Algarve hills

Jo’s Monday walk : Corte Pequena

At this time of year I’m seriously enamoured of almond blossom.  Singly they are like small girls, spreading their skirts in a graceful curtsy.  On a laden bough, they are the chorus line in Swan Lake, fluttering together in delicate motion.  Like the dying swan, their days are numbered, for already they’ve been in bloom for a month.

The variety of colours confuses me.  I was told recently that the paler blossoms are sweet almonds and the darker ones are bitter but I haven’t been able to verify this.  I’m happy just to admire.  In any case, I digress, and it’s time to get started on our walk.  You will have gathered that I’m back in the Algarve hills, this time our start point a small village, Corte Pequena, with its own orange grove.

On a Saturday morning all was peaceful, far removed from the bustle of the city.  A small terrier took it upon himself to defend his territory, but soon realised we were harmless enough and gave up.  We didn’t have to walk far to find blossom.

Nor the wild clover that blooms everywhere in the Algarve at this time of year.  It’s widely regarded as a pest, but so pretty!  We followed the gentle gradient of the hills, climbing to a vantage point overlooking the dam at Odeleite.  In the distance a herd of goats graze.

Despite recent rains the water levels are still quite low.  Strangulated trees lean into the valley, some twisted by nature while others were burnt out some years ago.  Bamboo follows a narrow stream through the valley bed, but we find a good point to cross, with just a stride or two and a held hand.  Sometimes it can require a good plodge.

Soon we have come full circle and the village is spread out before us.  As we descend a young dog decides that we will make good company.  He gambols playfully alongside us, setting off a chorus of warnings from his wiser elders.  Perhaps they are aware that sheep wander loose here.

For a moment we think that we are going to be playing Pied Piper to the flock, followed by an irate shepherd.  But fortunately sheep have a short attention span and we are less interesting than the juicy grazing.  I suspect you know the feeling.

That has to be one of the tastiest almond tarts I’ve ever eaten.  The mural and wonderful metal sculptures were at the start of the Amendoeira (Almond Blossom) Trail, at nearby Alta Mora.

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I’ve been walking with you weekly (or weakly!) for 6 years next month, and I’m thinking I should call time on our perambulations.  Or cut back to a monthly, or fortnightly, event.  I’m just as restless as ever, but I’m resident in Portugal now and many of my wanderings are local.  I don’t want to bore you all, and I might like to try something different.  I expect there’d still be occasional cake.

Meantime, thank you for your support and your wonderful company.  Here are this week’s walks.

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If only Janet could walk in a straight line!

Monday walk… weaving around

Alice lives in a very beautiful place, and is happy to share :

A Symbol of Hospitality- Pineapple Fountain

A gentle look at life from Drake this week :

Winterly mood

It’s ages since I went along to the other end of the Algarve.  This is a lovely walk!

Randonnée / Hike from Armacáo de Pera to Praia de Marinha

Reminding us that Valentine’s Day is almost here, Natalie takes…

A Walk Among the Roses

While Cathy looks at local and Civil War history in Virginia, US :

Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park

And Rosemay checks out a little family history in north London :

Off the Tourist Trail in London – A Stroll round Islington

Wishing you a great week!  Hopefully the storms have passed.

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Vaqueiros in Spring

Last week’s walk may have been a little long-winded, and I was chided over the lack of cake, so this one needs to be both short and sweet.  The blossom is appearing everywhere and it’s a crime to be indoors.  Come with me to Vaqueiros, in my Eastern Algarve.

Vaqueiros is another hill village situated on the 300km Via Algarviana, and a good starting point for two circular walks.  I took you along on one of them a couple of years ago, so let’s go and see the other.

An information board indicates the way out of the village, on a gentle ascent.  A tinkling of bells alerts me to the presence of goats, an elderly goatherd leaning, unconcerned, on a wall in the shade.  And then, in a valley, a wonderful surprise.  Clear, sparkling water, flowing freely.  It’s been a long dry spell and recent, welcome rains have done their work.

The patterns in the rock crisscross like a giant game board, and I linger, thinking what a great place for a picnic and a paddle.

Our walk leader tells us we have a steady uphill climb for half an hour, and to keep our voices down when we pass the beehives.  It’s probably too early in the year, but the last thing you need is a swarm of angry bees.  Fortunately, nothing stirs as we tiptoe past.

