Saturday, June 13, 2015

Algarve: our first glimpse of Portugal's famed southern coast

The main road we were driving along just north of Seville was really beautiful with a wide median full of pink,red and white oleanders. In some areas they were lining both sides of the road. This combined with the bright yellow sunflowers in bloom, grape vines alternating with olive trees as far as the eye could see made for a stunning drive.

Finally we reached the Portugese border where we had to register our credit card for use on the main toll road. There were no toll booths only cameras taking the car's picture every so often and billing the toll to the credit card. It certainly saved a lot of stopping. Now instead of oleanders there was just a thin concrete median up the middle of the road.

After a short time we arrived in Tavira where we had lunch in a lovely old, canary-yellow building, the Convent de Graca, now a hotel. We sat outside in the former Renaissance cloisters. It was very quiet and pleasant. Lunch was a bowl of beetroot and watercress soup with some yogurt whirled in and a plate of Portugese tapas with lots of local seafood. There were a few very pink people having lunch. The sun in the Algarve is very strong.

We eventually found our little hotel well hidden above Tavira. Unpacked, it was time to start checking out the beach. A long stretch of coast here is protected by barrier islands. Access to the beaches was via ferry boat or a narrow bridge and then a one-kilometre walk across the marshlands. For a small fee you could also take a little train. We couldn't really imagine toting our beach chairs and paraphernalia with us. Once we arrived it was well worth it to walk on the beautiful fine sand that stretched as far as the eye could see. Instead of having a swim and walking back to the car wet, we just had a long walk up the beach noting that the beach chairs were €13 a day to rent. It was all lovely but not the beach we would move to.
Back in the car we drove back into Tavira to see where the ferry left from. That was the other option to get to the beach but it seemed like a lot of work.

We had dinner back at our converted mas. The owner was an excellent cook and with her daughter made one of my favorite meals, fish cooked in salt. We have done it and it takes several kilos of salt to put under and over the fish, which cooks in about half an hour and always tastes lovely. These fish were cooked in port wine salt and they too were delicious. With the translation we were never completely sure what the fish was. Dinner was served outside. It was quite a multicultural table with the local owner and her daughter, her Colombian husband, a lovely German couple from Dusseldorf and an American couple from Maryland. The conversation was quite lively if somewhat dominated by the Americans who were enjoying the wine too much. They competed with each other and tried to compete with everyone around the table about everything they had ever done. It was dIfficult to get a word in edge ways. We did enjoy our dinner but I must admit the Basil Fawlty would come out in me with people like these know- it-alls if I had to encounter them too often.

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