I have always loved writing, and now that I am retired I thought I would be able to find time to write, but it seems that I still manage to fill my days with activities. I have however found that while I travel, I enjoy writing about some of the interesting things we do. I hope you enjoy reading of our adventures as much as I like writing about them.
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 . . . .