A quick tour of Cabanas de Tavira underscored the reality that there are fishing villages and then there are fishing villages in Portugal.
And just like that, it is summer in Portugal.
Last week was a series of grey, cold, drizzly days that had me bundled up in my sweats and hugging my space heater during the day. Now the hot sun chases me off my balcony by 9:00 am.
The swallows have returned from wherever they go in the winter. I have a pair of cliff swallows who are determined to build their nest under the eaves of my balcony. They may well have built there last year—swallows return to the same spot, apparently. I have been acting the role of human scarecrow, chasing them off with a wave of my broom. I remind them that they are not paying rent. I encourage them to go up one more floor to where my neighbors are away for months at a time and they can build their nest in peace. I’m not sure they understand my English because they are, of course, Portuguese swallows.
It would be a battle of wills, except that the swallows are working off instinct and for me alone, it is a matter of tenacity. I don’t know if I can overcome instinct. Today when I go into town I’ll make more of an effort to find some shiny, reflective, mirror-type thing to scare them away.
With the warm weather and sunshine come the tourists. This past week has been a school holiday in Portugal and probably other parts of Europe as well. A friend offered a tour of Cabanas de Tavira. I happily joined the crowds of tourists and finally visited the other side of Tavira.
It’s a former fishing village that has attracted a large number of British expats. Compared to Cabanas de Tavira, my little fishing village, even though it has a slightly higher year-round population, feels smaller, more authentic, than Cabanas. Cabanas de Tavira is more about tourism and pricey resorts. There are fishing huts at one end of town (cabanas means huts), but even they seemed polished and somehow more upscale. But then, I didn’t get real up close and personal with them.
My friend took me to the British market in town that has a corner of the store dedicated to books. I was delighted to find a couple of Agatha Raisin cozies (MC Beaton), a Jack Reacher (Lee Childs) and an author I didn’t know, Andrew Pepper. I happily put my money into the donation can. I am definitely going to put the shop on my list to get back to again. The store itself carries goodies from the UK, and it’s a favorite spot for British expats to get hold of hard-to-find-in-Portugal goods.
There are some gorgeous beaches on that side of Tavira. Like Praia Barril near me, Praia Cabanas, a five minute ride by water taxi, is a blue flag beach—top notch in every category from amenities to the color and cleanliness of the water. Praia de Monte Gordo, a little to the east of the main drag, has plenty of restaurants and, if you’re up for it, you can walk for miles. It was a gorgeous day to check out beaches on that side of Tavira—not too windy, the sun was warm but not too hot. People had made their way to the beach but the summer crowds were not yet in attendance. Come July and August the beach, as most Algarve beaches, will be packed.
We stopped in town to have a light snack and I got to do my favorite thing: people watch. Below us was a constant parade of tourists, residents, older and younger people. We watched a worker splicing fiber optic cable while his assistant brought him a beer (or two). Nice work if you can get it. Mostly I enjoyed the thoughtful conversation against the turquoise blue of the water and the azure blue of the sky.
Cabanas is definitely more active and touristy than my little village. There are several high end resorts and hotels catering to tourists as well as plenty of guest houses and Airbnbs. The commercial strip is longer than Santa Luzia’s, with more beach shops and restaurants. The prices are commensurately higher. Where my little village might warrant an interesting day trip, Cabanas is a place to come and unpack for a week or more.
If you’re looking for the sunny, beach resort experience, I would recommend Cabanas. Lots to do, you can walk just about everywhere, and it’s a quick taxi ride into Tavira if you want to explore the town.
There’s a thriving expat community (mostly Brits) in Cabanas. If you’re looking for a place that is easy to settle into—most of the people speak English, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, golf courses—Cabanas is worth taking a look at. It’s a bit pricier than some places, less so than others. The established expat community promises an instant social life.
People often ask if I get lonely or bored living in Santa Luzia. I do not. Where I find it restful, others would find it boring. Watching the main drag of town—the people on bikes, the fishing boats coming in and out, the delivery trucks, the joggers and walkers—to me it’s an endless parade. I am sure most people would be suicidal within days. If you require a healthy level of activity and interaction, I would strongly recommend trying out Cabanas. You get the gorgeous views of the Atlantic and the Ria Formosa with a lot more amenities. For me, I am kept busy enough waving off the swallows.