Jo’s Monday walk : Mértola’s 10th Islamic Festival

Time to stray across the border again.  A different border this time, crossing the northern boundary between the Algarve and Alentejo, and high into the hills above the River Guadiana, to wonderful Mértola.  A place so rich in beauty and history it almost hurts, not least because of the steep gradient of its streets.

I was there on a mission.  The 10th Islamic Festival had come to town, and my good friend Becky had advised me not to miss it.  Interested in all things archaeological, I knew that she had been impressed with her exploration of the ruins there, but more of that later.  For now, let’s bring on the dancing girls, to the insidious beat of the drum, as they snake beneath the castle walls.

Sumptuous smells assault the senses, and materials of every conceivable shade waft and billow above and around you.  Lanterns glisten and twinkle in the light as you are transported back through time, to the Souk.  The drum beat fades as you stop to browse the stalls.  Leather bags and sandals and slippers in every style imaginable, mounds of spices, nuts and tiny cakes fight for your attention.  The stall holders smile, and try to barter with any potential customer.  Beautifully fragrant soaps claim to be good for the environment, as well as your skin.  It is overwhelming, but fascinating.

In a quieter corner, beneath the castle walls, craftsmen ply their trades.  Exquisitely carved woods, a loom for weaving, gleaming metal jugs and canisters, artfully and painstakingly decorated.  Some items are extremely useful, others prized purely for their beauty.

Below the castle, Igreja Matriz awaits, her doors invitingly open.  I enter reverently, delighted by this rare opportunity.  Behind the altar, the remains of the mihrab from the 12th century mosque, since converted to a Christian temple.

A garden slopes away behind the church, and I look down upon the makeshift roofs of the market to the Guadiana, far below.

But then, the icing on the cake!  And please don’t take that literally.  In the many years that I’ve been visiting Mértola, I’ve been aware of an archaeological dig.  Becky alerted me to the fact that great progress had been made and, sure enough, the gate was open.  Firstly you are invited inside a life-sized replica of an Islamic home.

15 such dwellings were found in the surrounding area.  The 70cm foundations were of stone, the walls of taipa (rammed earth) and the roofs, sloping down to the patio, Roman roof tiles placed on a layer of canes.  The floor was usually of beaten earth and inside walls adobe (mud brick).

Much of the detail is lost, but information panels reconstruct and explain some of what was once there.  An Episcopal palace in 6AD and a style of living far beyond the grandeur we have today.  It must have been fine to saunter in the cool, between the columns, and sit contemplating those carefully wrought hunting scenes at the end of another hot day, the sound of water tinkling in the background.

The castle watches sombrely over the graveyard and the ruins below.  I climb to its heights where, from the castle walls, I can sweep my gaze over the terrain beyond.  The distinctive shape of the church below is like a beacon.

Things are beginning to bustle down below, and preparations to feed the hungry are going full pelt.  I have walked past innumerable vendors of caramelised nuts, twitching my nose appreciatively, but it’s time for something more substantial.  Overhead the washing flaps.

The Mértola website is a feast of information.  I can’t believe that it was actually back in May 2016 that I last took you strolling there.  At that time I hoped to attend the biennial Islamic Festival in 2017.  They say all good things come to those that wait.  I’d have to agree.

Just one more hill to climb, for the view, of course.

I’m aware that this is a bit of a blockbuster of a post, but it will be my last walk with you for a while, so I hope you’ll indulge me.  Next week I’m off to the Azores and I will be a whirl of panic and packing next Monday.

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There’ll be stories to tell when I get back!  Meantime you can still send your walks and I’ll catch up when I can.  Thanks so much for the support and good company.  Here are some more great reads :

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Bluebell time ‘back home’.  It passes so quickly!  Let Debbie show you the way :

A walk into the land of fantasy

One treat always follows another around here.  Bask in the land of beauty, with Jude :

Fairy Flowers

Hopefully the floods have subsided since Janet sent me this walk.  Glad she’s keeping an eye on things :

Monday walk…walking on water

There’s always space for an oddity around here.  Especially when it’s from Dad’s homeland :

The Crooked Wood in Pomerania/Poland

It’s a while since I walked with Denzil.  He’s very knowledgeable about his native Belgium :

On foot through the Hageland

What do you know about Norway’s Constitution Day? I’m sure Rupali can enlighten you :

Weekend: National Day

Ever rambled with a Wombat?  Maybe you should try it!

A walk around Lake Ginninderra

There’s something about waterfalls that gets me every time.  Thanks, Carol!

A Different View

Irene’s sharing beautiful flowers this week.  I expect she’d like some company :

Walk in the Garden

And it wouldn’t be Monday without a Cathy’s Camino walk or two, would it?

