Europe

Happy Easter from Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal. Information on a day trip on the ferry to Spain.

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I hope you’re enjoying your day even though most of us are on lockdown while we wait out the global COVID-19 Pandemic. I’m sending you a virtual postcard from my corner of the world along with cheerful messages to find the beauty in our own backyard. Read below for a fun day trip to Vila Real de Santo Antonio and the ferry to Spain. Hopefully we will all be traveling soon.

In the postcard above is the view of Vila Real de Santo Antonio from my terrace (too), views from Portugal looking across the Guadiana River to Spain. The town you see across the river in the distance is Ayamonte, Spain. A ferry (bottom right) connects the two towns (when we are not in quarantine). For only 1.90 euros each way and a 10 minute ride on the water you can enjoy both towns easily in one day.

If you’re staying in the Algarve just hop the train heading East. Vila Real de Santo Antonio (VRSA) is the last stop so you can relax and enjoy the ride. I love taking the train through the Algarve. Faro to VRSA is a perfect ride. It takes about an hour and the scenery begins with the Rio Formosa preserves and the ocean and then chugs through the beautiful countryside of the East Algarve. You can see vineyards, olive groves, cork trees and if you’re lucky you will spot flamingos in the preserves near Castro Marim.

Hop off the train when you reach the end of the line and head straight out of the train station. Walk about 5 blocks (this is south) and then turn left (East) for a few blocks until you reach the river. Look up and ta da you’ll be at the marina and entrance to the ferry station.

Ferry boats leave every 30 minutes in the summer season and every hour in the off season (on the 30 minute mark from VRSA and returning from Ayamonte, Spain on the hour).

The fee is 1.90 euros each way and you need to buy the ticket just a few minutes before boarding on each side of the river. Portugal doesn’t sell the Spanish tickets and Spain doesn’t sell the Portuguese tickets.

I buy my Spain ticket as soon as I get off the ferry in Ayamonte so that I don’t have to add extra time before I board the ferry back to VRSA.

There is something special about being on the water which is freeing and refreshing. I find the 10 minute ride a perfect amount of time to enjoy the ride and arrive in town.

In Ayamonte you can shop, grab some tapas and sangria and wander the sweet little town. Be sure to walk directly into town from the ferry. Just make a little left turn and then quick right to go around the building in front of the ferry. Walk straight one block and you’ll see a large square lined with cafes and restaurants.

I recommend a few photos and then turn right to see the church (great tapas and gelato in front of the church).

After passing the church turn left when the street ends and you’ll see a cute second hand shop to your right. Continue on until that street ends and make a right. Get lost in these little streets and shops and when they dead end turn left to find the next little square. There is a marina river walk here and more shops and spots to grab tapas. Everything is on a grid so you really won’t get lost.

When you hop the ferry back to VRSA take note if you are on the Spanish boat or the Portuguese one.

The Spanish one has an upper deck with amazing views. Access the stairs from the back of the boat for a better view of the river and two towns.

When you’re back in VRSA turn left out of the ferry building and you’ll find one of my favorite cafes in town to your left, Snack Bar do Puerto Recreio de Guadiana. It has great views of the Marina and palm tree lined “Royal Road” of Vila Real.

The prices are great considering the views. A few beers, some coffee and olives with torradas (toasts) is under 10 euros. Beers average 1-2 euros throughout town. A large or “cannectka” is a great deal and you’ll get the local Portuguese beer, Super Bock, which is tasty.

Head down the river walk to the end to enjoy stretching your legs on the Portuguese tiles. Notice the pattern as they are unique to each city in Portugal. Flip back around at the end of the cobblestones and when you see a large marble statue of Lutegarda Guimarães de Caires (a famous poet) turn left away feom the marina or in the direction she is looking. She looks straight to the town square and church just two tiny blocks ahead.

My favorite cafe here is Puro but find your own as this is part of the the fun. This is known as the “shopping” street. You’ll find all types of linen shops, cork product shops and a variety of others with cafes sprinkled between them.

I love the city square and sitting at the cafes while I watch children play around the monument in the center and friends greet each other.

Here is where some of the magic of VRSA is felt.

Read my article on Vila Real de Santo Antonio for more about our sweet town.

Except below:

Welcome to the Most southeasterly corner of portugal. A small town and also a county surrounded by national preserves, sand dunes and pine forests. A hidden gem to outsiders but a well known secret of the Spanish and the Portuguese form the “North”.

This “Royal” town is Bordered by the river to Spain, the Atlantic Ocean and miles of preserves. With over 300 sunny days a year this hidden paradise includes everything the soul needs to be happy, but without the high tourist prices.

Those in the “know” enjoy the beauty and local vibe of this elegant royal town. Just big enough without being “too big”. The weekend and package tourists visiting the Algarve tend to stay in the more well known party towns of Albufera and Faro so you’ll be pleasantly surprised with a more local vibe. If you are staying in one of the more well known towns towns getting to Vila Real is an easy train ride away and a great day trip.

There is something special about the air here as it blows from the ocean through the pine preserves and settles into the charming town square. Breath deeply to refresh your lungs and soul as you soak up the sun and some drinks from one of the many cafes lining the center of town. Come when the orange trees surrounding the city square are in bloom for an even more magical sensory experience.

Explore miles of trails by bike or by foot right along the ocean and sand dunes. The location is so healthy that athletes from all around Europe travel here for training. A large stadium and sports center as well as the sun and healthy air attracts athletes from all over Europe.

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