Over the last three month, the borders between Portugal and Spain had been closed due to COVID-19. As of July 1st, they were reopened to travelers, and we were beyond exited to be finally entering a new country!
Crossing the Puente Internacional del Guadiana into a new country – Portugal!
After crossing the border, we entered the Algarve region. This southernmost region of Portugal is know for its Atlantic beaches, golf resorts, whitewashed fishing villages, and cliffs overlooking sandy coves.
Our first stop was to see a unique monument located on Barril Beach.
A brightly colored “welcome to Barril Beach” sign reminds visitors of the tuna fishing community that once operated from these beaches.
Public service signs reminding people that COVID-19 is definitely a part of our lives for the foreseeable future. Social distancing and masks.
The walk to the beach is along a 1.2 km walkway. For a small fee, you can even ride a train that was previously used by the fishing community to transport goods and fresh fish.
Cemitério das âncoras (Anchor Cemetery)
Between the beach restaurants and the white sands of the beach area are fields of rusty anchors, all placed in the same direction.
No one knows who started placing them but locals have been adding them as a memorial to the men who braved the waters to bring bluefish tuna to the communities of Portugal.
It felt like a very fitting reminder to the history of the fishing community that once lived on these beaches.
Our next stop along the coast was to the city of Faro and a church with one of the creepiest but intriguing chapels in Europe.
Igreja do Carmo
This 18th century church with its twin bell towers is quite beautiful and one of the finest churches in all of Algarve.
The alter piece, crafted by master sculptor Manuel Martins, has some of the finest gilded woodwork of southern Portugal
A statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, with her Immaculate Heart
However, it’s not the altarpiece and statues that bring visitors to the Igreja do Carmo…
…it’s a small chapel located outside towards the rear of the church that attracts the visitors.
Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel)
This small chapel is decorated with skull and bone remians of over 1,250 Carmelite monks that served in the Carmo church.
The symmetry of the bones and skulls on the walls and ceiling is oddly satifyzing.
Most of the skulls seemed to have all their upper teeth removed and some have their upper jaws broken.
Even the altar piece is decorated with bones. Tens of thousands of bones expertly cut, placed, and cemented into place.
As I looked up at the skulls of deceased monks staring down at me I wondered… How good is the cement or glue that is holding those skulls up there? (Notice the hole from where a skull used to be in the ceiling?)
An interesting place for sure. After the Bone Chapel we walked among the streets of Faro letting our camera determine what was interesting.
Exploring the Streets of Faro
Faro is the capital of southern Portugal’s Algarve region and has a long history of civilization starting from 4th century BC when much of the western Mediterranean was colonized by the Phoenicians.
There are many colorful homes and shops among the cobblestone sidewalks and streets.
Weathered paint makes me wonder how many colors this building has been in the past.
This two-story corner building is almost entirely covered in terra-cotta tiles!
As we were reaching the city center we noticed a lot of parked motorcycles. What are these skull displays and ads for a tattoo parlor?
Motorcycles, tattoos, and large displays can only mean one thing – A motorcycle event.
Faro International Motorbike Meet
Although COVID-19 had drastically reduced the amount of participation of this annual event, there was a two-story warehouse converted to showcase a collection of hundreds of vintage and custom motorcycles. Of course there was also a makeshift tattoo parlor on the second floor.
1948 Triumph 500
A custom BMW R100 Scrambler
A 1940s era BMW R24. These single-cylinder shaft driven motorcycles had 12 horsepower!
Since we’re in Europe the motorcycles tend to be more European focused (BMW, Triumph, Ducati, Moto Guzzi), however the classic character and look of hardcore motorcyclists looks the same. These guys would fit in perfectly in Sturgis, South Dakota.
In case you’re wondering… No we didn’t get tattoos. We’re definitely not that type of bikers.
Next Blog Post
We continue our trip along the coast of Portugal where we hike above the Benagil Caves, explore Sagres Fortress, and learn where the majority of the world’s cork comes from.
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