Algarve

Jo’s Monday walk : Chocolate time in Loulé

I’m feeling a bit naughty this week.  You’re always encouraging me to eat cake, so I thought I’d take you along with me to the annual, Algarve Chocolate Fair, in Loulé.  Any volunteers to help with the tasting?  I bet I can guess whose hand went up!

Pause for breath?  Please excuse the overload, but it was planned as a Valentine’s Day treat.  We’d better walk slowly now, while you nibble your chocolate.  (I did succumb to a very delicious dark chocolate bar, nibbed with crispy almonds, but I’m keeping that one to myself)

Loulé makes for very easy wandering, unless you happen to time it for Carnaval.  The main street was already being festooned with garlands, in readiness for the event in two weeks time.  We’ve been on numerous occasions, and my husband loves the political satire and the sparingly clothed dancing girls.  Me, not so much!  But it’s good fun and the youngsters love to get dressed up and join in.

I’m more interested in the beautiful, tiny church, tucked around the corner from the castle, Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Conceição.  The kind lady inside happily points out the main features of the azulejos, telling the story of Mary and Joseph and their special baby.  Just within the doorway, remnants of the town walls gaze dimly upwards, through a clear glass panel.

Downhill, past the castle and around silent Igreja Matriz, a small park looks out onto battered rooftops, and across town to the futuristic dome of Nossa Senhora da Piedade.  An elderly chap gazes quietly into space from his bench, while above a small boy gleefully climbs an ancient olive.

We’ve loitered in Loulé often before.  A gate through the old town wall leads out to a busy back street, rumbling with traffic.  Beside the gateway scowls an ancient pump, the surrounding streets an enigma of beautiful tilework, graffiti and skilled craftsmanship.  Ceramics and cork shops flourish and, from an open doorway, the sound of mallet tapping brass rings out.  I stop to admire a gleaming, burnished lampshade.

I was a little disappointed to find that no art was on display in the former Convento de Santo Antonio.   Hopefully restoration will continue and a further exhibition be set up for summer.  One last port of call.  I rarely visit Loulé without ascending to the heights, but this time we drove up the hill to Nossa Senhora da Piedade.  I hope to be there to see her carried from her sanctuary this Easter.

It’s a strange church, but I was quite taken with my last image- a reflection of the Sanctuarium on the window of the House of Candles.

The walks keep rolling in, so thanks to all who’ve contributed, and to those of you who take the time to read them.  Join me, whenever you can, here on Jo’s Monday walk.  I try to keep it lighthearted!

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Did you think we’d lost Meg?  Can’t keep a good woman down!  Showcasing a hodge podge of Australian architecture, in her own inimitable style :

Warwick heritage walk

‘My’ bit of the Coast to Coast walk, with Geoff and his Dad.  Great memories, beautifully written :

Walking With The Wind At My Back: Part Five #coasttocoast #walking

Natalie continues her adventures in Central America :

Boat trip on Lake Atitlan and Santiago Village

Pure delight for the eyes, this one from Susan :

Winter Walk Around Bodnant Garden in Wales

A quick zap of colour from Jackie this week :

Monday Mural

‘Sunshine, food and medicine for the soul’.  Irresistible, don’t you think?

Flower of the Day – Hellebores

A casual day out, enjoying the warmth, with Alice :

Skidaway Island Nature Trail

Irene is determined to make me shiver!

A Snowy Walk

While Elaine has captured the most beautiful dragonfly shot, despite very murky weather :

A dragonfly and a fish out of water

Architecturally beautiful, and sunny!  Debbie’s post couldn’t be more different :

Wandering in Vilafranca

Ever been to Queens, New York City?  Let Lisa show you around :

Jo’s Monday Walk

Iceland is on most people’s wish list, isn’t it?  You might know Drake had made it!

Reykjavik, up north

The Algarve, not so much, but it certainly suits me and Becky :

A meander through Faro

Carol shares a wonderfully atmospheric snippet of Toronto’s history :

Sensing the Past

While Jude revives a memory or two of her own, in Ludlow :

A Ludlow Walkabout

And Eunice takes us back through Bolton’s history, in 3 parts.  Know about the elephant connection?

Visiting the museum (1) – Elephants & Egypt

Finally, Cathy shares a garden that Jude would just love to be let loose in!  And I’d love to join her :

A stroll around Moab

Worn out, again?  Must be all that chocolate.  It was good fun though, wasn’t it?  Have a great week and see you next time!

