Tuesday, July 16: This morning, while Jo and I have a leisurely breakfast, she tells me she wants to show me the castle before we leave for the bus station in Faro this morning. She kindly offers to take my excess clothes with her to Britain when she returns home later this week so that we can avoid wasting time queuing at the post office this morning. She says she doesn’t have much luggage and she can easily take it home, where it will probably be much cheaper to send it by surface from Britain. I agree to take her up on her offer and give her 30 euros to mail the stuff from Britain. (However, later, once I arrive home in the USA, I get the parcel way too early for her to have sent it by surface; so I suspect she mailed it by air!) She’s way too nice!! She also lent me her small Lisbon guide and asked me to mail it back to her when I return to the USA.
So, much to Jo’s and my relief, we forgo the post office and get me all packed up and showered. Then we head out to have a quick look at what’s left of Tavira’s Castelo. Outside the Castelo, we can see the pretty yellow rooftop of Convento da Graca, the pousada of Tavira. The Pousada de Tavira, Convento da Graça, is located in the Santo Agostinho Convent, founded by Dom Sebastião in the sixteenth century. (Pousada de Tavira, Convento da Graça)
Pousadas de Portugal is a chain of luxury, traditional or historical hotels in Portugal. Formerly run by the state, they are now run by the Pestana group, which in September 2003 won a public bid for the sale of 37.6% of mother company Enatur and for a 40-year running concession.
The Pousadas were created in the early 1940s by Government Minister António Ferro, also a poet and playwright, who had the idea of creating hotels that were both rustic and genuinely Portuguese. There are now 44 Pousadas installed in historic buildings (Wikipedia: Pousadas de Portugal).
The remains of the Castelo are surrounded by a small but pretty garden. According to Lonely Planet Portugal, the defense might date back to Neolithic times. It was rebuilt by the Phoenicians in the 8th century and later it was taken over by the Moors. What remains now is a 17th century reconstruction. We can see views over Tavira from the ramparts and steps and the octagonal tower. The gardens are very pretty and shady.
It’s really hard to get a picture of the overall Castelo because of the gardens within. Outside the castle walls sits the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, built on the site of a Moorish mosque; it holds the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his knights. The church dates from the 13th century and the clock tower has been remodeled from the original Muslim minaret (Wikipedia: Tavira Municipality). It is the main parish in Tavira.
Parting Tavira, and leaving Jo, is such sweet sorrow! She and Mick drive me the half hour to Faro, where I catch the 11:15 Rede Expressos bus to Evora. When I get on the bus, I see there is no bathroom, which has me a little worried for what will be a 5-hour bus trip. But I’m told by the bus driver that we’ll make a stop at a halfway point. Jo and Mick kindly wait in the bus station until my bus takes off, and then I’m on to the next leg of my trip through Portugal.
The bus ride is fairly uneventful. I listen again to Brett Dennen on my iPod nano (I’m obviously addicted to his songs!), read about Evora in my guidebook, and look out the window at the dry golden plains, the rolling hillsides and green vineyards of the Alentejo, which covers a third of the country.
I finally arrive at Evora’s bus station, which is quite far from the center of town, and catch a taxi to my hotel, the PENSÃO POLICARPO. The hotel occupies a building dating from the end of the 16th century, which was in earlier times the manor house of the Counts of Lousã (Pensão Policarpo).
This noble house has an imposing principal façade which faces south, and thus offers a panorama over the Alentejan plain.
On the other side, the house opens on to a small patio.
My room is quite simple. It has a sink in it, but the bathroom is a shared bathroom down the hall. The fact that the room has a sink makes the shared bathroom situation a little more acceptable.
The receptionist at the hotel is very friendly. Every time she greets me, she says “Holaaaaa!!” in a sing-song voice with the “la” very drawn out; she makes me smile with every greeting!
I get settled in and study the map and the guidebook and head out to explore the town.
