Monday morning, we packed up our guest house and said goodbye to our hosts (and hello to their “small” Newfoundland named Orso, or “bear,” whom she had brought for us to meet.) As we left, I wished her luck with the influx of summer tourists, and she replied, “We don’t have tourists. We have only friends.” I thought that was a great way of describing their philosophy.

And so, with new friends and fond memories in tow, we headed out for home. This time we drove up the inland route, with a detour around half of the southern, more touristy coast. It was a perfect day for it, crystal clear after a few overcast, cold days, so the sun actually carried some warmth in it.

We stopped first in Lagos, the town that has drawn all the people out of the countryside in search of modernity. Although Lagos is a town with rich and varied history, including having been the origin of most of the Portuguese expeditions in the 15th century, now it is little more than a sleepy tourist town. A nice one, but again, its primary industry is painfully obvious. We strolled around a bit, surrounded mainly by small groups of other tourists, but didn’t stay for long, as our picnic lunch was calling.

For that purpose, we drove out to the nearby Ponta da Piedade, a peninsula just to the south that had some amazing craggy rock formations rising up out of the blue-green sea… and of course small motor boats ready to take you on a tour of the “grottoes” inside, starting either from the bottom of the cliffs or all the way back in Lagos. Of course any natural attraction must be commoditized! Since it was the off-season though, we were able to find a quiet perch to enjoy our lunch, and then wandered about the Ponta itself, admiring the views that stretched all the way back to Sagres, which we’d visited on Saturday.

Back on the road again, we bid the coast ate logo and turned inland to the town of Silves, which we had been promised contained an excellent Moorish castle. And so it did, with crenellated reddish-orange stones rising up out of a white-washed town, surrounded by quiet streets and small cafes. We wandered the walls and grounds of the castle, which were much better restored than most of the ones we’ve visited here. This castle also boasted a set of immense cisterns, which it said held over 1,300,000 liters of water, and could sustain a population of 1000 people for up to a year. Unfortunately at the time of the Christian siege that captured this castle from the Moors, the town’s population was 30,000, so it only lasted for three months. Whoops. Better luck next time, guys.

After all that culture, we decided we’d earned another refreshment break, and sat down at a quiet cafe nestled in between the castle and a nearby church for a coffee and some more of the local almond cake. There we were vastly entertained by a succession of old and somewhat grotesquely deformed animals, including a cat with the most crookedly kinked tail I have ever seen (it actually curled around itself!) and a dog so old that he could barely limp from his kennel outside the cafe to a sunny spot on the steps ten feet away.

Less entertaining but equally geriatric was the old man sitting at the table next to us, who watched us with intense fascination, occasionally emitting a disturbingly deep cough. He finally (to my relief) shuffled away about half way through our snack, making progress about as rapidly as the dog had done. It may have once rivaled Lisbon in size and importance, but these days, nothing moves too quickly in Silves anymore.

By the time we had finished with Silves, it was nearing 4 PM, so we at last set our sights on Lisbon and headed home, first through rocky, barren hills, then through lush farmland, and finally across the massive Vasco de Gama bridge into Lisbon just at twilight. As we crossed the river towards the myriad lights and towers of our city, we agreed that while adventures are grand, it was still good to be home.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Advertisements