Travel 2009 – Faro, Tavira, Days 6 and 7

Wednesday, 16th/Thursday, 17th September 2009 – Faro, Tavira, Days 6 and 7

By Wednesday we were becoming very relaxed indeed. Again we breakfasted late and had to fend off the friendly cat. He became even more of a pest as we wandered around the hotel gardens, which are a major part of the attraction of the place. The first part of the restoration is now complete and the plants are starting to grow back and soften all the lines, especially in the formal area in front of the main building, and which I assume was part of the main vista from the very fine gate that is currently locked and chained and sporting a sign telling people to report to the site supervisor if they want to get in that way. As it’s on the other side of the area currently being worked on this wasn’t that much of a surprise.

The various tea-houses are restored too and looking very pretty…

…as is a small courtyard garden on the other side of the building.

Although it’s nowhere near complete, and although it’s not especially large, the garden provided some real pleasures, including a hoopoe which was busy pulling worms or bugs or something similar out of the lawn. I’ve never seen one in the flesh (or even the feather) before, so it was fascination to watch it in action, and it seemed to be having a very substantial meal.

After we finished with the garden, we drove down to Faro, parked up and wandered towards the old town, where we were initially distracted by the storks that live on the top of one of the town gates.

After that we walked round the outside of the walls, enjoying the sunshine, though we could probably have managed without the local trains that kept rattling along the waterside railway track.

Anyway we finally ventured into the town after fending off several people wanting to persuade us to take boat trips out to the beaches/nature reserves. It wasn’t part of our plan for the day, but it will be if we get out there again. However, we were on course to visit the cathedral – if it was actually open.

To our surprise, given our record so far, the cathedral was actually open! We thought we’d better make the most of the opportunity and visit it. It’s quite a low building, dazzlingly white on the outside, with some interesting features including the bone chapel on the outer edge of the courtyard.

Being a Portuguese construction, and more to the point, in the Algarve, typical touches on the interior of the cathedral include the blue and white tiles you find all over the place.

Additionally, there is a very fine chinoiserie organ (apparently inspired by the Portuguese colony in Macau).

Oh, and there are tiles outside too.

We even clambered up the tower for a good look around. Now me a climbing a tower is no big deal. I have a good head for heights, which means these things don’t bother me. Lynne, however, does not do well with heights and would probably rather have teeth pulled without anaesthetic than have to climb up high. The fact that it was only 68 steps won her over though!

After that it was time to stop for a beer in the square behind the cathedral, after which we set off to investigate the art and history museum, in an old monastery.

That provided a pleasant afternoon of mooching round looking at Roman artefacts, including a splendid mosaic, supposedly of Neptune.

The modern art wasn’t anywhere near as attractive, though some of it was at least interesting. Anyway, once we’d finished with the museum, we wandered around the streets for a while, looking at exotic trees (and if anyone knows what this is, I’d love to know).

Eventually we made our way back to the carpark, via a very odd fountain/pool:

And then we headed back to the hotel for a swim and a glass of wine. After that it was dinner in the village, at VTerra which is apparently run by a Belgian (who does the cooking) and his Portuguese partner/wife. We started with a glass of white port each…

Then moved on, through a plate of cold meats and olives…

To starters of carpaccio of cod (Lynne)…

And curried prawns (me).

After that it was Hake in tomato sauce for me…

And prawns a la chef for Lynne.

The food was delicious, the seafood and fish of superb quality, but the portions were so enormous we couldn’t eat another thing after that. Fortified with an espresso, we waddled off into the night, returning to the hotel for a final relaxing night’s sleep.

The following day we had to go home, but not before we spent the morning pottering around Tavira which turned out to be interesting historically as well as attractive. We didn’t really have time to do it justice, but we saw as much as we could in the available time.

We did managed to find our way to the old docksides where there were a number of fairly simple – and promisingly busy – restaurants. A portion of bacalhau for me was most satisfying.

Lynne had a lovely tuna steak.

And then it was time to head for the airport, hand back the hire car, and fly home.

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