Alte

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 : A very traditional village

In the past few years I’ve watched Carnaval parades in many different Algarve towns and villages.  They all share a sense of fun, exuberance and a zest for life that is infectious.  High in the hills, nowhere is more traditional than Alte.  I couldn’t wait to see how they celebrated.

Approaching the quiet village, the empty dragonboat’s hopeful gaze was the first sign that all was not quite normal.  A horde of Norsemen, carousing outside the café, helmets under the table, was the second.  I climbed the steep streets to the church, in search of more evidence.

Paper flowers wreathed the church, gaudy competition for the real ones.  Respected elders sat patiently in a little leafy shade, recalling the parades of their youth, while the young cavorted excitedly below. Plenty of time to inspect the assembled floats before selecting a good vantage point.  No-one seriously believed that the procession would start promptly at three.

It’s a pretty village at any time, but the skillfully decorated floats brought gaiety to the scene. Gradually the noise level built as the cast of characters swelled gently into position.  Bill the Flowerpot Man weaved in and out, genial host with a friendly welcome for anyone who crossed his path.

The decibels increased to deafening level and they were off!  Windy Miller amused me greatly by turning the sails of his windmill by hand, as they swayed around the narrow, cobbled streets, his bakery assistants tending the buns in the glowing oven.

Indians with sweet faces, a fierce-looking biker lady, astronauts who seemed to be auditioning for a role in Star Wars, dinosaurs who kept escaping from their cage, only to be pursued,  captured and returned, only to escape again … Mafia hoods, a float of ‘doces’- not real, unfortunately- two wacky old gents doing a shuffle dance… all slightly barmy but very endearing.  And finally, the Vikings had donned their helmets.

No serious walking this week, but a whole lot of fun.  If you get the chance to visit Alte for Carnaval, I can highly recommend it.

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Thanks to everybody who has contributed this week.  And to all you armchair readers.  That’s what blogs are for- right?  Join me next time, here on Jo’s Monday walk.  You can share a walk, if you like, or simply read.

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Gotta love Sue!  Mother Theresa or Dark Lord? (now don’t take that personally, Sue  🙂  )  I’ll let you all judge :

A very short walk off Brick Lane

Many years ago I witnessed ‘June Gloom’ in La Jolla.  It looks much prettier through Rupali’s eyes :

La Jolla Cove

Dog looks so very intelligent!  I guess he’s seen a lot of life, Geoff?

Walking While Pondering #dunwich #suffolk

Did you know about oyster shell recycling?  Nor did I till I asked Alice :

Camelia Garden Walk

Something I’ve missed this year, but they seem abundant in Wales :

The Snowdrop Walk at Chirk Castle

Oh, my!  You’ve not seen cherry doughnuts like these!  Thanks, Janet!

Fougerolles cherry festival

And one of Jackie’s Mojitos might be nice, too!

Happy Hour

If you’re really trying to make me happy, a veranda would be wonderful.  Rocking chair ready, Karen?

Stratford Walk 2: history and houses

Meanwhile Jude is treating us all to a feast of Spring, complete with lurching rhododendrons!

An Early Spring Walk

I suspect she’d like to join Margaret for this one, too  🙂

Botany and a bus ride

Becky’s back in the UK for a short while, but not without leaving a flavour of the Algarve behind :

A glorious walk in the ‘Serra do Caldeirao’

While Georgina crosses the Guadiana to take a closer look at our hillside flora :

Asphodels in Alcoutim

In the Canaries, meanwhile, all is peaceful :

Time for a Siesta

The Vikings were not the most peaceful of folk, but Amanda has found us a beautiful, ancient church :

Vaernes Church, Norway c 1085

How about an indoor forest?  That’s what Sandra has in store this week :

#Spheres -#Saturday Snapshot and #Monday Walk 

And Drake?  A few tubs of luscious dates  🙂

Marketplace mood

Walking in heat, and running out of water!  I can relate to that one, Cathy!

(Camino: day 7) Muruzabal to Lorca & ruminations (week one)

Because she really is an inspiration, I’m submitting this walk for Cathy’s Photography Invitation.  Let her show you wonderfully scenic Ouray, Colorado.  Have a great week, and see you next time!

 

 

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!

Meeting a Catbird

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Cathy in Alte

Never having met one before, I wasn’t at all sure if meeting a Catbird would be scarey.  You can tell from the smile on Cathy’s face that it was anything but.  In fact, from the second we met, we were nattering away like old pals, and by the time we’d dragged her humungous purple suitcase to the car, we were well into our life stories.