Six word Saturday

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Can you believe, perfect blossom already?

The earliest I ever remember seeing it!  We’ve had such wonderfully sunny days, but, ooh, it can be nippy on a night.  🙂  Debbie’s a bit of a wonder, too.  How does she keep turning out such perfect Six Word Saturdays?

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Six word Saturday

Loving Christmas time in the Algarve

I’ve been seriously neglecting Becky’s Square challenge this month, but time marches on and it’s almost time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

I’ve seen Aldeia dos Sonhos (the children’s Village of Dreams) in Loulé, a tree made of recycled plastics in São Brás de Alportel, and one decorated with firemen’s boots in Faro.  I’ve hunted down Presépios (Nativity scenes) in towns and villages all across the Algarve.

Perhaps I’m biased but I do think that Tavira’s lights are the best I’ve seen.  Square, or not so square, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

Wishing you all the joy of the festive season.  And let’s hope the year ahead is kind.  I will be whizzing around the UK, so no Monday walk for me next week.  But I’ll be home in the Algarve for New Year.  Hope to see you then.  Meantime, don’t miss Debbie’s beautiful six words.

Jo’s Monday walk : Blessing the fishermen

Why is it that whenever I suggest an outing to an event, my husband looks at me with some scepticism?  Granted, we have struggled sometimes to be in the right place at the right time, but we usually do get there in the end.  So it was with the Blessing of the Fishermen, in Quarteira this month.

I’d be the first to suggest that Quarteira isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there are some occasions you shouldn’t miss, if you can help it.  Nossa Senhora da Conçeição is the patron saint of fishermen and of Portugal.  Every year on 8th December an image of the saint is carried to the harbour for a blessing of the fleet.  I had read that this took place at 3pm.  Thinking to have a bit of a stroll first, we arrived soon after midday.  All was quiet, but as we approached the harbour I was excited to see that the boats were all decked out in their finery.  Blue and white bunting fluttered in the air, colours considered lucky by the fishermen.

Access to the harbour was restricted to fishermen and their families, but you could walk right out along the molho, the sea wall enclosing them.  Music and laughter drifted from many of the vessels.  A black cat looked on disdainfully, just one of many opportunists.  At the end of the molho, a shrine dedicated to Our Lady.

A blessing did not look imminent, so we retraced our steps past the compelling street art and into the older part of town, hoping to find a church.  A red carpet seemed like an invitation, but turned out to be a herring of the same colour.  Dilapidation mingles with the mundane in Quarteira.

Back on the lengthy promenade, it was time for a drink.  I won’t show you the enormous piece of chocolate cake my husband managed to consume, without any help, I hasten to add.  I had seated myself next to an elderly gentleman, gazing out to sea.  Waiting for the action to transpire, we had soon exchanged histories.  He was from Lisbon, visiting his daughter and keen to see this event for the first time.  Gradually people were assembling, small groups chatting and families with children, weaving in and out on scooters and skates.  On the beach, a few sun worshippers appeared oblivious, but most kept an eye on the sea.

Sure enough, at 15.00 the fleet began to leave the harbour, tooting horns and shooting flares high into the cloudless blue sky.  Excitement rippled through the spectators.  The shorter arm of the seawall made a good vantage point, and I munched on roast chestnuts as I watched and waited.  Finally all the boats were lined up.  More flares ripped through the air, and they were off, racing back to shore.

Boats from all across the Algarve had come to join in the celebration.  We waited until all had returned to harbour, uncertain of what, if anything, came next.  And, just as we’d decided to call it a day, around the corner came the procession, led by a slow marching band, the Senhora held aloft.

We realised that the procession had made its way along the promenade, while the boats paid their tributes out at sea.  We were swept along with the crowd for a while, turning back at the busy harbour, where the priest would be waiting to give his blessing.  An afternoon to remember.

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I hope you enjoyed sharing this with me.  It was such a joyful, warm atmosphere.  Advent here in the Algarve is lovely.  I won’t be sharing a walk next Monday as it’s Christmas Eve and you might well have other things to do.  I will be stopping by with good wishes for the festive season before then but, in case I miss you, have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.  Meantime, my thanks to everyone for your company.  Let’s share some walks!

