Alentejo

On Top of the World

It was a strange day.  We had driven back from the north east of Portugal, and decided to spend a night in Serpa before returning to our Algarve home.  When we ventured out next morning the whole place was deserted, closing down as the virus approached.  No possibility of visiting the Museum of Watches, as planned, but we were delighted to find the castle walls still accessible.  A grey mist hung over the town, adding to the sombreness of the mood.  Gradually it lifted and, for a moment, we were feeling on top of the world.

#SquareTops

Jo’s Monday walk : Beja Blues

Last week was such a dreamy post, wasn’t it?  I’m moving a little nearer home, and reality, this week, to the main town of the Baixa Alentejo.  It was a long haul, going north to Marváo, and we decided to break the journey at Beja, where we had a little unfinished business.  Namely, the Convent of Our Lady of Conception, part of the Regional Museum of Beja since 1927.  Foolishly we had tried to visit once before, on a Monday but, like most other churches and museums in Portugal, it was closed on that day.

I’ve never really hit it off with Beja.  Some places speak volumes to me, others simply mutter.  Beja comes in that last category.  Still, everywhere deserves a second chance, and I knew that the museum was worth visiting.  The day had turned sullen as we left the Algarve, and the skies hung heavy over the castle.  Not an auspicious start, and the square in front of the castle was being dug up and re-tiled.  Skirting around a digger, I looked in through the Cathedral doors, not feeling inclined to linger.  I knew that the museum would be closing soon for lunch.

It’s a short distance through the narrow streets to the Convent square.  The former Convento da Conceição was founded in 1459 by Dom Fernando, brother of Afonso V of Portugal, and his wife Dona Beatriz.  Part of the Franciscan order, it was one of the richest and most important in the country.

Now part of the Rainha Dona Leonor Regional Museum, a hush descended as we entered through the Manueline portico, beneath beautifully curved arches.  Immediately in front of us, the church.  The lights were low and my eyes took a moment or two to adjust.

The first thing to hold my gaze was the tiled azulejo panel, dated 1741 and depicting the life, birth and death of St. John the Baptist.  The church is covered in carved wood and gold leaf, dating back to the 17th century.  Excessive to modern eyes, as was the array of highly polished silverware from the 18th century.  I felt truly grateful not to be the lady with the polish, but I did admire the altar of inlaid marble.

Leaving the subdued atmosphere of the church, I found myself in fabulously, fully tiled cloisters.  This was what I had come to see.  There is always an atmosphere of soothing calm to cloisters, and the soft glow of sunlight enhanced their beauty.

Beautiful, isn’t it?  Even in its unrestored state, it’s one of my favourite pieces.  But there’s no doubt there is money to be spent here… one day!

Some of the detail was extraordinary, but don’t take my word for it.  Becky does it so much better in Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceicáo’s Extraordinary Azulejos  Speaking of the lovely lady, are you taking part in #SquareTops today?  It’s a blockbuster!  Here are my two.

The colours and mix of styles is captivating.  I’ve seen many cloisters here in Portugal, but none quite like these.

I ventured up the stairs, hoping to be able to get out onto the roof space, but it was closed to the public.  I learned instead of Mariana Alcorforado, a nun at the Convento, who fell in love with a French officer.  Noel Bouton, Count de Chamilly, was in Beja with his troops in 1666.   The evidence of her unrequited love lives on in five love letters.  The fabric below, I included for my daughter.  She loves antique embroidery!

Back in the open, we found a café in the square overlooking the museum.  It was unbelievably quiet, though the virus had barely been heard of.  I wasn’t really hungry but wanted to sit peacefully with a glass of wine, before continuing our journey.  We ordered a toastie, but the waitress explained that they didn’t sell wine.  We could, though, buy it at the store next door!  Seeing our baffled faces, she must have taken pity on us.  Five minutes later she reappeared from next door, bearing two very delicious glasses of wine.  I think perhaps Beja looked better for it.

A wander through the streets revealed a strange mish-mash of old and new.  I didn’t really warm to Beja, but it doesn’t lack for character and humour.  And there’s a chance I’ll return, for I’ve realised that a substantial part of the museum is sited within the Church of Santo Amaro, beyond the castle walls.  Oh, dear!  But I did enjoy the street art.

They say a cat can look at a king!  Or a queen, in Becky’s case.  Do join her!