Cathy’s is convoluted, and mine not as straightforward as you might think, so it all took some time to unravel.  We each had remembered snippets about the other, but needed to explore the detail.  And what fun that was.

For any of you not familiar, a little background.  Cathy Dutchak, an American lady, has been working in the Gulf State of Oman for the past eighteen months, and before that in Korea.  Intriguing, yes?  When I came across A native in the Land of Niswa I just had to know more.  I followed Cathy through the ups and downs of life in the rich Arab world and marvelled at the beauties her photography revealed.

Then Cathy announced that her time over there was up and, before returning to the USA, she was spending a month touring Spain and Portugal.  It coincided with a visit I was making to Tavira, so how could I not offer a little hospitality? (but a touch nervously, still not too sure what kind of creature a Catbird might be)  How glad I am that I did.

Time went all too quickly.  We discovered a love of boats in common and, as the temperatures were into the 30s, an expedition onto the water seemed a good idea.  The birdwatching and historical tour of the Ria Formosa was perfect (but not before a visit to the Post Office to try to dispose of some of Cathy’s rapidly accumulating luggage- more of that later!)

Off we chugged from the quayside at Tavira

Off we chugged from the quayside at Tavira

Wasn't there a "Tilted" challenge out there somewhere?

Isn’t there a “Tilted” challenge out there somewhere? Good candidate!

I hope you'rte not expecting great bird photography? He's out there- look closely!

I hope you’re not expecting great bird photography? Look very closely!

But I do get better as we approach the lovely village of Santa Luzia

But I do get better as we approach the lovely village of Santa Luzia

Our skipper was concentrating- don't want to ram a fishing boat

Our skipper was concentrating- don’t want to ram a fishing boat

And there were lots

And there were lots

And lots

And lots

And a catamaran

And a catamaran

And the Santa Luzia ferry

The Santa Luzia ferry

And more boats

And more fishing boats

More?  Enough, I think!

More?  Enough, I think!

Then we headed down the channel to the sea, to look back at Tavira Island

Then we headed down the channel to the sea, to look back at Tavira Island

Then back to shore, past the twin lighthouses

And returned to shore, passing the twin lighthouses.

Back on dry land there was much to see, and we leaped into the car and off to the hills and the village of Alte.  It’s a favourite of mine and I’ve written about it and been there many times.  Today was about finding a cool spot beside the fontes, or springs, and a cafe extraordinaire for refreshments.

I think the cat succeeded

I think the cat succeeded

Who says the Algarve isn't green?

Who says the Algarve isn’t green?

Our cafe is also a shop crammed full of ceramics like these.

Our cafe is also a shop crammed full of ceramics like these.

Cathy very much likes ceramic tiles and the Moorish connection, so it was on through cork and eucalyptus country to Silves, with its mighty fortress.  I was there in May this year, resulting in S is for Silves, but a few more photos had to be taken.  I was pleased to find the Igreja da Misericordia open for an art exhibition, a reward in itself.

We were warm and tired when we made it home, but after a brief “feet up” we were out again, in search of food.  At some point I’m sure you’ll read Cathy’s version of this, so all I’m going to say is that she provided enormous entertainment for Luis and Philippe, the owner and the waiter in “A Taska”.  The food was delicious, as usual, but while I simply nodded and smiled my approval, Cathy went into full blogger mode.

Charm turned up full (with maybe a little extra confidence from the port), she proceeded to photograph the decor, the menu, the food, and of course, Luis and Phillipe.  “She’s funny” said the latter, rolling his dark eyes and minding not a bit.  Then it was onto the streets, and straight into the nearest shop.  Did I mention that Cathy likes to shop?  “Casa das Portas” is a very beautiful place to do it, but for once restraint was exercised.

"Casa das Portas" with some of its iconic door paintings

“Casa das Portas” with some of its iconic door paintings

The case was rather full, and I ended up bringing a good amount of her clothing back to the UK in my hand luggage.  She had already shipped some home from Barcelona and I did not want to waste more of the holiday queuing at our post office. It is speeding its way to the USA right now.  Goodness knows what purchases she might have made in Lisbon, but the Spanish skirts I saw were extremely nice.

We wandered the warm Tavira night, in search of a promised fig and almond icecream, which sadly we never found.  I was sorry to disappoint.  But one thing for sure, Cathy did not disappoint me.  I learnt a lot, and I laughed a lot, and I think we will be lifelong friends.

Me and Cathy, having fun.

Me and Cathy, having fun.

