before decided not to swim in the frigid water. Tired, tanned and feeling rejuvenated, I headed home for a nap and early night. Surprising how tiring doing nothing can be.
Upon my return to the condo/house, I decided I should check and see if my car was still safe where I had parked it. Good thing- an older couple and a policeman were crowded around it. They were startled as I walked up and alerted them to my presence. I asked in Spanish, as my Portuguese was pretty non- existent, if everything was alright. The woman pointed to my car angrily and I could see that my car was not really parked in a good spot at all, but rather was sitting on the curb directly in front of the entrance to their home. I could easily see how that would irritate anyone. In my defense, all the other spots were taken when I had parked the day before and since I had noticed another car doing the same, I decided I would as well. I planned to move it when a spot became available in front of my apartment.
The policeman, who spoke perfect English told me that I had parked in a bad spot. Fearing a ticket, especially in a foreign country I apologized over and over again until I could sense the woman and man softening, then hurried to move my car to a better spot. The next morning as soon as one opened in front of the condo, I claimed it.
I had zero plans for the next day other than to catch up with some emails, do a little writing and take advantage of the washing machine in the condo. By late afternoon I was ready to do some exploring and decided to check out the more historic area of town and take some photos. I managed to capture quite a few postcard- like scenes as well as do a little shopping and chat with the locals and visitors everywhere I went. Around early evening I went in search of dinner.
The streets twisted and turned for a few blocks before I came upon a lovely little French restaurant and where I decided to dine. I enjoyed a delicious meal of seafood, fresh bread and the ever-present olive bowl. I was alone but I didn’t feel lonely somehow- in fact loneliness was the last thing I felt throughout the whole time away. Perhaps I was more nostalgic or just reflective. But never lonely. Strange.
My last and final day was spent taking still more photos of areas I had missed the day before, and then later I headed to my friend Pauline’s place in Santa Lucia for dinner.
The town was captivating, and I could imagine living here at least a month of every year just being. And from what Pauline told me, it was a very close-knit community where everyone knew each other and presumably watched out for each other. Pauline, her friends and I enjoyed a couple glasses of wine at her beautiful villa, then set out by car a mile or so from town, to a local restaurant. There were no menus- the chef and owner would take care of everything and just bring us food, Pauline told me. I was perfectly happy to sit back and enjoy the wonderful company. And, as promised, the food was amazing and only about $20 Canadian dollars each.
I was sad to say goodbye at the end of the night to my new friends but have decided that perhaps Tavira was worth another visit in the future- and perhaps for a longer stay. For sure it is a place I would definitely recommend to others.
But for now, Lisbon and the final leg of my trip beckoned.