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Mount Baker makes an awesome backdrop.  I know you’ll love Lynn’s beautiful photos :

A Little Farther Into the Woods

Alice stays close to home for this week’s walk :

The Farmer’s Market

But Jackie’s still in Spain.  I would have loved to visit Monserrat :

Friday Nov 23 Barcelona

Why not let Geoff show you a few scores?

The Earliest Place #Lowestoft #walking

Yay!  ‘Tis the season, and where better to view it?

Walking in a Victoria Wonderland

Drake shares the love of his life.  From an angle you might not have seen her!

Down on the corner

Come and listen to the birds in Denzil’s homeland.  He’s always full of good, practical advice :

Walking around De Maten in Limburg

I don’t think Cathy will ever run out of beautiful walks to share!

Canyon de Chelly: the White House Trail

On Mondays there are always murals over at Sami’s Colourful World.  Pop along and see, if you haven’t already.  Don’t be too busy to enjoy life this week.  Christmas will be here and gone before you know it.

Jo’s Monday walk : The last lap

At long last!  Finally reunited with my download cable, I am able to share a few photos from my 6 whirlwind weeks in the Algarve.  We landed back in the UK, at damp and drizzly Leeds airport, on Friday.  Despite the gloom I was delighted to see a last glow of Autumnal orange clinging to the trees.  One last hurrah!  Which is how I feel, as we are now working towards a completion date on our house less than 2 weeks away.  Laying, listening to the creaks of our old house at 5 in the morning, the check list of ‘to do’s’ tumbles around in my head.  Easier to get up, and start doing.

This isn’t a walk- more an update and a collection of swift reminiscences.  That tortoiseshell never did befriend me, though I fed her faithfully.  But at least I avoided spending the week confined with her in my neighbour’s lovely back garden.  The weather became less reliable, as it tends to in late October.  Which was a shame for my son, who wanted nothing more than to idle on a beach.  After a nightmare journey, where they almost failed to reach us and had us pacing up and down all evening, we finally all got to bed at 3 in the morning.  Nothing stops a 6 year old from being exuberant, especially when there’s a birthday in the offing.  Improving his minigolf handicap, an icecream almost as big as him, and a Bola de Gomos (‘cake’ comprised entirely of marshmallows wrapped around jellies and gummy teddy bears) all produced that heart warming smile.  The small science centre in Tavira kept him captivated as he helped to create a volcanic lava ‘eruption’, using vinegar, baking soda, washing up liquid and red food colouring.  The rain dripped off all our noses at Zoomarine, but what do dolphins care as they leap and glide, to enthusiastic applause?  And the giant seahorses in the aquarium didn’t seem to mind our awed gaping.  So many giddy patterns were run round the beach, whilst my husband demonstrated his castle building expertise.  Small person’s best bit?  Sharing the winner’s podium with my son at Karting Almancil.  To pilot a car on your own you have to be 7, but dual controls gave both of them a hugely enjoyable ride.  ‘Next year, Mum?’

As for my birthday, I cannot imagine a more beautiful setting for a wine tasting than Quinta da Tôr, in the gently rolling Algarve hills.  By then my son and family had reluctantly gone home, to be replaced by my lovely daughter and her husband.  Both were highly appreciative, of both the setting and the produce.  A great deal of wining and dining took place in the few days they were there; a little gentle strolling to a castle not made of sand, plus a ferry trip to pretty Sanlucar de Guadiana, across the river.  Serendipity had it that we were able to be joined by my good friends Becky and Robert, for a fabulous farewell luncheon at Vai e Volta in Olhão.  Seldom has so much fish been consumed at one sitting.  Huge thanks to José and Maria for being such generous hosts.

The fairy tale ended, as these things must, and Michael and me went back to scrubbing floors, painting and changing beds.  Our last evening was largely spent circling each other in the kitchen, trying to keep out from under the feet of the Man from MEO and his assistant.  Our Internet connection had been abysmal, but we thought we were stuck with it as we had been told there was a blockage in the duct.   Hoorah and 3 cheers for Marco, who laboured diligently to find a solution, while we wondered if we were ever going to have supper that evening.  Finally he went home to his wife and child, a successful connection made, and we wolfed down our food and went for a quick celebratory drink at our neighbours.  Great ending to another chapter.

