The day began early.
I sat on the balcony and gazed at the swallows swooping up from over the roofs of Tavira below.
The crepuscular air was cool, and the town still and quiet, except for the dogs that started up when they heard each other bark.
The morning would heat up soon enough, but for now, it was almost like a scene out of this Bodhi Jones Algarve vid that they use to promote Tavira in the square in front of the Arab bridge.
I have yet to go the beaches on the nearby barrier island, even though the Atlantic is particularly tempting during this heat wave. The white walls of the buildings had a blueish tinge this morning, as if the ocean had floated over the town and cast down its distressed hues during the sumptuous rise of the sun.
I slowly sipped my morning coffee, as I roamed the bilad across the straights of Gebel Tarik (or Gibraltar, if you prefer) via this gorgeous Arab Photography web site.
A taxi picked us up a few minutes before 10am; we arrived at the Tavira train station in plenty of time to catch the Regional 5705 to Castro Marin, where two new friends, Jeré and Rémi, were our gracious hosts for the middle part of the day.
Jeré was waiting for us at the train station in Castro Marin, as she had promised to do, and drove us to the house she shares with Rémi.
After touring their nascent garden, and admiring a beautiful German sheppie who was licking his lips as he looked at us from behind a wire fence in the next garden, we set off for the Castle of Castro Marim.
There are actually two fortresses in the area, within close proximity. I am not sure why: competing Arab princes or displaced malcontents perhaps?
The castles are perched on adjacent, barren hills that overlook the winding Guadian river that demarks the border between Spain and Portugal.
We visited the older castle — it’s the one with the gruesome torture machinery, Catholic inventions which in this installation were primarily aimed at doing horrible things to women.
Though this castle was occupied by Moors, there was scant mention of them in the tourist literature. This is turning into a theme. In the Algarve; it is as if giving just due to the Moorish influence and history in the region is something to be suppressed.
Perhaps this may be due to the lingering influence of the likes of José Ribeiro e Castro, and the CDS fondness for historical revisionism, and in whose parlance the term “Moor” itself becomes racialized via right wing lucubrations that extol the merits of “blood purity.”
My hope is that the Tavira library will contain some interesting source material in that regard, that at least goes a step or two beyond the language employed in the official “The Castle of Castro Marim” English-language pamphlet, which prattles on incoherently about the period of the “mussulman occupation” during which “medieval warriors [were] fighting gloriously for their ideals [which] are still visible today.” (You may wish to counterbalance the stench of such drivel — which is given a more learned but no less ignorant patina in the sort of racist rubbish that has been given creedence since 9-11 in the States through the work of the late Samuel Huttington and his neocon acolytes — by reading this excellent article on the pervasive and positive influence of Arab culture on Portugal, or this one that discusses how Pessoa felt regarding the expulsion.)
After touring the difficult-to-negotiate castle ramparts, we had lunch at a nearby open air restaurant.
Despite the bees who soon became our unwanted lunch companions, the chicken pané my wife and I ordered was the best meal we have had in the Algarve so far: a simple dish, yet the obviously free range chicken cutlets were tender, cooked all the way through to perfection, yet still juicy; and the bread crumbs they were coated in had been thoughtfully mixed with wild tarragon to add a further touch of Arrabal panache to the exilic atmosphere.
I just wish we could have something other than the omnipresent French Fries to go with our main courses in the Algarve: fresh vegetables, sauteed in onions and olive oil, for example, would have been ideal.
All in all, it was a wonderful day, thanks to our gracious hosts.
Here are some pics….