Tavira – The Birthday Stay (Feb. 26 – 28, 2018)
Tavira is a town just 20 km west from the border of Spain (which is where we were heading) and came highly recommended by Pedro, our Workaway Host. It has been described as one of the most charming towns of the Algarve and we couldn’t agree more. The town is set on both sides of the meandering Rio Gilao, and is perfect for wandering over bridges and on narrow cobble stone streets through historic gardens and shady plazas, and indulging in a wide array of fantastic cafes and restaurants.
Highlights of our Stay in Tavira included:
1. Our Guest House – Casa Beleza do Sul
It was an above the ordinary, wonderful, spacious, self catering unit, that was centrally located and tastefully decorated. Paula the owner, was super welcoming and friendly. She was born in Switzerland, grew up in France and currently lives in Portugal. It was interesting to hear that she considered herself European and not of any specific nationality. This fit in with our perception over our month of travel, that Portugal is culturally diverse, with people from all over the world choosing to living there and being welcomed and accepted by the country.
2. Local Treats
On our first day we decided to check out the local market and purchased a variety of local foods to enjoy in the warmth and comfort of our apartment. We had local wine, olives, a fig shaped heart, chorizo, smoked sardines, folar cake (a traditional Portuguese Easter cake), quince ,( a fruit that is between a pear and an apple), cheese and bugles (ok, not so traditional).
3. Gerald’s Birthday Day
We started off the day with a walk through town, hanging out on the bridge, and being serenaded by a local saxophone busker (check it out HERE). With a bit of sun peaking through the clouds we decided to check out Ilha de Tavira which is one of the sandy islands that are all part of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. This beach can only be reached by boat, so we walked through town to the ferry terminal, where we were ferried across the river to the beach. With cool temperatures, strong winds and questionable skies the beach was deserted but for three hours we did our best to enjoy all it had to offer on that day. We walked in the sand, watched the waves crash along the shoreline, found a great little barricade from the wind and indulged in a “cat nap”.
As the day progressed, the rains came along with it. For this particular occasion though we decided to brave the weather and walked across the river for an evening of eating and entertainment. Our restaurant of choice was influenced by the unique bicycle decor in front of it and instinctively we knew we would enjoy this spot. The bass fish and octopus dinners and the most amazing goat cheese and walnut salad satisfied our taste buds beyond expectation.
It was too early to go back to our guest house and since we had been having trouble on our trip finding local music we decided to finish of the birthday day at the local Irish Pub. It was definitely an expat crowd (great people watching) with an expat musician singing cover tunes. The deal was that he had a list of 500 plus tunes he could sing and you could look at this list and write down the songs you would like him to sing. I secretly wrote down “Happy Birthday ” by Stevie Wonder and much to Gerald’s chagrin, he became the centre of attention. The musician sang, and the small crowd joined in on the chorus to sing and wish him a happy birthday. Too FUN!
As we left the pub it was raining pretty hard and the bartender graciously gave us an umbrella to use for our walk back.
It was one of those travel days, that was the perfect combination of experiences!
4. Sightseeing Around Town
Through out our stay in Tavira we were weather hawks, checking up on the daily and even hourly forecasts. We were trying to find a window of time to leave that had the lowest chance of rain. This happened to be on Thursday March 1, so we asked Paula if we could stay another night but our self catering unit was booked. Thankfully the room across the terrace became available and we only had to carry our stuff a few metres.
So the next question was, what should we do with one extra day. This ended up being a sight seeing tour of Tavira which included the following:
The History of Fado Music
I had been wanting to see Fado music since we arrived in Portugal and never had the change until we reached Tavira. Here a group of local fadistas have created a 45 minute show in a small and intimate environment in the historical centre that showcases the various styles of fado music. The lead guitarist explained everything in three languages( English, Portugese, French). Impressive! Fado is the soul of Portugese music and the theme of the songs are usually about on the harsh realities of daily life
The Water Tower – Transformed
The Tower of Tavira was one of those cool innovative tourist attractions that one should definitely see. It was build in 1931 to supply water to the town but has not been used in long time. An expat engineer had a brilliant idea to repurpose this old water tower into a venue where one can get a panoramic view of the whole city. With the use of mirrors and a large concave surface, he constructed a system that provides a 360 degree view of Tavira. Although it was a cloudy that day and we didn’t see as much as if had been sunny we still could see the hustle and bustle of the streets in real life time and our guide highlighted all the local monuments, parks , cultural and the historical places of this wonderful quaint city.
The Cork Shop
We usually like to figure out some kind of souvenir to bring back from each country we have been in. This is of particular challenge when you have to think about carrying it on your bicycle. Our choice for Portugal was a local cork shop that professed to be selling things made in Portugal. I would loved to have bought shoes but instead opted for coasters, place mats and hot pads (light, thin and easy to pack in my pannier).
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