748 steps to be precise! Early in our Italian adventure I’d dragged James away from the pool (he’d have ended up bright pink and wrinkly if I’d left him to it 🙂 ) and onto a blue SITA bus. Groans! But not so far this time. Destination Positano, the picture postcard perfection that had swum in my imagination ever since I’d booked the trip. And did it disappoint? What do you think? Just look at that view! But I do remember a bit of confusion about where to get off the bus, and it being seriously hot. Which was all very well going down those steps, nicely distracted by shady shops and pressing your nose up against a window or peering through an open door.
Down on the beach it was even hotter and not a place to linger, though the colourful boats and beach huts made a pretty sight. To be honest, the beach itself fell well short of our usual standards, but who comes to Positano to lie on a beach? Maybe to sit in a harbourside bar and observe the stylish comings and goings. But then, no way but up- 748 steps! And a hunt for a bus stop. Upwards again to the village of Montepertuso, where legend has it that the hole in the mountain was created by the Virgin’s finger. The scenery sublime.
But never fear, the hotel pool was there and waiting, and never looked so inviting as at the end of that day.
Just occasionally a walk throws up a delightful surprise. We’d done the walk around Mesquita a time or two before. Often enough to know of the well, hidden among the long grasses, and of the windmills at the summit of the hill. It was a beautiful day and we took our time, chatting and catching up with each other’s lives as we went along.
The Moinho do Bengado stands proudly on the top of the hill, catching the breeze, as windmills do. No sooner had we reached it than a jeep pulled into the open space behind us. We hadn’t expected company, but were happy to share the beautiful old windmill. We were even happier when we realised that the newcomer had a key, and had come to show us the workings of the mill. Raymond Hilbers was a miller by trade in his native Holland. With an enduring interest in all things mechanical, he built a home in the Algarve 20 years ago, close by the windmill. In the interim years he became involved in the restoration of the mill and, with justifiable pride, he explained its workings to us.
Built in stone, in 1850, the windmill is of the Mediterranean type. It’s a halter mill, the oldest form of traction system, using rope and millstones to rotate the roof. I really hadn’t given much thought to how these things work, but was genuinely interested in the explanations. I won’t spoil it for you by giving away too many of the details. You might just find yourself there one day? The mill now opens to visitors twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Access is from the EN270, 4 km south of São Brás de Alportel, and arrangements can be made via the tourist office on firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s a downloadable map, here.
Mr. Hilbers is a very charming man, and was happy to spend time with us. A former sailor amongst us remarked on the new addition of sails to the mill, since our last visit (pictured above). The millstone is currently lodged in one position and must be freed to enable the sails to one day turn. What a wonderful sight that will be! Just one thing I should add. Space inside the mill is obviously confined, and there are narrow circular steps to the upper level. Not suited to everyone, but please don’t let that put you off a visit to this beautiful old mill.
We continued on our way, back down the hill, and up several more, in the way of walkers. The area around São Brás is cork oak territory and there were many lovely specimens on view. Beautiful villas grace these hills too, which would account for the large school, with its reminder of the times we live in. And I’m always smitten by poppies.
I really can’t leave a miller without at least one image of cake, now can I? This chocolate cheesecake was very delicious. Maybe one day there’ll be a little shop/cum café to sell the produce from the mill.
I realise my walk posts are a little erratic at present, but I really couldn’t wait to share this one. I hope you enjoyed it. Please find time to visit my fellow walkers this week. Happy to share on Jo’s Monday walk.
There are people you could just hug, aren’t there? Well, if it was allowed I would, Jude :
Did you spot the clue? The diminutive figure at the foot of the stairs. This is the magnificent Caserta Palace, home to Queen Amidala in the Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace. Just one of many things we did to keep a small boy entertained on holiday. A train ride from Naples, we were equally enthralled by the cascata, a series of cascades, rippling down through the awe-inspiring gardens fronting the palace.
