Two white bell towers
Architecture,  Flowers,  Monday walks,  Portugal

A stroll around Tavira

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

Gang aft agley

Robert Burns, To a mouse

I really couldn’t go to the Faro area without meeting up with blogging friend Restless Jo, could I? Or maybe I could! We planned to meet, naturally, but on the day fate intervened and our coffee date with her had to be … not cancelled, I hope, but certainly indefinitely postponed.

Nevertheless we still wanted to see Tavira, so we pressed ahead with our plan to catch a train and get there in time for coffee. I may not have managed to meet up with Jo; but I can still share our wanderings around this lovely town with her as a belated contribution to this week’s Monday Walks.

Tavira’s main station is a little way out of the old centre. But the walk from it is a delight if like me you enjoy photographing doors, windows and other architectural details.

The Ponte Romana

Arriving in the Praça da República we found it lined with a number of cafés, so we chose one and settled down to enjoy a morning coffee and a spell of people watching. After our coffees we strolled out on to the Ponte Romana where we’d hoped to meet Jo. The bridge, spanning the river Gilão, has in fact little to do with the Romans. The first bridge here was built by the Moors in the 12th century and later, in the Middle Ages, houses were built on it. That bridge collapsed in 1655 (the weight of the houses, I wonder?) and was rebuilt in its present form in 1667. However some sources I’ve consulted talk of an earlier Roman bridge on this site, part of the road linking Faro to Castro Marim on what is today the border with Spain.

Whatever its past history, today the bridge affords lovely views of the town. The sun was shining, a busker was playing … but the yellow and blue ribbons tied to the bridge were a sobering reminder that all was not so well in other parts of Europe.

White buildings and church towers
Looking up towards the castle from the bridge
River lined with white and yellow houses and cafes
Banks of the Gilão
Yellow and blue ribbon tied to a bridge railing
On the Ponte Romana

Igreja da Misericórdia

Doubling back from the bridge we started to climb the steps to the castle. On the way up we stopped off to visit the Church of the Misericordia which was really worth seeing. It was built between 1541 and 1551 and is considered to be one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in the Algarve region.

Looking up at a church porch and statues above
The Igreja da Misericórdia
Small figure carved in stone
Above the door

I was pleased I was allowed to take photos inside as the interior has some stunning azulejos which depict the fourteen Works of Mercy that inspired the founding of the sisterhood, plus scenes from the life of Christ. These date from the 18th century as do the altar and retablo which are even more striking.

We climbed the narrow spiral steps of the bell tower, finding the view interesting but not spectacular. And we visited a very good temporary exhibition of photography. It seemed to have no links to the church that we could fathom, other than being by local photographers!

View over white buildings and tiled roofs
View from the bell tower

The camera obscura

Continuing up the hill we came to the camera obscura in the old water tower you can see in my photo above (right side, on the horizon). The garden at the foot of the tower had some attractive plants and another good photo exhibition, this time macro insect photography. I was pleased to find that there was a lift to the top of the tower. There we enjoyed the ‘tour’ of the town given by our guide as he described the scenes displayed on the camera’s disc.

Close up of green leaves
In the garden of the Camera Obscura

Tavira Castle

From the tower we went to the ruined castle, passing another church, Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo. This one however was closed

Tower of the Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo

The castle’s small garden was beautifully scented and full of colourful poppies. I took lots of flower photos here, some of which I used for the PhotoSpiralysis Droste edits in my recent Fabulous florals post.

We climbed to the castle ramparts for views down to the town; my featured photo was taken here.

The streets of Tavira

By now it was nearly lunch time. So we headed back down the hill and found a restaurant with open air seating on the far side of the river. We had an excellent meal here and enjoyed the setting, although the wind off the river was a bit sharp in the shade.

After lunch we strolled around some of the streets on that far side of the river before crossing back to do the same on ‘our’ side. Our footsteps led us along to the old fish market, now converted for use by shops and bars. In the nearby side streets we discovered an old unrestored but photogenic church, and some attractive doors and azulejos. I became somewhat obsessed with photographing the latter, but I’ll save them for a future post. Meanwhile here’s a selection of other photos I took that afternoon.

As the afternoon wore on we started to walk back up the hill to the station. There was time to photograph the moving military memorial outside the station before our train left.

