Mad March Square

It’s impossible not to be dragged into one of Becky’s challenges, isn’t it, no matter how gloomy you may be feeling?  I only wish I had a Mad March Hare, though I probably shouldn’t have said that.  Someone’s sure to come up with one.

Go on!  Take part!  It only takes a few minutes to find a March Square.

Jo’s Monday walk : Blossom and chimney pots

Feeling a little fragile as I write this- too much dancing, wine and excitement!- so please excuse me if I just stroll gently with you in the Algarve sunshine.  São Bras de Alportel makes an excellent base for walking, surrounded as it is by softly rolling countryside.  Allow me to indulge my current obsession with chimney pots…. and blossom, of course.

Starting from the former pousada, with grand views to the hills, you can follow a couple of simple trails.  Notice boards will advise what you need to be watchful for, or you can simply enjoy being there, drenched in the soft colours of Spring.

At a crossroads the sign points towards the ‘miradouro das castanhas’, the viewing point of the chestnuts.  Curiosity would have me look, but the group I’m walking with turn in the other direction.  I make a mental note to return, and patiently follow.  Minutes later we pause at a fonte- one of many underground springs in the Algarve.  A poem enhances the old stone and one of our group attempts a translation.  A squeal of laughter interrupts.  Another of the ladies has twirled the handle of the ‘nora’ (well) with a little too much energy, and is treated to a swift gush of water.

There was very little water and a lot of dry riverbeds when I walked in this area, but since then a day or three of torrential rain has brought the countryside alive again.  Flipflops or sandals and a towel may be needed.  Better still a sense of balance or a walking stick.

Rounding a hill it’s often possible to come upon a herd of sheep, with their faint air of apprehension and surprise.  Washing flutters appealingly on a line, while lemons ripen and flowers I don’t recognise make patterns on a wall.

This is cork territory and some of the trails lead beneath these gnarled beauties.  Someone has a sense of humour, but I’m not sure that I approve.  The ‘knight’, on the other hand, can only be greeted with a smile.  But I did promise you chimney pots, I remember.

Every village has it’s own variations, some crumbly with age, some new.  The village of São Romão has a lovely church and a deep sense of serenity.

It also has a a restaurant that we favour very often.  I’ll leave you with a little something sour and a sweet treat, to enjoy with your cuppa.

Excuse me for rambling this week.  I’m so looking forward to the frigid air of the north east tomorrow evening.  Please read and share the following walks, and join me with one of your own, if you’d like.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.

Jude does take us to some beautiful places!  And did you spot a few circles in a square?

Garden Portrait: Stourhead

And quite often, Drake excels himself too :

Symph in green ‘n white

For those of you craving warmth, why not join Elaine in the desert?

In Search of an Oasis

Jackie always likes a large one of these!

Slice of Life

And just look what Irene’s found for us this week!

Sunny Lakefront

But this one from Ting simply has to be my walk of the week.  Don’t miss it!

Walking with Elephants

That’s it for now.  Not too many to read.  Hope you have a great week, wherever you are.

Six word Saturday

Hot stuff, to keep you warm!

I’ve never been closer to the action and the evening was all a bit of a blur.  I’m sorry that my photos can’t do it better justice but I hope that they convey a little of the heat and passion in Jerez during the Flamenco Festival.  What a show!

Debbie’s sheep has lots of hair to keep it warm.  Join her with Six Words to sum up your week?

Jo’s Monday walk : Sunkissed in Serpa

Meet Serpa!  Small town Alentejo at it’s very finest. You may think I’m leading a slothful life, induced by food, wine and intoxicating sunshine, here in the Algarve, but I do occasionally stir myself to take you somewhere special.

It’s an easy whizz up the IC27 from Castro Marim, on a switchback road of magnificent views.  Suddenly you reach the extremity of the Algarve, glide across the border and hit a narrow country road.  Straights, twists and turns, endless eucalyptus trees, nesting storks and lazy cows.  Almost no people, and often you can see for miles, beyond an isolated farmhouse.  This is rural Alentejo.  A searing hot place in Summer, but a good place to be on a sunny Spring day.  Skirting around Mertola, a right turn and gentle persistence (known as N265) will bring you to sleepy Serpa.

Don’t you love these heroically gnarled olive trees?  Following signs to the historic quarter, I note the unusual chimney pots.  Narrow streets, with deep pools of shade, cutting off the sun’s glare, are very typical of this region.