Next we find ourselves the object of much curiosity.  Sheep certainly seem to abide by the maxim ‘safety in numbers’.  I couldn’t spot the shepherd but I’m sure there’s a stray goat or two in the pack.

The trail wends its way around and beneath a canopy of trees, mostly pine.  We pass by a nicely shaded picnic table, knowing we are not too far from our café stop at journey’s end.  And you know what that means!

In the small reservoir a bird flaps down to perch on the stump of a tree, and I try to zoom for a clearer photo.  Not my forté.

Now I’m not really sure that you’ve earned cake, though we’ve certainly burned a few calories.  Sorry!  Somebody just couldn’t wait  😦

But at least one of them makes a delightful square for January Light.  Just 5 days of Becky’s challenge to go!

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So nice to have water in the rivers again, though I may not be saying that tomorrow when I have to cross one!  Thank you all for your company, and please find a little time to visit each other.  Join me any time, here on Jo’s Monday walk.

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Just a warm-up from Natalie, but so pretty you might want to linger :

Hiking to Peguche Waterfall

Amanda has found a happy new home by the sea to put a big smile on her face :

Sunday Morning Beach Walk

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t mind the odd invigorating walk, and I’m happy to join Jonno and Jo :

Wild and Windy Walk at Heddon Valley

Speaking of windy, what better than the one and only Chicago?  Thanks, Janet!

Jo’s Monday Walk… the Windy City

Slade, and a pink house that I remember, in Montmartre with Drake :

Kind of rocking culture

I’m not great at whistling, but I’d give this a go, Alice :

Echo Square- Savannah

Denzil takes us gently wandering again in Belgium :

Sclaigneaux 2k(for kids) and 10k walks

And how beautiful are these, from Irene?

Glimpses of Dawn

Living Desert Garden

Margaret takes me very close to ‘home’ with this one :

Highlights of a Bird-free Bird Reserve

In fact, this was my very first Monday walk, and I can’t resist re-sharing  🙂  Almost 6 years ago!

Jo’s Monday walk : Greatham Creek

I’m sure you’ll have heard of this place (the English version follows the Italian).  Please stop by and say hello!

Alberobello:tutto il fascino dell’orientalismo pugliese

Cathy does a fabulous job here!  Don’t miss her truly gorgeous photography :

Morocco: the blue-washed Chefchaouen

It’s going to be a great year here for blossom.  I hope you can enjoy it with me.  Take care till next time!

Jo’s Monday walk : Sáo Bartholomeu de Messines

Don’t you just love the light through those clouds?  I was high above Sáo Bartholomeu de Messines, looking down on this small Algarve town.  Once again I had the opportunity to go hiking on the Via Algarviana with Grupo Coral Ossonoba.  You might remember the wonderful day we had together, ending with a concert in the church at Alte?  This time the performance was to take place in a local cinema, but first we needed to walk and earn our substantial lunch.

We started with a stiff uphill ascent, surrounded by cork trees, over slabs of rock worn smooth with age.  It was good to get the climb out of the way.  Already the first of the narcissi were in delicate bloom.

Back down into the valley, we skirted the edge of town and followed a dusty trail, for a short while bordering the railway lines.  It was something of a surprise to turn a corner and be confronted with stepping stones, surrounded by water.  I admit, I am far more adept at dry river beds.

This was not the last of the hazards, for the river ran beneath the railway lines and a sign pointed confidently towards the water.  No boat in sight, we had to scramble up the side of the embankment and cautiously cross the tracks to slither back down the far side.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way?  The trail led gently uphill, and we followed, wondering if it might be time to pause for refreshments.  And we did, in the perfect spot!

A picture of neglect, but what a picturesque place for a picnic… the ruins of Santa Ana church, on the site of a former battleground.  The poignancy of the pulpit and the faded altar, a compelling setting for a brief photo shoot.

From a height you could see the fullness of the river.  The trail wound gently down to meet it, sunlight brightening our path with each step.  The ruined church almost seemed to be restored by distance.

And then we reached my idea of the perfect day, walking by the river, wisps of cloud and purest blue reflected in the water.

Another poetic ruin observed us, silently, and we left the river behind, trading it for two starkly contrasting pools.

The deep ochre of the soil here always comes as a surprise, no matter how often I see it.  And then we’re headed through meadows lightly dusted with lemon flowers and youthful olive trees, towards the town.  A church looks down from the hilltop, and another beauty adorns the centre.

