Another ‘new to us’ place to explore, is the town of Tavira, an ancient Port, heading towards the Spanish border, how exciting! We had planned to come here last year but got far too comfortable at Manta Rota and after our nasty experience in Olhao, we plumped for the relaxing beach option instead. Anyhoo, we’re here now and it’s quite wonderful!
We decided to cycle in from St. Luzia. There is a place to park the van next to the market in Tavira (Motorhomes are apparently tolerated out of season) and there’s also a decent bus service but we fancied a bike ride. Saturday is market day and I never like to miss a good foodie market!! It’s a very easy ride on a marked cycle path. It’s around 3.5 miles from Pedras D’El Rei with orange groves on one side of the road and lemons on the other. You pass Las Salinas, the salt lakes where the Flamingo gather.
We aim straight for the Mercado which is well signposted. The market building is an unattractive, in fact downright ugly, affair at the side of the river. Quite a contrast to the handsome red brick market halls at Olhao. The produce however is absolutely cracking and the prices very cheap. It’s busy and colourful, a typical Portuguese market. There are lots of stalls selling organic goods and many herbs and spices which look like they have come straight from Morocco, only a stone’s throw away. The flowers look and smell incredible. There is a fantastic choice. I’m in foodie heaven! I even manage to buy lemongrass which I’m always on the lookout for.
After the market we go in search of a lunch spot. The Octopus and Bean Stew has been recommended at a street bistro cafe called ‘Mira’ by our friends, Ian and Sandra. We find it easily but it’s still a little early to eat so we wander off to explore a bit.
Instead of going across the big road bridge over the river, cross the road by the market at the foot of the bridge to the left and head along the Rio Gilao and into the old town. It’s not like I imagined it would be at all, it’s surprisingly lovely and has a good feel to it. The leafy palm lined gardens along the riverfront are green and tranquil. The old arched now footbridge built in 1667 on the foundations of the original Roman structure leads over to the historic part of town and the former Mercado da Ribeiro. Here you’ll find a handful of small, interesting shops, galleries and boutiques and a plethora of great restaurants serving all kinds of everything from traditional Portuguese cuisine to Italian, Indian, whatever takes your fancy. The Punjab Indian lunchtime menus has also been recommended by some travelling friends and looks incredibly inviting. Prato do Dia, dish of the day averages around €7 per person so lunch won’t break the bank.
Leading up from Praca da Republica, a handsome square just before the bridge, along the winding cobbled backstreets, are the ruins of the thirteenth century Castelo. The gardens are incredibly beautiful and the views from the old castle walls spectacular. Adjacent to the castle stands the impressive church of Santa Maria do Castelo. Only the clock tower of the original church survived the massive earthquake in 1755. The rest was rebuilt.
Tavira has a total of 21 churches! It’s a surprisingly elegant town with its white mansions and graceful eighteenth century town houses. Look up to see the fancy hipped rooftops and ornate wrought iron balconies. It deserves longer than a day to explore really. It’s now very hot though and we’re in dire need of sustenance. There’s no shortage of places to eat that’s for sure. We plump for a selection of fishy tapas and a crisp Vinho Verde, (Portuguese green wine which is slightly fizzy and very light – good for lunchtime drinking!), at Mira. The Octopus Stew is sadly off the menu today. It’s very enjoyable in the afternoon sunshine just watching the world go by.
We have had a really lovely day here and will definitely come back. Next time we’ll bring the van and spend an evening so we can see the town all lit up at night. Bet the castle looks fabulous. You can take various boat trips in season and water taxis run regularly to the beaches over on Ilha de Tavira. I wonder if we could get to Fuseta by boat? I know you can take the train there from here as our friends did it. That’s a consideration for next time too. All for another day though. It’s time for us to head home.
Half way back to St. Luzia I realise I have picked up a puncture. Bugger it, we have loads of shopping to carry and at least two miles to go. Oh well, on a positive note, it will walk off our lunch. The Bromptons are an absolute godsend when Motorhoming. They are very light and fold away into a tiny space. I am beginning to wonder however whether we need something a bit more robust for exploring further afield. Electric bikes might have to be a consideration. Something to ponder. The tiny wheels aren’t faring so well on the sharp Portuguese cobbled roads and rough cycle tracks. I’ve had more punctures on these supposed non-puncturable tyres than I can shake a stick at. We only have one inner tube left so it’s a last chancer.
Back to base then. The sun is setting as we walk through Santa Luzia along the river. The little fishing boats are all coming in with their daily catch and the bars and restaurants along the front are starting to come alive. Great vibe.
Ok we have reached the van and on that note dear chums I shall bid you a fond farewell for today. My feet are killing me and I am desperate for a cup of tea. Yes! You heard me right, TEA!
Kettle on, feet up aaaand relax!
Sunday tomorrow so we’re going to have a total chill out day before we decide what to do/where to go next. Fuseta is on the cards.
Enjoy your magic Saturday folks. Love to you all. Oh and don’t panic. The tea drinking is only temporary. I shall be enjoying a nice G and T later!
Adious friends ❤️