Monday, September 28
A beautiful sunset last night. Walked around after dinner and took some pictures of the lighted buildings.
In the morning,we packed up our 2 rear panniers, filled the front ones with things we won’t need for the next week and lightened our load, moved the car into the shade and and started riding west past the old, now landlocked, lighthouse.
Not much traffic despite the main road route. A beautiful, clear sunny day. Lunch by the water at beach.
Got to Tavira about 2 and found a lovely hotel right on the main square with quiet rooms. It’s a walk up with shared bath but very nice.
Had iced cappuccino and walked around town including the high spot which is a ruined fort/castle whose courtyard is now a park/garden and, of course, the church, which was closed.
On our way down from the church we took in a brief film of the history and meaning of Fado and a brief live concert featuring a guitar, a Portugese 12 string mandolin and a singer.
Fado is music with a soul. Despite having no idea of the meaning of the lyrics, it is moving. After the concert we crossed the Roman bridge into the other side of (old) Tavira and window shopped.
Also took in the other Catholic Church in town.
Tuesday, September 29
Continued on our ride along the coast toward the west end of Portugal still on the busy road. There are only 2 roads that one can take , the big, busy road on which bikes are not allowed and the lesser road, which is also quite busy. To our disappointment the roads to the beaches and the beach towns go no where except the town and their beaches. From either, you must retrace your steps back up to the secondary road in order to ride west. Although the road has a shoulder most of the time, it is noisy, and nerve racking with traffic. Early afternoon we decided to head to one of the beach towns to rethink our situation. We got a room by the beach, went to the visitor’s center and asked about the road. We were told that it would be more of the same as there are no roads that connect the beach towns and beaches. The tourist lady also said the reason the secondary road was so busy was that the locals won’t use the larger road because of the toll.
We took a walk, took a dip in the ocean and decided not to go further west. Rather we will take the train back to Tavira, stay the night and then ride to the border town of Vila Real San Antonio, stay the night and then drive toward Granada.
The place we stayed in was right on the beach with a great view.
Dinner at the recommended restaurant and a colorful sunset.
Wednesday, September 30
Reluctantly left the beach and rode 8 km to the station to catch the train to Tavira.. No problem with the bikes or finding our way from the train station to the Formosa Guest House which we had stayed in 2 days ago. We visited the new Muslim museum which had a nice display of relics from the era when the town was mostly Muslim as were much of Spain and Portugal until the mid 1200’s.
The progression goes: Romans, Visigoths, Catholic Christians, Muslims, Catholic Christians.
Walked around a bit in the old section across the Roman bridge and had dinner in an Indian owned and run Italian restaurant. Confusing. Our Caprese salad looked nothing like any of the others that we have ever had, but was tasty.
Thursday, October 1
Slept in and didn’t ride out of Tavira until about 10:30. Weather continues great with only a light breeze. We stopped at 3 beach side villages
on our way back to Vila Real de San Antonio the Portugese city at the border with Spain.
We rode all over the town taking in the sites that we had missed the other day including going to the end of the jetty which extends into the Atlantic about a mile. You can see Spain across the water about 2 miles away.
After a refreshing Sangria in the walking area it was time to check into the hotel and relax.
Friday, October 2
We began our journey by car toward Granada. Another beautiful day. Our reservation to tour the Alhambra Palace in Granada is not until Thursday, October 8 so we have quite a bit of time on our hands. We got about half way toward Granada and stopped for lunch when we casually looked at our guide book for places to see. We discovered an entire section on the “white hill towns” of southern Spain and off we went.
Our first visual discover was the town of Olvera which is not in the guide book, but is high on a hill with a prominent church (no surprise there) and an equally prominent castle higher on the same hill (also no surprise.)
After coffee in the town square, we walked up to the church and then to the castle. The church was closed as are most churches in Spain, but the castle and the castle museum were open. The castle has a commanding, panoramic view of the entire valley and the mountains that are stacked beyond this valley.
Happened upon an interesting sign on the locked gate at the church.
After pictures we drove to the equally beautiful hill town of Ronda. There is only one road through Ronda and it was packed with tourists (like us.)
Saturday, October 3
Started our day with a tour of the Bull Fighting Museum.
Ronda is credited with being the birthplace of bullfighting, which was started as training for the king’s nobility to prepare them to fight for the king. We were reluctant to tour this museum, but realized that bullfighting is a part of Spanish culture. The museum was well done and hit on the many aspects of the event. (The Spanish do not consider it an athletic sport.) The museum also had a gun collection with almost 300 weapons dating back to the 16th century. The audio guide gave very good descriptions of the weapons as well as the rest of the museum.
We spent upwards of 2 and ½ hours at the museum before venturing down to a spot where we could see the famous “new bridge” which supports the one road through town which spans the gorge and supports the only through road in town. It was quite a descent to the perfect picture spot
and a grunt going back up. In the afternoon we toured the Bandillaros Museum which debunks the story of a Spanish Robin Hood. The Bandillaros were thieves and outlaws in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We followed up with another hike down for another picturesque spot from which to view the “Old Bridge” over the gorge (Other side of the bridge.)
On the way we detoured down to the river on many steps inside the remains of a Moorish Castle. The view from the river was worth the hike. This part of Spain is by far the prettiest area that we have toured in Spain. There are high plains, high mountains, olive trees as far as the eye can see and rolling terrain as well as arroyos that must carry huge amounts of rain water when the rivers are running in the spring. The hill towns with their white walled buildings and tile roves and churches, castles and walking streets are an extra attraction that compliments the natural beauty of the area.