Monday, July 15: After we rest a bit at Jo’s house, we take a long walk into town to have dinner at a wonderful restaurant called A Taska, which means “a simple place to eat.”
Jo tells me that the menu here is all about the sauces. We first peruse the leather-bound menu.
Everyone who follows me knows that I take my dining experiences while traveling seriously! I love to eat and I enjoy the artful presentation of food, the ambiance and decor in restaurants, and the relaxation of sharing a good meal accompanied by a glass of wine. I think everyone here, including Jo, Mick, the owner and waiter, get a hoot out of me running around photographing everything. Like Jo says in her post, Meeting a Catbird: “Charm turned up full (with maybe a little extra confidence from the port), she proceeded to photograph the decor, the menu, the food, and of course, Luis and Phillipe. “She’s funny” said the latter, rolling his dark eyes and minding not a bit.”
I think Jo’s right that the port, along with the fun-loving company of her and Mick, do give me a little boost of confidence! 🙂
I order the Taska Sauce with Chicken Breast. The Taska sauce consists of cream, mustard, Oporto Wine and Prawns. Yum!
After the delicious dinner, we walk through the town and stop into a little shop, Casa das Portas (House of Doors?), which sells some beautiful photographs of Portuguese doors and windows that are transferred to canvas. I love them and want to buy one or two, but Jo is not going to allow me to add anything else to my suitcase!! I don’t blame her, as this afternoon, I set aside some stuff I’d like to ship back to the USA tomorrow morning before we leave for Faro, even though this morning, I found the post office here does not ship by surface, only by air, at the exorbitant cost of 78 euros. Which of course means queuing at the post office again. I know, call me crazy!
We continue our stroll through the town. It’s beautiful all lit up at night, and I enjoy seeing the Portuguese families out strolling, eating, laughing and chattering.
Jo got my mouth watering all day over the promise of almond and fig ice cream, so she takes me straightaway to her favorite little kiosk to sample some. Sadly, tonight, the almond and fig flavor is missing in action. 😦
We stroll around looking for the same flavor in other spots, and we find something close:
We return to Jo’s house where I sleep contentedly after a lovely day. Tomorrow, I’ll head to Evora in the Alentejo.
Monday, July 15: After leaving Alte, Jo, Mick and I drive further west to Silves in the Algarve, where we find a pretty smattering of orange rooftops above the banks of the Rio Arade. The river used to be an important trade route for the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. When the Moors invaded in the 8th century, the town gained prominence because of its strategic hilltop and riverside location. According to Lonely Planet Portugal, it rivaled Lisbon in prosperity from the mid-11th to the mid-13th centuries.
Much later the river became silted up, causing disease and hindering maritime trade. Other Algarve ports gained in importance, and Silves became a shadow of its former self.
We begin our climb to the Castelo de Silves, and walk through the pretty little town on our way uphill.
In June 1189, Dom Sancho I laid siege to the town, supported by a bunch of mostly English crusaders, who plundered and stripped the Moors of their possessions, tortured those remaining and wrecked the town. Two years later the Moors recaptured the town until 1249, when the Christians regained control for good.
On top of the silting up of the river and the growth of other Algarve ports, the 1755 earthquake struck the final blow to the town. It wasn’t until the 19th century that local cork and dried-fruit industries revitalized the town. Today the economy of the town revolves around tourism and agriculture (Lonely Planet Portugal).
Many places in Portugal are known for their stork’s nests, which are frequently photographed. I can’t resist taking one picture myself.
Sé de Silves (Cathedral of Silves) is one of the Algarve’s few remaining Gothic monuments. It was built in 1189 on the site of an earlier mosque, then rebuilt after the 1249 Reconquista and restored later several times after earthquakes.
The Cathedral has a multi-arched Portuguese Gothic doorway.
We finally reach the top of the hill where we enter the Castelo de Silves. We enter the russet-colored walls and walk around the ramparts, admiring the views of the town and countryside below. The castle was most likely built in the 11th century and then abandoned by the 16th century, according to Lonely Planet Portugal. The fort was restored in the 1940s and is a combination of Islamic and Christian styles.
