Tuesday, 4 October 2011

at the beach on the Med

It's just after 9pm and we've migrated back to the marina front restaurant for coffee and ice-cream. Tonight we couldn't face the same tourist faire that the ubiquitous alfresco places dish up so we went Japanese. The simple clean tastes were delightful. At one point communication was a bit tricky because neither of the table waiters spoke English so I changed to Japanese. After a momentary blank stare she said, 'oh, I Chinese'. Doh.

This morning we headed further east to another coastal town called Tavira. One of the attractions was that it was reportedly less tourist oriented. It certainly had a really good feel about it but there were still plenty of tourists around. We climbed some steps from the city square up the hill to an ancient castle. The walls were all that remained and inside them was planted a beautiful shady garden, a magnificent place to escape the still heat, which today, again, was nearing 30. The plaque out front informed us that parts of the structure date back to the eighth century BC. We marveled at how in Australia when something is 100 years old you don't get to even touch it, there are chains protecting it from the public. Here, we get to climb all over a structure nearly 3 thousand years old.

Along this part of the southern Portugal Coast, called the Algarve, there are a series of long spit-like islands. Therefore to get to an ocean beach you have to catch a ferry across to the island. Today we did that from Tavira. I have been keen to go to a couple of beaches to see how they do the beach thing here. So here a few observations:

At popular beaches they have those permanent shade structures like we associate with pacific islands. (see Marai's photos).
There also tends to be lots of outdoor restaurants, not so much like ours with the typical plastic chairs near a surf club kiosk, but more like the alfresco places you find in the towns.

While it's not particularly unusual for women to be topless on Australian beaches, we have discovered that Portuguese have a much more liberal beach dress code. On the couple of beaches we've been on it's not unusual to see people, men and women, completely starkers, just wandering around picking up shells etc. The people in the water today seemed to be kids and tourists, which struck me as a bit unusual given how hot it was and how beautiful it was in the water, but Maria wondered if it was just that it is Autumn for them, so while it's warm enough to be at the beach, swimming weather has passed for them.??

Now the other thing to mention is Maria's lack of faith in my directions. Having looked at the map I figured out where we needed to walk from town to catch the ferry. I concede that I was unsure about the distance, but I was confident about the road and the direction. That it was hot, and the long dusty road initially appeared to be going out of town to nowhere didn't give Maria much joy. I adamantly suggested we press on. Probably not the day to be walking long distances in the heat, suffice to say that the daily soak in the bath felt even better today after we had put quite a few kilometers into our legs.