Ossonoba need to eat and get ready for the concert.  Having followed them through the town, we are pointed in the direction of Café do Largo da Pontinha, where we are treated to a fine array of food.  Platters of meat, cheese and bread, then black pasta with prawns and pork in fig sauce are heaped on the table, with fresh fruit and pastries to finish.  No, you don’t want to see!  It’s only a small place and they can’t fit you all in.  The venue for the concert is an old cinema, just around the corner.  Very different from the beautiful church at Alte, but the choir are happy to perform.

Spotlight on the choir!  A strange venue, but the same beautiful sound.  It’s a long way to walk for some January Light, but worth it.  Which leaves me to round off with a bit of street art.  I seem to find this in the most unlikely places.

Just another day in the Algarve.  I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me?

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More walks for you!  I’m always glad of a bit of company on Jo’s Monday walk.  Join me here any time.

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I could hug Margaret this week!  Look where she’s taken me!

Wandering round Cádiz

Or you could slide into the action with Sandra :

#Hiking – Tacoma’s Ruston Way

It’s rather a gloomy outlook with Drake :

Abandoned of colors

But I think he’d enjoy hanging out with Alice :

Riding the Waves on a Bulldozer

Snow in the Grand Canyon is always going to be special.  Thanks, Terri :

Winter Road Trip Preview: Walking in the Desert Light

Janet’s indoors, escaping the weather, but she has some lovely distractions :

Let me spin you a yarn

I think Colline will tell you that she’s won the jackpot with her Winter holiday :

A Walk on the Beach

It’s a little late (or early  🙂  )  but I do love these Moorish (as in Yorkshire) colours :

Autumn colours on a crisp November morning

And, by coincidence, Cathy is autumnal too!

Ushering in November at Meadowlark

Many thanks for your lovely presence!  Wishing you all a great week ahead.

Jo’s Monday walk : Benafim to Alte

I’m back in the Algarve for my last walk of the year.  Santa’s been, and I couldn’t ask for more.  It’s been an amazing year!  I’m taking you back into those hills that I love, to a tiny village called Benafim.  We are joining a group of choir singers for one of my nicest ever walking experiences.

The landscape is beautiful, with Rocha de Pena looming quietly in the background.  We meet our small group, mostly Portuguese, with uncertain smiles- an opportunity to practise the language- and set off through the village.  One of the group is carrying a toddler on his back, and an elderly gent relies heavily on his stick, so we know the pace will not be fast.  There are a couple of Scandinavians, who chat easily with us in fluent English.

Christmas is just around the corner and we observe the signs of celebration in the village.  It’s not a long walk, just 6.2km to the next village, Alte, but the gradient is steep in places.  Our guide is well aware of the limitations of the party, and stops at intervals to point out plants of interest.  Medicinal herbs and remedies, and one that was used in these hills before soap was widely available.  It’s warm, but with plenty of cloud cover.  There’s little shade up here in the heights.  We are following a short stretch of the Via Algarviana, which reaches end to end, the length of the Algarve.  We puzzle over some symbols on a rock- a message we don’t understand.

At the outset, we were asked if we would like a meal after the walk.  We are walking with some members of a choral group called Ossónoba.  Afterwards they will perform in the church in Alte, and we will be ‘very welcome’ to join them.  It seems like too good an opportunity to miss.

All are working up a healthy appetite when finally the rugged path levels, and we gaze down into a valley.  Alte is not far away, and it’s all downhill from here.  In the village, the sight of Singer sewing machines doubling as picnic tables makes me smile.

A hint of Autumn?  Yet it feels more like Spring.  We have been wondering how we will get back to Benafim, but this problem is easily solved.  A minivan takes the drivers back to collect our cars and bring them to Alte.  The rest of us proceed to the hotel, squeezing into the minivan with the excitedly chattering, choir members.  An elegant table awaits.

High on a hill, above the village, Hotel Alte is obviously used to hosting parties.  As we wait, a coach pulls into the car park and disgorges the rest of the choir, smartly attired in black and white.  Our walking friends  disappear off to the toilets, emerging transformed.  The choir are 40 strong!  Three of them sit at our table, and proceed to talk about their life, while we dine, very well indeed.  Meal over, we are treated to a rousing number, to stretch those vocal chords, before they all pile back onto the coach.  The best voice?  Our richly baritoned, minivan driver!