The castle once sheltered the old Moorish ‘alcáçova’ which was the residence of the lord of the city. Not much remains of the defensive walls and towers which protected Silves, but one of the four gates remains and is the ‘Torreão da Porta da Cidade’ (The turret of the City Gate). (SilvesUncovered.com)
Once again, you can see I’m captivated by the tiled walls and pretty windows of Portuguese buildings.
I also love the scruffy look of many of the buildings, with their peeling paint and cracked or missing window panes.
After Silves, we head back to Tavira to rest a bit before heading out for dinner. Jo has promised me both a fig and almond gelato and a glass of port, all in one night (!), so I look forward to our night on the town.
Monday, July 15: Alte is a quiet and charming village in inland Algarve. Its narrow cobbled streets in the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirão boast whitewashed houses with lattice-work and handcrafted chimneys.
At the eastern end of Alte are the springs (fontes) for which Alte is well-known. We walk down a deserted road to an area around Fonte Pequena (little spring). It’s quite picturesque with a grassy area on the banks filled with picnickers, sunbathers, swimmers, ducks and a pretty little bridge across the stream.
There is a pretty paved garden area in front of the Fonte Pequena Inn dedicated to Alte’s famous poet, Cândido Guerreiro. Tiled plaques on the wall feature some of the poet’s works (AlteUncovered.com).
In the garden, we can also see azulejo tiled pictures at Fonte Pequena (little spring).
We stop for a drink at a little cafe with a view of the bridge. The man who runs the cafe speaks perfect English and later I see him sitting down at a table with an older version of himself. It must be a father-son business. They look exactly alike except for the age.
The church is at the center of the village, as is the case in many Portuguese villages. The Church of Alte (Igreja Matriz de Alte), also known as Church of Our Lady of the Assumption was initially established in the late thirteenth century as a private chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. Renovations were also done in the 16th and 18th centuries.
We stop for a drink and a light lunch at a little cafe that doubles as a souvenir shop. We sit amongst colorful platters, bowls and jugs. Of course, I’m tempted to buy some, but I know it’s impossible to add them to my suitcase! Plus, I don’t think Jo would allow it! 🙂
I love the sign on the ladies’ room door. The Portuguese definitely have a sense of humor!
I am captivated by the doors, windows and walls throughout Portugal, as you will see in most of my posts to come. They have a kind of shabby chic look to them, which makes them quite charming. I know people in the USA spend lots of money to achieve this look in their modern homes!
I’m surprised to see this new and brightly painted building in this whitewashed village, but I like the bright color that is like an exclamation point in the landscape!
We leave the village and head further west in the Algarve to the lovely village of Silves.
Monday, July 15: Jo makes me a lovely Continental breakfast, and we linger over it and several cups of coffee, chatting about possible things I can do in Portugal. She suggests going on a day trip from Lisbon to Cascais and taking a walk from there to Estoril along the seafront. She tells me to visit Torre de Belem in Lisbon. She recommends the Monasterio de Belem, with its cloisters and Manueline-style architecture. She tells me I should sample pastel de nata. She thinks the logistics of the Obidos trip from Evora might be quite complicated and wonders if Obidos is worth the two nights I have booked there. She wonders if two full days I have planned in Lisbon is enough.
After breakfast, I show Jo the Spanish skirts I’ve bought, which of course I’m very excited about. She thinks they’re nice too, but she notes the amount of stuff I’m carrying in my bag. It is quite heavy, I’ll give her that! This luggage dilemma becomes quite a source of teasing during the rest of my stay with her. She wrote quite a funny post about this, and about our visit, in her blog: restlessjo: Meeting a Catbird.
