I take a walk every morning; get my 5,000 steps in first thing. I usually turn right when I head out the door and walk as far as Praia do Barril. Once or twice a week I turn left, and walk towards Tavira. Technically, I have walked to the city line of Tavira several times, but a hike all the way into town is not my idea of fun.
Along this left hand route I pass the traditional fishing huts at the end of the village, acres of olive groves and miles of stone fences. The fishing huts are referred to as “fishermen’s cottages” when the upscale real estate people are trying to sell them to newcomers. They are the original tiny houses. Granted, there have been some very cool, upscale renovations done, but the fishing huts at the end of Santa Luzia, while well-maintained, are meant for fishermen.
This is a working fishing village. (I’m going to give you a stock photo, not one of my own, because there are usually people about when I pass and it’s considered rude to take people’s pictures. I figure that extends to their living quarters.)
Santa Luzia Herself
At the edge of town, there’s a memorial case dedicated to Santa Luzia. It’s one of those things you speed by in a car, never noticing. Even walking, it took me a couple of passes before my curiosity got the better of me. My Portuguese is still not proficient enough (and probably won’t be for a while) to get a clear comprehension of the information that accompanied the picture of the saint, so I had to rely on the Internet to get some background on her.
Santa Luzia, the saint, not the town, is known as the protector of sight. (Luz means light.) There’s an appropriately gory story that goes along with her sainthood which involves being thrown into a house of prostitution, surviving a fire, having her eyes plucked out (no worries—“two beautiful eyes were born in her face”), and was finally beheaded. But at least her virginity was intact. The village was named for her following the recovery of a holy relic, which had been lost at sea, by a local fisherman. Details are sketchy as all the best legends are. But, considering the way the light in the village is fascinatingly ever-changing, I think the early residents chose their patron saint well.
The Salt Pans
I have taken the route towards Tavira half a dozen times and have seen people coming out of an unpaved side street. A British gentleman who has a “holiday home” here, asked me if I had been down to the salt pans yet. Turns out, they’re down that side road. So I made it my business to head down that street a week or so ago.
There’s a quinta (farm or in this case, more of a ranch) along one side for part of the walk, open land on the other. The road is frequented by runners, who jogged past me with a wave or a cheery Bom Dia! They are much more ambitious than I am.
The road ends in a T. I went to the right because that’s where the salt ponds were. The morning I walked past we were at high tide and salt water filled the shallow, flat ponds. There was a flock of wading birds, most likely storks, hanging out, doing their thing. Fortunately, the water goes through a filtering system before heading into the beds for the evaporation process. As the water evaporates, the salt forms a layer that workers scrape off. Harvesting salt is done in the summer months. Needless to say, the process is labor intensive. The salt works employs 20 to 40 people during the summer evaporation months. It is hot work.
The gates to the actual salt works were locked on the day I went down. Several runners just went around the gate (it only blocks the road, there’s no real fencing) and continued on their runs. I am not training for a marathon and had no need for additional miles. I also have no need to trespass—at least until I get my permanent residency card. So, I’ll sign up for the guided tour in a week or two. There’s a three hour guided walking tour that promises to be an “easy walk.” We’ll see about that.
Farm Ocean to Table
When you grow up in the suburbs of America, you know all that food in the grocery store comes from somewhere, but you rarely get to see exactly where. Here, I see the boats pull up at the pier across the street and watch them offload their catch. Most mornings I see six to twelve people working the mud flats in front of my apartment, harvesting clams. Last week I watched an old man carrying a plastic bag with a fish inside it. The fish was still flopping. If you go to any supermarket here, you will find stacks of dried bacalhau (codfish). It’s a staple of the Portuguese diet.
I’m still ordering bacon cheeseburgers (but always apologetically). I don’t eat fish which is really a shame because Portugal is nirvana for fish eaters. Santa Luzia is known for octopus, something I will tell you right now, I will never eat. But I’m not telling my neighbors that. I’ll order the frango piri piri or a delicious pork dish and keep my limited eating habits to myself. But even if I never eat a bite of fish, I can appreciate how close people are to the food supply here. To a kid from the suburbs, it’s pretty neat.