Jo’s Monday walk : Portagem to Ammaia

It’s always good to start a post with a flamboyant flower, don’t you think?  Though in this case it has only a little relevance.  How many circular walks do you know that start and end by a river, exploring Roman ruins along the way?  I can actually think of one other, in the Algarve, but I was quite unprepared for the scale of these ruins, at Ammaia, in the Alto Alentejo region of Portugal.  Ruins I’d never even heard of!

I have to say that the last walk was a very hard act to follow.  Having seen the valley from the lofty heights of Marvão, I was curious as to how the village would look when viewed from below.  Driving back down didn’t seem half so difficult as the haul up to it had been.  As usual, I wasn’t doing the driving, but gazing out at the scenery.  Sleepy Portagem was a lazy dream of a day in early March.  Come back in July and it might be a different story, with screams and splashes echoing up the valley from the river beach.

Yes, that’s Marvão, right up on the top.  No wonder it’s serene and peaceful!  I read that the village hosts a Medieval Fair in October.  What a sight that must be!  And yet, for once, I’d opted for serenity and loved every moment.

It was, pretty much, also what we found on our descent from Marvão.  A river beach has been constructed on the River Sever and, alongside it, a smart pool complex.  Totally deserted, of course, in March.  Used, as I now am, to an early Spring in the Algarve, I was astonished to find bare trees, just awakening to the gentle warmth of the sun’s rays.

Looking at the sign boards there seemed to be a choice of two walks, PR1 and PR5.  So long as we didn’t have to climb all the way back up to Marvão on foot, it didn’t much matter which.  The river curved away into the distance, beneath a beautiful old bridge.

Crossing the bridge, a decision of sorts was made.  Inaccessible castle ruins and a more modern calamity, ripe for renewal, directed our steps.

Poppies danced overhead as we followed a grassy trail around the back of the village.  I stopped to admire a haphazard clump of irises, triggering a frenzy of barking from behind the fence.  Buried among bright green foliage, could that be a wild orchid?

Moths and butterflies fluttered by, intent on the beautiful day, and a patch of tiny, jewel bright violas.  A narrow road led between fields full of olive trees, where a farmer and his wife were clearing and burning tired, old tree branches.  They surveyed us with curiosity, nodding at our greeting.  I doubt if too many strangers pass their way.  Set back against the hillside, we became aware of some ruined structures, and speculated on what their purpose might have been.  The sign Fornos do Cal da Escusa suggested a connection with ovens.  We later found that these had been lime quarries, quite possibly dating back to Roman times and the nearby city of Ammaia.

In the distance, across the fields of olives, vines and sheep, Marvão kept watch from on high.

We had circled back towards Portagem but, just before the village, a right turn took us through the tiny hamlet, São Salvador da Aramenha, home to some beautiful camelias.  Past the church and a diminutive café, a left brought us to the Roman ruins, unimposing behind a locked gate.

Thankfully they were simply closed for lunch.  Just beyond the gates, a small museum, with a film show relating the history of the site.  Then we were free to wander, full of expectation.  The website Ammaia can provide details.

The site is surprisingly large, and actually spans a country lane, but much of it has yet to be excavated.  Remnants of the South Gate, the Forum and a bathing area are clearly visible.  Ongoing since 1994, progress is slow and reliant on students and volunteers.

There is enormous potential here, and in the stillness of the surrounds you can let your imagination roam.  Romans, gossiping in the Forum, languid in the baths, or patrolling the walls with Marvão on the horizon.  Meanwhile the grass grows long, sprinkled with wild flowers of lemon and blue.  Leaving the site, it was about another half hour, through the dappled shade of fragrant pines and yet more olives, back to the village of Portagem.  I think we mostly followed PR5.

But where’s the cake, I hear you say?  Well, there’s plenty at Su’s place, and Jude has some luscious meringues to share.  Perhaps you’d like to join them.  In this sleepy corner of the Alentejo, I was hard pressed to find a cake shop.

walking logo

A few more walks for you this week.  Please, keep sending them.  I don’t mind if they’re just of your back garden- it’s all fresh air, and a pleasant distraction for each other.

………………………………………………………………………………………..

Alice has a beautiful walk for us in these troubled times :

Prayer Garden

But nobody says it better than Drake :

Lonesome Avenue

Fancy a little climb with Irene?

Top of a Sand Dune

Meanwhile Natalie is staying positive :

Looking Forward to Spring

And playing in the waves.  Wish I could!

