It seems strange to be blogging again. The even keel with which I was sailing seems slightly out of kilter. When I visited Ayamonte I had no idea that Dad was ill. With my usual exuberance I was seeking out a less well known aspect of this intensely Spanish town, visible from the Algarve across the River Guadiana. The ferry journey is part of the attraction for me, and I love to watch as the white houses draw nearer and we nose into the quay. An hour has slipped away on the 10 minute crossing, and a different culture awaits.
Maybe you remember A little side trip to Spain ? This time I had my eye fixed on the church at the upper level of the town, San Salvador. Looking back, the road bridge follows me into Spain. The shoreline leads past an enigmatic statue and a severely embattled boat hull.
Beyond the boatyard a network of noisily inhabited streets open out. The Spanish greet and call out to each other in a tongue more harsh than I’m used. I exchange shy smiles and try to remember that ‘thank you’ is not ‘obrigada’ in Spain.
Ayamonte has changed hands between Portugal and Spain a number of times in its history. The name is thought to come from the mound on which the settlement was built. The Romans knew it as Aya Montis (or Mount Aya). Beyond the modern apartments The Templo de San Francisco beams indulgently. Once it belonged to a Franciscan convent, founded in 1417.
The street is nothing if not colourful, and my eyes wander from rooftops to doorways and back again. I am particularly taken with a fully tiled jade green building, balconies gleaming with cool elegance. I anticipate plenty of customers for the fish restaurant.
Turning the corner the street narrows and starts to ascend. Still looking up and down, the random delight of spouting gargoyles, serpentine door knockers, a subtle school and the indisputably Spanish window grills. A senhora pours water down the gutter and languid chat ensues.
Halfway up the street I encounter the mystery of El Boqueron. A chapel and a huge well denote the place where an underground tunnel links the former castle at Ayamonte with the Portuguese town, Castro Marim, on the other side of the Guadiana river. The passage is about 300 metres long and runs from the area of the well on Calle Galdames. It is part of a sewerage network, channeling rainwater and domestic water from homes. A large trough ripples gently in the bright sunlight.
I knew nothing of El Boqueron in advance and, not being fluent in Spanish, it wasn’t until I returned home that I could unravel this mystery. Incredible to think of this structure, used as a hiding place in war time, beneath these tranquil streets.
Continuing upwards, finally I reach Plaza del Salvador. The magnificent pink-belfried church of San Salvador dominates the square. All is silent and the church closed, so I cannot verify the lovely Mudejar ceiling from 1400, nor climb to the belfry for the fine views.
Beyond the plaza the modern world intrudes, overlooked by the remnants of a fortress. I make my way back down towards the waterfront and make one final discovery, on Calle Marte. The bull ring, resolute in its presence, though I could never have persuaded myself to witness its spectacle.
In Ayamonte eventually everyone gravitates towards Plaza de la Laguna, and so do I. The restaurants surrounding the striking square hum with Spanish lunchtime chatter. In a quiet corner, children choose an after dinner treat from the sweet shop. The assistant solemnly awaits the outcome of this most important decision.
For me it’s time to return to Calle Muelle de Portugal for the ferry crossing back to Vila Real de S. Antonio. I hope you enjoyed my visit to Ayamonte. Further details can be found in this Ayamonte guide, and in the link to El Boqueron.
Thank you so much for your kindness and for the many messages of support I have received. Dad had a fine ‘send off’ and I’m doing my best to adjust to life without him. It’s what he would have wanted.
I’m back in business for walks this week so if you have any you’d like to share I’d be grateful. As usual details are to be found on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Just click on the logo above. Meantime please enjoy these select few :
Becky does find interesting subjects for her walks. Don’t miss this one!
And equally unexpected and interesting from Yvette. I almost missed this one!
I passed by this place on a long ago trip to America. Let Elaine show you around :
‘Your money or your life?’ Nope- that was Dick Turpin, wasn’t it, Becky?
Take care of yourselves. I hope to be out and about visiting you all soon.