Family holidays always had to balance my insatiable desire to see everything with allowing pool and sociable time for the youngster. He was good at finding a friend and our holiday to Sorrento was memorable in that respect. Always a keen football fan, Juventus was one of the teams he favoured, and his black and white striped Del Piero shirt greatly endeared him to the Italian waiters. He also had a passion for Ferrari, in those Schumacher days, and one of the small boys at our hotel was of the same mind. They formed a great attachment and much fun was had, but the inevitable day came when Liam had to go home. Our son was out of bed at crack of dawn- the only time on that holiday- and downstairs to say his farewells. I watched, with a huge lump in my throat.
Fortunately a distraction was planned for that day. An outing to Amalfi. Initially not much of a treat for James, who felt coach sick for most of the winding journey down the coast. I was in awe of one of the most beautiful journeys I had ever made, whilst ministering to the youngster. My gaze riveted to the coach window, I prayed fervently that he could hold on till our stop. Which he did, only to be bundled onto another coach up to the dizzying heights of Ravello. Nor were the stunning villas Rufolo and Cimbrone much to his taste. What a selfish parent! But the aerial views in that first link show you the wonderful landscape in a way I can’t hope to.
I seem to remember he ate his bodyweight in pizza and chocolate ice cream once we were back at ground level. And there was the amazing Duomo to see, and a wander through the charming streets. I could have lingered by the harbour, but there was a hydrofoil heading back up the coast which finally put a smile on his face. The journey was every bit as bumpy as the coach, but he didn’t mind one bit. A happy family again!
I don’t think I ever saw the Algarve looking greener than it does right now. I know it won’t last, as it starts to hot up this week, but it’s a joyful sight. Normally we’d only have four more weeks of walking before the group splits up and goes its own way. This year there is no group. We long ago dispersed, and have been maintaining contact with amusing anecdotes and photos. They would have chuckled to see us struggling through the undergrowth on this walk.
We left the village of Furnazhinas on a straightforward, if uphill, trail- PR10, Castro Marim. Efforts are made to maintain these trails and renew signs, but not always successfully. There has been so much growth with the damper than usual winter that a machete would have come in handy at one point. The cistus that I love for their beautiful flowers at this time of year are incredibly tenacious, clinging to our clothes as we tried to force a passage. A stream that we needed to cross didn’t help matters but, eventually, we found ourselves on firm ground. And undeniably beautiful.
We were following the bed of the stream for part of our route, and had thought to bring a towel and change of shoes in case of mishap. Not needed in this instance. It’s incredible how greedily this arid terrain can soak up water. A sea of lavender, from deepest purple to pale green, wafts us with fragrance, romping with wild abandon amongst the broom.
As always, oleander follows water, the buds bursting to open. The stream plays hide and seek over a slab of shale, wild sweet peas sprinkled in the long grasses. Tiny white starlets cling on to rocks, drifting helplessly on the water’s surface.
For a while the landscape opens out, and we catch our breath. The land has been left to fend for itself, thriving on the absence of human endeavour. Minute yellow and crimson flowers- more rock roses!- dot the trail, and I take great care not to trample them.
Rock roses, tiny and grand. Undoubtedly stars of nature. As are the crimson poppies at the water’s edge. And a wisp of softest, beguiling blue.
Just enough water, but not too much. Softening the surroundings. Nourishing the plants. Delighting the eyes. But not soaking our feet.
Lemon flowers of every description still carpet the bare patches, in this land where cistus rules. Almost at the end of the trail, I pause to admire the lichen. And then we’re back in the sleepy village. Not even a coffee stop in this one. We have to look elsewhere for cake and distractions.
And so we’re home. Another glorious day in our hills, which I’m privileged to share with you. I’m off up there this morning. Spring time is precious.
Just time to share a walk or two before I go. Thank you for your company and the kind contributions you make.
Jude knows which paths to lead me down. I love rhododendrons!
Here we are, rolling into May, and a happy Bank Holiday for many of you. Here in the Algarve it’s Dia de Trabalhores (Labour Day) today and Mother’s Day tomorrow. The restaurants are allowed to stay open into the evening for the first time in ages and the borders reopen too. Cause for celebration? I’m having 3 bites at the cherry with this random selection from Faro (and my patio). Six Words for Debbie, a smidgeon of Pink for Jude and a Last on the card, for Brian. Happy weekend, everybody!