Fit and Fun Walk: Waves

Nobody captures beauty better than Lynn.  Treat yourself to a walk with her :

LOCAL WALKS: Signs of Spring in the Pacific Northwest

Wonderful Italy!  Cathy shares a journey I always wanted to make :

The Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare

Still in Italy, Sheetal takes me across the lagoon, to one of my most beautiful memories ever :

Colours of Venetian Isles

Stay safe out there!  We’re all traveling by armchair now.  Might as well get comfy.  I’d better go and find some cake!

Six word Saturday

The message is ‘stay at home!’

A glorious, but empty, sight.  Though, to be fair, it’s pouring again today.  And there was me, getting ready to sing on the balcony!  No, we haven’t reached lockdown yet, but our President is trying his best to contain the beast with State of Emergency measures.  We can only respect that.

Meanwhile, Debbie is making the earth move.  In Six Words.  Join me for another walk on Monday and some virtual fresh air.

6wsButton

Jo’s Monday walk : Magnificent Marvão

Dawn breaks over the castle at Marvão, serene and beautiful.  I had been niggling for a little while.  ‘Can we have a few days away?’ before company arrives and the summer hots up.  How lucky was I?  A virus was nibbling away at all our lives.  The situation was to take a turn for the worse in my absence.  But I was granted a reprieve.  Pure escapism!  To the border country, on the heights of the Alentejo, here in Portugal.

It was a little drab on our arrival, cloud pressing down on our heads, but undeterred we took to the walls.  Finding them full of rich promise.

As evening settled around us, slowly, a break in the clouds, and the last of the sun’s warmth painted the sky.  Coral tones, delighting my heart.

I could hardly wait to see what the next day would bring!  The world floated beneath me, the natural park of the Serra de Sáo Mamede.  Ahead the proud and mighty castle, never yet conquered, with its petticoat of gardens, and a fountain playing gently in the dusk.  Nearby the Igreja Santiago seemed still to be open.  Timidly I poked my head inside, to be greeted with a welcoming smile.

Gratefully we returned to the hotel for supper.  Although the forecast for the next day was good, I wasn’t overly confident, but it dawned with clouds high and puffy in a beautiful blue sky.  I would be able to see Marvão at its glorious best.

Much of the village is in pristine condition, but here and there a door or window caught my eye.  A candidate for a little affection.

Personality and gentle humour seem to characterise Marvão, but nothing overshadows the castle, looking down on the village from its granite crag.

The cisterna is remarkable for its size, 10 metres by 46.  It was built to gather sufficient rainwater to last 6 months, in case of siege.  There is no other natural source on the peak of the mountain, almost 900 metres above sea level.

Just beyond the castle, the former Igreja da Santa Maria is now a very beautiful museum.

We had much to see in the valley below, but later that evening we returned to Marvão for supper, to find the castle floodlit.

The photo quality is poor, but I know you always appreciate cake.  You may have realised that I was completely smitten with Marvão.  We were leaving the next day and, desperate for one last look, I crept out of the hotel at dawn, entranced by the mists floating in the valley.

I had not intended to return to blogging so soon, but much is happening in our world, and for me you are all a part of that.  On our return, Portugal had closed schools and suspended all public and social events.  Group activities are at an end, restaurants are reducing numbers if not closing, and now the border with Spain is closed.  It is all precautionary and time will tell how effective it will be, but meantime I shall try to brighten your lives, as I always have.  And, of course, there are walks to share.

walking logo

Rupali, reminding me what snow looks like (and it does snow in Marvão, but not on my visit)

Just a walk…

Liesbet has a little fun, and gets licked!

Happy Cows – A Walk in the Field

Drake knows Paris better than most of us :

Feeling at home out

Miriam brings us beautiful vistas, in her own special way :

Wild about the Grampians

While Cathy continues to be beautifully disgruntled in Rome!

Promises, promises in the Vatican Museums

And Margaret?  Well, it seems she likes wallowing in mud  🙂

Roughly the Same Walk as Last Week

That’s it for now.  Take good care of yourselves, and don’t loose heart.  We’re all in this together!

Jo’s Monday walk : Alcoutim, with the choir

I love the approach to Alcoutim!  You can follow the road from the coast out alongside the River Guadiana for much of the way, with tantalising glimpses ahead and back as you round the many bends.  Just as you come to the village, the road curves and you have a fine view, down onto Alcoutim, and across to whitewashed Sanlucar de Guadiana on the opposite shore, in Spain.  With morning mists swirling above the water, it’s a wonderful sight, and the promise of another beautiful day.

