Portugal
Passeios Ria Formosa

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  • Day8

    Rolling Along the Algarve

    April 1, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    The Algarve is Portugal’s southern-most region and covers the area from the eastern border with Spain to the western most corner at Cape St. Vincent. We are biking the 200 km or so this week. Not an epic journey, but one that gives us lots of time for stops along the way. The Algarve became popular in the sixties as affordable flights became available but it has never had the crowds of Spain . The coast is a series of white- washed fishing villages, lovely low-lying marshes and salt flats, sandy beaches and lots of holiday destinations. So far the predominant language we’ve heard besides English and Portuguese is German.
    On Thursday, Mike and I flew from the UK to Faro and rendezvoused with our bike-trip buddies Helen and Laura of the Danube trip fame. We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel and toasted our reunion with some excellent and inexpensive local wine and some fried sardines. We had a chance to explore Faro on Friday and then we were transported east to the border of Spain to a lovely town called Vila Real de Sant Antonio ( lovingly Referred to as VRSA).
    In VRSA we got our bikes for the week from the rental company. They are not quite what we expected. To begin with Mike’s is far too big - perhaps because he insisted I tell them that he is 6 ft tall! The ladies’s bikes are very klunky and more like commuter bikes that you’d put a basket and poodle in. Great for cruising gently allng the flat areas but it could be harder as we have any hills and climbing to do. We’ve contacted the rental agency and hope to get one or more exchanged but we’ll see. Being the Easter weekend, everything is shut down. Mike has had to be our super roadie. Every big bump seems to create another noise or problem and he has been continuously adjusting brakes, raising seats and investigating weird non-bike like noises.
    Our first 2 days of biking have been easy and very scenic. First day from Vila Real de Santo Antonio to Tavira. Today from Tavira to Olha. Lots of winding trails around the coastal marshlands and salt flats. We have passed huge piles of salt - a thriving industry in these parts. The fragrance in many areas is overwhelming of orange blossoms. There are lots of citrus trees. And succulents. There are huge stork nests in all kinds of places. Very scenic. The ocean is always on our left side (or we’re going the wrong way).
    Helen has briefed us all back up on architectural lingo. We needed to be reminded since the last trip. As we wander through the towns she points out the various styles and eras of the buildings such as phoenician, roman, classical, baroque, rococo, modern etc. Mike, Laura and I are now adept at nodding knowingly and mumbling things like - « hmmmm, that baroque - so over the top...... ». Actually , the tile work is noticeable. It is a big industry here and many buildings are beautifully clad in colourful tiles. Most of the roads in the villages and towns are still cobble-stone making biking a bit of a teeth rattling experience. Fortunately a good feature of our bikes is their wide, thick tires.
    We have particularly enjoyed the food so far. Lots of wonderful sea food. Grilled tuna and sea bass. Sardines, shrimps and tonight squid. It will be awhile before we are tired of it.
    Today is Easter and we found a church in the town of Tavira , where we stayed last night, that celebrated Easter mass with a parade. We were alongside as the churchgoers came out of the beautiful old church lead by the incense -waving priests followed by small children spreading flower petals. The local band followed the procession playing suitably religious sounding music. They wound through the old town to the river where something else happened but we couldn’t stay as it was time to hit the trails.
    Tonight we are overnight in the town of Olha -pronounced nothing like it looks. There’s a harsh J sound in there somewhere. Tomorrow we may have rain and our distance will be a bit further so things are getting serious. I’m the navigator and my job is to make sure we don’t get lost and to make sure we arrive at thenext hotel before everyone dies of thirst. So far, so good!
    That’s the news for now. Thanks for all of your notes. Love them.
    Fi and Jiggs- enjoy Mexico.
    Love from Portugal,
    Heather/ Mom xxxx
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Passeios Ria Formosa

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