(Camino day 16) Villamayor del Rio to Viillafranca Montes de Oca

(Camino day 17) Villafranca Montes de Oca to Atapuerca

‘Don’t cry for me Argentina!’  A city of history and beauty shared, with affection, by Susan :

Walking Buenos Aires, Argentina

That’s all for now, folks!  Take good care till the next time.

 

Six word Saturday

Sharing a few memories with friends

It was a great week, in excellent company.  ‘We’ve been so many places, I can’t remember the names!’  The first was Fuseta.  Click on the photos for a clue.  And then pop over to Debbie with six words.  She loves photos!  Happy Saturday everybody…

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Silves- a winning formula!

Where should I be the other day but in Silves, showing my friends from the north east of England this lovely city.  Once I’d spotted another alluring electricity box, playfully painted, the hunt was on for some more of these beauties.

If you remember from Street Art in Silves, the colours are vibrant and the subjects very endearing.  I might have cheated a little with some of these but they completely reflect the character of the place.

Ian really got into the spirit of things, didn’t he?  They’ve gone home again now, but I know they enjoyed themselves.  And, boy, did they love cake!  Have you added any Street Art to Patti’s collection yet?  There’s still time.

Six word Saturday

Viva Mãe Soberana!  Viva  Mãe Soberana!

An emotional day in Loulé, last Sunday, celebrating the festival of Mae Soberana. 

For 15 years I’ve wanted to be a part of this ceremony.  The captions tell part of the story, but it’s a memory I hope will stay with me forever.

Impossible to share in Six Words, but I tried.  Viva Mãe Soberana!  Wishing you all a peaceful weekend.

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Jo’s Monday walk : Back lane beauty

Captivating?  He was very cute.  Desperately eager to get through the fence to us but, when he did, a little shy.  On a warm and cloudy afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, we decided to leave the car at home and explore our back lanes.

We live on the northern edge of Tavira, and beyond us the countryside sweeps gently away to the Algarve hills.  It’s about half an hour’s walk to a rather nice pottery and garden centre, with an exceedingly nice café.  This was our destination, but by a rather more roundabout route.  You wouldn’t want to get to the cake too quickly, now would you?

Such a moody sky!  Almost a collector’s item with the boundless blue we have experienced lately.  Capelinha!  That’s the name of the area, and a rather lovely farmhouse still bears the name.  We turn down a path edged by stone walls and the journey of discovery begins.

The almond blossom is long gone, but firm pods of almond are ripening everywhere.  We puzzle over a creeper with unusual blooms, the leaves well-chewed in places.  Did you spot the culprit?  Vibrant loquats vie for our attention, while the Hottentot fig escapes gracefully over a garden wall.

Rows of orange trees march off into the distance, trailing fragrance behind them.  We cross a river bed and find, among the dry bamboo shoots, lilies glowing like pallid candles.  A young man and his lady, pushing their bikes up the hill, pause for breath and smile.

A meadow opens out before us, a sweet symphony in green, orchestrated with notes of pink and lemon.  A butterfly flits ecstatically from one to another and I wait, and wait, for that moment when the wings are still enough to capture.  I almost make it!

I could have played all afternoon with that butterfly, but there were other distractions.  A soft haze of pink, with a tiny snail.  A zing of cornflower blue.  More orange trees- mature this time.  I have to restrain myself from reaching out for a handful of luscious figs, temptingly close.

The leaves are such interesting shapes.  Then a dense orange flower, heralding pomegranates in the autumn, and a ladybird astride a wall.

A cluster of houses, and a bike or two.  A potato vine, prettier than its name would suggest.  And a flamboyant blossom.  Pretty rural scenes.

In such agricultural country a paddock full of horses and a donkey is no surprise.  Nor is the tinkling of bells and the sheepdog herding his flock home.  But one sight did make me look twice.  What a fierce-looking captain!

Tina talks this week about what constitutes Harmony.  Nature provides it effortlessly, don’t you think?  Perhaps someone should tell Mr. Billy Goat!

Doing my best to restore harmony.  Well, everyone likes cake, don’t they?  Feel free to indulge because I won’t be around to walk with you next week.  I have some lovely friends arriving from Newcastle.  I suspect we’ll be eating lots of cake!

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Meantime, please do read and share!  And thanks to all of you for your continued support.  It wouldn’t be Jo’s Monday walk without you!

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Jackie managed to be first this week, and so, of course, …

It’s Coffee Time

A choice of 3 from Natalie- and all beautiful!

3 Walks to take in Slovenia

I absolutely love these windows, so thanks, Debs!

Rambling around another Rabat

Serious, full-on walking with George!  I could only gaze in admiration.  Don’t miss it!

