Cavorting in Carvoeiro...

Our friends, Vitor and Jean, came to our beach town to spend the day, just to relax and be together.

Hours of catching up and laughing were passed at The Smiler's Café.
Ex-pat Jean was happy to dine on food from home... a traditional English breakfast.
Interestingly, this stadium seating appeared on the beach yesterday.
According to this poster, beginning tomorrow there will be live beach music every night until October 15th. It will be a special experience for our last two nights in town.

Toes in the sand and feet in the ocean are always required. This was the perfect setting for saying our "see you soons".

“We are like islands in the sea,
separate on the surface
but connected in the deep.”
― William James

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Exploring Albufeira & Silves...

While looking for 'happenings' I found this and booked it immediately:
There's much more to Albufeira than sun, sea and nightlife. Formerly a small fishing village, Albufeira is steeped in history. Discover that history with a free guided tour of the 'old town'.

We met in front of this statue for the tour. Our first history lesson was about a local man. Friar Vicente de Stº António was born here in 1590. After many difficulties, he became a priest and fulfilled his dream of preaching Christianity in Japan. This statue depicts his fate. On September 3rd 1632, he was killed by fire for his steadfast faith. We learned several stories about the Saints of the Algarve. All very interesting.
Our guide, Ana, works for  the Divisão de Turismo, Desenvolvimento Económico e Cultural. She spent two hours doing her best to share as much of the town's history as she could. This lesson included the Civil War of 1833, which was fought between liberals and absolutists. Albufeira had been one of the first towns in the Algarve to support the liberal ideals. Because of this, the town was attacked by the absolutist guerrillas, resulting in the destruction of several buildings and the execution of many inhabitants.
Destruction hit the town way before the Civil War, however. This is the Chapel of Santa Ana (named for Jesus' grandmother it turns out). It, like many structures in/around Lisbon, was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. The current Church was constructed at the end of the 18th century. It is especially known for its main altar, which is believed to have been made by famous artists Francisco Xavier Guedelha and João Baptista.
Being as we are definitely not Catholic, each visit to a church is always a history lesson for us. Today, we learned about Nossa Senhora de Fátima, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary based on the famed Marian apparitions reported in May 1917, by three shepherd children near here. We couldn't understand why all the churches we have visited were so adorned with flowers, until today. Interesting indeed.
This town's history is more than what could be told in just two hours. The Moors' occupation began in the 8th century and lasted for 500 years. It was one of their last strongholds to be conquered. The Christian conquest, followed by the decadency of the trade business, led to the decline of the town. Eventually, the town became a simple fishing village.

In the 60s, the Algarve was discovered by tourists and as they say, "the rest is history!"
After our tour, lunch was overlooking Fishermen Beach at a pizza place!
Almost every shop sells cork products: shoes, purses, hats, and jewelry. Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world and I was so excited to stumble upon this processing plant.
Until the beginning of the last Century, the Algarve was the center of the Portuguese cork industry. Over one hundred cork factories processed the cork harvested in the forests of the Serra, and contributed significantly to the wealth of communities such as São Brás de Alportel and Silves (where we were). Nowadays, the cork plantations in northern Portugal and the increasing process of automation have moved the industrial center to Greater Lisbon. Nevertheless, the cork oaks growing in the natural environment of this area are producing cork of the highest quality, and a handful of traditional cork manufacturers are still operational. More about cork when I can find some trees to photograph.
When we came to the Algarve, we spotted this huge rust colored castle and knew we had to return for a closer look. The Castle of Silves is believed to have its first fortifications built by the Romans or Visigoths. Between the 8th and 13th centuries, the castle was occupied by the Moors who expanded it, making it one of the best preserved Moorish fortifications in Portugal. It has been declared a National Monument since 1910.

Silves is one of the best stops to observe the nesting White Storks.

Silves is regarded as the best northern town of the Algarve and is a great opportunity to discover the "real" Portugal. It has a very different ambiance from the coastal resort towns and is how the Algarve was prior to the advent of mass tourism (in the 1960s). The old walled section has remained unchanged for more than 500 years, and there is no hint of modern development through the town. We loved it all.