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Meanwhile the walks have continued to arrive.  I cannot commit to a regular Jo’s Monday walk until I’m back in the Algarve at the end of this month, but I will continue to share and to visit you whenever I can.  Many thanks to all of you for your patience.

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Fabulous images from Tobias.  I first saw these sitting in a café in drizzly old Leeds.  A nice welcome home :

Les ocres de Roussillon

Goult – Morning Walk

Street art rules with Cactus Catz.  Do enjoy visiting her :

Monday Mural : Joe Pagac’s Borderland Brewery mural, Tucson, Arizona

Sharing a little fun and a stroll with Judy :

A Walk Around Town

The majesty of the Austrian Alps, in the company of Drake :

Naked peaks

In case I didn’t make it back in time to enjoy it, some lovely Autumnal colour from Eunice :

An autumn walk in Central Park

While Irene finds a squirrel in an arboretum :

What’s that Racket?

Some folk are wanderers for life and this certainly applies to my lovely friend, Cathy.  You can spend hours enjoying her travels, in her native America and abroad :

The Giant Logs Trail at Petrified Forest National Park

The Crystal Forest Trail at Petrified Forest National Park

Sincere apologies to anyone I’ve missed out.  It hasn’t been easy keeping track.  I have 10 days to pack our personal possessions, leave the house in good order, and say lots of goodbyes, and then we are gone.  Oh yes, and replace the washing machine.  It gave a mighty groan and subsided mid-spin the day we left the UK.  Definitely, the last lap!

Anticipation…

Hard to know exactly when the dream began.  Sometimes it feels like it was always with me.  Bored with my job, which nevertheless paid the bills, I watched season after season of ‘A Place in the Sun’, each week convinced that this was the place for me.  Perhaps not Benidorm, and never, ever a do-er upper, but almost anything else was fair game.  There was so much world to choose from!

Early on, I discounted Florida.  Too far from family, I rejected the notion of becoming a snowbird and, silly as it sounds, I hate alligators.  I am thoroughly European and, though I might want to wander further, my natural habitat was always going to be on our continent.  Italy was a front runner.  With all those delicious miles of coastline and inspiring culture, how could ‘La Dolce Vita’ be wrong?  There was the allure of Croatia and its island jewels.  Greece with its ancient history and azure seas.  France seemed logical.  I had A level GCE in the language, and that whole unknown country, almost on my doorstep.  The Canary Islands, a contender too.  A nomadic life between islands and an agreeable climate would always appeal.  One place I didn’t consider was Poland, though in retrospect it could have been an interesting choice.

Portugal was quite low on the radar.  I’d never been, and knew little of it.  A week’s holiday swiftly changed that, and I came home the joint owner of a house.  Fortunately my husband loved it too.  The adventure of furnishing our home began.  Our first visit, 4 frantic days, was spent buying beds, a boiler and light fittings, and arranging for the fitment of a fireplace.  Two bright yellow, folding chairs doubled as indoor and outdoor seating.  The bare essentials of life.  We gazed in wonder at our ‘place in the sun’.  Tavira filled us with pleasure each and every time we ventured out.

The years ticked by, and holidays came and went.  The love affair didn’t wane, and we began to hope for the day when we could make the Algarve our permanent home.  Dad died, and there were no longer any serious impediments.  The youngsters would be able to visit us whenever they chose.  Time to put the English house on the market.  Much scrubbing in corners (having first emptied those corners!) ensued.  No doubt about it- the house needed decorating.  Should we strip everything for that blank canvas look?  Or go out and enjoy a ravishing English summer, potentially our last.  I bet you know the answer!

Silly question, wasn’t it?  As summer wanes, we now have some choices to make.  With a few viewings but no serious offers at the moment, at the end of September we will fly out to Faro.  No point yet in emptying the house and driving down, with as many memories stowed in the car as we can manage.  We will need to come back, for at least a week or two, to keep an eye on the house, our old friend of 29 years.  The family are already booked to join us to celebrate another significant birthday in early November.  It would be rude of us not to be there, wouldn’t it?  Until then, we’ll keep on anticipating… and preparing.

All set to see Cathy off on her next great adventure, ours has yet to begin, but it’s getting closer.  Join her at Wander.essence for Anticipation & Preparation.  I hope you will love the path she has chosen as much as I do.  Wishing you safe and happy travels, Cathy!

