We started in Villa Real (I used its full name in the first sentence as there is another city by this name in the north region of Portugal) as Paul had an appointment with the physio there. While he did that the other 3 of us looked at this lovely city. It is a city, civil parish and municipality in the south-eastern region of the Algarve on the Guadiana River creating the border with Spain. It is an interesting city, developed in 1755, divided into 2 parts, the municipality being in the eastern section. Prior to the development of the city, the area was inhabited by the Romans and they had built a fortress on a hill outside of the town.
As we drove away from where we dropped him off, there was a very tall lighthouse attached to what was clearly a bureaucratic building. The lighthouse was originally planned in 1884 but it took another 32 years until construction began in 1916. It was finally turned on in January 1923, a hundred years before we got to see it. The time taken for planning and building was necessary as it is built on sand and the construction of the base had to be carefully planned. It serves as a lighthouse to ships in both Spanish and Portuguese waters.
We made our way towards the river and its promenade along which we saw a number of statues, sculptures and fountains. The most interesting one was of the Marquis de Pombal who was born in 1699 and served as a diplomat to England from 1740-1744. He had become disillusioned with Portugal’s economic dependence on England. He ensconced himself within the Royal Court and was very successful in handling the crisis following the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755. He worked himself into the position of being a virtual dictator in Portugal and was the main creator of Villa Real de San Antonio in the Algarve.
There was a bust of a lady activist and poet, Lutgarda Guimares. She successfully fought for the conditions for female prisoners improved and she started the programme of taking sweets and little gifts for hospitalised children at Christmas. Besides her poetry she published press articles calling for equal opportunities and fair property rights for women. There was another sculpture of fish strangely called The Mood.
As we walked along the promenade beside the river, we saw a road down to the left which Janet told us was where she and Paul had their first home in Portugal. As we looked down the street, we saw that there was an historical festival taking place, so we decided to take a look. The festival was in the process of being setup. The few stands that had been setup were mainly children’s items, but it was clear that the others which were to come would make it a very interesting and fun festival. Halfway down the street there was a square which we later learnt was named Marquis de Pombal Square.
Soon thereafter, Paul let us know that he was ready and so we walked back to the car which had been parked in front of the Grand Hotel which was in a newly renovated building. On one side of the hotel was another building under renovation and on the other a beautifully decorated military building. Further along the road were some homes with Algarvian attics and some with Algarvian chimneys.
Once we had met up with Paul, we drove out of Villa Real towards the highway which would take us across the River Guadiana over a beautiful bridge and into Spain. We were going to visit the city of Huelva which we were supposed to have visited in June 2022, but our plans were thwarted by positive Covid-19 tests resulting in an early return home.
It was from Huelva that Christopher Columbus set sail to find a western route to Asia on 3 August 1492. It is a lovely city to visit even though, on the day we drove through, a lot of roads were closed off because a school had some activity in progress.
Once the car was parked in a garage, we began a walk down to Columbus Square where there was plenty to see and places to eat. In the centre of the square was a large statue of Columbus himself. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the whole statue because it was covered in protective material while being cleaned.
From the square we crossed over the High Street which had sails covering it to protect the shops and pedestrians from the extreme heat. It was a fascinating sight and a quite unexpected but brilliant idea. It apparently reduces the temperature by up to 10oC. This brought us to another square where we found a wonderful restaurant and ordered Tapas. I finally discovered what Tapas is – a variety of small dishes which all at the same table share.
After lunch we made our way back to Columbus Square by a few side streets enjoying seeing what the city had to offer. We also walked the full length of the high street which had some buildings covered in decorative tiles.
Back at the Square we admired a Gazebo and some paintings which were on show. We then saw a church which we had missed earlier and it had some lovely paintings on the outer walls.
We walked back to the car and then had a problem trying to find where to pay for the ticket. While 3 of us waited at the car, Paul went looking for the ticket office. On his return he told us that, first he had to get downstairs and the lift was being repaired and the stairs were steep. When he got there, he found a machine which wasn’t working properly but, he eventually got assistance and we were able to leave the garage. The next obstacle was to find our way through the blocked off/open streets and out of the city.
We finished the day with a little more excitement. After filling up with petrol, cheaper in Spain than in Portugal, and crossing the Guadiana River back into Portugal we saw smoke from a large fire. Fortunately, it did not cause any major damage to people or property.