Jo’s Monday walk : Party time in Ayamonte

You could be forgiven for thinking that I don’t really like living in Portugal at all!  Here I am, hopping on a ferry and crossing the border to Spain, yet again.  Actually, I was trying to salvage a day that was rapidly turning into a disaster.

Not for the youngsters, and Spanish families, though.  Owing to my bad timing I managed to completely miss the traditional Three Kings procession at Vila Real de Santo Antonio in the Algarve last week.  They had already ferried across to Ayamonte when I got there and not a trace of them was to be found in the sleepy streets.  Portuguese families were quietly strolling, sipping coffee in the cafés and contemplating lunch.  In a vain effort to catch up with the action, I persuaded the other half that we too should ferry across the Guadiana.

The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different in Spain!  It felt like the whole world was on the streets, out for a thoroughly good time.  A party was brewing and each and every plaza resounded with lively Spanish chatter.  But still no sign of the Kings!  Taking a breather from the hubbub, we climbed steps through the old side of town to look down on the river.

Back at ground level, everyone seemed to be walking in the same direction, the noise level constantly rising.  Tempting to take refuge for a while in the tranquility of the marina, overlooked by a faded sunset drama.

From across the street another mural smiles at me, inviting despite her tattered appearance.  As people settle into bars and reach for another beer, I begin to realise that I am not destined to see the parade.  The sun is already sinking low in the sky and the last ferry will be leaving soon.  It’s a short ride across the river but a long walk back by road!

Time to make the best of the situation and simply enjoy a beautiful sunset ride home, on a warm and lovely January evening.

Next year I promise to be better organised.  Did you notice, we didn’t even stop for cake? (though I did pick some up to nibble on the ferry  🙂 ). If you’d like to know more about the celebration, this link gives a little background.  Right now I have walks to share.   Join me next time on Jo’s Monday walk?  You’ll be more than welcome.

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Say hello to Natalie!  She’s doing her best to get us all fit this year :

Wellness Post #1 : A Fresh Start

Suzanne’s not trying quite so hard.  Coffee and cake, anyone?  And beautiful scenery too, of course :

A Walk around Mt. Maunganui Mauao

There’s no doubt that Carol’s right!  The waterfront at Vancouver is the place to be :

In the Right Place

Is it Winter somewhere in the world?  Apparently so!  Drake’s tracked it down for us :

Live and let’s snow

No such problems at Alice’s place!

Outdoors in January

While Geoff launches a series of fond memories with his Dad :

Walking With The Wind At My Back : Part One

Jackie always seems to have a plan or two up her sleeve :

New Year Appetizer

And Anabel has always just been somewhere interesting and beautiful :

Hebridean Hop 18 : Vatersay

More amazing architectural explorations with Cathy, this week :

Chaco Culture: Pueblo Arroyo & the Casa Rinconada community

You may not wander far but, if you look, you can always find something interesting.  Pauline and Jack set a fine example :

Lens-Artists photo challenge : Curves in Buddhism

Next week I shall be sharing purely Portuguese almond blossom.  For now my attention is seriously distracted by Australian Open tennis and the return to play of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.  Have a great week, won’t you?


Jo’s Monday walk : A romp in El Rompido

Two lighthouses for the price of one!  Driving into the village of El Rompido in Southern Spain, they are almost the first thing you see.  The smaller of the two was erected in 1861, marking the mouth of the Piedras river.  It no longer works, but its much taller amigo came along in 1975 and now lights up the estuary.  Striking though they are, it’s not the lighthouses that have brought me here.  El Rompido is home to the Marismas de Piedra y Flecha nature reserve and there are beautiful walks around the salt marshes.

The trail leads out around the edge of El Rompido, once a quiet fishing village, and in the off season still retaining much of its charm.  Bypass the small marina and the golf course and you are surrounded by nature in all its finery.

The area is a magnet for bird watchers.  The White Stork, Montagu’s harrier, stone curlew, the little grebe, the hoopoe, the spoonbill, the stilt, marsh harrier, the canastera, common tern, northern pintail, teals, the oystercatcher, the sandwich tern, the sandpiper, the plover, and the laughing gull can all be found here.  As usual, my group was chattering like a flock of magpies so I failed to capture the evidence, but I did distance myself, once in a while, to admire the landscape.

Information boards along the way give you clues as to what to look for, and in places the trail diverges so you have a choice- longer or shorter. If you’re with a group, pay attention, or you’ll find yourself taking a wrong turn.  It hardly matters though, as the landscape is flat and you can see for miles.  The humpbacked bridge is visible long before you get there.

We have only crossed the border into Spain and driven half hour out to the coast, so it’s no surprise that the landscape is similar to that of the Algarve.  Water rules here, too.  A key difference arises as you turn into the woodland, where magnificent plumes of Umbrella pine line the path.  These are not so common in the Algarve, but we share the prickly pear.

The trail turns back towards the village, and a boardwalk carries you past the golfers.  It’s lined in places with the pretty lanterna that abound at this time of year, pink and yellow the most common.  I especially like the rarer yellow and white variety.

