First Published by Constance on September 23rd 2016
One day the Sardine Train (officially the comboio turístico) was free to the public. No one had to pay a large amount of Euros to tour the high points of Lagos while riding on the carriage of benches pulled by what looked like an old fashioned steam engine.
The Citizen and I were thrilled about the prospect of actually riding the cheesy thing. We see it constantly, it’s our unofficial monitor on how to tell how crowded it is in town that day. That and the number of the huge tour busses belching out clumps of people who are herded about by a someone with a flag. These people are from the cruise ship docked in Portimáo.
We prepared for riding the Sardine train with a nice bottle of wine decanted into water bottles . The train does a loop of the beaches, it takes about an hour and people can get on and off at the designated stops. Where should we hop on the train? It had be the Marina.
The Lagos Marina is beautiful. Lots of cafes, restaurants and bars all with a great view of the river and the amazing yachts nestled into the docks. Many are “live-aboards, people who have sailed in after retirement from someplace in Europe and never left. I think of it as”Little England”. It is rare to hear Portuguese spoken there. Maybe a waiter or a few tourists from Portugal, but English is the primary language at the Marina. It is the perfect place to start seeing our little Lagos from the view of a sunburnt tourist.
The “comboio turístico ” arrived on time and we jumped into the front seat of the second carriage. A swarm of old people with canes wearing bright red and yellow caps slowly filled up all the empty seats behind us. The folks from the Santa Casa da Misericórdia, our local nursing home in Lagos had joined us for the outing.
When the train got started the crowd behind us started yelling “toot, toot, toot”, laughing and waving at everyone they saw. Even the blind guy was waving. We made it onto the Avenida dos Descobrimentos (avenue of the Discoveries). This is Lagos’ main drag, our fellow passengers were waving, tooting and yelling out things in Portuguese I couldn’t understand. We were right there with them laughing and yelling Óla and an occasional “toot-toot”. Tourists strolling along the Avenida gaped at the train filled with loud laughing locals. This was better than we thought it would be.
We wound past the Historic City Center to Ponta da Piedade. This is the western point of Lagos, it juts out into the ocean with the lighthouse at the tip, since it is Portugal a couple of cafés. All along the road to Ponta da Piedade steep steps cling to the cliffs leading you down to beaches with powdery sand, turquoise water and amazing grottoes to explore. Along the way was a pasture with burros placidly chewing grass. One man got so excited, pointing and shouting “Burritos” (this means “cute little burros” in Portuguese). I wondered how long it’s been since he’d seen a burro, did he used to have a little farm with burros?
The hour passed so quickly I had barely sipped my wine. The train was fun but what made the adventure better was being able to share it with our new friends. Back at the marina I saw some of the old men wandering off into the bushes. I asked the citizen if I should get one of the chaperones before they strayed into a fish and chip place. Looking around I saw lined up behind a tall bit of shrubbery four bright red hats. Soon they made it back to their group safely and certainly more comfortable.
We headed towards home, strolling along the Bensafrim River. Watching the Sardina Train sedately crossing the bridge on it’s next circle around town, I was glad we lucked out and got to ride it when, for that one hour it was the Crazy Train.
Update: Lasy year Constance was able to purchase a new foldable electric wheelchair for traveling. We donated the manual chair to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia, a week later they sent us a very nice personalized letter to thank us.