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Let’s share some walks now, shall we?  I’ve a humdinger to start with!  In Portugal too, with Debbie :

Remains of past industry

While Drake takes us to that tiny island he knows so well :

A fugitive crosses his tracks

And Terri shares some truly spectacular scenery :

Walking in the Valley of Fire

Everybody round to Margaret’s for Drenched Lemon Cake!  Well, virtually, anyway  🙂

Round the Edge of the Village: It’s All About the Texture

We can no longer walk on our beaches in the Algarve, so this is very poignant from Miriam :

Virtual walking on Phillip Island

In the early morning mists, we find Irene :

View from the Top

With first hand knowledge of China, share this epic journey with Indra :

Suzhou… Gossamer Antiquity

Always with a gentle, distinctive touch, there’s no mistaking Lynn’s love for nature :

LOCAL WALKS: Heart Lake

While Rupali looks at her world through eyes filled with beauty :

Simplicity

And Cathy experiences the excesses of tourism in Italy.  Certainly not any longer!

The Cinque Terre: A crowded hike to Vernazza

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for another cuppa.  Did somebody mention cake?  Please, stay safe out there!

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.

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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 : Mértola’s 10th Islamic Festival

Time to stray across the border again.  A different border this time, crossing the northern boundary between the Algarve and Alentejo, and high into the hills above the River Guadiana, to wonderful Mértola.  A place so rich in beauty and history it almost hurts, not least because of the steep gradient of its streets.

I was there on a mission.  The 10th Islamic Festival had come to town, and my good friend Becky had advised me not to miss it.  Interested in all things archaeological, I knew that she had been impressed with her exploration of the ruins there, but more of that later.  For now, let’s bring on the dancing girls, to the insidious beat of the drum, as they snake beneath the castle walls.

Sumptuous smells assault the senses, and materials of every conceivable shade waft and billow above and around you.  Lanterns glisten and twinkle in the light as you are transported back through time, to the Souk.  The drum beat fades as you stop to browse the stalls.  Leather bags and sandals and slippers in every style imaginable, mounds of spices, nuts and tiny cakes fight for your attention.  The stall holders smile, and try to barter with any potential customer.  Beautifully fragrant soaps claim to be good for the environment, as well as your skin.  It is overwhelming, but fascinating.

In a quieter corner, beneath the castle walls, craftsmen ply their trades.  Exquisitely carved woods, a loom for weaving, gleaming metal jugs and canisters, artfully and painstakingly decorated.  Some items are extremely useful, others prized purely for their beauty.

Below the castle, Igreja Matriz awaits, her doors invitingly open.  I enter reverently, delighted by this rare opportunity.  Behind the altar, the remains of the mihrab from the 12th century mosque, since converted to a Christian temple.

A garden slopes away behind the church, and I look down upon the makeshift roofs of the market to the Guadiana, far below.

But then, the icing on the cake!  And please don’t take that literally.  In the many years that I’ve been visiting Mértola, I’ve been aware of an archaeological dig.  Becky alerted me to the fact that great progress had been made and, sure enough, the gate was open.  Firstly you are invited inside a life-sized replica of an Islamic home.

15 such dwellings were found in the surrounding area.  The 70cm foundations were of stone, the walls of taipa (rammed earth) and the roofs, sloping down to the patio, Roman roof tiles placed on a layer of canes.  The floor was usually of beaten earth and inside walls adobe (mud brick).

Much of the detail is lost, but information panels reconstruct and explain some of what was once there.  An Episcopal palace in 6AD and a style of living far beyond the grandeur we have today.  It must have been fine to saunter in the cool, between the columns, and sit contemplating those carefully wrought hunting scenes at the end of another hot day, the sound of water tinkling in the background.

The castle watches sombrely over the graveyard and the ruins below.  I climb to its heights where, from the castle walls, I can sweep my gaze over the terrain beyond.  The distinctive shape of the church below is like a beacon.

Things are beginning to bustle down below, and preparations to feed the hungry are going full pelt.  I have walked past innumerable vendors of caramelised nuts, twitching my nose appreciatively, but it’s time for something more substantial.  Overhead the washing flaps.

The Mértola website is a feast of information.  I can’t believe that it was actually back in May 2016 that I last took you strolling there.  At that time I hoped to attend the biennial Islamic Festival in 2017.  They say all good things come to those that wait.  I’d have to agree.

Just one more hill to climb, for the view, of course.

I’m aware that this is a bit of a blockbuster of a post, but it will be my last walk with you for a while, so I hope you’ll indulge me.  Next week I’m off to the Azores and I will be a whirl of panic and packing next Monday.