Before long you are passing the lighthouses again, with time to wander the back streets of El Rompido, nonchalantly examining shop windows for a trinket or two before they close for siesta.  Or perhaps you are hungry and need to head straight to your restaurant.  There are any number to choose from, some with rather nice sea views.  Do stop in at the tourismo, beside the church, if you possibly can.  The friendliest, most informative receptionist I have ever met!  It’s worth a return trip just to talk to her, and maybe even try the ferry crossing.

I like to end with a treat or two.  The almond flavoured pudim flan was lovely, and isn’t that the most beautiful hibiscus you ever saw?  And in case you are wondering what I’m doing in Spain, this is the other half of a pre-Christmas visit.  I’m home in the Algarve right now, and it feels good.

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The midnight hour at New Year, as planned, was spent on Ponte Romano bridge in Tavira, in company with some lovely people.  We were told the fireworks weren’t as good as last year, but it really didn’t matter.  We were where we wanted to be.  Thank you all for accompanying me on the journey.  You’re welcome on Jo’s Monday walk at any time.  Let’s share some walks, shall we?


Susan pushed herself right to the edge on this one!

Walking Valencia Peak Trail

Join Alice in sunny Savannah :

A walk in the square

It was a very merry Christmas with Jackie :

Feliz Navidad

And Eunice celebrated the New Year with some lovely bright skies :

New Year’s Day walk 2019

Spot the likeness with Debbie, down at the souq?  She’ll bash me for being cheeky  🙂

Unlimited fun with Debbie

You just can’t have better company than Becky if you’re going on a walk.  Do let her show you Porto :

A day of contrasts

Many of you will know Sartenada.  I’m including this walk because it beautifully portrays 20 year old memories for me :

Holiday in Italy – Capri

I do miss him when he’s not around!  Drake travels the world, and shares generously :

Through the Twenty-Eighteen

Cathy risks heat stroke exploring more fascinating desert ruins :

Chaco Culture : Chetro Ketl & Pueblo Bonito

Some of my UK friends will be familiar with this one.  Happily for me, I’m too far distant to test myself :

UK Hiking – South West Coast Path, Branscombe to Sidmouth

The festivities in the Algarve are finally over and it’s onwards into another year.  I have more to share than I can possibly make time for.  Life is full here- new friends, new language.  Be patient with me?  I’ll do my best.

Jo’s Monday walk : La Rábida and Muelle de las Carabelas

Just in case you think it’s Portugal all the way from now on, I thought we’d pop over the border into Spain today.  It’s about half an hour drive from our home in Tavira, but once there I couldn’t resist traveling a bit further.  We did a lovely walk round the salt marshes at El Rompido with the Strollers, but then we carried on down the coast.  I had my eyes set on the monastery at La Rábida and the Muelle de las Carabelas- the dock where replicas of the ships that sailed Columbus far beyond the Iberian peninsula can be found.

It’s a pleasant spot, looking out on a vast expanse of water.  Boarding La Santa Maria, La Niña, and La Pinta I have to admit that I was in awe of the courage of their sailors, navigating by the stars.  The reproductions were constructed in 1992 to celebrate the 5th centenary of the Discovery of the Americas.  I could not imagine myself even sailing around the bay in them.  The museum tells the story of Columbus and the locals who shared his spirit of adventure, brought to life on a wide screen video.  Note that they are closed on Mondays.

My chief purpose in being there was to visit the atmospheric monastery of La Rábida, the Convento de Santa Maria.  A broad, palm lined avenue leads from the dock of the caravels, past a huge amphitheatre and up numerous steps to the grounds of the friary.  Surrounded by greenery, it’s a peaceful and lovely spot.  The Franciscan friary was founded in 1261, on the site of a former Almohad watchtower, from which its name comes.

The loveliest aspect of the monastery, for me, was the tiled courtyard surrounded by richly patterned cloisters.  The second storey, complete with battlements, was added in 17th century to protect from pirate invasion, but provides the most tantalising overlook on the mosaic tiles.

The friary is best known in history for the visit of Christopher Columbus in 1490.  His request for funding his first expedition to the Indies had been turned down by King Ferdinand of Spain and Queen Isabella, but with an intervention from the friary it finally went ahead.  The church lies just off the cloisters, still, serene and beautiful.

The artworks include frescos of Columbus and his adventures, by Spanish artist Daniel Vázquez Diaz, and some with an interesting 3D effect.

A wander through the grounds eventually brought us to some botanic gardens, a good place to sit and look out over distant Huelva, absorbing the surprising heat of December.  A rill of water, a koi pond and identifying magnolia seed heads completed our afternoon.  Time to head for home, waving goodbye to the Columbus statue as we pass by.

You know I can’t leave you without cake.  🙂  I only ate the raspberries, one wafer and a mouthful.  Honest!

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Hope you enjoyed my little sidestep into Andalucia.  Back in Portugal next week.  Meantime, many thanks for sharing.  I have some more great reads for you.  Join me next time on Jo’s Monday walk?  I love a bit of company.