Six word Saturday

Random moments from an Algarve week

Fonte Pequena (little fountain) at Alte

It had just bounced with rain and the bottle brush plant was sodden.

The Folklore Festival and Wedding Ceremony at Alte

 Then there’s one that would fit well in my recent post on “fontes”.

The fountain in Praca da Republica, Tavira

And an item that I was much taken with.  More to come in a future post.

The Tavira vase, on display in the new Islamic Museum

Then my little side trip with Flat Ruthie.

The village of Sanlucar de Guadiana, on the Spanish side of the Spain/Portugal border

A handsome caballero

Keeping watch over the Guadiana

Tangled in the orange blossom in Castro Marim

So now you know how I spent my week.  It was wonderful looking back and now it’s your turn.  To play Six word Saturday you need to visit Cate’s Show My Face so click on the link or the banner at the top of this page, and get started.  My Six word Saturday page will show you what I’ve been up to in the past.  Feel free to browse.  See you next week.

F is for Fonte (fountain or spring)

Fonte in Largo do Carmo, Lisbon- from Wikipedia, by Rui Pedro Carvalho

There is an astonishing array of beautiful fountains adorning Portuguese towns and villages. Here are just a few I can’t resist sharing.

Fonte de Toural, Guimaraes- from Wikipedia,

Fonte do Idolo, Braga- Nabia, goddess of rivers and water- from Wikipedia

Fonte de Agua Ferreas, Braga- from Wikipedia

Fonte da Rua de Bonjoia- from Wikipedia, by Antonio Amen

Fonte de Leoes (lions), Porto- from Wikipedia, by da Sousa

Fonte de Sao Bento, Corticeiro de Carapelhos, Mira- from Wikipedia, by Jose Olgon

Azulejo, Fonte de Sao Bento

Fonte do Rossio, Lisbon- Creative Commons

Varied aren’t they?  There are hundreds I could have shared.  Do you have a favourite?  I think probably the last one’s mine, but I love Nabia too.  I also came across the term “chafariz” in relation to fountains and am not sure if this refers to a specific type.  Maybe my Portuguese friends can help me out with this?

The word “fonte” appears in many place names in Portugal.  In fact, when we’re directing people to our home in Tavira, we tell them to turn off the E125 at the roundabout signed Fonte Salgada.  In this sense it relates to a natural spring.

Fonte Pequena, Alte

My first sighting of natural springs here in Portugal was in the village of Alte.  Fonte Pequena (little spring) and then Fonte Grande (large spring) and the surrounding lush greenery came as a complete surprise.  It seemed a world away from the Algarve to which I was used.  Alte is described in detail in my Personal A-Z of Portugal, but I came across a lovely snippet of the poetry of Cândido Guerreiro, born in the village in 1871 and commemorated at the fontes:

“As the place where I was born lies encircled by four hills

Through which waters run singing

The songs of fountains and mills,

Waters taught me to speak.”

(Porque nasci ao pé de quatro montes

Por onde as águas passam a cantar

As canções dos moinhos e das fontes,

Ensinaram-me as águas a falar.)

I often go out with a walking group in the Algarve, or rely on a map and my husband, to find local beauty spots.  We found Fonte de Benemola, the Eternal Spring, one February day with the help of Julie Statham’s book, “Algarve-Let’s walk”.   The white faced cistus I love wasn’t yet in bloom and the valley was peaceful as can be, the fonte rippling silently in its depths.  On our way back to the car we spotted the solitary basket weaver, his wares strung along a reed fence.  He rather charmingly demonstrated his whistles and we purchased a small bowl.  A slightly wonky fruit bowl now sits on top of my fridge!

Fonte de Benemola, near Querenca

There is a wealth of natural springs in Portugal, some of which have been developed into health resorts.  The term “caldas” refers to thermal springs, as in Caldas de Monchique in the Algarve.  Further north, Caldas da Rainha (Queen’s hot springs) has had a thermal hospital since 1488, when Queen Leonor discovered the curative power of the waters.  Beautiful Sintra was also a spa.

Fonte in the back streets of Sintra

Spring water is a popular source for drinking water because of its relative purity and high mineral content, believed by many to have health benefits.  Just north of Coimbra, the small town of Luso is home to one of the most famous bottled waters in Portugal.  I seldom go walking without a bottle.

This post is part of my Personal A-Z of Portugal.  I’ve been following Julie Dawn Fox’s challenge for a while now.  If you’d like a look at what’s gone before, and maybe to join in with an A-Z of your own, please follow the links.  I need to catch up with my personal A-Z of Poland next.  See you next time.