Tavira feels like Bude but warmer and more days of blue skies. We are staying on the east side of the bridge overlooking the river girao with its famous Roman bridge spanning it.
Over the ten days we have got to recognise several characters who come and go. The guy who dresses in a over large white suit and walks a dog with a bell, someone in a cottage who climbs down the ladder and pees in the river, the fisherman who still sift the river bottom at low tide for clams and the daily gathering of around 12 -15 men of all ages that play petange every afternoon. People watching is a universal pleasure and there are plenty of cafes to enjoy a tostada, brioche, coffee or beer and so just that . Self catering,we have made the most of the local market, full of fresh fish, local veg and lovely fruit, speaking of which we bought a box of around 3kgs of strawberries for 4€ from a couple of street sellers wandering the streets who shouted up to our balcony . It really is cheap to self cater here if you eat like a local and fish and meat are great value and you eat really healthy apart from an odd pastel de nata, Portuguese tarts.
Tavira has remained largely unspoilt because of its narrow back roads and long paved roads with very few hotels.
It’s full of locals. The ex pats and tourists that reside there provide into the local economy and there are lots of cafes and modern bars existing alongside the original.
With few hotels in Tavira, it has retained it’s character and there are even patches of wilderness, probably owned by the many churches which add to the wildlife and natural feel of the place. With over 30 churches and over a thousand years of history, the architecture is stunning from large grand homes, some restored but most faded and even falling down to lovely town houses and the small dark fisherman’s cottages.
A remnant of the moorish days, many of the doors are adorned with ‘The hand of Fatima’, pairs of lovely knockers. Said to protect the home, Fatima holds an apple or some think it’s a pomegranate. No idea of the significance but did notice some doors that had a female and a male hand. Apparently men and women chose their own gender knocker and the homeowners would know if it was a lady or man calling .
The castle area gives great views over the town and the gardens are full of daturas, poinsettias, roses and of course the ubiquitous orange trees, laden with ripe fruit, as were other public spaces with some restored areas, but lots of lovely wilderness and lightly tended parks.
We took two trips out to the Ria Formosa, a protected nature park with islands lagoons and wetlands which has such biodiversity. Ferries run to the sand barriers which have the most beautiful sandy beaches littered with shells.
Quatra Aguas is walkable past the salt pans where there is a well known fish restaurant where we tried razor clams which I don’t think we will be eating again! Barril beach is accessible by train or walking and has an anchor cemetery, a remnant of the tuna fishing industry.
We saw flamingoes, all sorts of wading birds, a hare and three hoopoes ( crested colourful birds living in maritime pines).
For a winter break and a bit of R & R in the sunshine, it couldn’t have been better. I even got some sketching and a few watercolours done too. Perfect.