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Trying New Things. Making a Few Missteps

Updated: Apr 8

Exploring New Places in the Algarve

Exploring New Places in the Algarve (photo by author)

In week 51, my attempts at being an introvert failed and my adventures took an unexpected turn.

Tis Becomes an Introvert. Spoiler Alert: It Doesn’t Last

After my seasick trip to Albufeira, I decided it was time to try the quiet life again. For days, I stuck to a routine that started with yoga, a day of working in my window with a view, followed by a long walk around my new town, stopping for tea in a café before heading home to cook dinner. Each night I would curl up on the sofa and read or watch something on Netflix.

It was peaceful. I loved the routine of it, how productive I was and how well I slept. I enjoyed learning I could cook even better than I thought. For the first time in a year, I had time to immerse myself in a good book. I enjoyed the simple joy of finding a show you like so much that you looked forward to settling down for the evening and turning on the next episode. 

The quiet life was going great but as dependable as the tax man, football happens. Nothing is more irresistible to me outside of the World Cup, than the European Champion League games. This week there were two nights of exciting matches with the best of the best in Europe. My introvert status ended as I joined my new local friends to watch my team and others compete for the title of “Champion of Europe”. I love the energy of watching games with other fans. The new swear words you learn when someone’s team is getting shellacked.

It’s just not the same when watching at home alone.

The Many Odd-Faceted Town of Faro (photo by author)

Exploring the Many Odd Facets of Faro

As I’ve committed to exploring my new area on the weekends, I packed my overnight bag and headed out Saturday morning for the two-hour train ride to Faro. My new friend Paige was staying there for about a week and was meeting me to show me the town and, of course, watch football. We had met in a pub watching football in Albufeira as I was waiting for my train and made plans to meet up again. 

After having a nice lunch, I checked into my hotel and went to meet Paige. We walked around the town a bit and she gave me the overview. While I am a firm believer that you need more time than a day or two to really get to know a place, I was not overly impressed. Paige, who had been there almost a week, was not either. The town seemed a bit quiet outside of the main street.  

The next day, I explored more of Faro, stopping in a café for a tea and some people watching. After, I met Paige for lunch at a pizzeria. I’ve become obsessed with finding good pizza here and there is absolutely nothing good to report. After eating the pizza in Faro, I still have nothing to write home about except a huge amount of soggy crusts and unremarkable sauces.

In need of something to wipe out the memory of lunch, Paige and I headed to get a small beer by the water. She grabbed a table outside as I went in to buy the beers.

Me and Paige, My New Football Friend (photo by author)

Me and Paige, My New Football Friend (photo by author)

While I was waiting at the bar, I began to chat with a man who was wearing a Manchester City jersey, which is my team. Trying to pass the time waiting with small talk, I asked him what he thought of the game yesterday. He said he did not watch as he was here on vacation. Shocked, I proceeded to explain the importance of the game and how close the score had been the last time we played this team. How could he call himself a fan if he could not take two hours out of his vacation to watch such an important game? 

Apparently, the man had started drinking earlier in the day. He stood and stared at me, saying without a filter, “But you’re a woman.” I responded that I had noticed that when I got dressed that morning.

After paying for my beers, I went outside and joined Paige. We were sitting at a table next to an American couple who were an absolute hoot, having left the US to live in a lovely home on a hill in Mexico. They had traveled all over the Algarve region and had many tips to share. The husband had planned it all as a surprise for his wife, who he was madly in love with. They had one more stop on their fabulous trip and the husband refused to tell his wife where they were going and she seemed deliriously happy with his efforts.

Meanwhile, the drunk man from inside, had refueled on beer and as my luck would have it, decided to come and find me. Uninvited, he just sat down at our table. Ah, the story of my life with men is nothing if not consistent. The woman beside me has the perfect husband who is treating her to a fantasy vacation and I have, well, this guy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Will Soon Be in Spain.

After a fun afternoon making new friends both wanted and unwanted with Paige, I headed to the station to catch my train. Without cell service, I was not able to check the exact train departure time and just boarded the next one leaving. There could not be multiple leaving around the same time from such a small station. 

After settling into a seat, the conductor came by and scanned the bar code that was my ticket. As the train rolled through the dark countryside, I practiced my Portuguese language apps as I waited for familiar territory to pass by the window. After a few stops, I heard a man shout out the number of stations before we reached Spain.

SPAIN?!?!?!  I can’t go to SPAIN!!  My passport is in Lagos! 

As visions of deportation to the US and the end of my Portuguese life flashed before my eyes, I ran up to the employee who checked my ticket and asked if he’d noticed anything funny about it, like I was supposed to be going in the opposite direction. He shrugged his shoulders and said no, he had just scanned it. The guy is probably a close cousin of my Incompetent Portuguese Slumlord. As I panicked, I asked how long it was until the next stop. He said in a deep, ominous sounding voice, “You don’t want to get off at the next stop.”  

Not helpful dude. Not helpful. 

He proceeded to explain I’d have better luck in the larger town of Tavira which was two stops away. I had planned on coming to Tavira next weekend and meeting Paige, but hey, no time like the present.

The Black Anchor, a Port in the Storm (photo by author)

The Black Anchor, a Port in the Storm (photo by author)

Finding My Way in the Darkness of Tavira

After getting off the train in Tavira, it was time to regroup. I could do this. As I still had no cell service, I stopped a guy running on the street to confirm that there was no way back to Lagos that night. After checking a few things on his phone, he said that I was correct and welcomed me to Tavira as he jogged off. 

Since the streets were dark and empty and train stations are usually not the best places to hang out at night, I started walking down a main street away from the station. Paige had mentioned liking an Irish pub in Tavira that was located along the river. Irish pubs always have English speaking staff and Wi-Fi so this was my destination.

After what seemed like an eternity but in reality, was probably only 10 minutes, I passed a woman walking on the street. I used my limited Portuguese to ask if the “rio” was “direto”. She confirmed I was moving in the right direction to reach the river. After about ten more minutes, I found the waterfront. It was a little livelier there and I finally had a signal on my phone. I located the direction of the pub and headed that way.

A Short Can of Pringles, the Dinner of Stranded Travelers (photo by author)

A Short Can of Pringles, the Dinner of Stranded Travelers (photo by author)

After arriving at the pub, I ordered a beer and the only dinner they had to offer, which was a small can of Pringles. I asked the bartender for advice on a nearby hotel. There was one a few minutes away. I got on their wifi and booked a room for two nights at the hotel. I figured after this experience, I might need a day off before making another attempt to get back to Lagos. 

Within a few moments, all my problems were sorted with perhaps the lack of a good meal at that hour. I have learned in life that Irish pubs are usually staffed with kind people and frequently have the answer for whatever your troubles are. Also, I must say, if you are ever going to unexpectedly wash up on the shores of a place, Tavira is an excellent shipwreck location. I spent my time there eating meals outside by the river, crossing from one side of town to the other on the old Roman bridge, and meeting a ton of friendly locals. 

I’d definitely come back to Tavira but next time, I’ll plan it.

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