We park the car on the edge of the village and walk across a rivulet and down towards the water.  The mist is already beginning to clear and the sun feels warm.  There, waiting for us, several members of the choir, Ossónoba, and a guide.  It’s the third time we’ve walked with them, and we’re greeted enthusiastically and made to feel welcome.  A representative of the Via Algarviana joins us, to promote the walks and ensure there are no problems.  Once assembled, brief explanations are given, and we set off.

It’s normally a peaceful spot, with the ferry crossing, when summoned, in a desultory fashion.  Today a regatta is taking place and there’s an air of bustle.  We chat to a Dutch man who has moored his boat midstream and joined the walk, hoping the event will be over when we return.

We leave the village and start a gentle ascent, looking down on the river.  Yachts dot the water, lazing the day away.  But not for us, the idle life.  As Alcoutim recedes, we reach a junction and begin the climb in earnest.  The walk is not long, but challenging in places.

But there is the distraction of the view and the distant sparkle of the water.  A small patch of arable land surprises.  Despite the nearness of water the soil is bone dry underfoot.  Rock Cistus cling to the slopes, and I am delighted to find one or two already open and flaunting their beauty.

At the crest of the hill the roof of a tumbledown watchman’s cottage appears, through a froth of weeds.  I peer through the sorry window, and out at the landscape beyond.  So frail, the skeletal timbers.  No place to hide.

I don’t envy the chill nights up here, a lonely vigil, watching for the enemy.  But in the brightness of day I could be seduced into a watchman’s life.

And then it’s time to begin the descent.  Slowly, at times, keeping my knees together and pigeon-toed, or sideways like a crab, on the steep parts.  A helping hand is extended if I wobble, but I’m glad to return to level ground.  I have little in common with mountain goats.  Some of the choir begin to sing, purely for the joy of it, and I smile as I recognise the tune.

Back in the village, we follow the signs for the river beach.  A chorus of delight greets a large family of black pigs, rootling about as pigs will.  Pork is plentiful in the Algarve, porco preto appearing on many menus.  Lamb is more expensive, and I can never bring myself to enjoy it, especially when, as now, they frolic in the fields, pestering mum for another feed.

Sand has been imported for the river beach, and there’s a pleasant little café and seating area.  Plans are afoot to extend the beach, for this is a hot spot in summer.  We carry on into the village, heading for lunch, where we are joined by the rest of the choir.

A poster on a weathered door announces their presence.  They file into the restaurant, laughing and talking, and we meekly join them.  We share a table with 2 Belgian ladies, trading experiences throughout the meal, a Portuguese stew and carob and almond desserts.  As coffees are hastily produced, the choir master counts them in, and a rich, full sound fills the restaurant.  Minutes later we are climbing the hill to their venue.

Performance over, it’s back into the hot sun and a gentle saunter, past the river and towards the car.  Yes, I know there’s something missing, but we were busy talking during the meal and I didn’t like to interrupt with photos.  But I can share with you a rather wonderful pastry that’s special to Loulé.  Folhares are flaky and sugary, and oozing with warm custard.

We will be joining the choir again next week, for a final walk on the Via Algarviana.  I expect I’ll share it with you at some point, but for now I intend to step back from the blog for a while.  I hope you’ve enjoyed walking with me, and I’m sure that we’ll do it again.  Many thanks to Ossónoba!

  walking logo

Guess what?  Janet’s found a little warmth this week :

Monday’s walk to the rookery

I think it’s always warm in Charleston, isn’t it Alice?

St. Michael’s Alley

If you like the peaceful life, and don’t mind a little wind…

Scotland Tour: Hiking in the wild North West

Have you ever been to Charles de Gaulle airport?  If so, you’ll know exactly what Drake means :

Track to the sky

Or you can stay closer to home, and a place that I love :

New look, old charm

Winter seems endless in some places.  I don’t suppose birds mind grey, Irene?

Along the Icy Marsh

And Ice Sculptures last much longer in cooler climes, Natalie?

Do You Love the 80s?

A gentle sunset stroll with Carol.  Is there water in the river?

All or Nothing

It’s pretty dry where Cathy was :

Morocco: a short walk through Todra Gorge

Candy offers up some great photo opportunities :

Paseo do Monte Boi in Baiona

And Georgina shows us a different side to Spain :

February Fun, Fotos and Short Walks

Let’s end with a bit of squidge from Margaret!  But at least there’s blue sky :

Winter Walking in Nidderdale-with Added Mud

Keep walking!  I certainly will, and you know that I can’t resist sharing for long.  We have a short trip to England in April, but we’re back here for Easter.  More parades, I hear you sigh!  And hopefully some pastures new.  Take care till then!

