Monday, September 15, 2008

Coasting Home - Tavira - Salema - Olhao

It's nice to be pampered now and then and a four star hotel will do that after a Lisboa pensao off Rossio. Our needs are minimal and the luxury aspect is probably wasted on us. While we looked forward to getting back to the simple life in Luz we had been intrigued in our reading about a few small towns in the Algarve, so we decided to take a leisurely ride along the coastal route stopping for lunch along the way. We are left with pleasant memories of Sevilla and would rank it as our second favorite Spanish city after Barcelona.

Saturday - September 13th 2008

Leaving Sevilla on a Saturday morning was as easy as arriving, with very little weekend traffic and no last-minute-decision wrong turns that have plagued us in the past. The roads are well marked and easy on the nerves. We chatted about the intriguing set of emails that were in my inbox. Rich and Lu were safely back in San Diego apparently no worse for wear. Zach, Maria and Sarah were off gallivanting somewhere around Lisboa, and Matt was holding down the fort at the casa apparently alone as the owners in the "big house" decided to spend the weekend in the city rather than risk mingling with their daughter's folly at the Quinta. Sounds delicious and we are looking forward to getting the scoop from Matt.

Poking along the highway we decided on Tavira for our lunch stop. It is a quiet town nestled on the banks of the Gilao and Sequa rivers. It is an easy walk from the municipal parking lot, over the arched Roman bridge to the town square. We spotted a couple of young boys fishing from a window of their riverside home (that is a short supply chain). A warm, relaxing and lazy kind of day, the setting complimented our mood perfectly.

We lazed our way through lunch at the Pastelaria Alagoa (my pastry intake had been alarmingly low) in a charming little square filled with palms, hibiscus, and flowering trees, each breeze filled with fragrance. A delightful place. This area is known for it's fanciful chimney fretwork, and the craftsmen find fanciful ways to market leftover clay (Idle hands and all that).

We rolled into a very deserted Quinta da Luz about 3:00 and found a note from Matt saying that all was well, he was at the beach, Internet cafe, or the Duke of Holland restaurant watching the soccer game and would return at 3:15 - perfect timing. Moments later we spotted our nephew making the trek up the driveway. We brought each other up to date on our activities of the past couple of days, our feelings for Sevilla (Matt was toying with going there before heading back to Lisboa), and the saga of the dryer and the broken handle.

Matt and I made a beer run to the British market in Luz, and after some heavy contemplation on the veranda, with our feet up, he decided Sevilla could wait and he'd hang with us for a couple of days, then we would all head to Lisboa. We liked that decision as Matt is a joy to spend time with. Among the memorable decisions made that afternoon was to leave a note for Alexandria with 100 Euros to replace the dryer handle. (Seemed very generous to me, I'd suggested 50). We also decided on our dinner town, Salema, between Lagos and Sagres.

Salema is a small fishing town, with crooked little streets, and lots of restaurants. Because we got there after the sun had descended (we were very relaxed), we didn't get a good look at the place, but is on our list of things to do should we return to the area. The nets, boats and (supposedly) octopus trap pottery jars were packed along the seawall, ready for deployment the next day. The town cats were apparently happy with the fish haul that day. So were we. At La Casinha I had the best swordfish of our trip, Matt the fish and banana, and our daring Kat tried and enjoyed the rabbit.

Sunday - September 14th 2008 - Quinta da Luz, Portugal

We are going to miss this place. A sparkling Sunday morning, crystal clear, with mild breezes to keep you company on the veranda. Olhao (we pronounced it - Oh-Lowh, right or wrong) was our third and last sightseeing destination. It's about an hour to the east of Luz with an active fishing industry.

Known as an artist's favorite, this cubist town is splashy and commercial along the waterfront. There is a huge brick fish market that was just closing by the time we got there (just a few moray eel looking things for sale, and they didn't smell very good to me). Along the waterfront are manicured parks and beautiful tiled benches on which you can relax and enjoy the view.

We walked away from the water, really just a street in from the main drag and the contrast was amazing. It was quiet and there was a real sense of neighborhood, with kids running and playing and laundry hanging. The architecture is fascinating, and while the design choices may not be what we would pick, it does grab your attention. Check out the "baby ca ca brown" tile job on the front of this house, and if you zoom in, you can see that there are a lot of interesting details that add character. Even the door surround of marble on the grey house to the left. Style. It's a cool place.

We pasta-ed ourselves up at an Italian restaurant on the main drag. Like so much in Portugal, first glance things look a little shabby, but that is not the case. Elegant inside and the food was excellent outside.

Returning to Luz we realized we had not been to the Praia at all, in fact hadn't even seen it. It is a nice beach, very family oriented, and larger than I had expected. We sandy stepped our way down to the water and was surprised at how cold the water was. Quite a shock after the gloriously warm waters of the Azores.

So our time on the Algarve was complete, we had done and seen everything on our list, and the area left such a favorable impression on us, I could see spending a few months a year kicking it here in paradise.

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