How long have we been away now? 26 days? Goodness, that’s almost a month! Almost a month without so much as a sniff of a single Chinese or Indian meal. Until today… We’re sitting in Vince on a breezy but sunny afternoon in Tavira, Portugal after a belly-busting curry lunch. There were poppadoms & dips, there was tikka, there was passanda, there was rice and beer and enormous ghee-soaked naan breads – phwoaar! It’s going to take a ten-mile run tomorrow just to shift the bread, eek!
The fact that there’s an Indian restaurant here at all, is probably enough to tell you that we are in the Algarve, one of Britain’s favourite holiday destinations. We honestly don’t often come across many curry houses except in the big towns. Every second accent we hear on the street here, seems to be from the Home Counties. This is reflected in the house prices too; we’re barely over the border from Spain and a modest 3-bed apartment here is £370,000! Meanwhile we’re sleeping in a van in a muddy car park…
So what are we doing in Portugal? No, really. What are we doing in Portugal..? It wasn’t actually part of the plan as we’ve explored here twice now, in 2016 & 2017. It seemed like a good idea at the time as we’d like to be back in Spain, in Seville or Cadiz for the Easter weekend. Easter is a big deal here so we thought we might see some of the parades and celebrations in one of those cities. A short loop into Portugal and back over a week or so should have us back in south-west Spain just in time for the holiday weekend. The only question mark over the sense of this decision has been the weather. And oh boy, we’ve seen some weather! High winds, torrential rain, chilly days and occasional glimpses of a very shy sun. When the sun does come out it’s a lovely 20-25°. But not for very long.
What’s been happening since our last chat, I hear you ask. Well go on then – somebody ask. Thank you. Not very much I’m afraid. This trip we seem to be struggling a bit with the balance of our adventures. We’re either trailing up and down hectic city streets in the heat, like Granada or Madrid; or vegetating with a good book and a vino tinto by the beach – which is mostly what we’ve been doing for the last few days in Isla Cristina. Sorry – did I say ‘struggling with the balance’? When I read that back it sounds pretty damn fine to me 🙂
Isla Cristina has the perfect camp site for doing not very much. Camping Giralda is just outside the town and is separated from a glorious beach by a narrow strip of sweet-smelling pine woods. As we’ve visited before we only spent one busy morning in town drinking our morning coffees and picking up a few BBQ burgers and buns for our first cook-out of the trip. The rest of the three days there were spent strolling romantically on the beach, eating, drinking, chatting and generally unwinding. I’m not very sure what Gill was doing while all that was going on, I’ll check and let you know later.
As you may remember from previous posts we’re not that good at identifying wildlife so I used my phone-a-friend to ask my former business partner and wildlife guru what the weird birds were, who kept dropping by to see us on our pitch. Quick as a flash she texted back to say that we were being dive-bombed by Azure-winged Magpies, which have beautiful blue plumage, and the even more exotic Hoopoe which has a huge crest and stripy wings. My wildlife photography skills are a little lacking – the magpie pic is my own but I had to steal the pic of the Hoopoe from Mr Google.
We hadn’t intended to come straight to Tavira; the plan was to stop for a night at a secluded beach car park just over the border in Vila Real do Santo Antonio which had good reviews on our search app. Sadly, like so many idyllic places on the south coast, the signs and barriers are now up, forbidding autocaravanes from parking there. The exploding popularity of this type of travel has meant that many local authorities, whilst welcoming the tourist cash, are shepherding the camper vans and motorhomes into designated sites rather than allowing them to wander freely, which – in my book anyway – is what it’s all about. It’s that word again, balance. I can see their point of view too, when an inconsiderate minority of travellers leave litter (or worse) behind, park inappropriately or stay for weeks. There’s no easy answer, except I suppose for us to take the road less travelled and explore smaller places inland.
Tavira is a lovely spot; we visited for a day by bicycle in 2017 when we stayed down the coast a bit in Santa Luzia. Separated from the sea by a river and a canal, the town has a real sense of civic pride reflected in the clean white paintwork of the houses, the friendly smiles of the locals and the pristine little boats offering trips to the beach or just lazy sails up and down the river. There’s a castle and gardens, many churches, a museum and a science park to explore, and the old town centre today was filled with the mouth-watering smell of fresh sardines on the grill.
Here they seem to have struck the right er… balance with the motorhome and camper fraternity. There is a perfectly serviceable camp site on the outskirts of town, but we’re also allowed to park on a large area of waste ground by the town’s indoor market. It’s a bit soggy here and there after all the rain we’ve had, but it’s free of charge and keeps us all in the same place rather than blocking up the pretty streets and squares. If only every town could be as forward-thinking. I can see twenty vans parked up around us but it’s not the least bit crowded as there’s a humongous amount of space. I’m sure it’s even busier in summer, so that’s a lot of tourist dollar getting spent in the shops and restaurants of the town. If more towns did the same… perhaps there’d even be a few more bloomin’ Indian restaurants about the place for curry fiends like us 😀