Alto Alentejo

Jo’s Monday walk : Castelo de Vide

A hazy beauty, not quite real?  Looking back to just over two weeks ago, I have to wonder if I dreamt it.  But no- as so often, my photographs tell the story.  Castelo de Vide, in Portugal’s Alto Alentjo, a world away from our current woes.

I had come in search of a mighty fortress, at hilltop Marvão, and all I knew of Castelo de Vide was its spa waters, bottled on shelves as far away as the Algarve.  But where there are castles, there is often a sad interlude in history, and so it is, here.  During the Spanish Inquisition, many Jews fled across the border to make their home within these castle walls.  And the resulting Jewish quarter is like nowhere I’ve ever seen.  Complete with Synagogue, though the international crisis was catching up with even this remote place, and I was unable to look inside.

The castle itself was closed for renovation, but I had climbed the hill anyway.  How glad I was, for it was not the castle itself that was the prize.  The medieval streets within the walls were astounding, with solid stone doorways, preserved in all their beauty, though some needed a little help.

Within the castle walls, the 17th century church of Nossa Senhora da Alegria, resplendent with Moorish-styled tiles, and surrounded by the tumbling, spellbinding streets of the Juderia.  In the sleepy warmth below, the town was awakening to market day, the calls of the vendors noisily jostling for trade.  I slipped inside the main church, Santa Maria da Devasa, to pay my respects.  A lady, rummaging in her handbag, pulled out spectacles and a sheaf of music, and into the hush began to practise on the organ.  As I listened, smiling, another bustled in with two bags full of white lilies, which she placed beside the altar.  The life of the church, unchanging.

Outside the church, a modern sculpture, mother tenderly regarding small child.  And a fountain, one of 300 in the area, I’d been led to believe.  I came across several more.  In a quiet square, the Fonte da Vila, with four marble spouts, a coat of arms, and a tribute to Jewish victims.

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I was beginning to need a coffee, and hoped to sample boleima, a type of Jewish unleavened bread with apple and cinnamon.  Or something sweet.

The clock on the town hall chimed and it was time to move on.  Sadly my visit was coming to an end.  King Dom Pedro V described this town as the “Sintra of the Alentejo”, and I had felt something of the same magic.

As if sorry to see me go, the clouds began to swoop in across the hills.  I crossed the gardens, turning for one last look.

It’s a tenuous link, but here I am, back in the Algarve, looking at the lovely Serra de Sáo Mamede and its towns and villages, from a Distance.  Easter and Holy Week are very special and traditional in this part of the world.  I can’t conceive of it this year, but I hope that one day, in the future, I might cross that distance again.  Meantime, many thanks to Tina and the lovely Lens-Artists ladies for keeping us strong.

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Still sharing!  It’s what we do best here in blogland.  Stay safe out there!

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As heart warming a walk as I’ve ever taken.  Thank you so much, Drake!

Walks have to be started

It’s therapeutic getting out there in nature, as Alice will tell you :

The Blue Heron Nature Trail

And Eunice is still determined to enjoy beach and countryside :

Lytham/ St. Annes -a walk in two parts

Margaret sums it all up succinctly :

The Last Walk Before Lock Down

And Rupali smiles at us, from a distance :

Weekend 88 : Distance

I think we’re all agreed that Becky is a ‘Top Notch’ blogger.  It’s 1st April soon (no fooling!) :

Streets of Spitalfields

Happy to share a poetic stroll beneath the birch trees, with Jude :

The Birks of Aberfeldy

And I found a fascinating walking tour of Porto, for the future :

‘Other cities in the city’: a social history walking tour of Porto

While Cathy shares a good slice of the exotic :

Morocco: Aroumd to Imlil to Essaouira

Saving this treat for last.  Don’t miss Pauline’s lovely photography and wonderful artwork!

Day 2 of the birthday get away

It’s an amazing world out there, isn’t it?  I’m so glad we can share it together.

Jo’s Monday walk : Portagem to Ammaia

It’s always good to start a post with a flamboyant flower, don’t you think?  Though in this case it has only a little relevance.  How many circular walks do you know that start and end by a river, exploring Roman ruins along the way?  I can actually think of one other, in the Algarve, but I was quite unprepared for the scale of these ruins, at Ammaia, in the Alto Alentejo region of Portugal.  Ruins I’d never even heard of!