Is it any wonder that I love this village?  Still to come is the Christmas concert.  I had never been inside the church, so yet another treat in store.  The choir sings its heart out, in several languages; first surrounding us in the body of the church, and then from the gallery above.

Just down the road, Baltazar cocks an ear in his stable, and we drive contentedly home into the sunset.

Grupo Coral Ossónoba travel around Portugal (and occasionally abroad) performing.  Our walk together was a collaboration to promote the Via Algarviana.  Needless to say, we hope to take part in another, in the New Year.  We had a wonderful time.

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, but even more than that, I hope that the year to come is kind to us.  And maybe you’ll join me in another Jo’s Monday walk?  You’ll be more than welcome.

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I’m sure Jackie ate her share of festive food, aren’t you?

Holiday Cheer

Natalie started the holidays with a list.  Check out how she did!

Checking Off my Holiday Fun List

I’m always happy to admire this nation’s Capital, so thanks, Sandra :

Sidewalks and Tile – #Portugal

There’s nowhere Nicole would rather be than in the mountains :

Unforgettable Hikes along the Tour de Mont Blanc : Hike from Col des Montets to Lac Blanc

And such a nice atmosphere on the streets, with Drake :

Last Saturday street mood

Not much deters Becky when she feels like a walk :

We got nothing except seaweed

Margaret and Zoe were more than happy, just playing with bubbles :

Winter Walking on the South Bank

And not squidging in mud!

A Sunday walk, Accompanied by Thirteen Dogs

Let’s end with something a little more exotic, from Cathy :

Rick’s Café & a walking tour of Central Casablanca

Happy New Year to you all!  I shan’t be writing a review of the year, but I expect I’ll look back, as well as forward.  Thanks for your company!

Jo’s Monday walk : Back to Serenity (Monte Velho)

I thought long and hard over whether I ought to include this walk, but I loved it.  Full of warmth and companionship, it was in celebration of a very special lady.  Roberta Smith was always Bobbie to me, and she was there right from the very beginning of my Algarve walking days.  A very determined lady, she had overcome a near fatal aneurism to get back to walking in the hills she loved.  Always she was spurred on by the promise of the one gin and tonic she allowed herself each week.  Simple pleasures for a lady who needed to be frugal.

Always kind to others, in the end life wasn’t kind to her.  Months short of her 65th birthday, and of drawing the pension she had so looked forward to, cancer abruptly claimed Bobbie.  We, her walking friends, were in shock.  It has taken close to a year for us to make this walk, in celebration of our time with her.  On a day of blue skies and softly drifting clouds, many of us said our goodbyes.

I’ve never struggled to know what Bobbie saw in these hills.  From the first time I ventured up here, I was under their spell.  The patterns that trail from valley to summit and down again, as the clouds gently jostle for position.  The trees, in silhouette on the horizon, gnarled and torn, up close.  The isolation of distant dwellings, and the ruins, sorrowful remnants of life.  The blues and violet shades that come with evening.  I love them all.

It is the time of year for medronho, the berries ripening with gold and scarlet temptation.  Recently I was offered them with a dessert, but more often they are distilled to a fiery beverage.  To keep out those winter chills.  The wind can be cold up here.

Finally, at the summit, a ceremony was performed.  One of our group had carried her ashes.  Another filled a glass with the G & T she loved.  Another had photos of when we were last all together.  We had no idea, then…

We continued through desperately arid land, streams dry as dust, but life clinging on determinedly, as it must.  Afterwards we convened at a restaurant in the hills that we often use.  Those who had been unable to walk joined us there, to celebrate Bobbie’s life, and to raise a toast.

Life is short.  Some are luckier than others.  But all of us must find a path.  I hope that Bobbie and her many friends will not mind me sharing hers.

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There are many walks and lives to share here this week.  Please find a little time to visit each other.  See you next time, on Jo’s Monday walk.