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There’ll be stories to tell when I get back!  Meantime you can still send your walks and I’ll catch up when I can.  Thanks so much for the support and good company.  Here are some more great reads :

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Bluebell time ‘back home’.  It passes so quickly!  Let Debbie show you the way :

A walk into the land of fantasy

One treat always follows another around here.  Bask in the land of beauty, with Jude :

Fairy Flowers

Hopefully the floods have subsided since Janet sent me this walk.  Glad she’s keeping an eye on things :

Monday walk…walking on water

There’s always space for an oddity around here.  Especially when it’s from Dad’s homeland :

The Crooked Wood in Pomerania/Poland

It’s a while since I walked with Denzil.  He’s very knowledgeable about his native Belgium :

On foot through the Hageland

What do you know about Norway’s Constitution Day? I’m sure Rupali can enlighten you :

Weekend: National Day

Ever rambled with a Wombat?  Maybe you should try it!

A walk around Lake Ginninderra

There’s something about waterfalls that gets me every time.  Thanks, Carol!

A Different View

Irene’s sharing beautiful flowers this week.  I expect she’d like some company :

Walk in the Garden

And it wouldn’t be Monday without a Cathy’s Camino walk or two, would it?

(Camino day 16) Villamayor del Rio to Viillafranca Montes de Oca

(Camino day 17) Villafranca Montes de Oca to Atapuerca

‘Don’t cry for me Argentina!’  A city of history and beauty shared, with affection, by Susan :

Walking Buenos Aires, Argentina

That’s all for now, folks!  Take good care till the next time.

 

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.

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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!

 

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.

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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) :

Unforgettable

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!

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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!

Jo’s Monday walk: Mertola

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In a week or so of very mixed weather, we drove north from the Algarve in radiant sunshine. I was certain that luck would desert us as we crossed the border into the Alentejo. For a little while hazy clouds veiled the sun, but then Mertola was displayed in all her glory.

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If ever you want to step back into Portugal’s Moorish past, this is a fine place to do it.  I don’t intend to do a lot of talking, partly because I don’t have the time, but also because these cobbled streets cast their own magic.  All you really need to do is follow.

Your first sight of the town, as you cross the bridge over Ribeira de Oeiras, is the castelo perched high above you.  It’s enough to whet your appetite.  There is parking on Estrada de Circunvalacao and from there Alves Redol leads quietly upwards, until you reach the viewing point in the photo above.  Below, tables are laid at a riverside restaurant and the Guadiana squirms away into the distance.

On Largo Vasco da Gama, the blue and white of ‘Casa Guadiana’ is tucked into a corner where you melt in summer.  Needing to stretch our legs first, we pass by the tiny Mercado and the Tourist Information centre. (where you can acquire a town map)  A remarkable walled street invites you to follow it’s contours.  Could you decline?

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The doors, balconies and mysterious chimneys captivate.  Each one a story in itself.  I stop to watch a lady shaking and pegging out a tablecloth. And then there’s the beautiful clock tower, Torre do Relogio.  Alluring, isn’t it?

Rua Combatentes da Grande Guerra follows the river.  Just another clue to the turbulent history reenacted here, in this serene and peaceful setting.

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I’ve passed by the Camara Municipal, with its stylish red balconies.  Red and ochre compliment the white so well, the shabby blending well with the chique.  Turning up Rua Dr. Antonio Jose de Almeida, I am but following my nose, not sure where to look next.

The decision is made for me when I spot this playful graffiti on a peeling wall.  Isn’t it beautiful?  And on the other side of the narrow street, an elegant vermilion door, with a single flower tucked into the window.  Never forget to look up too!  Overhead, ornate drain pipes open mouths wide.

Intent on the lovely distractions, almost without realising it you’ve climbed up to the castle walls and are looking down on the Oeiras tributary of the River Guadiana.  Time to inject a little history as we approach the castelo and the lovely Igreja Matriz.  The Mother Church began life back in the 8th century as a mosque.  In 1238, Christian knights conquered the town, led by Santiago ‘Mata Mouros’.(the Moor killer)  The Koran was replaced by the Bible, and the mosque converted to Nossa Senhora da Assuncao.  A keep was added to the castle, but the church retains its ‘mihrab’ (prayer niche) to this day.

New pathways and landscaped gardens have been added since I was here last, and a huge project is ongoing to excavate the ruins of the town and elaborate mosaics.  In May every odd year a Moorish festival takes place in Mertola.  I must ensure to attend in 2017 to inspect progress.

