Open the photo gallery >>

We got out of the house this morning at about 10am, and in our sights we had one of the things that Thomas Cook offer as a whole day excursion from Albufeira – we were going to go to Tavira.

It wasn’t that far away – just over an hour – but then I suppose if you go with your tour company then the bus travels more slowly, possibly avoids the toll motorways, and spends an hour at the start picking everyone up. Anyway, we arrived in Tavira late in the morning, a bit early for lunch but not by much.

By the time we’d found somewhere to park we were somewhat closer to lunch, and were starting to wonder why we’d bothered coming. Eventually, on our second lap of the town, we found a single parking spot by the side of a narrow street that someone was just leaving. A-ha! It is ours. Although it was a bit tight, and I was still struggling with the car that had a button instead of a handbrake.

We decided it was time for a coffee break, if only because we also needed some loose change for parking and didn’t have enough. Kas sat down at a roadside cafe with the girls while I went off in search of some loose change. After a quick walk up the street and down again I ended up in the cafe where the girls were sitting. Unlike the response you’d likely get in the UK, they were very happy to change a €5 note into coins, so we decided it was a jolly nice cafe and stopped for our coffee.

From here we walked down the road to the medieval bridge over the river. It was here we noticed how very, very hot the weather was. Too hot. It’s a nice old bridge though.

We walked up the hill into the old town and sought refuge in a big church that had a small display of religious art (for a modest entry fee). It was cool inside. The church itself was quite pretty too, and also quite cool compared to outside. Eventually though, we had to brave the outside again.

It was a short walk around to the castle, and as seems to be the way around here, we found an interior almost completely given over to ornamental gardens. There was also a geocache, but that’s a whole other matter.

From the castle there was a steep staircase leading back down the road where we’d parked, and whilst descending here we decided it was far too hot in the town, so we were going to head for the coast to look for somewhere to get lunch.

This is where the disappointment started.

We drove down to the Ria Formosa from the town centre, which looked like it might be reasonably interesting, but when we got there it was a building site. It was difficult to park, and there were two restaurants which might have been OK if you could reach them, but you couldn’t.  We plodded along a bit to a jetty that was the home of an Earthcache, but there were no further restaurants or cafes. The jetty was just a landing stage for a little boat that runs out to one of the barrier islands. We did have the kit with us to go beaching, but we needed a drink and weren’t sure if there was a cafe over there. Looking at the map in retrospect, there are a few cafes over on the island, but we didn’t realise at the time.

So we returned to the car park and left. At least we got out free because we’d been there for less than 30 minutes.

We drove in a westward direction along the coastal roads looking for somewhere that might offer the combination of a beach, a nice looking restaurant and a parking space. None of the places we drove through matched up to all three. In fact, most of them only managed one of the three. I guess this is why the coast around Albufeira is more touristy than here.

We made it all the way to Olhão before deciding to give up on that plan. We saw signs for MacDonalds so thought we’d go there for lunch, because at least they have stuff that all of us would eat, but somewhere in the middle of town we lost all the signs and couldn’t find it. Boo! And hiss! This day was not working out quite as we planned and I was suffering a major sense of humour crisis by this point, so we decided to just go home again.

We stopped at some motorway services near Loulé to get some lunch (and grab the random carpark geocache). The food was actually not too bad.

On the way into home we stopped at our new favourite supermarket for a few goodies and then retired to our apartment, where we were quite surprised to discover that England had bowled out Australia for just 60 runs on the first day of the fourth Ashes test match at Trent Bridge. The kids had an appointment with the swimming pool, as ever, and I decided that I’d now got an urgent appointment at a nearby sports bar that had Sky Sports.  We all went, but Kas looked tired and the kids were getting a bit uppity, so after the (short) highlights of various Australians walking onto and then off the pitch Kas took Ami home. Izzy stayed with me while I watched the England innings and then we walked home and had a fairly early night.

Presumably if you take the full day excursion with the tour company they know the good spots to go to, and you don’t have to fart about looking for parking, and maybe they even know a nice restaurant or two, but we were both glad that we’d not had to pay to go there, as even with some better planning on our part I’m not convinced there’s a whole day out to be had in Tavira. It was quite a pleasant little town, but there’s not really a lot to do.