When In Portugal, Eat Like A Punjabi!

Saturday morning we hit the local food market – with money in our pockets and hearts full of hope, we expected to stock Sebo’s cupboards with fresh fruit and veg and maybe even top-up his fridge and freezer with meat and fish.  After our Almerian market experience, we were rather excited at the prospect! How disappointed we were on venturing into Tavira’s market hall! Very little choice and what produce WAS on offer was actually of poorer quality and more expensive than the supermarkets! No fresh bakery stall AT ALL!! Fishmongers had very little choice and, if you didn’t fancy octopus (neither of us did!), then your choice was limited even further! The butchers stalls offered no great hope either, to be honest – the only good value item we saw was “three fresh chickens for €9.99 – a bargain indeed if you can actually fit three whole chickens in your fridge and don’t mind eating it every day for a week! Empty-handed, and very disgruntled, we shuffled past the Bric-A-Brac stalls outside (most of which seemed to be run by folk with very English accents!) and headed back to Sebo to regroup our thoughts! We managed to find fresh bread in a small shop heading into town – at least lunch could be sorted! In fact, come to think of it, unlike in France and Spain, where every other shop seems to be a boulangerie or panaderie, we actually saw no bakery in Tavira! Are we blind or do they not exist??? Bizarre!

Anyhow, after lunch, and with the prospect of clouds gathering for the afternoon, we put-off our planned Big Walk to Praia Do Barril (12km round trip) and opted to saunter down the river to the salt pans of Quatro Aguas – a much shorter walk, giving us the option to leg-it back quicker should rain appear! Apparently, the salt pans produce top quality salt – we could see huge piles of it dotted around us- and the lagoons provide rich pickings for a variety of birds including flamingos. Sure enough, as we wandered down the newly installed cycle/footpath, there they were – hundreds of birds, including said flamingos! I haven’t seen flamingos since my last trip to The Caribbean and, to be honest, I didn’t expect to see them in Portugal at this time of year, since they are normally summer visitors to these shores, but, there they were! Quite made my day!

Minor development of Quatro Aquas in the last few years has replaced the tuna canning industry with tourism – mainly day tourists wishing to take the ferry across to Ilha De Tavira so there’s no hotels, just a sailing club, a couple of seafood restaurants and a museum inside the former tuna canning plant. I can imagine it would be thronged in the summer months but, at this time of year, the only folk there, apart from us, were some children heading out in their sailing dinghies and a couple of keen photographers (judging by the size of their lenses!). The ferry over to the island was running though but, with clouds looming and time getting on, we decided to give it a miss for today and made our way back to Sebo.

We thought we’d treat ourselves to dinner out tonight – make up for the market disappointment and, since we were just a few minutes walk from the town centre, it seemed a pity to waste the opportunity. A quick glance at Trip Advisor gave us a few suggestions for suitably Portuguese eateries in town but, unfortunately, it appeared that several of these places were closed for annual holidays until Feb 1st (can’t say I blame them!) and, since our general rule is that we never eat anywhere that doesn’t have at least two other tables occupied (for ambience!), we were hard pushed to find anywhere that matched our criteria! We had joked that maybe we need a reservation on a Saturday night! Mmmmm – not in January UNLESS you fancy the house speciality of Chicken Piri Piri at a small place over the river which had a big crowd already in there though several tables were empty. In we went – only to be told “sorry, we’re fully booked”. Last resort was an Indian – Punjab Palace to be exact! Roy was delighted! Whilst I’m not really a huge fan of Indian food, I have to admit that the food was delicious and we wended our way back to Sebo well full of both food and drink! Ah well, we’ll walk it all off on Sunday!

And we did……with the sun blazing in a cloudless blue sky, we headed off in the direction of Praia Do Barril at the western end of Ihla De Tavira. A pleasant walk, through Santa Luzia -the Octopus Capital of The Algarve, apparently (we’re still not brave enough to try it!) and over the footbridge to the sandiest beach I think I’ve ever seen! A former tuna fishing village and processing plant, it embraced tourism with the decline of the industry and, rather than demolish the cottages and factories, it changed them into a museum and restaurants. During the summer months, an old steam train ferries passengers from the end of the footbridge to the beach (a distance of 2km) but, on a Sunday in January, naturally, we had to walk! The whole island is part of the Rio Formosa National Park and is protected, so no venturing off the boardwalks installed over the dunes and, definitely, no dogs allowed but, since there appeared to be as many dogs as humans walking down said boardwalk, we opted to ignore the signs and just kept Harley on the lead. He was less than impressed when we got to the beach and he realised he wasn’t allowed to go off and run and swim. Poor thing! As a memorial to the tuna industry, there’s an anchor cemetery in the dunes – rusting anchors from former tuna boats have been laid side by side as a lasting memory to a once thriving industry now gone. All very iconic!

Tomorrow, we’re thinking we may head away from the coast and up into the hills. The weather forecast is for “showers” on and off through the week but these may or may not appear so we’ll take a chance!