I suspect we will have a continuing series regarding Vila Real de Santo Antonio. and the Eastern Algarve. The more Denise and I discuss it, the more we are convinced that is where we will land. Today, permit me to share three fun (relatively unique) aspects of the city.
A Pre-fab City
One of the most striking things about Vila Real de Santo Antonio (henceforth VRSA) is its “modern”, square city blocks, design. Fairly unique among cities that date back to the 18th century in Portugal, it resulted from the exact moments in which it was conceived and constructed.
First, in 1773, King José I decreed that the city would be built on the southern coast opposite Ayamonte Spain. Perhaps it was to discourage the Spanish from getting any ideas, or to collect duties on cross-border merchandise, or to support the fishing trade in the area…no one knows for sure.
Then we have the 1775 earthquake and tsunami affecting both the Algarve and the Lisbon.
We have the economies offered by copying the design created by the Marquis of Pombal when redesigning the Baixa area of Lisbon after the earthquake. You see this in the orthogonal grid and the main square the Praça Marquês de Pombal.
The city actually was built in under two years (that is warp speed)…by enforcing rigid architectural standards and relying on the use of prefabricated elements brought by boat from Lisbon. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the area is very flat.
For these reasons, VRSA has a very different look and feel than many other cities in Portugal.
Just a Few Churches
Unlike Tavira, VRSA is relatively low on churches. In fact, if you don’t really search you might think there is only one church in the entire town. The main square on which it is located has a precise geometry (which appeals to my OCD tendencies). First, it is perfectly square, with an obelisk in the center topped by a crown. The crown sits lower than the cross on the church but higher than any of the other two-story buildings on the square (again, all exactly at the same height). Finally, the front facade of the church, Igreja Paroquial de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação, sits precisely one meter in front of all the other buildings. While it is not nearly as “flashy” as some we found in Évora it does have a certain charm.
Finally, one of the things that we love about Portugal is that nearly every city has a sports park…a place where for a very modest fee people can utilize a gym, swim in a pool, play soccer, etc. VRSA is no exception; however, its sports park takes it one step further. In fact, the facility is the home of the Portuguese Olympic Committee and is utilized as a training facility for European athletes. As such, while there is no acute care facility in VRSA (the nearest is Faro) one can benefit from superior physical therapy and rehabilitative services in the area. Something for two aging jocks (like us) to consider.
Here is the video by an American in Portugal that caused us to give this small town a serious look. The bike trails, oddly enough, through the pines at about the 1:49 mark of the video was the first thing to catch my attention.
Thanks for including the video. VRSA is gorgeous.
You two are amazing! Glad our sweet little VRSA is a hit!