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Patience is rewarded, oh, so beautifully, for Jude :

Waiting for a sunny day

While Alice finds beauty of a very different kind :

The Elephant on the Desert

Feast your eyes on this lot!  Sandy plays gourmet in Lisbon :

Food and Restaurants -# Portugal

Someone else who doesn’t have an aversion to food- you can always eat well with Jackie :

Hot Chocolate

Some beautiful finds in the woods, with Janet :

Monday walk…in memoriam

While Natalie shows us Autumn in all its splendour :

Agawa Canyon: From Rail to Trail

A follow-up to Denzil’s recent Foresters’ Memorial post :

The 2-Memorial Sonian Forest Walk

And to Ann Christine’s walk through stunning Old Tbilisi :

Thursday Thoughts – A Last Walk – Until next time, Aleksandr!

Have you been walking with that lovely man Ernst lately?  And Gisella, too :

A mountain hike in the Appenzeller Alps (Switzerland)

Or that other lovely man, who sometimes likes life a…

Little bit dangerous

And talking of gentlemen, have you seen this post from Debbie?

A very short walk with a Superstar

It’s a little cool for me in Irene’s part of the world.  Or do I mean, ‘a lot’?

Frosty Morning Walk

A Winter Fantasyland

And Karen can hardly see her hand in front of her face!

A soggy walk in the Blue Mountains

I don’t know much about this part of the world, but I wouldn’t mind keeping Athena company :

Hiking the Columbia Gorge

And I had hoped to join Cathy on her journey, but it wasn’t to be :

(Camino day 44) Lestedo to Melide

I did, however, make it to the Azores, and I will return.  If these photos don’t entice you…

Hiking the Azores: The Mystery behind the Mistérios Negros

That’s all for another week.  I’m feeling quite emotional.  It must be the time of year.  Thank you so much, all of you who’ve followed the Living the dream journey with me.  Stay well, be kind to each other, and enjoy your week!

Jo’s Monday walk : Sáo Brás de Alportel, then and now

One Monday morning, earlier this year, I was wandering in the sleepy back streets of Sáo Brás de Alportel.  In a ruin mostly used for car parking I stopped to examine the remnants of old photos pasted onto the walls.   This is a town rich in tradition, where paper flowers are liberally used to decorate the streets at Easter time.  The scenes feature a quiet nearby street, the bombeiros or fire brigade, a local dance, and a lorry load of cork.  A museum in the town is dedicated to the cork industry, and piles of cork can often be seen drying in the surrounding hills.  The use of Monochrome can make a scene look ancient, but in Sáo Brás the past never seems very far away.

Until the council decided a change of image was needed.  New fountains on slick marble squares, and metal animal sculptures now grace the centre of town.  It’s surprising what a game changer this is.  The whole mood of the place is altered.

In the same way, replacing the colour in a photo with monochrome creates a change of mood.

It’s a gentle palette in Sáo Bras.  Washing adorns the wall as it must always have done.  Azulejo panels softly crown each doorway, predominately blue and white.  Modern art blends with old and crumbling buildings.  And in the countryside, bleached fields patiently await a turn in the season.

But it will take more than a few sculptures to separate Sáo Brás from its claim to antiquity.  You can follow a Roman road through the back streets of town.  And where better to savour that most traditional of Portuguese tarts?

My walk today isn’t at all what I intended, but I was having far too much fun on Saturday and left my camera and phone at a party.  I hadn’t downloaded my photos from last week’s adventure in Seville, so that will have to wait.  Not half so famous and a fraction of its size, but I think this little town in the Algarve hills has its own brand of charm.  I hope Patti will accept my contribution to the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week.

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Not too many shares this week, so please take the time to visit if you can.  Many thanks to all who participate.  Contributions are always welcome here on Jo’s Monday walk. Have a great week everybody!

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I love a leafy hollow in the woods.  Drake takes us speeding through :

Life beyond forestry

Natalie takes us through some very different woods to a beach :

Hiking the Tonquin Trail

Lots of leaves about this week.  Good to share a smile with Lady Lee :

The Weekly Smile for October

And linger a while with Irene :

Autumn on the Trail

A healthy splash of colour from Eunice this week :

Dublin street art

And a city I’d love to revisit.  West coast with Alice :

San Diego Waterfront- Seaport Village

How much do you know about Waterloo?  Denzil takes us through some of the history :

Walking the Battlefield of Waterloo

While Cathy is still on the Camino, but the end is in sight :

(Camino day 41) Triacastela to Sarria

Who doesn’t like to end on a high?  Thanks so much, Gilly  🙂

A glorious November day

I’m easing off this week after a slightly manic time.  Many thanks to all of you for following along and for your good wishes.