Algarve

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.

walking logo

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!

Six word Saturday

Tasting the fruit of the vine

One of our loveliest days on our recent Algarve visit took us to Quinta do Francês, on a wine-tasting tour.  ‘Awful!’ I hear you exclaim.  As the visit was a present from our son and partner, we felt duty bound to attend, and to sample the produce.  It really was rather nice!

The winery is owned by French pathologist, Patrick Agostini, and the wines grown locally in the Odelouca River Valley.  Our guide Tania was knowledgeable and interesting.  We toured the machine room and the cellar, where barrels of new and aged oak are kept.  And then, the tasting!

I could just fancy a glass…  Six Words, of course!  Debbie has cash in pocket and another brilliant six words this week.  Don’t forget to join her.  But first I would like to say a huge thank you to all of you who commented on What do you want from me? this week. The response was simply overwhelming.  I guess I’ll carry on, doing what I do.

What do you want from me?

The salt pans at Tavira, with an unusual pink tint

Maybe this is a question I should have asked long ago.  But to ask it, you first have to think of it.  Browsing in WordPress Discover I found lots of articles dedicated to improving your blog.  The suggestion that your focus be more on the reader than on yourself was one that made me think.  I tend to think of myself as someone who likes the sound of her own voice, and this is certainly true of my blog.  My scribbles are mostly anecdotal and in diary form, and they help to keep my travels alive for me.  They are my ‘unique voice’.  But is that enough?

The marshes come alive with colour in the summer

Is this really what the readership wants?  Is it too much of me, and not enough about them and what they want to read about?  It’s quiet around the blogs at the moment, and I start to wonder if I’ve become boring.  Have I assumed that my style of writing will carry me through, when people are hoping for more facts/more fantasy/more information?  Do I give enough?

I look at the bloggers I admire and it’s true that many of them have a more factual basis to their blog.  I can protest that I’m an individual and that this is my space, but is that sufficient for you?  I am sometimes approached to work with marketing companies.  Would this result in a loss of identity, or might it benefit the reader?  Am I right to stick to doing things my way?

I love this light over Tavira

So, what do you think?  Now is a good time to ask, because I’m not sure that this blog will continue after I move to Tavira.  Most certainly there will be changes to be made, but I would like to take you along with me.

Six word Saturday

Taking time to relax in Tavira.

You knew I couldn’t resist it, didn’t you?  I feel relaxed just looking at these.  Warm summer evenings in Tavira.  Magical moments.

I can just squeeze this in before the next Lens Artists Photo Challenge.  Thanks, Amy!  I wonder what’s coming next?  I couldn’t possibly disagree with Debbie this week.  Got your Six Words ready?  Wishing you a happy Saturday, and rain for those who need it.

On Journey : Inflight blues

‘Excuse me… why are you polishing the window?’  The young man was tall and pale, squashed into his seat beside me on our Ryanair flight from Faro to Leeds.  That was how our conversation began.  I’ve had many on board exchanges over time, but this young man and his troubles really touched me.  I was at the back of the aircraft and my husband far away at the front, because we are too mean to pay the extra to sit together.  We can cope with separation for a couple of hours, and on this occasion I had the compensation of a window seat.  Which is how I came to be polishing my smeary window.

Glancing at him, I replied ‘Because I like to take photos’.  Fair haired and blue-eyed, he nodded.  ‘That makes sense’.  He seemed eager to chat and we exchanged a few details till he sat back, with a sigh.  I thought maybe he was an anxious flier.  We hadn’t yet taken off when he reached beneath the seat and pulled out a full sized wine bottle.  Glugging at it greedily, the flight crew still about to start the safety demonstration.  Time for some friendly advice!  ‘You’re not allowed to drink your own alcohol on board’, I said, feeling a bit hypocritical because, for the first time ever, I had purchased a small rosé in the Duty Free, intending to drink it with my sandwich.  He looked at me.  ‘I need it!’  In a polite, conversational way he explained to me that he has an addictive personality, currently using alcohol, and that he has an appointment with the family doctor in Leeds tomorrow to check him into rehab.

A moment later he was on his phone, to a friend.  I assumed it was a friend.  In close proximity it’s impossible not to overhear someone’s conversation.  I looked out of the window as we began to taxi along the runaway.  He was talking urgently to Tom.  ‘You are going to meet me?  You promised!  My Dad will give you a lift to the airport’.  Almost pleading.  He was near to tears when he switched off the phone.  Out poured the story.  He was gay, and it was hard to trust anybody.  His boyfriend was supposed to bring drugs to the airport to help him till he could see his GP, but he hadn’t got them.  He was desperate to give up alcohol because it was ruining his life.  He had been terrified they wouldn’t let him on the plane home if he was drunk, but his friends had helped him board.  He had spoiled their holiday because he had no self control.

The plane was now in the air, so all he had to do was appear sober a little while longer.  He was waiting anxiously for trolley service to begin, and we talked.  I felt so sorry for him.  25 years old!  I wondered how I could bear it if my own son was in his situation.  He said that he had a good family, and that they would help, if only he could get home.  The middle child, his siblings were successful.  He had managed to work sometimes, but had spent most of his life addicted to drugs, whatever he could get his hands on.  He’d tried to ‘give up’ numerous times.  This time it had to work because his life was completely out of control.

The lakes beside the River Guadiana

He’d been to the Algarve several times before and liked the place and the people.  He was interested in the landscape unfolding below us, and was amazed at the vast area of lakes along the border.  When the trolley pulled alongside he ordered 2 beers and a wine.  I asked if he should have something to eat but he said it was better this way.  He had to drink himself into oblivion and he would sleep.  He downed one can in seconds and slumped back.  Beads of sweat had broken out on his face.  ‘Are you alright, sir?’ asked the air hostess.  He struggled to answer, and she gently informed him that she wouldn’t be able to sell him any more alcohol.  I smiled, despite myself.  After a while he drank the small bottle of wine, and soon his eyes had rolled.  Unless it’s cloudy I’m usually glued to my window throughout a flight, but I couldn’t settle.  I kept watch as he slept, hoping he could make it through the flight.

He jerked half awake, and groped for the remaining can, spilling much of it in his haste.  A male crew member went past and gave him a disgusted look.  I felt defensive for him and wanted to explain that he couldn’t help it.  The stupor overtook him again, mercifully.  With 20 minutes to go, he woke.  The captain had just announced our descent and, with relief, he reached beneath the seat for the last of his wine.  The crew man was just passing back through the cabin, reached over and took it from his hands.  ‘I must have it!’, he protested, to no avail.

We talked some more.  I asked if he would need assistance to get off the plane and he agreed.  He gave me the name of one of his party, a girl, sitting much further down the plane and said he thought she would help.  When we landed, I climbed past him and went to seek the help of the crew man.  Though sceptical, he noted the details.  I went back to say my goodbyes, to wish him luck and to hope that he could get his life back in order   ‘You’re a really nice lady’, he said.  I so hope that his family have been able to help him.  He seemed a really nice boy.

I would probably have kept this sad story to myself if it hadn’t been for Cathy.  I thought it might work for her On Journey invitation, over at Wander.essence.  She has the makings of a novel over there, and much else besides.