Sunshine, islands, spider fish, sucking sands and huge waves were key features of my stay in Olhao. The spider fish were filleted and battered but despite this, I suspect they were the reason for my waking up in the hot Portuguese night unable to open my eyes. Stumbling to the bathroom, through a crack in my lids, I saw the underneath of my eyes and my eye lids in full puffy, blossom. Not a pretty sight. Apparently, according to Google, this could be known as surfer’s eye. I considered that possibility as, earlier that afternoon, I had sort of been surfing. After enjoying myself rolling around and floating on the swoop of the waves, on trying to exit the sea, the sands beneath my feet disappeared, the water swept in, the surf submerged me and literally tossed me around like a rag doll. Salt and sand filled my mouth. I managed to surface briefly, hurl a scream, crawl on to my knees, and burst out laughing at the experience, before being smashed against the sliding sands again, the roar and water silencing me again. I threw out my arms to be saved, but my son, Joe, was unable to maintain contact as once again the waves took control and tossed me, scornfully, on the sand, only to claim me back again, as I struggled to get up before the next surge forward. Eventually, I emerged, not laughing, breathless, swimsuit torn from my boobs, hillocks of sand in the most unlikely places, dripping seaweed…but alive. This morning, peering into the mirror, I wondered, could this be ‘surfer’s eye’? Hum, I thought, more likely to be spider fish poisoning, or maybe it was the after-effects of two jugs of delicious watermelon sangria.
We discovered the joy of watermelon sangria on the third night of our holiday. We were celebrating being on holiday, as one does, but spending the evening in a café rather than going back to the Casa we had rented because of the alarming creature we had encountered the previous night on our roof terrace. I will explain. On our first day, Joe and I had spent the morning walking around the coastal Rio Formosa national park, through the salt and fresh water marshes, inhaling the pines, admiring the white, red and purple of the oleander trees, blue skies, and, on the way there, the orange and white sign of the Intermarche shopping store. So, that afternoon we had returned and splashed out in Intermarche, buying foods of interest for a picnic on our terrace. At 9.30pm, we had returned from our aperitif, laid the terrace table with tomato salad, flageolets, anchovies, cheese, gherkins, bread, curried hot dogs (joe’s choice), cornbeef, pates, green glace cherries and flan and were just digging in, when a very blonde, angry, slim, half naked small man appeared on his side of the terrace wall. He proceeded to speak very fast, accented English about noise, where he slept, the bang of doors, feet on the stairs, and the fucking motherfuckerness of the owner. All this time he was wildly gesticulating and being very aggressive. Sadly, as a result, we spent much of our time outside the Casa in cafes…which explains the two jugs of sangria, and the possible symptoms of ‘surfers eye’. Anyhow, whatever the reason, the eyes got better, and we got more familiar with the cafes on the prom.
On the fourth day, having promenaded enough in Olhao, we hired a car and skedaddled to Seville in Spain, 150 miles up the motorway. What a gorgeous city it is. It was vaguely on my bucket list and is now one of my planned features for a city break next year. It is certainly one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been in. I loved the narrow streets, the small squares, the river and canal. The Real Alcazar, a Spanish palace of Moor and Christian architecture was spell bounding. The tiles, the intricacies of the plastering, the colours, the symmetry, the gardens were astounding, it was a truly magical place. The Casa de Pilates was similar, though it didn’t have the amazing gardens. However, the acoustics in its music room was gorgeous. The Plaza d’Espagna also took my breath away. Sadly, the actual plaza building which was built in the 1920 in a mix of baroque, Moor and romanticism styles, was being set up for a big event, so the view was somewhat ruined, and, anyway, we were running out of leg muscle power (I think we walked over 20kms in scorching heat in Seville) and time. We wanted to sit down, and eat Paella still before leaving Spain and heading back to to return the hire car and the delights of watermelon sangria.
In fact, they didn’t want the hire car back, said we could keep it until we drove it back to the airport! Joe was just about to park it outside our Casa when a local slipped in and nabbed our space. That night we returned from a delicious meal of grilled tuna and final jug of watermelon sangria, to find flashing blue lights, the politizi and all the neighbourhood hanging about outside our Casa! There was a lot of heated discussion going on. They were staring at the parked car outside our house. A massive transporter, with orange flashing lights, arrived, edged its way down the narrow lane, and picked up a stray vehicle that it seemed had drunkenly sliced its way down the narrow street grazing all the parked cars. There, but for the grace of God…we left early next morning, returning an unscratched citroen, sun sated and full of the joys of Olhao.
BTW, PM me if you want the recipe to the watermelon sangria!