It’s always a surprise to step out of the shadows into the magnificense of Praca da Republica.  Bathed in sunlight, the grey and white loses its solemnity.  Meanwhile Cafe Alentejano dispenses food to all comers, especially when it’s lunchtime for those in the grandiose council offices.  I recline, with wine, happily adjusted to this pace of life, and then nonchalantly wander, pausing to appreciate window delights.

Steeped in history, Serpa dates back to the pre-Roman era and has, at various times, been occupied by Celts, Romans, Moors and the Spanish.  Just 30 kilometres away, Beja (known to the Romans as Pax Julia) was their southern capital of Lusitania.  Near to the Guadiana river and the border with Spain, Serpa was a defensive stronghold, belying its current peaceful nature.

Leaving the square, I’m confronted by the bell tower of a church and a mighty flight of steps.  Mounting them, I am level with the rooftops.

But the surprises don’t end there.  Turn a corner, and how about this for a castle entrance?

A nervous glance overhead and I’m into the castle forecourt and gazing around.  Plinths display remnants of gleaming stone frieze and a flight of steps leads tantalisingly aloft.  Since I was here last work has been carried out to make the castle walls more accessible (including a lift).  I climb with mounting excitement until, finally…. I can see for miles!

The castle keep was damaged  by Spanish invasion, and in 1295, following the Reconquista, King D. Dinis ordered the reconstruction of the castle and a walled fortification.  These were added to in 17th century.  I stay up there for a long time, examining each and every angle, entranced by all that I can see.  Can you spot my final destination?

Eventually the aqueduct lures me off the wall.  I can really do no better than let Becky tell you all about it.  She and her husband are enthusiasts.

My idea of a grand day out, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.  Our road home through the Alentejo was enhanced by a brief visit to Mina de S. Domingo, with it’s striking church and lakeside walks.  An adventure for another day.

It’s a stormy prospect in the Algarve this week.  Part of me hopes that it won’t disrupt tomorrow’s challenging walk, but part of me won’t mind if it does.  Becoming lazy in my old age!  Not sure if I will share a walk with you next week as I’m off to the lovely city of Jerez on Wednesday.  When I return I’ll only have a few days left in the Algarve, and plan to enjoy them.  Meantime, thanks to all my contributors.  It must be time to get that kettle on and settle in for a good read.



Starting our walks with Anabel this week.  A little damp but lots of diversions :

Amsterdam: walking East

You could say that Jackie has a fondness for food, as well as sunshine :

Frijoles Refritos

Lady Lee loves both of those.  This is a wonderfully colourful post :

More of Singapore

It’s a white world, in Irene’s eyes, whichever way you look at it :

Opposite Sides

Something completely different from Geoff (and his Dad) :

The Old Road (with random pictures…) #dad’spoems

And from my lovely friend, Drake, who recently lost his Dad :

Cold or cool

Becky’s walk last week ended in tears, or certainly a great degree of discomfort.  Hope you’re back to normal, Robert!

Sunbathing goats, snakes and Little Owls

Staggeringly beautiful in the sunlight, join Carol, Down Under :

More than a Walk in the Park

Eunice was losing sleep over this one.  Last Drop Village sounds tempting :

A local walk in the sunshine

That’s it from me, for now.  Take good care, and join me soon for another Jo’s Monday walk!


Six word Saturday

Just for Sue- because she asked!

It seems that storks, like my good friend Sue, don’t mind a spot of dereliction.   This wouldn’t be my chosen residence, but they do have a good view from up there, out across the River Guadiana to Spain.  There’s not a great deal of respect for these poor, forlorn warehouses, often fallen victim to street art, like these below, in Tavira.

Most of my week has been cloudless.  Hope you can say the same.  In six words please.



Jo’s Monday walk : Todos a Caminhar!

Something a bit different this week.  We’ve often remarked that we seldom see Portuguese people out walking, as we stride around the countryside.  Maybe they don’t regard it as a leisure pastime, or are simply too busy earning a living and looking after their families.  It obviously hasn’t gone unnoticed because, a few months ago, we came across an initiative called ‘Todos a caminhar’- walking for everyone!  Sponsored by local councils, it aims at promoting better health in the community.