The first thing Jo has planned for us this morning is a bird-watching and historical boat tour. Before we go though, she walks me to the bus station so we can inquire about buses to Evora. When I was at Marianne’s house, since I knew Jo wouldn’t have internet at her house, I went ahead and booked hotels for the 16th & 17th in Evora, for the 18th & 19th in Obidos, the 20th & 21st in Sintra and the 22-25 in Lisbon. I wasn’t really too sure about these plans, as I didn’t really research them much, but at that point, I figured I needed to make some decisions. At the bus terminal today, we find out the facts about the bus departures from Faro (9:45 to Evora) for my departure tomorrow. It’s sure a good thing I have Jo there to help me figure things out. After tomorrow, I will be on my own again.
I also ask her if she’ll mind walking with me to the post office so I can inquire about sending a package home. I have too much stuff in my suitcase now, after buying all those Spanish skirts, despite the fact that I discarded stuff in Mollina before I left the Andalucia tour. We go to the post office, where we pick a number and wait, for a long while. To kill time, I ask some random person walking around if they sell boxes. I get the box and when my number is finally called, I ask about a surface shipment to the U.S. They tell me there is no surface option, only air, for my estimated 7 kilos; by air it will cost me 78 euros!! I say, never mind! I’ll just deal with it. I’m not going to pay that much to send a bunch of dirty clothes home. I know it will be a pain hauling that stupid suitcase through the rest of Portugal, but I just don’t want to waste that much money!
So, after all that waste of time, we head to the dock to take the fabulous Ria Formosa bird-watching and historical boat tour.
It’s a lovely day for a boat ride, and Jo and I are ready to go!
I love being on a boat. I grew up near the York River in Yorktown, Virginia, and I spent a lot of time on my friends’ boats: sailboats, rowboats and motorboats. My neighborhood, Marlbank Farms, was on Wormley Creek and I still retain my childhood love of the water. 🙂
And Jo absolutely adores the beach, the ocean, the river, and Tavira. Plus, she’s very happy to be out of that post office!
On the boat ride, we see cormorants, storks and egrets. We see colorful fishing boats, many of which are used to fish for octopus. I love the smell of the salt air and the feel of the cool breeze and the picturesque village of Santa Luzia sitting prettily along the coast. I love the sailboats, catamarans, motorboats and fishing boats.
It’s a blue sky day on the blue, blue water. The scavenger seagulls even love the day.
We take a lot of pictures of boats, boats and more boats. 🙂
After our cruise down the inland waterway, we go through an opening in the islands to the Atlantic Ocean, where we see lighthouses, fishermen, sunbathers and swimmers on the sandy stretch of beach.
And then we head back through the opening and down the Rio Gilão to the dock at Tavira.
It’s a lovely 1 1/2 hour boat ride that gives me a great experience of the shoreline of Tavira. I love it!
After we leave the boat, we get in the car for a ride to visit two of Jo’s favorite towns in the Algarve: Alte and Silves.
Sunday, July 14: This morning, I wake up before sunrise to get showered and ready to go to Torrox to catch the 7:20 a.m. ALSA bus to Seville. Poor Marianne and Michael, who have been the perfect hosts, also have to get up early, as they are driving me to the bus stop.
The bus stop is not in a terminal, but just a covered stop along the route. I feel bad about them having to get up so early to drive me nearly a half hour to the bus stop, so I encourage them to just drop me and head back home. They are too kind to leave me, and they insist on standing with me until I’m situated on the bus. It’s so funny how I’ve just let myself fall into their hands during my stay here. I’m used to traveling alone, and I normally function perfectly well when I have to, but when someone steps in and offers to take care of me, I can easily allow them to do that. It has been lovely for me to be in someone’s capable and caring hands for a few days. What a welcome respite from some of the logistical worries encountered in traveling. 🙂
The bus arrives right on time; we put my bag into the hold, give hugs all around and then I’m off. The bus is filled with teenagers all dressed up as if they’ve been out all night at a party. They’re quite boisterous at this hour of the morning. The first half of the bus trip involves lots of joking, laughter and general loudness until they start getting off the bus in twos and threes at various stops along the way. Finally, after we pass through Malaga and a few other larger towns, we’re on the highway to Seville.
