Backpacker's discovery By John Mello...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

March 03, 2002|By Special to the Sun

A MEMORABLE PLACE

Backpacker's discovery

By John Mello

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Tavira is a charming fishing village in southern Portugal's Algarve province. I stopped there during a backpacking tour of Europe, planning to stay a day. I didn't leave until four days later.

Entering Tavira, I was enamored of the ancient whitewashed buildings and salty sea air. Later, I pitched my tent in a campground on a small island nearby and fell asleep to the sound of waves breaking.

The island is a five-minute ferry ride from Tavira. I remember my first ferry ride. I arrived at the village boat dock in the early evening after having traveled from Seville, Spain, and I was beginning to feel my rucksack pulling heavily on my shoulders.

I had read about the island campsite in a guidebook, but had only a vague idea of how to get there from Tavira. I put my pack down and surveyed the area for a sign or other information about a ferry. To my right I saw a small bar, to my left a parking lot, and in front of me the dock.

The bar was full of rugged-looking Portuguese men in dirty T-shirts and cut-off jeans. Their skin was tan and their voices enthusiastic as they drank beer and spoke rapidly.

I couldn't understand their words, but it was clear that these were working men relaxing after a hard day. I could see the island from where I stood, but there was no sign of a ferry.

Figuring that I must be in the right place, I decided to wait. The next 15 minutes would become a daily ritual: Me sitting on my pack, the fishermen drinking beer, all of us waiting for our ride home.

Eventually, the men stood up, gulped down the last of their drinks and headed to the end of the pier. A green tugboat soon appeared.

I followed the men aboard. Every morning and evening during my stay, this scene would repeat itself. In the mornings, though, the air was a little cooler and the faces were a little fresher.

In Tavira, I walked the cobblestone streets or sat in a small, riverside park, scribbling in my journal. I climbed the walls of the town's castle for a great view. I sat in a cafe and romanticized a life there, fishing in the cool, dark Mediterranean waters.

All of Algarve was unforgettable, but Tavira is one of those places a traveler finds and can't understand why it isn't crowded with tourists. I was happy to have it all to myself.

John Mello lives in Catonsville.

MY BEST SHOT

A new toy

By Janet Sanford, Baltimore

While visiting lovely Lijiang in southern China's Himalayan foothills, I took this picture of local Naxi children, who had absolutely no idea what to do with these balloons. The Naxi people are descendants of Tibetan nomads.

READERS RECOMMEND

Asheville, N.C.

Andrew and Janet Peltz, Baltimore

"On our trip through Asheville, we came across two scenic places. Be sure to see the beautiful sunsets from the Sunset Terrace of the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa, as well as the spectacular views from the top of Mount Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway."

Westminster, England

Fred, Andi and Jessica Weiss, Baltimore

"The Royal Lyceum Theatre was the highlight of our family trip to London. We got the opportunity to see Mamma Mia, The Lion King, My Fair Lady and The King and I and meet the stars after the shows at the stage door. It was a vacation we will never forget."

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