Each Sunday morning, at 10.00, a different venue across the Algarve hosts the walk.  A couple of Sundays ago we turned up for the one at Castro Marim, a beautiful village right by the River Guadiana.  I had visions of tramping through the salt pans with flamingos wings beating the air all around me, but it was not to be.  Coaches had arrived from all across the Algarve and, there in front of the sports pavilion, a sea of people did variations on a ‘warm up’.  Unphased, we joined them, and off we all surged, on the road out of the village, but nowhere near the salt pans.

Almost immediately we were in open countryside, in an area unfamiliar to us, and surrounded by chattering groups of Portuguese.  Determined older ladies and their gents, who were keen to show they still had what it takes, groups of giggling teens, singles striding away, everyone using up those calories so they could enjoy a really good, late Sunday lunch.

A right turn took us up a hill, in the direction of Vista Real, and so it was, a royal vista.  Once we’d gained height, far across the fields I could just make out the outline of the mighty castle at Castro Marim, with the Guadiana beyond.  As the hill dipped again there was an option to collect a free orange and a bottle of water, and complete a shorter circuit of 3.5km.  Fitter individuals could tackle the longer 10km course.  Well, what do you think?  In for a penny…

It was a blustery day, with rain threatened, the scudding clouds encouraging us to pick up the pace.  The group was well spread by now and we were keen not to be last.  There were arrows marking every junction and cheerful helpers riding back and forth, ensuring no-one had come to grief.  After another steep climb, with views of the salt pans, there was a second opportunity for water and an orange.

A couple of horses, probably bored with the sparse grazing, took an interest in us motley passersby.  The route climbed through the village of Monte Francisco, a few characterful older properties and a sequence of mostly new villas.  Locals nodded a polite ‘Bom dia’.

The best views of all were afforded to the Castro Marim Country Golf Club, a swish establishment with as extensive and beautifully laid out golf links as any I’ve seen.  However, nothing surpassed my first sighting this year of a cistus in flower.

Smiling down the home strait, the blossom twirling in the breeze, I enjoyed the placid cows and the ruin.  Soon we’d come full circle, and finally I sighted my first flamingo.  And where there’s one, there’s often another, isn’t there?  Not quite as I’d hoped.

It took us about an hour and a half to complete the 10km.  We marvelled at the scale of the operation.  Not all are as big as this one.  There were ambulances on hand, in case anyone over exerted themselves, and everywhere, smiling, happy faces.  Best of all, the rain held off, the clouds blew away and afterwards we treated ourselves to delicious tapas on a lovely sunny corner in nearby Vila Real de S. Antonio.  Life could surely be worse!

So much variety, here in the Algarve!  I hope you enjoy sharing it with me.  Come back next week because I have something rather wonderful to share.  Meantime, thank you very much for your company, and if you have a walk you’d like to share with me, please feel free.  Details, as always, are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Please do visit as many of these walks as you can.


Mosaics, history and emerging Spring in Israel from Lisa this week :

Shoham Forest

Meg takes us time traveling through the twists and turns of her beloved Australian landscape :


Let Amanda take you back in time with the amazing Pergamon Museum in Berlin :

Finding Heine and Treasures in Berlin

Still shivering with Irene in the Midwest!

Chilly Reflections

And heavens, Janet almost disappears in the snow!

Monday walk… winter walk

How about some warming stew with Jackie?

El Guisado Stew

And you can usually rely on sunshine from Lady Lee :

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

My good Danish friend is giving us an easy option this week.  Thanks so much, Drake!

Walk the easy way

But Cathy doesn’t know the meaning of easy.  Go along with her and Mike, and just enjoy yourself!

Prague, Czech Republic : exploring Mala Strana

This one won’t take long.  You have to love Tobias’ sense of humour!

A tour of the Academy

Thanks again to you all for spending time with me.  I have another busy, but sometimes lazy, Algarve week ahead.  Take good care!

Six word Saturday

It may not be the biggest…

….or oldest, but Carnaval, Altura style, is still a whole lot of fun.  At this coastal village in the Eastern Algarve, the audience, and especially the children, are every bit as much a part of the show as the cast of characters, both on and off the floats.  The enthusiasm is hugely infectious.

I found it equally impossible to resist the boisterous charms of Carnaval at Loule, the big one, but I have shared most of my photos on my Restlessjo Facebook page.  I was invited along on a photographic walk with Dave Sheldrake, a successful Algarve photographer and a very nice chap.  If you want to see how the professionals do it, have a look on his wife Alyson’s Algarve blog.

Meantime, have a great weekend,  and don’t forget your six words for Debbie.  I’ll be back with a walk on Monday.