Dinner was at home, in our little Carvoeiro kitchen. All is well in Portugal!

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White Storks of the Algarve...

One of the surprise sights for us has been the huge (and occupied) nests built by the White Stork. Known in Portuguese as Cegonha-branca, these large graceful birds return to the same nest every year after their winter break in central Africa.

Although storks are migratory, over 10,000 now winter here due to the abundance of food on garbage dumps and the ever increasing Louisiana cray fish invasion of Portugal’s waterways.
As you can imagine, their nests are huge and unmistakable, built on any supporting structure from chimneys, dead palm trees and electricity poles. They prefer to nest inland although here in the Algarve you will find nests on cliffs, which happens nowhere else in the world.
These are a unique bird with a unique history. In fact, the Romans saw a stork’s nest on their house as a blessing and a promise of Venus’ never-ending love and in Greece, Aristotle made it a crime to kill a stork. For me, it is just a treat to see something so large and graceful. I look forward to discovering more nests. Perhaps on a cliff side. The Algarve continues to delight.

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Old Friends, New Towns

Day #7 in Portugal was a great one due to who we shared it with. Eighteen years ago, our family spent almost a month at a campground on the Algarve. While there we met some wonderful people, but only two remained our friends after all these years, Jean and her husband, Malc. We lost Malc before we could reconnect, but thankfully we still have Jean, and now her partner, Vitor.

After a tour of their apartment, we headed out for an explore of their town- Fuseta. Jean likes it because it is very Portuguese and I had to agree. It dates back to 1572, when the area was just a collection of small shacks used by fishermen to store tools for their fishing boats. Gradually, it developed into a small settlement.
Besides finding a Portuguese George Clooney, we also learned about the local fishing. One of the biggest catches is the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris). Here the octopus fishery has considerable social and economic value, with small-scale fishing being increasingly economically dependent on this resource.
The tools used to catch this delicacy are the alcatruz and the covo. The alcatruz (above) is a shelter-pot traditionally made of clay, with an amphora shape. As it turns out, the octopus can't turn around so once in the pot, they are trapped.
The covo are rather interesting contraptions. We learned so much about this ancient, local craft. I'm still not eating it, but I appreciate the technique anyway.

We had the most incredible lunch here at O Tacho. It was the best chicken I have ever had. Yum.

Though the weather wasn't conducive to big explores, we delighted in meandering about in Tavira, an ancient Moorish town that has retained its unique character and heritage to become one of the finest resort towns of the Algarve.

The town extends along the banks of the Gilão River and is a delightful mix of traditional Portuguese architecture with deep-rooted Moorish influences. Tavira is a joy to explore with its plethora of historic buildings and decorative churches, all of which are set around charming plazas and pretty cobbled streets. I happen to be in love with their rooftops and the unique weather vanes adorning each chimney. Spectacular to see!

We then took a stroll on the Ponte Antigua, adorned with locks, symbolizing unbreakable love. It isn’t as popular for this as the Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris, but still dozens of locks were there with one dating back to 1980. Wild.
On Thursday, Jean and Vitor will visit us in our little town so we can be their tour guides. We can't wait.
O maior presente da vida é a amizade, e eu o recebi.
The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.
-Portuguese Proverb

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Captivated by Carvoeiro, Portugal

We decided to leave our rental car parked to stroll through our little town, adventure out, and to be in the Algarve. What an excellent decision!

 This is our town from above. So perfect!

Today we decided to take a hike. The Algarve region is dotted with gorgeous paths and trails, both inland and by the coast, perfect for exploring on foot.
Fishing boats provided great things to see on the horizon.

 The wildflowers seemed to be on full show! Gorgeous.

We strolled the limestone cliffs, marveling at the vast cave systems visible around every turn.
We even found ourselves at the praia for lunch and to put our toes in the warm sand.

Hours were spent at the Boneca Bar. The setting and libations just seemed to jive with our Portuguese mood. It was perfeito!

We concluded our day with this view.
"How beautiful it is to do nothing,
and then to rest afterward."
-Spanish Proverb

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