Moving the clock forward a couple of years and we were back in Italy, this time in the sunny south. The presence of Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples was a powerful magnet, but we never did make it to the summit. You can try to cram too much into a holiday. I remember it being hot as Hades in Pompeii, so we opted for a cooler day to take the train to Ercolano. Although it was 22 years ago, I can still recall the awe we felt in the presence of this survivor of the volcanic eruption of AD79. Fragile as it was, so much was still intact. The beautiful frescoes and mosaic tiled bath houses of this former seaside resort had survived being buried in ash.
The day was hotting up by the time we’d finished our visit, but the ascent of the volcano was just 12km away. Too tempting, we caught the bus for the panoramic ride up the mountain, only to find that we still had an hour and a half of rough uphill walking ahead of us. There wasn’t time to reach the summit and return for the last bus down again. So near and yet so far! We were running out of holiday and I never managed to look into that caldera. I think the experience would be very different today.
I started this series as a way to take part in Becky’s Bright Squares, but I’ve been swept along on the tide of memory. I’m hoping that you’ll be happy to carry on with me. Meanwhile, many thanks to our lovely hostess.
Do you ever wish you were an artist? What must it be like to look at a scene like this and know that you can replicate your version of heaven, with just a smidgeon of cloud here, a patch of blue there? I hovered behind him, watching the bay take shape in front of my eyes. He was oblivious. Just One Person from around the World.
Perhaps you’d like to sit a while and watch the ferry dock? For us, Ascona was but a brief stop off on our trip to Lake Maggiore, but you can linger as long as you like. Have a cappuchino- why wouldn’t you? I don’t have Becky’s knack for squaring videos, but she made me cry with hers this morning. Streisand often gets me that way. “Misty water-coloured memories…”
Yet another bright memory, but my last from the lovely Italian Lakes. Next time I’ll take you south to the Amalfi Coast.
Where next? A year later found us with this stunning vista of Lake Como. Not my image- my husband was chief cameraman. I simply gawped! And kept a lookout in case a certain Mr. Clooney happened to saunter by, in this playground for millionaires. Bellagio was all I could have hoped for. Our hotel, on the lake front, had the look of former gentility, with frescoes on the dining room ceiling and an air of grandeur. We were tucked neatly away in a large cupboard at the back, and tiptoed down the stairs to breakfast. But the view across the water was sublime.
My memories of Como are not so clear as those of Garda, and I’ve had to rootle under the bed for the box of postcards that constituted my diary at that time. I would say that it was more of a holiday for grown ups, with beautiful gardens and villas everywhere you looked. Entertaining a 7 year old was less easy, but he was pretty good at finding himself friends, including an older couple with whom he regularly played cards. His blow-up rubber boat was a great success in the freezing hotel pool, despite, or because of, its slow puncture. A memorable coach trip to Lake Lugano in Switzerland provided stunning scenery for us and, for him, a giant chess set on the endless shoreline.
Impossible to forget, though, the vision of Isola Bella. We ferried across Como to join a coach for Stresa, on Lake Maggiore. A motorboat carried us out across the water to the Borromean Islands, to the wedding cake confection that is Isola Bella. Everything is anticlimax once you have witnessed these coral grottoes, whimsical statues and the manicured lawns where white peacocks parade. It feels like treading in someone else’s dream.
Almost beyond your wildest dreams, and then onwards, swept towards Isola dei Pescatori, the more modest Fisherman’s island. In the distance, Isola Madre, the mother island. Many holidays rolled into one is how I remember Lake Como, with every possible variation in the weather. Water dripping from our noses in the capital, Como, and searing heat on the islands. A feast of a holiday!
Becky is taking a little sojourn of her own. Do join her with a BrightSquare!
Our love affair with the Italian Lakes started here in Bardolino. The small town sparkled on an evening. After an early supper in our hotel we would venture out to absorb the atmosphere. The passegiata, an easy habit to adopt, the water murmuring and glistening at our feet. The following year we returned to Torbole at the head of the lake, for more adventures. And then, emboldened and needing more, Lake Como.