Jo’s Monday walk : Almodôvar, and the red shoes

It can get very flower laden around here at this time of year, so today I’m going to take you on a stroll around Almodôvar, a little known village in the Alentejo.  Why?  Well, just because I can, and also because I was intrigued by these red shoes.  Seriously, don’t you ever want to go somewhere just to see what’s there?  I do it all the time.

It’s not the easiest place to get to, and after an hour and a half of rocking and rolling along switchback country roads, car sickness was beginning to threaten.  I knew that, once over the border from the Algarve, the land would begin to flatten out.  Still, it was a relief to step out of the car.  An elderly lady was pegging out her washing and regarded me with some curiosity. Visitors from out of town are obviously a rarity.

It’s an ordinary enough place, the likes of which you will find throughout Portugal.  The charm lies in wandering the quiet streets, simply observing life.  It was just before Easter and preparations were underway in Igreja Matriz de Santo Ildefonso, the imposing 16th century church which dominates the main square.

A map on a nearby wall points out places of interest in the village.  Just what’s needed!   Number 2 is the clock tower, or Torre do Relogio.  In the 8th century, Almodôvar (literally ‘place in the round’) was rebuilt by the Muslims, with a surrounding wall.  No trace of this exists today.  A clock tower, served by an outside staircase, would typically have been part of the ramparts from the 17th century.  The clock was housed in the right tower of Santo Ildefonso, but was removed in 1889 when the parish church was struck by lightning.

As so often in Portugal, the smartly modern sits alongside the shabby and forlorn.  A pedestrianised shopping street comes as something of a surprise, but I am no longer surprised by wall art.  Meet poet Fernando Pessoa, and friends!

Still loosely following the map I headed along Rua do Convento, the convent of Our Lady of Conception inviting me closer.

What to make of this?  I hunted high and low for an explanation of this fanfare of an art installation.  Why red shoes, I was at a loss to know.  No clues inside either, but the interior was a show stopper. All that glitters…

I did solve the mystery, though.  Close by the convent there’s a 6 metre high sculpture of a cobbler on a roundabout.   Marked ‘Aureliano, 2001’, in researching it I discovered that Almodôvar had a history of shoe making.  Between the years of 1940 and 1970 there were around 200 manual shoe makers working in the town, and selling their wares at fairs throughout the county.  This sculpture, made by Aureliano Aguiar of Coimbra, from cogs and recovered bits of metal, is in their honour.

I strolled back to the sleepy little square with a fountain, and found a cafe opposite the museum. In the shade of the trees, sensible villagers idled to pass the time of day.  This place would be like a furnace in full summer.  I was melting in March.  So when I was offered a half litre bottle of vinho verde (they didn’t sell it by the glass) there was nothing to do but sit and watch the world go by.  Of course, I needed a substantial amount of food.

Back in the car, we rolled down the N2 towards the coast, passing the village of Ameixal with its Thursday morning roadside market.  The stalls were all but empty.  A venue for another day?  I had been thrilled by the wild irises, dusting the kerbside, on our way north.  Worth a last quick leap!

And that was Almodôvar.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  I do like a wander.  Sorry about the lack of cake again.  I was too full after that enormous toastie.  Speaking of which, it must be time to put the kettle on.

Cuppa to hand, it’s time for this week’s wonderful shares.  Thank you all for your company and the great support I receive on here.  If you’d like to join in at any time, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  You’ll be made very welcome.


Look where Lexi’s landed!  Doesn’t it look fine?  You just might be surprised :

Happy in Houston- Part 1

I love a sing-a-long, and where better than the charms of Paris? (and Drake) :


From one magical city to another! So lucky to have Debbie show us the heights :

Views from Montjuic

There’s always something to be thankful for in the company of Lady Lee :

52 Weeks of Thankfulness- Week 43

Geoff’s lessons on life, ably assisted by Dog :

Brecon Beacons- a lesson in green living

Jackie’s not quite so exuberant this week, but then, look at the weather!

Day 2- So Cal, Monterey

It’s not every day that I’d go walking around a complex, but Sedona surely makes a stunning backdrop.  Thanks, Marsha!

Resort Walk Reveals 15 Top Things to Love

Woolly wins it for excitement this week.  Up, up and away!


Amy goes hunting for wildflowers in Texas, and finds boots and saddles!

