Boas Festas – Merry Christmas!
With clear blue skies and daytime temperatures of around 22°C it’s hard to believe that Christmas is only round the corner. We’ve been here a fortnight now & I’m starting to get itchy feet again. John just keeps reminding me of how uncomfortable it could be if we’re wild-camping when bad weather strikes and the feeling soon passes! I do like my comforts I must admit.
We chose this site because there’s plenty to do and it’s also very near the railway station so we can hop on a train rather than take the van out. We’ve already taken a trip to Vila Real de Santo António to visit the Christmas market and bought some organic fig jam made by Quinta da Fornalha, a WWOOF farm near Castro Marim that we’ve visited on a previous trip. Not very Christmassy but it was delicious!
Vila Real stands on the Rio Guardiana which forms the border with Spain, so the station really is at the end of the line. Standing at the quayside you can see Spain and there’s a ferry running between the two so we may even have a van-less day trip to Spain in the coming weeks. The market was held in the pretty town square ‘Praça Marquês de Pombal’ and there was even an ice-skating rink with push-along penguins!
The following day brought much excitement. Not only did we receive some post but after days of speculation and earnest discussions, my Euro Millions lottery win was confirmed -£2.60! Not quite enough to fly back to the UK for but very exciting nonetheless.
The campsite is halfway between Cabanas de Tavira, the fishing village on the coast and the village of Conceiçào, up the hill. Feeling flush with my new riches we walked up to Conceiçào to investigate. As usual there are quite a few cafes along with a newsagent, Post Office, hardware shop and a cakemaking/decorating shop! There is also an “English Supermarket” so when we’re feeling homesick we can pop in there for a Fray Bentos pie & a tin of mushy peas! We went to the local supermarket and bought a couple of days’ worth of food & veggies for the staggering sum of 1.89€ – what a bargain.
Cabanas de Tavira is also on the Ecovia do Algarve which is a coastal cycle route linking Cape St Vincent (Sagres), the most westerly point of the Algarve, with Vila Real de Santo António, the most easterly point. Apparently it is also part of the EuroVelo route that links Sagres to the North Cape in Norway but I don’t think we’re ready for that just yet!
Taking advantage of a sunny day and clear blue skies we set off on our bikes on the Ecovia towards Tavira. Most of the route is off-road and passes through stunning scenery on the edge of the Ria Formosa. We cycled past saltpans before coming across the 16th century Forte de Rato at the mouth of the Gilão River estuary. Originally it served to protect Tavira from aggressive North African pirates but today it stands forlorn and crumbling, gazing out over a very tranquil landscape. It is really amazing to be able to freely clamber about these old buildings dotted along the coast.