Six word Saturday

The biggest, and still the best!

From lovely Marilyn, and the Oscars

Through scary Pirates of the Caribbean

Every show needs a Mad Hatter!

And a Joker in the pack

European politics always play their part

And there’s something for the kids

While Avatar brings us bodies beautiful

And never forgetting the chorus line!

I’m known to cheat on occasion, but I think Loulé Carnival 2020 can provide many of the items Tina was looking for in her Treasure Hunt.  And hopefully she’ll have fun looking.  While Debbie continues to amaze with her ingenuity.  Happy Saturday everyone!

6wsButton

 

Not so peaceful… Moncarapacho

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last day of Carnival 2020 and Moncarapacho was making the most of it.  My Dad loved a party!  It would have been his birthday today and I’m smiling as I think of him, tapping his stick and nodding his head to the music.

Jo’s Monday walk : Peaceful Pecháo

It all started with a restaurant.  Some friends, who come to the Algarve a couple of times a year, particularly like to find new places to eat.  And so it became a Thursday habit for a small group of us to meet for lunch.  One such outing took us to Pecháo, a small village in the neighbourhood of Olháo.  Fully sated from a lovely meal, I thought I might take a look at the village church.  I was in luck, for it was open, and I slipped inside to look.

A couple were praying devoutly so I did not linger, but outside the church I stopped to read a notice board.  Apparently a chapel has existed on this site since 1482, and the current Igreja de Sáo Bartolomeu probably dates from the 18th century.  Close by the church the small ossuary, or bone chapel, took me by surprise.  Reading that there was a ‘route of churches’, we decided to return for a walk one day.

And so, a couple of weeks later, I found myself and partner in crime back in Largo da Igreja, examining our surrounds more closely.  Always one for the details, he had researched the walks, produced a map and decided which of three routes we should follow.  PR5OLH, at 7.5km, was a level, easy walk, which suited because I was succumbing to a virus and not at my best, but not willing to stay at home on such a beautiful day.

The walk wound through the back streets of the village, past a series of ageing gardens.  I was highly amused to find, at a convenient crossroads, a similarly aged chair beside a bench, and a waiting orange.  (On our return, three elderly gentlemen sat side by side, orange presumably shared).

Leaving the village we crossed the Ribeira de Bela Mandil, where water must once have flowed.  A path led alongside the dry stream, to the Nora de Viriato, an impressively solid-looking well.  Bright Crocosmia blazed beside a wearying olive tree.

We made a circuit of lanes and tracks, passing immense polytunnels (papaya?) and a few beautiful villas, meanwhile attracting a number of unfriendly canines, some of whom wag their tails.  I never know if this is a good sign, or not.  Pretty pink cistus winked at us, blossom trees leaning into the breeze one last time.  Confident of not getting the shot, I trailed a butterfly across a patch of Bermuda Buttercups.  Outwitted every time.

Soon we were in sight of the village.  The water tower, and cemetery- uncomfortably close neighbours, and yet they seem a natural fit.

But I know from long experience that your interest lies elsewhere.  I should tell you that the lovely place we ate was called Gunther’s– not a typical village restaurant, but I can highly recommend it.  No more Thursday luncheons for the time being, as our friends return to the UK this week.

Thank you for your patience.  I can tell you that I am now fully recovered and that I will be walking with you again next week.  After that I propose a short break while I get my thoughts in order.  So, if you have a walk that you’re longing to share, please do it this week.  You know the formula here on Jo’s Monday walk.  And I’ll try to make you welcome.

walking logo

Spring doesn’t always bring happiness.  Pop over and give Eunice a hug?

Snowdrops for Sophie

Rosemay continues her wander down Memory Lane, in London’s lesser known haunts :

Off the Tourist Trail in London- Stoke Newington and Clissold Park

There have been a few complaints about the weather lately, but not from Drake!

Wilderness of water

We all dream of different things.  Happy to view Janet’s from afar :

Jo’s Monday walk…my dream walk

But Irene says it’s been a mild winter :

Glimpses of Lake Michigan

Looking for an interesting Dutch city to explore?  Debbie has the answer :

A ramble around Rotterdam

Or you can have fun entertaining a 4-year old, with Margaret :

A Walk to the Planetarium

While Cathy takes us into the world of the Berbers :

Morocco: Merzouga to El-Khorbat

And me?  Well, it’s Carnival week.  Not Rio, but doing our best.  Take care till next time!