Texas Hill Country

But Dawn is more than happy with her finds :

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge : Surprised and Delighted 

I went looking for wood sprites or elves with Denzil, in Belgium :

The Valley of the Hoegne

And then I really struck lucky when Gilly found me a baby dragon!

A Forest walk

And finally, what did Carol find at the top of a hill?

Unrivalled Views

My English walk today has been rained off!  And it’s not even a Bank Holiday.  That’s next Monday, isn’t it?  See you then!


  1. The red shoes are iconic. I love the dynamic angle you capture them. The wonderful ornate architecture is purely joyful. A perfect treat for my Sunday. It’s clouding over here so the blue skies are uplifting. Thank you!

  2. Don’t know how I missed this post last week. I think you surpassed yourself with this set of photos. Am captivated by the red shoes, and the mind that came up with such a creation. Oh and those white irises. I think you magicked them too.

    1. Hi Tish! 🙂 🙂 I’m all over the place with my comments. Didn’t have laptop with me at the weekend so manic catch up needed. I should have gone in the museum for the whole red shoes story but I think it was closed. Thank you!

  3. Jo, this is a real treat of a post! 😀 Your words and pictures bring Almodôvar to life – I’m glad you endured the stomach churning journey to reach it and share your day with us. It is so beautiful and a wonderful dichotomy of the old and new. The church is stunning inside, I can imagine you almost stepping back in surprise! Phew…glad you solved the red shoe mystery – for my sanity! I would have been guessing away otherwise. A beautiful eye-catching art tribute to the town’s shoe-making history. Wonder what happened to all the cobblers? Where did they find alternative jobs? Ahh…that’s my kind of lunch and never mind, sometimes you just have to accept that half litre of wine!! 😀😃

  4. What a wonderful red shoe sculpture! I wonder if there’s a pair in my size. 😕 I think I might prefer a giant toastie to a piece of cake, especially if I could have a bouquet of wild irises to take home. Great post, Jo. I was here yesterday, enjoying strolling along with you, but before I could comment, your post disappeared before my very eyes *Poof* and I couldn’t find it again. 😯

  5. I love those red shoes, Jo! We have a writing award in Australia called the Scarlet Stiletto – I’ve won prizes in that award three times coming second (but never got my hands on that elusive 1st place stiletto shoe!) 🙂 That first picture really reminded me of it. And the parish church being struck by lightning? I think this happens a lot because of the height of the steeple. When I lived in Canberra many years ago the church was blown away by a small tornado (and nothing else was touched – which makes you wonder) 😀

    1. Oh my! You’d think the Lord would take better care of his buildings, wouldn’t you? Oops- blasphemy? One day I’m convinced that shoe will be yours. 🙂 🙂

  6. This was an interesting walk Jo – I rather liked seeing fewer people and just enjoy the town in its natural state. Red shoes – a symbol of all those hundreds of years ago to the shoemakers of yesterday past (sculpture was awesome).

  7. Jo, I’ve been a follower for awhile as you know. I took a few week trip and then I thought I haven’t seen a Jo post in my inbox. Well, how could WordPress eliminate one of my favorite follows. I’m back on and hope they don’t mess me up. Missed you. Gorgeous photos as always.
    Best, Ruth in Pittsburgh

    1. Hi Ruth 🙂 🙂 WP can be a bit mean like that sometimes. 🙂 To be fair I saw one of yours in the Reader yesterday but just didn’t have time to come and see you, so no worries. I do appreciate your time and trouble so thank you very much.

    1. It was a nice one, Carol. Mick usually likes driving switchback roads but even he was feeling a bit sickly when we got there! It always seems easier on the way back 🙂 🙂

  8. The church is not really to my taste – too glitzy – but that installation is intriguing… and those wild irises! Wow! Thanks for taking us on yet another lovely walk.

    1. The churches in Portugal are often in the ornate Baroque style. You might think that the money would be better spent on the poor (and there are a good number of those) but it’s the way of a Catholic country. I did love the red shoes though 🙂 🙂

  9. Jo you do find the coolest things I have to say. So glad you found an explanation for the red shoes. Am I right in understanding they are cascading out of the church window. Well knowing what an impact shoe making had on the town I can see they would be a thing to be almost worshiped. wonderful post and would love to explore these hidden gems with you.

    1. Hiya darlin! You must be posting again 🙂 I haven’t been in the Reader for a day or 2 but I know you were reacclimatising. Me too! It’s perishing here in the UK. Hail stones this morning. Gulp! I’ve managed to piece together more bits of info about the shoes and the place but I hadn’t a clue when I got there, Sue. Welcome back 🙂 🙂

  10. What an interesting place! I like those shoes and that was excellent street art.
    Alentejo is on my list. For horses, but I see there are many other reasons to go. Including vinho verde 😄

    1. Expect nothing and you’re sure to be surprised, Debs. I had no idea about the cobbler background till I got home. Such a well-researched travel blogger 🙂 🙂

  11. Of course I like going somewhere just to see what’s there, you never know what’s over that hill or around the next corner! You were lucky here, what a find. The shoes are amazing and the street art, a little town full of contrasts and always that unbeatable Portuguese sky. I’d probably like the coffee in Bristol if you’re likely to be at all lonely! x:-)x

    1. I thought you might see that, Gilly! I’ve been dithering since the weekend, when I got the invitation. I’ll email. 🙂 🙂 The shoes just kind of reeled me in along the street and when I got there I gawped. Most flattering! 🙂

    1. Starts husband and wife debate… Mick is the garden ‘expert’ and he says maybe acacia but I have my doubts. 🙂 The trees that we were sitting under had wispy branches and lots of the white berries. No, he’s changed his mind but he can’t remember… too early in the day for him. 🙂 I’ll get back to you if it comes to me. Thank you!

  12. Wandering off to see what’s there is one of my favourite things (used to do it as a child, much to my mother’s annoyance) so thank you for the tag along. I’ve enjoyed the sunshine and blue skies on a day that is grey and wet here. I don’t mind about the cake. With a recent birthday in the house, we’re a bit caked out.

    1. Ah look, you’ve got me singing Happy Birthday already and it’s not even breakfast time yet… 🙂 Hope it was a good one. And you’re always welcome to tag along with this happy wanderer. 🙂 🙂

  13. I love your thinking: “just going to see what’s there”. I’m more of a find out what’s there and go traveller, but there are always surprises nonetheless. This town has some beauties: the tiled house front; the pink cherub flesh amongst the gold; the spectacular street art (there’s something about faces enlarged that is unexpectedly charming); the berries on the red tablecloth; the shoemaker statues; and of course that cascade of red shoes. It’s certainly not an ordinary town. Then there’s the two photos of dilapidation – are you being converted?? A question that just occurred to me: do you speak Portuguese? Thank you for a Tuesday morning pleasure, and take a probably-rainy-day-and-I’ve-just-put-on-load-of-washing hug or three to show my appreciation.

    1. Bright blue and bitter cold here with snow flurries expected! Would you believe it? But yesterday I sat in the garden with a book and watched the flowers burgeoning (between showers! I didn’t bother to put the washing out 🙂 ). I do tend to research before I go because I hate to miss anything. In this case I couldn’t find much about the place so had no expectations. I knew there was an old bridge, but we couldn’t get near that for roadworks. Typical! 🙂 🙂 Dilapidation- I kind of ‘get it’ but I tend to take the photos because I know that others will appreciate them. Portuguese is probably even more minimal than my Polish. Sigh! 😦 But when….if… we live there… 🙂 🙂 Hugs wrapped in a fleecy dressing gown!

      1. Everything around him collapsing: knee, chimney, water jacket on fuel stove. But he’s extraordinarily cheerful: “Gives me something to think about.” It was this practical stuff he missed in Warsaw. I usually on see him for the Saturday evening Skype. Thanks for asking.

  14. I thought you must have been to the ballet when I read your title. We’re going to The Red Shoes next month. Love the red shoe sculpture, and the church is amazing – all that bling in such a small place!

    1. It’s a funny old world, isn’t it, Annabel? 🙂 I do try to make my walks more of a story than simply a travelogue. It feels like ‘proper’ writing that way, and it keeps me entertained. As did those red shoes 🙂 🙂

  15. Ah, you take us on the most enchanting walks Jo, what would I do without you! I once had a pair of red court shoes which I loved. Those were the days when I also wore suits for work! So I was drawn to the shoe sculpture – maybe it is also connected to the shoe makers? And the cog sculptures are very interesting. Not so keen on those murals though. And I am a huge fan of going somewhere, just because. You just never know what you might discover 😀 😀

    1. Shades of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz/Hans Christian Anderson/even Stairway to Heaven? All good entertainment value. I do work hard to keep you folks interested. All that sitting under a tree… 🙂 🙂 And there’s definitely something about red shoes!

      1. I know you work hard Jo, and we do appreciate all the trouble you go to. [trying hard to keep a straight face]. Even to the length you go to having to eat toasties and cakes and scones and drink white wine… SUCH a hard job 😛

  16. Every town tells a story – Almodôvar’s tale of two hundred cobblers fashioning hand-made shoes is fascinating. It’s sad to think that now all shoes (unless you have serious funds) are all, including the designer brands, mass produced. 😉

  17. Admire your “noise” for finding all these wonderful walks.
    So inspiring, not following your footsteps, but looking over your shoulder as we do.
    Here best of all in my eyes the old window still a bit colored blue and still a bit red frame.
    But all wonderful captures… 🙂

    1. It amuses me how many people like a bit of dilapidation, Drake. 🙂 I always used to avert my eyes, but these days it’s good camera material. Like so many other things 🙂 🙂 Thank you for always being there to look over my shoulder.

    1. A few suggestions have been offered, including a link to Hans Christian Anderson’s story. My own is a stairway to heaven 🙂 🙂 I should have gone to the museum. Maybe there…?

  18. “Seriously, don’t you ever want to go somewhere just to see what’s there? I do it all the time.”

    I’m not sure why this sentence captivated me so much, but it did. 🙂 And now I’m tempted to skip work and go somewhere just for the fun of it.

  19. “Seriously, don’t you ever want to go somewhere just to see what’s there? I do it all the time.”

    I’m not sure why this sentence captivated me so much, but it did. 🙂 And now I’m tempted to skip work and go somewhere just for the fun of it.

    1. It’s been suggested it might have a connection with the Hans Christian Anderson story, Sami. If I’d gone in the museum I might have been able to verify that but I was too busy having fun. 🙂 🙂 How’re things with you?

  20. Jo, I am a big fan of red shoes, so your opening photo caught my eye. Very shabby chic kind of place, loved the sculpture. To finish the walk with nice food and some vinho verde it is just perfect 🙂

  21. Hans Christian Anderson wrote a fairy tale about red shoes at church. I was wondering if that could have something to do with it.

    A peasant girl named Karen is adopted by a rich old lady after her mother’s death and grows up vain and spoiled. Before her adoption, Karen had a rough pair of red shoes; now she has her adoptive mother buy her a pair of red shoes fit for a princess. Karen is so enamored of her new shoes that she wears them to church, but the old lady scolds her: it’s highly improper and she must only wear black shoes in church from now on. But next Sunday, Karen cannot resist the urge to put the red shoes on again. As she is about to enter the church, she meets a mysterious old soldier with a red beard. “Oh, what beautiful shoes for dancing,” the soldier says. “Never come off when you dance,” he tells the shoes, and he taps the sole of each with his hand. After church, Karen cannot resist taking a few dance steps, and off she goes, as though the shoes controlled her, but she finally manages to take them off. One day, after her adoptive mother becomes ill, Karen leaves her alone and goes off to a ball in town in her red shoes. She begins to dance, but this time the shoes won’t come off. They continue to dance, night and day, rain or shine, through fields and meadows, and through brambles and briers that tear at Karen’s limbs. She can’t even attend her adoptive mother’s funeral. An angel appears to her, bearing a sword, and condemns her to dance even after she dies, as a warning to vain children everywhere. Karen begs for mercy but the red shoes take her away before she hears the angel’s reply. Karen finds an executioner and asks him to chop off her feet. He does so but the shoes continue to dance, even with Karen’s amputated feet inside them. The executioner gives her a pair of wooden feet and crutches, and teaches her the criminals’ psalm. Thinking that she has suffered enough for the red shoes, Karen decides to go to church so people can see her. Yet her amputated feet, still in the red shoes, dance before her, barring the way. The following Sunday she tries again, thinking she is at least as good as the others in church, but again the dancing red shoes bar the way. Karen gets a job as a maid in the parsonage, but when Sunday comes she dares not go to church. Instead she sits alone at home and prays to God for help. The angel reappears, now bearing a spray of roses, and gives Karen the mercy she asked for: her heart becomes so filled with sunshine, peace, and joy that it bursts. Her soul flies on sunshine to Heaven, where no one mentions the red shoes.