I arrive in Seville at 11:45 and have to wait nearly two hours in the bus terminal for the 1:30 p.m. departure of the EVA Transportes bus to the Algarve, which is to arrive in Tavira at 2:50. Taking into account the one hour time difference between Spain and Portugal, the bus ride should be about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
On the bus ride, I listen, as I’ve taken to doing on this trip, to Brett Dennen’s “Lover Boy” on my iPod Nano. I come across a song, “I Want to Feel Free,” and the lyrics speak to where I am right now.
I want to feel free like I did when I was younger
When I was younger I was brave
Now I’m lost in another language
Some words I know but I’m mostly confused…
And I got home to Santa Monica
Below a blanket of clouds
My pockets filled with pretty Spanish coins
They have no value to me now.
I alternatively enjoy the scenery out the window and drift off to sleep.
I am meeting up with another blogger, Jo of restlessjo ~ Roaming, at home and abroad, who is British but has a vacation home in Tavira. It just so happens she is on vacation during my time here in Spain and Portugal, and she has kindly invited me to stay with her for two nights. I am touched by her offer, as she and her husband Mick only have a short time on their vacation, and they have invited me to be an interloper during their precious holiday time! I know Jo loses a couple of nights’ sleep worrying over having a stranger in her house before I arrive; I feel so bad about that!
I’m surprised when the bus pulls off the exit ramp at about 2:10 and I see the sign for Tavira! I’ve told Jo I’ll arrive at 2:50, so it will be a bit of a wait in the bus terminal. When I arrive, there is no sign of Jo, as I wouldn’t expect there to be at this early time. I don’t have any money left on my phone to text her, and there is no one manning the bus station whose phone I can use. It’s obviously siesta time. So I just wander around waiting and watching for Jo.
While waiting, I get my first glimpse of the Ponte Romana. This seven-arched bridge probably predates the Romans, but it was so named because it linked the Roman road from Castro Marim to Tavira. According to Lonely Planet Portugal, the current structure dates from a 17th-century reconstruction. The bridge was also touched up in 1989, after floods knocked down one of its pillars. The bridge spans the Gilão River.
I finally see Jo, who I easily recognize from her blog, wandering down the street toward the bus terminal. She’s tall and thin, with beautiful skin and a lovely smile, and her manner is really adorable. She has an incredible warmth about her. She introduces me to her husband Mick and he kindly welcomes me. I feel really bad for him having to put up with this stranger for a couple of nights. At least Jo and I have read each other’s blogs and know something about each other, but poor Mick doesn’t have a clue who I am!
Jo describes herself as thus on her blog: Hi! I’m Jo! Johanna when I’m feeling posh, Jan to my Dad, and Joasiu to my Polish family. A bit of a mix-up, I guess. The one definite, however, is my restless nature. I can’t be still for too long, unless of course it’s sunny and I’ve got a good book. I love to travel and to explore our world. It doesn’t have to be the big wide world- I can be ridiculously happy not too far from home, so long as I’m out there, just embracing life. To read more about Jo, see Restless Jo: About. She’s definitely an energetic and restless lady who embraces life with gusto; I pick that up about her quickly. I can certainly identify with that restless nature as I have it myself. 🙂
We put my bags in the trunk of the car and then stroll through the town, stopping along the way at Cafe Anazu to have some chilled white wine (Jo and I) and beer (Mick). Jo and Mick harken from Hartlepool in northeast England, where Jo says it rains too incessantly for her taste. They love coming to the Algarve about four times each year to escape the dreary weather and to explore the Algarve’s sunny and warm beaches. Mick works as a landscape architect at his home and Jo is retired.
Then we go to Jo’s house, where she helps me settle in to her lovely guest room. Then Jo and I escape to her rooftop, where she has a swinging rope hammock-seat; we share glasses of wine and chat for a long time. She’s easy-going and companionable; we comfortably open up to each other and share all kinds of stories about our histories, our current lives, our children and our struggles.