A Big Day in the North

Janet enriched my life with a little ‘forest bathing’ this week :

Monday walk…on the wild side

It sounds a bit like a sitcom, but you will be charmed.  Thanks, Susanne :

The Ducklings of Clark Lake

And there are few sights more beautiful than this!  Thanks for sharing, Sandra!

Tiptoeing through the Tulips – #MtVernon, WA 

Although Jude is offering lots of temptation this week.  And we’re not talking cake!

The turn of the rhodies

And funnily enough, so is Rupali, though they are many miles apart :

Weekend 77: Rhododendron

More Camino with Cathy, though she’s actually in Tuscany right now.  Lucky girl!

(Camino day 15) Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Villamayor del Rio

Nice to welcome Lady Lee back :

Bremerhaven

May will be very low key on the blog while I have company but I should be walking with you again on 20th.  At the end of the month I’m off to the Azores- a long held dream- and I most definitely will not be around.  Take good care till then!

Six word Saturday

Yes, I do have tranquil moments!

I don’t spend all of my life zipping about the place, though it may sometimes seem that way.  Thanks for your interest in the flash mob.  It was a wonderful experience and we hope to have a video on YouTube, after editing.  Now I’m going for a cuppa with Debbie on Six Word Saturday.  Have a great weekend!

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Jo’s Monday walk : Gorjões

Back to the countryside today, after all the excitement of Easter and that family visit that now seems so long ago.  This little treasure was almost hiding its light under a bushel but, once I found one, then of course it had companions.

We’re up in the hills again.  Look to the far horizon, where you can see that distant deepening of blue that is the sea.  I’m standing in the grounds of an abandoned building project, wondering why someone would go to so much trouble to build their house on a hill, and then desert it.  There’s a story here, but one I’ll likely never know.  For now, I take in the views and the infinity pool that never was.

I’m in the area known as Gorjões, barely a 10 minute drive to the busy market town of Loulé, but seeming a world away.  The hills are speckled with villas and beautiful homes, each clinging to their privacy.  The lanes are edged with abundant wild lavender, and I trail my fingertips in their delicate perfume.  Climbing higher still, I come upon the remnants of a mill.

The path levels out and I peep over an inviting stone wall.  A crossroads reveals a heap of rocks with names… Casa Clara… Casa da Bisavo…  Aids for the postman, I think, only to be scoffed at by a local.  ‘We don’t get post up here!  You have to go to the village to collect it’.

I have company, but it’s a slow-paced walk where we stop to point out treasures to each other.  Like the magnificent blue beauty, and its smaller companions, nestled beneath a tree.  Impossible to miss the pure flamboyance of the poppy at this time of year.

Tiny yellow flowers decorate any open stretch of grass.  I stop to admire a grandiose villa, envious of the lovely pool, but I could not live so far from shore.  In amongst the rocks the cistus continue to flourish, nodding cheerfully at the least hint of breeze.

And then we’re dropping down again, spying one last jewel, shy in the sun, and a rock whose message we struggle to read.

I am surprised to read, later, that the flatter of the surrounding lands had long ago been used to cultivate tobacco.  A connection with ancestors in Brazil.  There are many stories in these hills, but for now it’s time to go in search of sustenance.

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I hope you enjoyed my company this week, as much as I enjoyed yours.  Please do find time to read these, and maybe, another time, share a walk of your own?  Details, as always, on Jo’s Monday walk.

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There’s dedication and determination… and then there’s Heather!  She’s an inspiration :

Walking The Walk

A lighthouse on an island… a sight I never tire of.  Thanks, Debs!

Sauntering the sands at Yellowcraig

In case you didn’t get your share of treats at Easter, Jackie has plenty to spare :

New Treats

You know, it can be miserable when it rains.  But it all depends on your point of view :

Rain

Not much rain in Savannah!  Let Alice be your guide :

Starland

Margaret has been revisiting some of her older posts.  Doesn’t this look beautiful?

On the path of Cathar shepherds – revisited

Closer to my former home, Sharon is always out, finding places to explore with her dog :

Entwistle Reservoir

Not a lot of walking, but a whole lot of eating!  Thanks, Sandra!

LaConner Crab Cruise -#Photos

Sharing tranquility and daisies with Susanne is never a bad thing :

Flaming Geyser State Park, a Missing Flame, and Steelhead in Training

Anyone seen Liesbet lately?  She’s been surfing ‘The Wave’!

Catching ‘The Wave’ means winning the Lottery

I love to be surrounded by water, so this place looks pretty perfect to me, Carol :

Island Life

The endless roads, with Cathy, lifted by the beauty of the churches along the way :

(Camino day 14) Azofra to Santo Domingo de la Calzada & ruminations (week two)

Another good week, wasn’t it?  Well, it always is if we’re still here.  Thanks for your company, and see you next time!