Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Back To Spain

Portugal is nice, and we are really enjoying our time here, but it was Spain that really got us into this “Rent an apartment for a month” vacation plan, so since we are only an hour from Spain here in Olhão, we decided that one of the day trips that Regis loves to plan would be to take the train to the end of the line in Vila Real de Santo António, where you can catch a ferry across the river to Spain.

Taking the Train
Having taken the train to Tavira the other day, we knew how it worked and approached it with increased confidence, and were able to relax and watch the countryside go by through the tagged and dusty windows. Being able to watch the various train stations come and go was actually kind of sad. The larger stops such as Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António are all tagged and looking a bit tattered, with cracked concrete and rusty iron, but many of the stops are closed completely with boarded up doors and windows, broken glass and terribly vandalized by the persistent taggers. The trains stop there, but there is no office, ticket booth or inside waiting area. The train stops, people get on and buy tickets on the train. The trains breezed right by some completely deserted train stops overgrown and crumbling, doors and windows bricked closed.

The train pulled into the station at Vila Real de Santo António, and we headed through an industrial area into a quite nice pedestrian shopping street, five or six blocks long leading down to a lovely riverfront park and Marina where we found the ferry. Regis and Linda made plans to come back across to Portugal with enough time to do some shopping on the way back to the train.

Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal
It is always nice to try to locate the Tourist Information Centre and get a few maps and information on the town you are visiting. We have not had much luck with this so far here in Portugal. There is a good office here in Olhão, but you can never tell when it is going to be open. The posted hours bear no relation to when the office is actually open – you go down and take your chances. In Tavira we finally found the office on the way home, but it was closed tightly. Even though we followed the signs we could not find any hint of an Tourist information Office in Vila Real de Santo António. One helpful fellow gave us nice explicit directions to a building with no apparent information office and at the municipal office I was told that the closest office was in another town back down the track. Across the river in Spain I had no better luck. I followed the nice big signs with clear arrows to where the office was supposed to be, but again nothing there. Perhaps these offices only open when there are more tourists.

The ferry to Spain was a surprise. A few years ago, a beautiful new bridge was built to cross the river so the ferry became a less important way across the river. In North America we are used to modern ferries even on small crossings, but the ferry from Portugal to Spain is a converted wooden freighter. There are metal ramps bolted onto either side and the cargo area has been roofed over providing a spot to park cars. The ferry pulls up alongside the dock, and the ramps allow cars to come and go. Not a lot of cars use the ferry; there was one on the way to Spain and two on the way back. The ferry may be an old converted vessel, but it works well, taking 15 minutes to cross the river, and like most european transportation we have used runs perfectly on time.

We enjoyed going back to Spain, and Ayamonte was a pleasant town with a maze of little streets filled with interesting shops and restaurants. As you wandered through these narrow tiled streets you came to beautiful squares with churches and tiled benches and children running and playing. We knew we were in Spain as all the shops started closing soon after we arrived; displays were moved inside, shutters were lowered, and lights turned off. Fortunate for us, most of the restaurants remained open and we found a place were Regis could get her Paella and tapas.

As we walked back to the ferry, the squares were silent, surrounding shops locked up tight, and the children gone home for a meal and a nap. Ah yes, I had almost forgot about living on Spanish time . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment