Tavira Day 7

We’ve been in Tavira a week; three to go.  Today, mercifully, the temp dropped maybe 10 degrees, and a  light breeze picked up. So after lazing around on the balcony till 11-ish, my wife and I decided to go out and do something productive, like find a place to have lunch.

We walked to the so-called Roman Bridge, stopped in at the Pessoa cafe, but it was geting ready to close for the afternoon, then wandered about looking for a suitable restaurant, but nothing was right: every place had either too many tourists, or we didn’t recognize the food on the menu, or the places had mustachioed Indian waiters who tried to herd us in with overly familiar unwanted welcoming entreaties.

Like most people, I tend to dislike cheap hustlers of any nationality, but of course became quite used to this sort of thing in Dahab on the Red Sea in Egypt, where the restaurant touts were insufferable, and literally would stand in front of you and prevent you from passing their establishment which paid them a commission for each head they brought it.

We walked past the curry pimps, with the piercing coal black eyes, at a haughty brisk pace and dropped off my Che bag at a seamstress that we found by accident just by walking around Avenida Azevedo; I wanted my Tavira patch sewn on, before I misplaced it in the slow boil chaos of extended travel.  She said come back in three hours. Okay, so now we had till mid afternoon to kill, but still nowhere to go.  The thing is, we wanted to lunch on something ordinary, as unworldly and unsophisticated as that sounds:  like country bumpkins, we just wanted good eats at a reasonable price.

This past week had been a potpourri of oftimes peculier offerings, including tuna stomach, pig cheeks, mystery meat ligaments, undercooked burgers that tasted like hot dogs, and octopus and rice soup that had lead to major #2 problems later on. We just wanted something plain and simple. Something  that tasted good, in a resto that was not a tourist trap. Someplace where the sun wasn’t blasting down and no one was smoking.  Someplace where the bathrooms were clean and not jammed in some ratsoid closet. In short, someplace that served good American style food, and had reasonable amenities, as hopelessly provincial that sounds.

My wife and I discussed the situation at some length on the Roman bridge, then finally settled on pizza:  what could be more American than Italian?

Thus began The Search, which usually ended badly, yet despite this history — don’t they say marriage is the triumph of hope over experience? —  we commenced walking up and down Tavira’s streets and avenues with a sense of renewed purpose, as we scoured the sidewalks for an Italian joint that was not infested with any actual Italians, such as the loud ones we had seen in the main square that had just come off some tour bus.  We went all the way to the municipal market, and up and down all the side streets.  Nothing.  Just tons of Indian restaurants everywhere we looked.  What’s up with that?  Why are there some many Indian restaurants in Tavira?  I mean, we all love Krishna and everything, but there’s only 70,000 of them in the whole country.  Were they all concentrated in Tavira, for some bizarre reason?

Eventually, we were close to giving up.  We were hot, exhausted, and resigned to making do with some milk chocolate bars and Castello water from the mini mart down the block from the cinema, when, lo and  behold, my wife, the eternal noticer, noticed an Italian place called Mamma Mia right next to the mart that we were about to enter and call it a day.

It was with a sense of wary excitement that we scoped out the place.  The joint was empty, which is not usually a good sign  The menu was recognizable.  It looked nice and clean.  They had an actual brick overn.  So we went in, ordered mineral water from a young, English-speaking Portuguese waiter who was extremely courteous, as well as spaghetti Bolognese, and a Greek style pizza pie.

We only had to wait ten minutes, instead of the usual 20 minutes to half hour.

The pizza had a thin, airy crust, with the consistency of lightly toasted pita bread. It was was topped, and not skimpily I might add, with tomatoes and feta cheese.


Now we could relax, knowing we now had in our back pocket a go to place in Tavira, for whenever we need to chow down on comfort food that’s not some unrecognizable XYZ dish with french fries, and is the case in most other places we’d been to so far.

On our way home, we picked up my Che bag.  The Tavira patch hadn’t been sewn on as level as I would have preferred, but I reckon that will always be part of its charm now.

All in all, a nice lazy day, in which we accomplished very little, yet my wife enjoyed herself immensely stitching serenely all afternoon on the balcony with the splendid ocean view, as I sat in the wicker chair next to her, and waded into We Are All Moors by Anouar Majid and we both sank into a sort of contented chill trance.

First day of the trip that I have felt utterly relaxed, and all the walking around is starting to pay off in terms of poundage loss.  Soon, it will be time to change into the next size down cargos.  Yeah!!!!!


leaving america


5 thoughts on “Tavira Day 7

  1. A friend of mine has referred your blog and I am happy to say I have enjoyed it very much. Having the perspective of someone that has never been living here, is quite an enlightening view. I didn’t really understand if you are on your first visit here to Portugal and/or are going to move here for good. That said, whenever you have the chance, take a trip to the west coast (Costa Vicentina). You would love it. I live here In Aljezur (within the Costa Vicentina Natural Park). It is a bit cooler than Tavira. It seems you are quite interested in the Arab influences in Portugal. That said, let me explain that although all Portuguese hate the Arab occupation and feel great pride in having run them out of the country, most do not reject the influence they left behind. Their occupation was mostly from The river Tejo to the south, being the Algarve the most affected. The word Algarve comes from the Arabic word ¨al gharb¨, that means the West. Most places begin with the prefix “al” (like Aljezur – from the Arabic al jazair, plural de al jazira, meaning “island”. The northern people of Portugal call the people of Alentejo and Algarve (sometimes also including Lisbon born) “the moors”. This is due to the tanned skin they have because of working in the fields from sun rise to sunset. Many of these people are kind of proud of being called that, they have no problem with the comparison. You will find rivalries throughout Portugal in many aspects, whether cultural, language or even physical. differences. Guess it’s just normal.
    Anything you want to know that I can help with please contact me. Besides knowing a lot about the country, it’s culture (from north to south) and the language (I am bilingual), I have a husband who has a Univ degree in History (and loves it), who can also set things clear if I need help.
    Hope your trip goes well and that you and your wife enjoy the wonders and beauties of this country (at least those away from the tourist avenues).
    Ines Serio

  2. Thank you, Ines, for reading my blog. I very much appreciate your offer to discuss with your husband regarding historical clarifications. As it so happens, the sources I have read so far regarding the conquest of Tavira are quite murky. Perhaps your husband might have access to Portuguese language sources that name the specific Emir who was in command of the castle and the exact date when it was sacked and describe what actually happened to the Moors who were defending it. Any clarification in that regard would be most appreciated. Wiki, for example, only has this to say: “At the time of the Christian reconquest of the peninsula, the Portuguese forces reach the Algarve east from 1238. Tavira was conquered on 11 June 1239 (May 1240, according to Alexandre Herculano or 1242 seconds other sources), by the forces of D. Paio Peres Correia, Master of the Order of Santiago for Portugal. The tradition associates this achievement to a reprisal of that Order for the death of seven of his knights in an ambush when hunting at the site of Antas (Town of Light).” Also any further information about these alleged 7 knights who were supposedly murdered would be most appreciated. Thank you.

  3. As I am fluent in Portuguese I will do some research for you, as well as ask my husband about the subject. Hopefully I will have more information for you.

    I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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