Sunday, January 20, 2019

A ferry island trip

Now, I'll bet you're all thinking the lovely building in the image above is where we stayed in Olhão, but I'm afraid that's not the case. I realise to my surprise I didn't take any photos of our hostel/hotel. I put it like this because it didn't seem to know quite what it was, but whatever the case, it was a lovely place to stay in a quiet (well, mostly...when the local football team weren't practising their cheering) neighbourhood close to the town centre. 

Last time I came to Olhão, I wasn't all that taken with it, but it intrigued me enough to keep looking at information on the internet, and I'm so glad we decided to use it as a base. It's a lovely place, very Portuguese as opposed to touristy, and full of character. The building above is just one, but the back streets and 'largos' of the old town are a visual feast. 

On the first morning, we did as recommended by the young man who acted as hotel receptionist, and went to the street market, which is on every day in the morning. It was a bustling hive of activity and we loved milling around amongst all the locals. The veggie stalls looked great and there was much lively trading to be had, not that we had any, but you get the drift. 

Then we continued obeying our host’s instructions and found the ferry terminal to take us to the Ria Formosa island stops of Culatra and Farol. The previous day we'd been offered a boat trip to these islands for €25 each. Granted they included a tour round the nature reserve and explanation of the bird life, but I'd already done that two years ago, so we were more than pleased when we found that ferry tickets to the same island were just €4,30 return each. The ferry trip took 45 minutes with a stop at Culatra before taking us further round the island to Farol.

Bird Island. I would have loved to get closer to see all the different 'makes'
of bird there were.

A water taxi steams past us

The ferry was pretty big. This was before it filled up

Locals waiting to disembark at Culatra
We watched with pleasure as most of the ferry passengers disembarked at Culatra. This was real local life and these people had been into Olhão to do their grocery shopping. The various designs of what we always think of as granny trolleys were amazing. They are quite the thing here and obviously a must have for the lively islanders. Everyone seemed to be pulling one loaded up with vegetables and other bags. There was even a man with a TV, which was passed to him over the railings of the boat. Too risky to take down the stairs, I suppose. Anyway, that took care of most of the passengers and then we were on our way again across the windy bay.

As it says 

Shopping trolleys are de rigeur and all the rage here

And even islanders need a new telly sometimes

The wind was blowing quite hard. A few shopping trolleys nearly got swept
to their death 
45 minutes to the second after leaving, we arrived at Farol. We decided our skipper must have done this a few times before as we were exactly on time. I'd peered through the bridge window on the boat and seen his hands on the wheel. One of them was sporting a large plaster, so I wondered whose nose had brushed up against him the previous evening. Speculation aside, he was very much in command and brought us safely to the landing stage, where we were greeted by an anxious looking dog waiting for her master. Very focused, she was. I didn't even get a look in.

And a local dog came to greet her master

Farol is stunning. The houses are just gorgeous and I would love to stay there a while. Imagine being able to hole up in one of these for the winter!

Then, there is the famous (well I think it is) lighthouse that stands in a very beckoning beacon like way close to the headland.

And on the other side of the island is the ocean, the Atlantic with proper waves and rollers. It's amazing how peaceful the Ria Formosa is by comparison. Despite being open through to the sea, the lagoon type delta is incredibly well protected.

The Atlantic as it really is. It even feels bigger, wilder and more untamed

Meandering back over the island we spotted more gems, not to mention the curious television aerials in the photo below. I wondered if it had anything to do with the distance they are from...well...anywhere.

Even here, they manage to have TV. Spot the aerials 
An African rondavel on Farol. Lovely!

And when your chimney needs fixing, there's always duct tape

And another cutie just waiting for me

The call of boats
We found a café open to have coffee and a cake (for Koos) on the island. We were the only customers but the coffee was perfect and just what we needed. An hour after arriving, we were ready to take the ferry back again. The return trip seemed faster, but it  took exactly the same time. On the way, we were passed by a kind of pontoon boat travelling at some speed. I was charmed to see a dog standing in the bow clearly loving the ride...dogdems, not dodgems.

Back  in Olhão, if you don't have a garden, use the roof

Back in Olhão, we explored the back streets of the town further. There's no doubt it's a bit scruffy, and even less doubt that it's a bit cramped, but we loved it and I was even more glad I'd chosen it as it has all the curiosity and local colour that both of us like.

The delight of the back streets

 It also seems incredibly safe. People leave their washing out on the street without any fear of vandalism or theft. There is a depressing amount of graffiti in much of Faro and also some on the outskirts here, but in town, evidence of that kind of random destruction seems to be much less.

As for the washing, leave it out on the street. No one will pinch it

So I'll leave you here with this special image of a special 'largo' (which I think means square). This is one of a few back street spaces where artistic representations of local legends are presented. This one is the legend of the Enchanted Moorish Boy. You can read the story below my photo. It saves me having to tell it :)

So that's it for today, allemaal. Tomorrow, or the next day, I'll take you to Ayamonte just across the river into Spain...


  1. Great story, great pictures - and I love Farol. If it's warm, I want to move there. Thanks for taking us along on your travels. You are amazing. (Steph)

  2. Hi Val - what a delightful place to visit and have a break in ... cheers Hilary

    1. It really was, Hilary. I'm ashamed I missed responding to your comment. I keep losing them as I can't remember which post they were on when I approve them. Still, I think I've caught up now :)

  3. I'm glad you like Farol as I do. Here is my blog of my trip there


Apologies for switching on comment moderation, but this is to make sure everyone can comment without jumping through captcha hoops!

However, anonymous comments will not be published, so please would you sign your name. Even if you leave a nice, relevant comment, I won't publish it without a name.