I take a little rest, and then we take a long walk into the charming Old Town. The buildings are a little more scruffy than Spain’s pristine whitewashed buildings, but that only adds to their charm. Many of the buildings have ceramic-tiled facades, which are lovely.
The Moorish occupation of Tavira between the 8th and 13th centuries left its mark on the agriculture, architecture and culture of the area. That influence can still be seen in Tavira today with its whitewashed buildings, Moorish-style doors and rooftops. A castle, two mosques and palaces were built by the Moors. During this time, Tavira established itself as an important port for sailors and fishermen.
In 1242, the Christians took Tavira back from the Moors in a bloody conflict. The population of the town was decimated during this battle. Though most Muslims left the town, some remained in a Moorish quarter.
In the 17th century, the port on its river was of considerable importance, shipping produce such as salt, dried fish and wine. Like most of the Algarve, its buildings were virtually destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. This earthquake is thought to have reached a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale and caused extensive damage throughout the Algarve due to shock waves and tsunamis. The earthquake is referred to as the Lisbon Earthquake due to its terrible effects on the capital city, although the epicentre was some 200 km west-southwest of Cape St. Vincent in the Algarve (Wikipedia: Tavira Municipality).
We pass by the pretty Church of Carmo, or Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, all decked out for some festival.
This solemn church was constructed to promote the Carmelite ideal of attaining Christian perfection, fostering the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, with special devotion and prayer to the Virgin of Carmen. Started in 1747, the church is one of the most sumptuous in the Algarve and took 43 years to complete. The church is renowned for its exceptional acoustics and is often the venue of classical concerts held here throughout the year. (Tavira-Today.com: Tavira Churches)
Many Portuguese houses and buildings have facades of pretty ceramic tiles. I love these!
We head for dinner at Restaurante Bica, where we share a carafe of red wine, hearty bread, cheese and olives; I order Salmão Grelhado, or Grilled Salmon. This is a small and bustling Portuguese family run business with delicious food. It’s a lovely place but since it’s so loud, I have a little trouble hearing Jo and Mick in order to have a proper conversation.
It’s funny, Jo and Mick are British, so of course they have British accents. I have a little trouble understanding Mick’s soft-spoken accent in particular. It’s the same on their side as well; Jo mentions that the first time I called her, she was baffled by my American accent and thought: Who is this lady!?? It’s funny the assumptions we make about people when we read their writing in a blog as opposed to hearing them speak. I was equally surprised by Marianne’s and by Jo’s British accents!
After dinner, we take a long walk through the town, where we see the lights of Tavira reflected in the Gilão River.
We stroll through an outdoor market with booths selling all kinds of crafts and clothing. Mick takes a picture of Jo and me, which isn’t too great in the poor lighting.
Jo comments, as Marianne did in Spain, that she loves seeing entire Portuguese families out strolling, dining and laughing into the late hours of the night.
In one little square, we come across a crowd gathered around something or someone emanating a loud peeping sound. When we finally push our way to a vantage point, we see a grown woman dressed like a baby in a baby stroller, making loud peeping sounds like an angry bird. I’m totally baffled as to how these street performers think of these things. Later, as we walk across the Ponte Romana, we come across this trio of colorful be-wigged and polka-dot faced ladies in a box, making similar peeping noises. Wow! There are certainly some creative street performers in these parts!
We walk back through the streets toward Jo’s house, where we plan to make a stop for a glass of Port. However, the place where Jo and Mick usually go is closed tonight; once we discover this, we’ve left the center of town where we might find other options, so we give up and go home. Jo promises that tomorrow night we will have a glass of Port. She also gets my mouth watering over mention of a delicious fig and almond gelato, which we must sample tomorrow.
I’m exhausted by this time from my early start, my day of travel and all the walking, so I collapse in bed, dreaming of Port and fig and almond gelato, a literal feast of sweet dreams. 🙂