Algarve

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.

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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 :

Aragannu

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!

Present meets past?

I wanted somewhere suitably elegant to end my daughter’s visit to the Algarve, and they don’t come any more elegant than the Estói Palace.  In A palace in warm sunshine, back in November 2014, I suggested that it might make a good venue for afternoon tea.  Do you remember it, Paula?  Long overdue, I think.  The sun was just sliding down the sky when we got there and the terrace looked so inviting.

What a study in opulence this place is.  No need to introduce you to azulejos after Monday’s post but I can never resist sharing a few more beauties.

More restoration work had been carried out since my last visit.  The small summerhouses were a picture, with their vibrant stained glass and painted walls and ceiling.  The grotto was open and my son-in-law, who has a particular interest in ironwork, studied the details with interest.

Enough of admiring our reflection.  It’s time to go indoors for refreshment.  Truth be told, it really couldn’t compete with the decor.

Does that window look familiar, Becky?  You’ll be happily ensconced in your Algarve life by now.  I’ve taken liberties with your Past meets Present.  I’m sorry!  You did such a nice job on the Palacio not long ago.  Paula- I thought you might like an update for Traces of the Past?

Oddly enough, the waiter said they only had cheesecake.  Ah well!  Cake’s cake, isn’t it?  There wasn’t a crumb left when son-in-law had finished.

Six word Saturday

I’m starting to see squares everywhere!

From dusk till dawn.  All part of life’s rich pattern.  Have you joined in with Becky’s Square Sky in December yet?  There’s still time.  Maybe you could combine it with Six Words?  Debbie won’t mind.  Happy Saturday, whatever you get up to!

Jo’s Monday walk : Loitering in LOULÉ

I always try for variety in my walks.  Sometimes I have to look back to see where I’ve taken you, as was the case with Loulé .  The attractive tile panel of the Arab market, shown above, was hidden away in a Pingo Doce supermarket. (I was looking for a birthday cake at the time, strangely enough)  Loulé is one of those places you can go when the Algarve weather is not all that you might have hoped for. (yes, it happens!  Though not often, in my experience.)  There’s always something of interest to see and do there.

Despite the urban sprawl, it has a rather elegant old quarter, resplendent with calçadas, so I’m sure my friend Madhu would enjoy it.  Billowy panels fluttered above the streets, evidence that it had been consistently hot and sunny.  Meandering on Rua 5 de Outubro, I had an urge to go and see Nossa Senhora da Piedade.  It’s an uphill climb to the church, but I think it’s worth it.

As luck would have it, I was diverted before I could even begin my climb.  A banner on the side of a church building proclaimed the closing days of an art exhibition, by João Garcia Miguel.  A smile from the receptionist, just inside the doors of Convento de Santo Antonio, invited me inside.

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But what an extraordinary sight greeted my eyes.  I’m afraid the art exhibition took second place.  The central nave of the church had been restored, in a plain and simple style, while retaining the crumbly but beautiful arches and alcoves of the side chapel.

A solitary, beautiful fresco vied with the artwork.  The most joyful experience!  The cloisters were barriered off and in poor condition, but restoration appeared to be ongoing.  I will return, for sure.  But first, a hill for us to climb…

I won’t dwell too long on Nossa Senhora da Piedade, as we’ve been there before, but I’m sure you can see the attraction.  The tiny chapel was built in 1553, almost survived the earthquake of 1755, and has been restored in all its exquisite detail since then.

Overshadowed by the huge dome of the 2oth century addition, you might never know this chapel exists, but it’s been bringing the crowds here for the Easter procession since the 16th century.

I must have had my religious head on that day because, wandering back into town, I found myself drawn to Nossa Senhora da Conceição.  Sitting in a quiet corner on Rua Paio Peres Correia, there’s often a queue outside this small chapel with its beautiful 18th century azulejos.  I was lucky!

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So many riches in my walk today!  I think we’ll just tootle past the bandstand and head for home.  But, wait a minute!  I’ve not treated you to cake lately, have I?  Better put that right.  Please, be my guest!

I hope you enjoyed returning with me to Loulé today.  Next week I plan to take you to Cascais, on the Lisbon coast.  A change is as good as a rest?

