Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Altura to Vilamoura

Before we hit the coast we drove down the side of the Guadiana River, the Portuguese - Spanish boarder and looked at all the allotments that had flooded, loads of destruction all the way to the coast at Villa Real de St Antonio. The small village of Alamo was set back from the river and their sign had been beautifully "Yarn Bombed".....lovely crochet, wouldn't it be nice if every village signpost was like this?
We stayed a while in Altura, enjoying being by a beach and the sea at last. Fantastic long, golden sand dunes, however still a little chilly. Amazed to see the locals collecting shellfish in a wire basket and net contraption, while waist deep in water, walking backwards.
A little bit of luxury as we stayed on a campsite at Cabanos, near to Tavira. We cycled through the salt pans, similar to the Isle d'Re, with loads of wading birds, including Black Winged Stilts, with amazingly long legs and we saw our first bee eater, stunning colours but my camera isn't good enough to capture them.
Tavira, which is set on both sides of the river is a very quaint old town with many tiled houses and narrow cobbled streets.

On our travels we have met many lovely people who have recommended places to stay and Pedras d'el Rei was one such place. We loved it here so much that we stayed a week. There is a small train that used to transport tuna fish from the island beach, but it now transports visitors. The tuna have all moved on and the anchors from the boats are arranged in a cemetery, this is all that is left of the fishing fleet here.
Unfortunately the beach had a red flag flying as there were little blue jelly fish around as a result of the fresh water flooding down from the dams. We had a paddle but didn't want to risk a swim even though the weather has just turned out HOT!

We then moved on to Olhao, a town that still has a fishing fleet and two great markets, one for fish and the other fruit and veg with butchers around the perimeter.

We took the local ferry to the island of Culatra, half an hour trip for €3.80 return, very good value! After a lovely lunch we walked along the beach to Farol, which means lighthouse, though the town was deserted as that end of the island is just full of holiday homes.
After catching the ferry back we were in need of a drink and so went to an old traditional bar, the Sete-Estrelas. This is one of only three places in Portugal where you can buy wine from the barrel....so we bought 5 litres and very nice it was too! We were told also that it opens at 5 in the morning for the local fishermen to have a drink before putting to sea....not that we were there at that time! The fishermen used to leave their bicycles here, hung on the wall inside....now they leave their car keys! How times have changed.

This is Libby on a campsite with bunting and lanterns from generous friends.

Then we stayed in Quarteira and cycled into Vilamoura for the day. The marina here is very different to the rest of Portugal we have seen so far. A tourist destination with shops and restaurants beyond our pockets.