    Andersen explained the origins of the story in an incident he witnessed as a small child. By his report, his father was sent a piece of red silk by a rich lady customer, to make a pair of dancing slippers for her daughter. Using red leather along with the silk, he worked very carefully on the shoes, only to have the rich lady tell him they were trash. She said he had done nothing but spoil her silk. “In that case,” he said, “I may as well spoil my leather too,” and he cut up the shoes in front of her.

    1. I had envisioned it as a kind of stairway to heaven and you’re probably exactly right with your source of inspiration, Kirsten. Thank you for taking the time to recount it here. 🙂 🙂 Have a great week!

  22. What a cute town. It looks so quiet and peaceful, perfect for a sunny stroll, indeed. I could feel your surprise about the red shoes when looking at the photos, Jo. How bizarre, yet intriguing and charming all at once. I love it when people are creative and when art gets a chance amongs history.

    1. It was like stepping back in time and yet with a modern twist, Liesbet. If I’d gone into the museum I might have come up with an explanation (but I was too busy eating and drinking and it was closed by the time I thought about it 😦 )

  23. This was one of your best rambles! I loved all the things you discovered in this little village, but my favorite has to be the shower of shoes. I also thought this must have been some homage to Almodovar the filmmaker, but it’s even more fascinating to see an age-old profession represented by this modern spray of color. Thanks for featuring my new walking route on a link here today; I’m off to explore some others, and first off will be another Texas jaunt (the Hill Country) – yay!

    1. You know I set out with a blank canvas and no real expectations that day (and a resigned looking husband who was doing the driving 🙂 ). I love it when it works out that way. Thank you very much. I’ll watch out for it.

      1. I meant the Hill Country walk whose link is in the list of walks today! 🙂
        And yes, the best results are usually the ones that follow no expectations!

  24. I do not know much of Portugal, and it is so nice to be pleasantly surprised by what one can see there. Breathtaking religious decoration, vibrant architecture and weird red shoe installation. That is a real mystery.

  25. At first I thought that the shoe cascade could be a bizarre Almodóvar ‘s idea…. (I mean the film-maker !)
    Then the story turned much more interesting after your read and photos ! Both beautiful and unique….

    1. I felt quite embarrassed never to have heard of the film maker until I Googled the town, looking for information, Anna. I must have led a sheltered life 🙂 🙂 I learnt something and enjoyed myself too! A win win situation! And if you enjoyed it too, even better 🙂 Happy Monday!

  26. What a fabulous peek at Almodôvar .. . . .wonderfu post Jo.

    Don’t think we are going to have time to return on our Alentejo adventure this week, but that shoe sculpture is calling my name so might just have to make the time! Apparently one of the cobblers has created a miniature shoe collection and I was hoping when I saw your title and picture that this might have been part of it . . . . something for us perhaps to find if we do have time this week.

    1. I wonder if it’s in the museum? It was closed by the time we’d had our amble (if it was ever open- I didn’t notice because I was lured by the red shoes 🙂 ). I knew nothing about the cobbler history and even now can find very little information on the place. Pedro Almodovar hogs Google 🙂 🙂 We did pass a corner shop with some miniatures in the window but not shoes. Maybe inside… Mick had his ‘back to the car’ face on by then. 🙂 Have a wonderful few days! And, thank you 🙂

      1. Not surprised you were lured by the Red Shoes . . . at least you didn’t try them on though as one of the pairs might be the infamous Red Shoes that Hans Christian Anderson wrote about!

        Hee hee MrB can have that face too sometimes, but then so can I after 3hrs looking at waders!!

        Have you seen the Southern Portugal book by John and Madge Measures as that has a section on Almodôvar?

  27. I think it’s just as well Moira Shearer never visited Almodóvar.

    I think the Alentejo is odd. Mind you we visited in February (?) and it was cold. Very cold. We found a nowhere in particular place which was definitely nowhere. Couldn’t even find a decent toastie! We headed back to the coast after that.

    1. Woolly made me chuckle by saying that Imelda Marcos would have been in 7th heaven with 200 cobblers 🙂 🙂

      I agree, it does have it’s moments. We were in Evora and thereabouts one late October and it was freezing too (but beautiful 🙂 ) Monsaraz is wonderful and the stretch around Mertola but it’s definitely a place of extremes.

    1. Not a one! Someone must have had fun with the red paint though. 🙂 🙂 Strange what you find when you’re not looking, isn’t it? Becky says there’s a collection of shoe miniatures there somewhere too. Darn! Missed it 🙂

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