Thanks so much for the lovely response I got last week.  I’ve got some great walks to share, so let’s get that kettle on and settle in.  Join me with a walk of your own any time.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.

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Anabel starts us off with a walk around a delightful Scottish island I’d never even heard of!

A walk round Kerrera

Cathy wanders in all sorts of fascinating places.  Some day I’ll catch up!

A walking tour of Pest & a confusing (but fun) visit to the szechenyi thermal baths

And closer to home :

Maryland Heights : the Overlook Cliff Trail

This week Jackie is being disgustingly lazy.  I know- I’m jealous!

Tutti Frutti

And Ellen only breaks into a saunter now and again :

Going for a Crazy Cabbagetown Walk/Atlanta, Georgia, Pt.2

Not our Sue, though!  Energy is her middle name :

Irish Cliffs of Moher and Selfie Shenanigans

Hikeminded!  Isn’t that a great name?  I hope you’ll read her post too :

Berlin Day Hike : Fallen Leaves in Blumenthal

I think Carol deliberately set me up with this one.  May not be quite what you expect :

Roaming in Roma

Shazza stays close to home, and braves the weather :

A waterfall walk in the Dales

And talking of weather, these seas look awfully cold, Drake!

Traveling boxes

Australian beaches are a sight to behold, especially in the company of Meg  :

Eurobodalla beaches : Josh’s Beach

Woolly tells me that there are more than 2,500 Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries on the Western Front.  So much sadness!

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk44_Polygon-Wood-Cemetery

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk45_Polygon-Wood-Cemetery-2

Come boardwalking in the sunny south with Pauline!  It’ll set you up for the week ahead :

Joining Jo on a Monday walk

Another sunny city that I’ve always wanted to see (and don’t miss the Transporter Bridge)- thanks Cadyluck Leedy!

Jo’s Monday Walk: Bilboa, Spain

That’s it for another week.  I have my last pre-Christmas walk with my walking group today, so I expect mince pies will follow.

Six word Saturday

Let’s have a touch of serenity!

Heaven knows, we need it at this time of year.  Serenity, for me, usually involves water.  The gentle bobbing of boats and whisper of tide, lapping shore.  A frond or two of green, framing sky and sea.  A powder puff of cloud….

Not so serene if you’re down there digging for clams, I suspect

Do any of these say Serene to you?  Let’s give it one last try.

Tavira is lovely, don’t you think?  Perhaps that should have been my six words.  Do go and have some fun with Debbie.  Happy weekend!

A sad story?

Up a flight of cobbled steps, on the corner of a tiny square, stands one of the most bedraggled, unloved houses in Tavira.  In a town where every other street has a ‘do-er upper’ – part of it’s charm – this one is nothing uncommon.  Often I look at a ruin and think, ‘that would make a great little home’, and pass right on by.  But this lost soul always stops me in my tracks.

I first saw it a dozen years ago, when I’d been puffing up and down hills, exploring Tavira’s delightful back streets.  It looked the perfect size.  And maybe I could have a tiny roof terrace where I could closet myself away, and peer down at the occasional passer by.  And then, one Christmas time, I saw the little square decked in all its finery.  What wonderful neighbours I could have!

But the years have rolled by, and I haven’t claimed it as mine.  Time hasn’t been kind and now I can see inside to the wooden ceiling.  Weeds sprout from the roof and gutters.  And still I’m tempted!  Why hasn’t it been snapped up?  Did I mention the steep, cobbled steps?  How would I ever get the shopping home as I get older and dothery?

It’s not as though there aren’t plenty of others to feel sorry for.  Spare a kind thought for these.

Why am I sharing these today?  Well, I thought I’d cheer up my old buddy, Sue.  She loves nothing more than a good ruin.  And Paula’s back with Pick a Word in another engaging Thursday’s Special.  I chose Remains and Non-Human to illustrate.

Jo’s Monday walk : Mealha and surrounds

You might remember that one day last year I took you to some burial tombs, high in the hills of the Algarve.  Not without difficulty, I might add.  The Masmorra Trail was a bit of a challenge.  A couple of my walking friends are hugely enthusiastic about archaeology and history, so we were all delighted when a recent Striders walk included the dolmens of Antas das Pedras Altas.

