The experienced traveler always keeps in mind the boundaries of his or her zone of comfort.
We were going to go to Loulé this morning but then we would have had to get up at the crack of dawn — literally, as the sun rises a little after 7am here — perform our ablutions, have coffee, get dressed, then clamber down this gigantic hill (250 foot straight drop) from our apartment in order to catch either the 8:15a Eva bus to Faro (which arrives there at 9:20a) or the 8:55a (which arrives in Faro at 9:55a).
So… after an hour’s ride on a semi rickety bus that more likely than not has no WC onboard and of course no AC, and is also probably packed with the Birkenstock people, that is to say, packs of fat old, loud Germans and/or Italians and/or French geezers, complete with fanny packs and leathery skin and white hair, then we would have make the 10:10am EVA bus from Faro (with only 10 minutes or so to spare to find a WC, buy tickets, find out where the bus is leaving from, and get on it), according to this schedule/timetable. Oh and if also you want to buy tickets from Tavira all the way to Loulé, to be sure — of what a silly idea! — that once you get to Faro the bus will not already be full… well, no can do… apparently the EVA stations are not hooked up electronically, so you have to go all the way to Faro, then hope you can buy a ticket to get to Loulé and, let’s not forget, back.
Back you say?
Well, if you consult the bus schedules (forget taking the train from Tavira; apparently the Loulé station is in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, miles away from the town itself, and you would have to hope to find an expensive taxi to take you there and back from Loulé: why Portugal would plant these ridiculous train stations far away from centers of population is, alas, a mystery than shall not be solved here), and try to figure out the suitable connection times, you will soon to come to realize that the only reasonable bus coming back is the 16:55 (that’s 4:55pm in normal US time parlance, I do not know why they are so enamored with military time in Portugal), which arrives at Faro at 17:35 (that is to say, 5:35pm in normal American time, assuming you can grab a seat, because remember, none of this can be booked in advance), and then you either have 5 minutes (assuming no bus delays or accidents) to catch the 17:40 (ie, the 5:40pm bus, in normal US parlance) or wait around for the 6:20PM bus from Faro to Tavira. And keep in mind that the 4:55 from Loulé is that last bus out of town you can take, if you need to connect back to Tavira.
So let’s see now: arising at dawn, to get to a town that is a mere 24 miles away, which in the Florida city driving wherer I live would take well under half an hour in my car, you have to endure (unless you rent a stick or pay for an expensive private cab ride), 2-3 hours of bus travel each way (4-6 hours round trip) to go to a place where what you will end up seeing is more Birkenstock people, with the waddling lardass stomachs, the thick, short, exposed stumpy German legs, the scaly skin and white hair and flashing dentures, all trooping up and down in formation, following you into any restaurant you stop into, such as the Sol e Serra Restaurant, which apparently serves Portuguese specialities such as duck confit, a dish I find repulsive to even think about; or, if you decide to stop at a shop like Maquedones Decor, to buy some silky smooth Portuguese cotton fabrics, well you can be sure the Birkenstock people will also be there, matching you with every step along the way, with their cameras, their cigarette smoking, their fanny packs, their yellow nail hammer toes and fire engine red bunions on heavily veined feet, the collapsing architecture of which is supremely exposed by the open air design of the Birkenstock itself, as they finger any goods you show any interest in, with their fat little German fingers, and eyeball whatever you order at an eatery and order exactly the same dish, sometime even having the Birkenstock temerity to ask you how your meal tastes, sitting or standing or somehow being right next to you in a sweaty horde wherever you go, because this is the Algarve, where you can admire the so-called “Moorish” architecture, and whose economy has gone from sardine canning to packing tourists like sardines in a make-believe golf course artificial world in which the only Portuguese you are likely to meet will be the ones playing let’s extract-some-euros off the clueless punters.
Still up for that Loulé day trip?
Why, exactly, if I may ask?
Wouldn’t you actually prefer to have an Algarve experience that’s not some prepackaged, totally boring Birkenstock run?
Ah but for that you would have to stay out late in Tavira. You would have to go to one of those after hour places hidden on dodgy side streets where the Birkenstocks don’t go and where all the Dead Husbands that is to say the women in their 60s and 70s whose husbands are now dead but float around with them wherever they go in Tavira or the Algarve in general to spend the Dead Husband money on those long vacation tours they love so much but had to be deferred while Himself and his ilk were still up around taking up space and spouting the usual Dead Husband rot.
You would have to be up at after 2am when everywhere closes in Tavira except places like the Cafe Ref and actually sit at the bar, and order a cold Maltida that will be served to you in a bottle with no glass.
You will hear the tunes you don’t hear in the main square in town that the Birkenstocks love so much, and you will meet artists and strangers and maybe even a heteronym and converse with them all about how Portugal has been hollowed out all the young get their tech degrees and just git up and go or then someone the heteronym no doubt will riff on some topic that has nothing to do with the usual Birkenstock boring obviousness maybe it will be a series of arch comments about the RV trash that comes motoring down in mid October from Northern Europe and the UK staying here for months on end until the young and far richer summer gringos start to arrive but until then the RV trash huddle by the hundreds if not thousands in the free parks without motor home hookups starting wildfires and in general befouling the Algarve with their septic sludge and their cheap pensioneer ways and then when you ask just for laughs how one cops Moroccan dry goods in Tavira you might at first be given the fish eye until it’s determined that you’re cool and then maybe just maybe someone you have never met before will slap on the bar out in the open just like that something the size of a pinkie nail, a suba’, as they call it in Gouna, for nothing, or maybe a beer and a shot of Medronho, without any transaction being involved, except that one, and you might take this square piece of resinous Moorish delight and consume it under the stars of your balcony on the hill, as you look at the city of Tavira spread out below you under an inky starlit night but now the dark of the night will be a perfect blue black and the stars much brighter than they looked before and with the world spinning out of control back home you will embrace this Algarve because this is how you listen to the even more deeply tragic Fado music that can still be imagined at this hour more resonantly than ever because yes this is how you have always done it like this every place you have ever been even as far away and forbidden as Tozeur because the only way to know a place is late at night when the Birkenstocks are sound asleep and the darlings of the evening are all wide awake and smiling.
Such are the paths one travels off the beaten Birkenstock trail, perhaps.
At any rate, my wife decided, in view of the clouds that suddenly appeared over Tavira to screw this Loulé shit: we will follow the Sequa river today on foot, and hike to discover what those mountains have to offer.
After all, It’s all about one’s particular comfort zone, isn’t it?.