Why Alte? It wasn’t an easy decision because here in the Algarve I also love the border town of Alcoutim, pretty Alvor with its wide estuary, and the lovely island of Armona. I expect we’ll visit them later in this A-Z. I’ll sneak them in somewhere.
The images that you see everywhere of the Algarve are beaches (of course!), and golf courses, but there’s so much more to the Algarve. Alte represents that other Algarve- the world away from the coasts, with natural springs and lush greenery. I’ve heard Alte described as the prettiest village in the Algarve, and I wouldn’t disagree.
We first passed through en route for Monchique 7 years ago, and were charmed by the place. Coming from the Eastern Algarve we had taken the scenic route along the N124, passing pretty Salir, the endless cork trees and imposing Rocha de Pena. We were in search of the natural springs that we’d heard about, with very little idea of what that would entail. On that occasion we saw just a fraction, but the idyll of ducks beneath the bridge, and the azulejo tiled pictures at Fonte Pequena (little spring) delighted us. The gardens and nearby Fonte Pequena Inn are dedicated to local poet, Candido Guerreiro, whose work is displayed by the springs.
A return visit in May 2009 had us wishing we’d brought swimwear. It was unseasonably warm and we were amazed at the volume of water in the “stream”. A lovely area for picnics this. And then there’s the village itself, with its winding cobbled streets, some of them quite steep. Everywhere is whitewash and bougainvillea. Shops and cafes are strewn about the village, a welcome source of browsing and shade in the Summer.
As with most Portuguese villages, the church lies at its heart. Igreja Matriz de Alte, devoted to Our Lady of the Assumption, dates from the 13th century. It was built at the direction of the wife of the Second Lord of Alte, to give thanks for his safe return from the Crusades. The vault is sublimely decorated with azulejos.
I’ve not yet had the privilege of attending the Folklore Festival and Wedding Ceremony for which Alte is most famous. It takes place on the second Saturday in August. Bridal Party and numerous folklore groups parade through the streets, culminating in a toast to the “happy couple” at Fonte Grande (large spring) and a traditional wedding feast.
A Folklore Festival is also staged on May Day and in 2012 I managed to be there. For a while I didn’t think it was going to happen- the skies opened and the rain bounced for almost an hour. Patience paid off in the end, and the procession made their way across the lavender strewn cobbles to the stage at Fonte Grande.
Numerous other celebrations take place in Alte throughout the year, including Carnaval, this year on February 21st. Confetti is available to throw at the passing floats.
A full list of events can be found on http://www.alteuncovered.com/events.aspx together with a lot of useful parking details and opening hours.
This is the first in a series of posts, related to Julie Dawn Fox’s Personal A-Z Challenge. There are links in the logo in this post and in the sidebar to take you to the main site, where you can happily read for hours.
Just to get you started, how about:
My next task is to start my A-Z of Poland. See you there!