The trouble is, when I’m walking with the Striders I’m often too busy chatting to pay much attention to the route.  There’s a tendency to ‘switch off’ when walking with a leader, but at least it takes the pressure off the other half.  The start point for this walk was in exactly the same place, a crossroads on the edge of the village of Mealha.  A modest 8.5km circular, with a steep uphill beginning.

We passed by more of the palheiros- the round huts once used by shepherds- and began our climb.  The rewards were almost immediate.  First a grove or two of umbrella pines.  Notice how very dry everything is.  It’s been a long hot Summer.

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There are 12 of these standing stones, aligned with the sun rising in the east.  Astonishing to think that they have held these positions since 4th century BC, protecting the burial chamber.  I have to confess to prattling on a bit at this point, or should I say exchanging information?  Sharper eyes than mine spotted the well, and there wasn’t time for a closer look.

Soon we were dropping down through eucalyptus trees, fresh and green in this light, but a serious hazard should forest fires break out.  This year the Algarve has been spared, but lives were lost further north.  On this walk we had been encouraged to bring a picnic, due to the absence of a suitable restaurant.  At a pleasantly shady spot with benches I munched a healthy apple, confident that we’d find somewhere later.

The walk continued through the dry riverbed of Ribeira de Foupana and back full circle to Mealha.  It was still relatively early, the sun bright in the sky.  The group were heading back to the coast, and stopping off for coffee before separating.  Curiosity impelled me to check out the nearby village of Martim Longo, where I’d seen advertised Feria de Perdiz– a partridge festival.  This area of the Algarve is known for the hunting and shooting of birds, a controversial subject these days.  Seldom have I found a more sleepy place, but there was a bonus- the church was open.

You know when plans go awry?  Seems to happen to me all too often.  We wandered through the somnolent streets.  Where was everybody?  A burst of laughter issued from a bar and we exchanged a hopeful glance.  I stopped to take photos of an interesting old building just as a truck drew up and an overalled worker climbed out.  He looked at me bemusedly as I gestured to his home, then smiled and went inside to lunch.

We continued our circuit of the small village.  Some bakery tiles, scything implements and a couple of water wheels, but almost no people.  They must have been eating, of course, and we were peckish too.  With very little choice, we made a poor selection.  An elderly lady pulled herself to her feet, her companion nodding bom dia, and lumbered behind the counter.  White wine?  They only had tinto, which she proceeded to remove from the chiller.  Seeing her struggling, with arthritic wrists, to remove the cork, the other half took the corkscrew from her to complete the job.  Two large tumblers of red were poured.  Peering hard at the ‘menu’ on the back wall, he then asked for a ham sandwich.  She shook her head.  No food!  Just the prepackaged sweet biscuits on display, and a meagre selection of crisps.  Not quite the lunch we had envisaged.  When I expressed interest in the partridge festival, a beer drinking old lad indicated that there was much fun and dancing in the village.  A little hard to imagine right then, but he went to great pains to produce a magazine (hidden away in the glass fronted, unlit stove!) showing last year’s event.  We should come back?

Maybe not.  A strange little place, but my curiosity was satisfied.

Salt in the wounds- when we talked to our walking friends later it transpired that they’d gone to a nice little restaurant by a pebble beach.  We’d passed it on our way up the valley!  If you’re tempted to follow my walk, there’s a map here.

Thanks for keeping me company this week.  I’m more or less acclimatised to the UK again but I suspect I’ll be bombarding you with Portugal for a while yet.  If you’d like to join me with a walk, long or short, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  I look forward to it.  Meantime, pop the kettle on and let’s settle in for a good read.

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Chocolate and blue skies… now there’s a winning combination!  Please say hello to my new contributor, Maria :

Baroque & Chocolate… This is Modica, Sicily

Debbie managed to find some blue on the sunny south coast too :

Sidford to Sidmouth

Just Jude, doing what she does so well :

Garden Portrait : under an autumn sky

I’m not sure how much walking took place, but Andrew is always welcome here :

Portugal, A Walking Tour of Ovar

Jackie’s whizzing about again!

Salty

Drake’s getting us all in Christmas mode!  Never too early for good feelings :

Arrival of the good feeling

Busy time of year and not so many walks this week.  Many thanks to all of you!  It’s much appreciated.  Wishing you a great week.