Hello, and welcome to Saturday night at St Luzia in southern Portugal. Now, I want you all to be on your best behaviour as we have some new subscribers – so no shouting out up the back there, and let’s try not to scare them off before they get used to the usual mayhem. If there’s any nonsense at all we’ll all be staying behind until somebody owns up – it’s your time you’ll be wasting so don’t say you haven’t been warned.
We regretfully said our goodbyes yesterday to Isla Cristina, and to Herbie and Diane our lovely pitchside neighbours. Although the ‘regretfully’ element was more to do with the amount of red wine, brandy and rum & coke which was consumed into the evening before.
After four stationary nights it’s unbelievable how much organising and re-packing has to take place to get Vince ship-shape and ready to travel. Even then we managed to get it wrong as I suffered a mild concussion when our guide books landed on my head after negotiating a particularly huge speed bump. Note to self: pack them on a lower shelf next time.
Rather conveniently I needed a bit of a lie-down after the shock so I was unable to accompany Gill to the supermarket. I know! I was so disappointed. She got her revenge afterwards though, by directing me through some of the tightest, narrowest streets full of double-parked cars on the way out of town. She swears that she was just following the map but I’m not so sure.
Just to add to the fun, once we were truly on our way to our next stop, I didn’t realise I’d had a bit of finger trouble inputting the co-ordinates to the satnav. I was only one digit out but it was clearly an important one as the roads got narrower…and narrower…and narrower to the point where I thought that if it became a dead-end I’d have to reverse about three miles before I’d be able to turn round. Eventually we stopped at a T-junction (there was no traffic – in fact there was nothing but scrub & cactus) and double-checked to find my mistake. Changing a 9 to a 4 made all the difference and we soon found our way to our free parking area in St Luzia.
St Luzia is kind of on the coast – I say kind of, because there’s a river separating the town from a long narrow island. The real sea is on the other side of the island. It’s a pretty little town to wander around so we did just that, stopping off for a beer and to watch the beautiful sunset.
Saturday is market day in the nearest large town, so we took the bikes off Vince’s rack this morning and headed for Tavira. All our guide books recommend the town and it certainly lived up to expectations. We easily found the large covered market by following the increasing noise levels. Most of the town’s residents seemed to be there not just to shop but to meet friends, drink coffee and generally hang out. Inside the stalls were surrounded by locals bargaining for fresh fruit & veg, fish and exotic spices. Many of the stalls were selling the local speciality – sea salt harvested from the salt pans surrounding the town. We didn’t buy much but we couldn’t resist some traditional Portuguese cheese made from sheeps’ milk and a couple of football-sized tomatoes for this evening’s starter. Sliced up with some avocado, shavings of the cheese, sea salt and black pepper they should be delicious sitting outside in the sunshine.
The river is wider in Tavira and tourists can jump aboard a ferry which takes you round the island to the sandy beaches. We preferred to explore the town; the architecture showing many signs of Islamic influence – at times in the narrow streets you felt you could almost be in Marrakesh. There were doorways opening straight into little rug makers’ showrooms, packed with exotic, brightly-woven carpets.
It’s 11th of November today so we felt privileged to join the crowd in the square at 12.00 to commemorate Armistice Day. The local dignitaries, soldiers, police and firefighters conducted a short ceremony accompanied by a brass band’s rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers, Count Your Blessings and of course, after a minute’s silence, The Last Post. Flowers were laid at the foot of the war memorial as a sign that we will always remember the sacrifices made by those brave men – sacrifices that gave us the freedom to enjoy the lifestyles we sometimes take for granted today.
We climbed the steps to Tavira’s castle – not much remains of the structure originally built by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC but despite several rebuilds and renovations ranging from the 1300’s to the 1600’s just a few walls remain and have been turned into a secluded and peaceful garden packed with exotic trees and shrubs. The atmosphere there was further enhanced by two buskers with guitars taking advantage of the good acoustics between the walls. On the way back down the hill below the castle we spotted some excavations and renovations going on. Below street level, the remains of a merchant’s house had been found, the medieval residence of the Corte-Real family – after renovation this will form the town’s new Islamic museum.
It’s probably rubbing it in a bit if you’re reading this in the chilly UK but we were so hot and tired after the long cycle back in the sunshine, that we gave in to the Iberian tradition of a siesta when we got back to Vince. That set us up nicely for a sunset beer in the same café as last night, and that will shortly be followed by our evening tomatoes and a helping of Strictly. Whatever you’re doing on this November Saturday night, stay safe and let’s remember those whose selflessness gave us the opportunities we enjoy today.
Chat soon 🙂