Jo’s Monday walk : Alte and about

Fonte Pequena at Alte

One of the great things about our Algarve walking group is the knowledge we can share.  Walking one day in Spring I was talking to a lovely lady called Stephanie.  She mentioned a favourite walk which included an abandoned, ruined village, and later sent me an email with a map.  So it was that, heading west for a wine tasting, we decided to seek out the village.  Just one problem- I didn’t have the map with me.  But I did have some scribbled instructions, which I thought should do.  The start was in pretty as a picture Alte, which we know well.

I always want to linger by Fonte Pequena, the smaller of the two natural springs, but my notes said to cross over the bridge and follow the signs for Julia.  Not paying attention, as usual, I turned left instead of right.  When the track became perilous and tangled with scratchy shrubs, I realised my mistake.  Back down and turn right.  Boa Vista beckoned, from the top of a seriously steep hill.  Lovely views, and a stunning passion flower.

A sign at the hilltop indicated that it was just 1.6km to Julia.  Being June it was a little too hot for hiking and I was grateful for any shade I could find.  At the edge of the village I hesitated, unsure of which way, but a villager pointed us in the right direction.  So far so good!  Down through the small cluster of houses we went, scrambling a bit as we hit some loose rocks.  Just as I was beginning to get in a lather, we came to the main road, N124.  An accusing look from the other half!  ‘Couldn’t we have driven here?’  An all too familiar scenario.  ‘But where’s the fun in that?’

The road was empty, but shade was non-existent.  A cowardly decision was about to be made.  Or should I say, good sense prevailed?  The signpost indicated 4km down a dirt track to Esteval dos Mouros, the ruined village.  Neither of us fancied getting hotter and stickier, and we still had the wine tasting venue to find.  The ruins would have to keep for a cooler day.

Back into Alte, hugging the sidewalk for shade.  The spring gurgled down the hill, vivid lemon cactus flowers blinking in the sunlight.  A relief to enter the cheerful pastelaria.  There’s just time for a morsel of cake.

Back on the road, Quinta do Francês proved tricky to find and we arrived with minutes to spare.  A very pleasurable time was spent wine tasting, but I was reluctant to bring an end to such a lovely day.  Our route home took us through Silves, where a striking mural caught my eye.  A quiet stroll by the river and beneath the jacarandas brought the day to a perfect close.

Linking this to Sami’s Monday Murals, where a bunch of like-minded people love to share.  I hope she won’t mind.  I had hoped to see Stephanie when the Algarve walkers met at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire this week, as she lives nearby.  If she’s reading this I can assure her that we’ll be back to complete her walk this Autumn.  In the meantime I shall be sharing some English walks.

Next weekend is our wedding anniversary and I’m dragging him off up the Northumberland coast.  I hope to schedule a walk for next Monday, but my response rate may not be great as I’ll be in transit.

Many thanks to all of you who contribute and comment to keep my Monday walks alive.  I appreciate your company so much.  How can I possibly quit with you folks to spur me on?  Join me here any time.  Kettle on now, and settle in for a read :

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How fascinating is this, our starter from Rupali?

Monday walk to “the Norwegian book town”

And these botanical gardens are rather special too.  Take a look with Miriam :

Jo’s Monday Walk : Huntington Library 

If I was looking for a piece of real estate, and I had lots of money in my pocket… I’d join Alice!

A walk on Queen Street

The things Janet gets up to in Wyoming!

Monday walk…to the phone booth

Lady Lee has been gadding about again!  🙂  🙂

Our long weekend in Cologne and Bonn

Time to write : Picture Prompt 19 (Creative Writing Prompt) – Gin, Rex and Niki

And as for Jackie, what’s on the menu this week?  Sounds good!

Jambalaya Crawfish Pie and File Gumbo

Melodie takes us hiking and then for a swim, in a quieter part of the English Lake District :

Orthwaite

Or you can enjoy a glorious splash of colour with Drake!

Color Inferno

Koalas and kangaroos!  This is a very cuddlesome post from Carol, though maybe not the echidna!

Feathers and Fur

Eunice is definitely an animal lover too, and she likes a good ramble :

Jumbles Reservoir – a long walk

‘Far from the madding crowd’ with Cathy, in the most beautiful scenery!

The Devil’s Garden Hike at Arches

I’ve watched TV coverage from the Algarve these past couple of days, and am horrified at the fires engulfing swathes of the countryside that I love.  What sad times for so many!