I peered with interest at the ruins and promised myself to find the site online when I got home.  Here it is.  For us it was time to head back down, past Igreja Matriz, and search out somewhere to relax.  Ever alert, my other half had noted a cafe at the back of the small Mercado.  ‘Cafetaria Manu’ has a tiny terrace overlooking the Guadiana, and you can buy cake or a simple sandwich to accompany an excellent glass of wine.

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From the eastern end of the Algarve, Mertola is easily reached on the virtually traffic free IC27, which leads north from Castro Marim. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and hope that you did too.

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This is a scheduled post and I won’t actually be home until Thursday, so I apologise if my responses are a little scanty at first.  I didn’t want to leave the gap between walks for too long, and needed to write this while it was fresh in my memory.  Thank you all for your lovely company and support. I only have a few shares this week but I’m hoping you’ve been saving them for my return.

As usual, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.

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I’m starting with a lovely man in Hamburg and an unusual look at life – thanks, Tobias!

U3: Landungsbrucken- St. Pauli

A head for heights will help but is not essential to accompany Anabel, but money could be!

Toronto: an island walk

And Jackie tells me that Chinatown is great for food :

Spadina St

Geoff’s rambling again!  I think we should humour him, don’t you?

K is for Kensington and Khelsea #atozchallenge

This next is a bike ride so I’m afraid you’ll have to jog to keep up with Kathrin!

My weekly ramble

Hope this finds you happy and well.  I’ll be back in person soon.  Roving temporarily suspended….

From Porto Covo to Carvalhal

The wild coast

The wild coast

Great, isn't it?

Wonderful, isn’t it?

For a beach lover like me, the Alentejo coastline is something truly special, but for a mariner, it’s a nightmare.  Sweeping curves of sand are protected by jagged outcrops.  The wind and waves are in constant competition.  Safe harbours are rare.  My base at Vila Nova de Milfontes was calm and serene, but I couldn’t wait to get out exploring that ‘wild coast’.

Peach Tree Island (Ilha do Pessegueiro) has an alluring sound to it, don’t you think?  My ‘Rough Guide’ spoke of a short cliff top walk, starting from Porto Covo.  Clutching map, and with bags swiftly stowed at our nicely central hotel, it seemed logical to follow the coast directly north out of town. The road soon came to a stop at a cliff top restaurant, and I looked down into a tiny cove.  Alas, a sign said Porto Covo 16.5km, pointing off along the cliffs.  Inadvertently I had found Portinho do Canal, a haven for local fishermen.

Out on the sea wall, the wind whistled fiercely.  Back to the car, and a return to Vila Nova de Milfontes to find the correct road north, in the direction of Sines.  Porto Covo wasn’t quite what I had expected.  A single road, lined with shops and restaurants, which your eye soon skirted past to dwell on the sea, glimmering in the distance.  After the peacefulness of Portinho do Canal, it seemed a busy spot. The small cove beach was lined with people, but my interest lay much further along the coast.

In the distance, Peach Tree Island

In the distance, Peach Tree Island

But first a descent

But first the descent

The house on the hill

The house on the hill

The road winds steeply down to the quayside, and a gravel track equally steeply up the other side.  With the tide out, crossing over to join the track is no problem, but I could envisage a paddle on the return journey.  In the event, the cliff top path to Peach Tree Island was not as tempting as I had imagined.  With what I had already seen, in Vila Nova de Milfontes, it was time to call it a day.

Looking back at the house on the hill

Looking back at the house on the hill

Another day, and this time those special beaches.  Heading south from Vila Nova de Milfontes it’s a bare 5km to Almograve, signed from the N393. The landscape becomes beautifully rural as you leave the main road, and then you’re at the coast.

We're at the beach!

This way to the beach!

It looks promising

It looks promising

And it is!

And it is!

Next stop was Odemira, a small riverside town that I featured in my walk this week.  And then it was back to the coast and a place you have already had a peep at in a previous post- Zambujeira do Mar, with it’s vast expanse of sand.

You may remember it

You may remember it

What can top that?  Well, maybe it was the day… maybe it was just time for a place to chill (there were a lot of steps at Zambujeira!)… but sometimes a place just imprints itself on your memory, and you have to stay a while.

Maybe it was the wickedly shaped rocks

Meet Praia do Carvalhal!

A beach bar and a caress of sand, with wickedly shaped rocks on either side.  Warning notices on the cliffs- beware rock falls and a fast racing tide.

This was a beach that I loved!

This was a beach that I loved!