We’d enjoyed lovely weather, beautiful historic architecture and a delicious lunch. What more could I have asked of our springtime stroll; other than of course the chance to have coffee with a blogging friend. That will have to wait for another opportunity …

I visited Tavira on a day trip from Faro in April 2022

37 Comments

  • Gradmama2011

    Great photos, Sarah, as always. We only spent a couple of days in LIsbon once, on the way to Madrid. (Long story, and it doesn’t fit your cheery and informative photos. .) So I like to see some of the sites that you saw..

      • Gradmama2011

        We were there overnight. Our hotel was the site of a Japanese tour group, so menus and all were in Japanese 🙂 and it was Christmas Day…no sign of so much as a piece of tinsel. It was the occasion of the US invasion of Panama…and the locals were not happy with Americans. I felt hostility, something I rarely do, my husband told me it was just me,) We went into a pub where a local invited to share his booth, and he said that there was hostility against Americans because of the Panama thing. We watched the local CNN version which was quite different from when we got home…of course we were the good guys in Panama. Incidentally, the Lisbon papers were headlining the “twin Christmas atrocities” the other being the fall of the Romanian Czechkues who were being hung at the time of the overthrog. Then because it was Christmas Day everything was closed. Oh, one bright-ish spot: at the airport there was a bomb scare and planes were grounded. There was a very young Nun (of Mother Teresa’s order)who came to sit by us…I guess we looked reassuring. ) Huh…I have more memories of that trip than I thought!

      • Gradmama2011

        I also remember a young Japanese girl wearing a huge sombrero, sitting on luggage waiting to leave. Also, my husband, a firefighter, visited the local Lisbon fire station and a firefighter showed him around. They got on because of Bob’s French…a common language between him and the fireman. Oh…and it rained the whole time we were there.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Sounds like you could write an interesting post about your visit to Lisbon! I hope you get to return one day and see the city at its best. I recommend May when the jacaranda trees are flowering 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      It is 🙂 Do you know this region? The Algarve has a bit of a bad image in the UK I think, because of the package holidays (Portuguese Camp Sunshines 😂 ) and stags and hens that flock to Albufeira. But away from those places there are lots of lovely towns and villages. I think you’d enjoy chilling here for a few days – good wine, great seafood, nice weather, just enough to do to be interesting but not so much that hoards of people descend!

      • thehungrytravellers.blog

        Yes that does sound good, and does sound our kind of place. I’ve only visited the Algarve once (1990) when my kids were young. Michaela’s not yet been to Portugal at all. I didn’t fall in love with the Algarve I have to say (we stayed at Quinta das Salinas, it all felt a bit “false”) but I do remember going to a quaint inland town one day (Almansil? Perhaps). One way or another we owe Portugal some time I reckon.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Sounds like it 🙂 I really like Faro (not at all false), Tavira from what we saw is lovely and I also took a liking last times around to Lagos. I would have liked to have gone back but it’s two hours each way by train from Faro so Tavira seemed the better option for a day trip.

  • Annie Berger

    Selfishly, I was happy you included a few azuelos photos as I can never get enough of them and am happily waiting when you will show us more in a future post. As others have also said, the doorknockers were great shots. Another fave was the church clock tower.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Annie 😀 Yes, I couldn’t not include the church interior at the least! My future post will be more about the wider colour palette of tiles on the houses here. I loved that old clock tower too and took quite a few photos of which these were the best 🙂

  • the eternal traveller

    It’s a shame you didn’t get to meet Jo. We’ve had that pleasure and she is such a lovely person. Now you have a good reason to return. 🙂 It looks like you would enjoy seeing all this beauty again.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh yes, I’d quite happily go back to this region I think, although on the whole we tend not to revisit places and this was already my second time in Faro. Maybe Jo and I can meet up somewhere else in Portugal one day!

  • Heyjude

    Looks like a lovely place for a wander. I particularly like the doors and the door knockers as well as some of your other quirky shots. A shame you weren’t able to meet up with Jo. She’s such a lovely lady.

  • Nemorino

    I’ve just looked it up in an old notebook and found that I stayed in Tavira for two nights, from 2-4 March 1963, on my bicycle trip around Spain and Portugal. All I remember is that the 3rd was a very rainy day. so I stayed indoors and took part in a watercolor painting course that someone was offering.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      My guess is that this central bit won’t have changed much since then Don, although the white paint may have been spruced up a few times over the years!

  • Yvonne+Dumsday

    Wonderful pictures as ever and of course. How lovely too. to experience a camera obscure – I find them totally fascinating.

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