Monday, April 29, 2013

Train to Tavira

Don't let the children play here . . .
 As much as we are enjoying our time here in Olhāo, we do want to see a bit more of Portugal. Pete and Linda returned from their Bridge game in Tavira reporting that it was a nice little town, and Linda's new contact there had been sending her newsletters about the town. She noticed a notification in the newsletter about a Medieval Market being held there on the weekend; this seemed to invite a train trip to Tavira on Sunday.

Like we found in Spain, the train system in Portugal is convenient and efficient. The train runs right by the apartment here and although it is an older, dirtier train than the lovely modern “Trams” that ran up and down the coast connecting the seaside towns in Spain, we knew that the trains seemed to run all the time, and were always on time. The trains are also very good value and a ticket to Tavira was only a few Euros. I however, wouldn't mind paying a bit more to have windows I could see out; the cars a seriously vandalized by tagging that often covers much of the windows, and the windows not decorated are still dirty enough to hinder sightseeing.

Donkey Steps
Tavira is a lovely town a couple of km inland along a river. There is also much more of a tourist town to it's nature. I was surprised to hear so much English and see so many foreigners after spending a week in tourist-free Olhāo. Money has been spent on Tavira to fix it up, and the central square is beautiful with new marble walks and lots of benches and statues. It doesn't take much walking however to leave the new and find the tumbling down buildings and locked buildings that my collection of door pictures illustrate. More evidence of the economic troubles so much of Europe is experiencing.

Walking down to the river from the train, we discovered Tavira's 'castle'. Some of the guide books suggest that it is not an original building but rather a rebuilt castle to show what was once there. Although it was interesting, with a beautiful garden, it really wasn't much of a castle. What I found interesting was the complete lack of safety additions. You could climb to the ramparts, but the stairs were narrow slippery stone with no railings, and the actual castle walls were completely open on the back side. I could imagine Portuguese soldiers scrambling up these stairs to throw boiling oil down on invading Romans. They would have had to deal with the conditions but this attraction would not be very child-safe.
Seven Arches Bridge

We wandered down an old cobbled street with built in stairs in the centre for donkey carts, and through the old section of town to the river. And along the riverfront where we found the only market. Hardly a “medieval” market – more a normal craft market in a row of tents along the river. It did however have a really outstanding selection of local craftspeople showing their talents, and Linda and Regis managed to find a thing or two to help support the local economy.

Lunch in the sun . . . .
We were warned to stay clear of the riverfront “Snack-Bars” and restaurants where the prices reflected the view rather than the food quality, and we crossed the seven arches Bridge and wandered up into another section of the old town. We found a very nice little town square there with a church at one end and eating establishments all around the outside. The day was sunny, but very cool, with a strong cold wind blowing and one cafe seemed to be getting all the sunshine and therefore all the customers. Although I felt sorry for the forlorn looking, empty cafe's in the shade on the other side of the square, we joined the people sitting outside in the sunshine for a couple of beer, pitcher of Sangria, some Portuguese cheese-burgers and a Toastie (Portuguese toasted sandwich).
Beautiful Town Square

Tired from exploring we had time to kill and walking back to the 3:30 train we sat in another cafe for yet another beer and some delicious Portuguese Café com leite (Expresso with milk). Only to find that someone had read the daily schedule instead of the 'holiday' one and the 2:00 train came while we were relaxing and we had to wait for a 4:30 train. No matter, we were in no hurry – working on Portuguese time . . . . .

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