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I’m not a swimmer so I didn’t need to fear the signs.  I was more than happy just to pootle in the shallows and explore the beauty all around me. And then it was back down the coast to the gentler beauty of my Algarve.

Join me there for a walk on Monday, won’t you?  It’s every bit as lovely.

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Odemira, in the Alentejo

Rua Serpa Pinto in Odemira

Rua Serpa Pinto in Odemira

Curiosity often gets the better of me.  When I discovered, on my visit to Vila Nova de Milfontes at the mouth of the River Mira, that ‘Ode’ means river and that the small town of Odemira is situated a small way inland … well, I was curious.  The intention had been to follow the coast back down to the Algarve, sampling beaches along the way.  Well, we definitely did that, but a small side trip to Odemira was called for.

One of the attractions, mentioned in my ‘Rough Guide’, was a riverside walk.  That sounded appealing.  I also knew that there was a boat trip connecting Odemira with Vila Nova de Milfontes, but sadly that wasn’t practical on our way south.  There’s always time for a little stroll though.

This bridge was a good start!

This bridge was a good start point!

There were a few clouds, but not too many

There were a few clouds, but not too many

It was quite easy to park, on rough ground down by the river, and cross over the bridge to this peaceful little path, which we had all to ourselves.

Now which one of Jude's bench challenges would this one fit?

Now which one of Jude’s bench challenges would this one fit?

It's a nice enough view, isn't it?

It’s a nice enough view, isn’t it?

Sorry, Jude- not a person in sight!

Sorry, Jude- not a person in sight!

The riverside walk was shorter than I had expected, so there was plenty of time to saunter around the little town.  It seemed to me so typically Portuguese.  A mix of dilapidation and renewal.  There was scaffolding up at several of the larger buildings.  Freshly white-painted grandeur nudged sadly peeling properties, still awaiting their turn.  In the small, ‘sell everything’ shops, life continued as it must have for generations.  Just off the Praca da Republica, the main square, the coffee habit was indulged.  Shopping could wait.

Such a typical Portuguese street!

Such a typical Portuguese street!

An elegant fountain

The elegant town fountain

Before I know it, I’m passing a new-looking sculpture in a small square and a handful of modern shops.  Rather incongruous, but part and parcel of Portugal today.  In very little time I’m back at the river bank and the lovely bridge.  Too soon?

A modern square

The modern square

Our walk today was not at all taxing so feel free to stop en route for coffee.  You’ll easily find an appealing cafe.  I hope you enjoyed joining me. Later this week I’ll do a round up of those west coast beaches in the Alentejo, and then it’s full speed back to the Algarve.

If you’re in the area, Odemira is on the N393.  Travelling south from Vila Nova de Milfontes, you hopefully can’t miss it.

walking logo

Time to share this week’s walks.  Thank you very much everybody.  I’ve had a wonderful response.  If you’d like to join in there are a few hints on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo.  I never turn anyone away.  Why would I?  Let’s get walking!

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You know I love to start with Drake.  This week he has some incredible views :

Austrian upstairs

And Geoff was quick off the mark too.  Blue skies in Tooting Bec?

Capital Ring : Tooting to Earlsfield

Our lovely Jude was lakeside walking this week.  There’s a bench, of course!

Park Life

Amy and Jude are sharing park life this week- thousands of miles apart.  Great minds! :

Monday Walk : Zilker Park

Jackie took me to Bantry Bay.  Some distant damp day memories for me :

Junkboat Travels: Monday Walk 

Did I ever tell you that I love squirrels?  Thanks, Becky!

Chipmunks, squirrels and a groundhog!

And how did Becky know I’ve always wanted to visit this place?

A Walk in the Cinque Terre

DON’T miss this one, or its sequel, from Pauline :

The magic of a dream come true 

The Buddha Walk at the Crystal Castle

Don’t you love it when they breathe new life into a place?  Many thanks for sharing, Kaz :

Travel Album: Distillery District, Toronto

There are few pleasures in life better than sharing with Meg :

Eurobodalla beaches: Congo beach south

And the landscape on this one is equally stunning!

Ancient Stone

Lastly, I’m extremely honoured to have this guy join us. He’s living a lifestyle many would consider idyllic (with the odd misadventure along the way)

Tampak Siring : Bathing in the Sacred Springs

Hope I haven’t missed anybody?  This past week was tricky but I’m still here.  The sun’s shining so you know what I’m going to do after coffee, don’t you?  Happy walking everyone!  See you next week?