When better than a cold May in England to recall a very warm March in the Algarve? Even more, when two respective days had been spent in the town and on the island.
By train – half-fare for pensioners – Tavira was about 40 minutes from our base in Faro. A gentle walk into town brought us to the so-called Roman bridge (it has Roman piers but is otherwise thoroughly recent). A view of the bridge from a riverside coffee table was fine, but even better were the house martins nestbuilding across the water. It was also a good place to consult our guidebook and a map helpfully provided by the tourist office.
Both documents helped pinpoint the location for lunch, so after our coffee and a climb to the castle and its delightful garden, both Moorish in origin with a splendid Christian church, we took in the rooftop views and began the quest in earnest. Back alleys are a Tavira speciality, and in these traffic free zones we found both shops and restaurants. Abstracto was our choice for lunch, with an Italian and an Indian nearby that offered little by way of competition. Not that Abstracto was anything but excellent value, with a waiter giving really helpful advice on the most economical way to eat well. No wonder the Rough Guide calls it ‘fashionable’. We sat outside in mid-20s temperature and enjoyed it so much there was not much time for further exploration.
A second visit was dedicated to Ilha de Tavira. In summer the ferry runs from beside the former market hall where, on our first occasion, they were dismantling the decor of a recent cultural festival. It also has several good coffee bars where, again in summer, the time waiting for the ferry can be whiled away. In our case the time was spent in walking the two kilometres to Quatro Aguas, not the most salubrious first half but increasingly attractive past large salt pans in the second. One glance at prices in the restaurant there and we determined to take our chance on the island.
The ferry crossing is cheap enough and the island is a delight. The beach is said to be the best along the eastern Algarve but inland is a sub-tropical paradise. There are summer houses or chalets to rent there but in March few people were in residence. We took the boardwalk towards the Atlantic and surprisingly found one restaurant was open. Very wise of the management: on a brilliant day it had a full house. Prices could have been sky-high but were not. We ordered what seemed a light seafood lunch and were highly pleased with the result.
Ferries are regular so we had no worries about the return. It was also easy to keep the mainland in view as we explored and to decide when to head for the landing stage. Walking among mimosa as we might among hawthorn in England was just a wonderful experience, further rewarded by sight of a Dartford warbler on a branch.
The walk back from Quatro Aguas was enlivened by flamingoes and spoonbills on the salt pans, plus our homeland favourite, avocet, and once in Tavira we found more alleys for shopping and coffee with (of course) pastries.
Determined to spend another holiday in the Algarve we will also make at least one more visit to Tavira.