I have to say that the last walk was a very hard act to follow.  Having seen the valley from the lofty heights of Marvão, I was curious as to how the village would look when viewed from below.  Driving back down didn’t seem half so difficult as the haul up to it had been.  As usual, I wasn’t doing the driving, but gazing out at the scenery.  Sleepy Portagem was a lazy dream of a day in early March.  Come back in July and it might be a different story, with screams and splashes echoing up the valley from the river beach.

Yes, that’s Marvão, right up on the top.  No wonder it’s serene and peaceful!  I read that the village hosts a Medieval Fair in October.  What a sight that must be!  And yet, for once, I’d opted for serenity and loved every moment.

It was, pretty much, also what we found on our descent from Marvão.  A river beach has been constructed on the River Sever and, alongside it, a smart pool complex.  Totally deserted, of course, in March.  Used, as I now am, to an early Spring in the Algarve, I was astonished to find bare trees, just awakening to the gentle warmth of the sun’s rays.

Looking at the sign boards there seemed to be a choice of two walks, PR1 and PR5.  So long as we didn’t have to climb all the way back up to Marvão on foot, it didn’t much matter which.  The river curved away into the distance, beneath a beautiful old bridge.

Crossing the bridge, a decision of sorts was made.  Inaccessible castle ruins and a more modern calamity, ripe for renewal, directed our steps.

Poppies danced overhead as we followed a grassy trail around the back of the village.  I stopped to admire a haphazard clump of irises, triggering a frenzy of barking from behind the fence.  Buried among bright green foliage, could that be a wild orchid?

Moths and butterflies fluttered by, intent on the beautiful day, and a patch of tiny, jewel bright violas.  A narrow road led between fields full of olive trees, where a farmer and his wife were clearing and burning tired, old tree branches.  They surveyed us with curiosity, nodding at our greeting.  I doubt if too many strangers pass their way.  Set back against the hillside, we became aware of some ruined structures, and speculated on what their purpose might have been.  The sign Fornos do Cal da Escusa suggested a connection with ovens.  We later found that these had been lime quarries, quite possibly dating back to Roman times and the nearby city of Ammaia.

In the distance, across the fields of olives, vines and sheep, Marvão kept watch from on high.

We had circled back towards Portagem but, just before the village, a right turn took us through the tiny hamlet, São Salvador da Aramenha, home to some beautiful camelias.  Past the church and a diminutive café, a left brought us to the Roman ruins, unimposing behind a locked gate.

Thankfully they were simply closed for lunch.  Just beyond the gates, a small museum, with a film show relating the history of the site.  Then we were free to wander, full of expectation.  The website Ammaia can provide details.

The site is surprisingly large, and actually spans a country lane, but much of it has yet to be excavated.  Remnants of the South Gate, the Forum and a bathing area are clearly visible.  Ongoing since 1994, progress is slow and reliant on students and volunteers.

There is enormous potential here, and in the stillness of the surrounds you can let your imagination roam.  Romans, gossiping in the Forum, languid in the baths, or patrolling the walls with Marvão on the horizon.  Meanwhile the grass grows long, sprinkled with wild flowers of lemon and blue.  Leaving the site, it was about another half hour, through the dappled shade of fragrant pines and yet more olives, back to the village of Portagem.  I think we mostly followed PR5.

But where’s the cake, I hear you say?  Well, there’s plenty at Su’s place, and Jude has some luscious meringues to share.  Perhaps you’d like to join them.  In this sleepy corner of the Alentejo, I was hard pressed to find a cake shop.

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A few more walks for you this week.  Please, keep sending them.  I don’t mind if they’re just of your back garden- it’s all fresh air, and a pleasant distraction for each other.

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Alice has a beautiful walk for us in these troubled times :

Prayer Garden

But nobody says it better than Drake :

Lonesome Avenue

Fancy a little climb with Irene?

Top of a Sand Dune

Meanwhile Natalie is staying positive :

Looking Forward to Spring

And playing in the waves.  Wish I could!

Fit and Fun Walk: Waves

Nobody captures beauty better than Lynn.  Treat yourself to a walk with her :

LOCAL WALKS: Signs of Spring in the Pacific Northwest

Wonderful Italy!  Cathy shares a journey I always wanted to make :

The Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare

Still in Italy, Sheetal takes me across the lagoon, to one of my most beautiful memories ever :

Colours of Venetian Isles

Stay safe out there!  We’re all traveling by armchair now.  Might as well get comfy.  I’d better go and find some cake!