Suzanne shares the beautiful landscape of New Zealand- a special place, I think you’ll agree :

Life at No.22 – Photo Walks – Papamoa Hills

It’s certainly shopping time of year.  Join Alice in a stroll round the shops :

Strolling and shopping in the city of Bayreuth, Germany

An ardent Liverpool supporter, my friend Drake :

You’ll never walk alone

A foodie and Barcelona- a match made in heaven for Jackie :

Buen Provecho

Kicking leaves rather than ass, with Geoff, this week :

Moving West #capitalring #walking

Tobias shares some beautiful ‘roofscapes’ in a clear blue sky :

Looking Up in Dijon

Don’t you love colour and drama?  I think this is the place for it :

Colours of Bogota- Outdoors

I like to share joy whenever I can, and this is a lovely post from Debbie :

Living joyfully: A Photo Walk & Memories

Once again Cathy dazzles with her photography and epic tales of the native Americans :

Canyon de Chelly: Spider Rock & other overlooks

Thanks again, everybody!  I suspect you can tell how much I’m loving this new life.  Wishing you all a great week!

Jo’s Monday walk : A soggy ending, in an Alcazar

“Is the weather always like this?”, I asked the smiling receptionist, as I shook the drips from my hood.  “Never!”, she replied, with an adamant shake of the head.  My lucky day, then.  But there was no other option, as I was determined to see the Alcazar of Jerez, and soon we would be homeward bound.  The video playing in the background displayed wall to wall sunshine.  Salt in the wounds, but it was a magnificent sight.  ‘Alcazar’ derives from the Arab word al-qasr, meaning a group of buildings, surrounded by walls, used both as a fortress and a palace.  Built in the 12th century, this was the seat of political and military power ruling the city.

A sprint across the courtyard brought me to the shelter of the mosque, or mesquita, the only one still to exist from the 18 of the Islamic city.  Dating from 12th century, it has all the usual elements- the minaret, for calling the faithful to prayer, and an ablutions courtyard with central fountain for purification before entering the prayer room, itself presided over by the Mihrab, a small niche in the wall facing Mecca.

Tucked within the walls, the biggest olive press I ever saw.  The oil mill was added in the 18th century, when growing olive trees was of great commercial importance to Jerez and the surrounding countryside.

Swiftly crossing the Parade Ground, where military formations were once assembled and reviewed, I beheld the sorry sight of the drowning garden.

Beyond it the Royal Pavilion, designed for reclining beside the pool, and the Octagonal Tower.    Part of the original Islamic fortress, situated at its highest point, it makes a superb watchtower.  And you know that, weather or no, I was going up there.

Happily I’m not the only one with a careless disregard for the weather.  Climbing the tower behind me, a Frenchman declares that all is simply ‘magnifique’.  We agree that in bright sunshine we’d have to share it with many others.  From the tower you can see the scale of the Alcazar, the walls originally 4 kilometres long.  An area under excavation dates back to the 10th century.  It includes a pottery kiln , water wheel and reservoir.

However exhilarating the views, rain dripping off your nose can become tiresome, and I was not sorry to scurry back across the courtyard to the palace.  In 1664 Lorenzo Fernandez de Villavicencio inherited the Alcazar.  He undertook much restoration work, including this beautiful piece of baroque, over the ruins of the old Islamic palace.

A dark wood staircase and superbly carved doorway dominate the space.  Lofty rooms filled with beautiful pieces.  And the ‘piece de resistance’, a remarkable pharmacy, with carved original wooden shelving, flasks and jars.

A Camera Obscura on the top floor of the palace seemed like a bad idea in such murky weather.  The Hammam, or Arab Baths, might have been a better experience.  In the event, I slipped back out, past the still smiling receptionist.

That concludes my couple of days in Jerez.  This Andalusian city has neither the grandeur of Granada nor the unique beauty of Cordoba, but it has a charm and character all of its own.  I enjoyed it very much, and I hope that you did too.

With Easter behind us, I hope you’ll take time to read the walks I’m sharing this week.  Many thanks to all my contributors and to those who just enjoy a bit of a ramble.  Please join me at any time with a walk of your own.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Kettle on, and let’s go!


Spectacular scenery from Pauline to start us off this week :

Waterfall walk

It’s not everybody who can take a walk without talking.  Enjoy the peace, with lovely Meg!

Wordless walk: 1080 to Tilba Headland

And if you want to share some knowledge too… :

Never the same place twice : Pooles to 1080

Naughty George and adorable Flora accompany Gilly along the canal.  Watch out, ducks!

Beside the Grand Western

Suzanne is a housesitter who likes to get about a bit.  Join her in Turkey :

Neighbourhood Walks – Iztuzu Beach & more

Fabulous falls in a gush of swirling water, from Drake.  Must be all that rain!

Falling water

Sunshine after the rain.  Thanks, Irene!

Ended in Sunshine

And just a reminder, in case you needed it.  Magical snow in NYC, with Susan :

The Magic of New York City : Central Park in the Snow

Not actually a walk but it’s walk related.  Thanks for sharing, Denzil :

23 Ways Hiking Makes you Healthier

And a gentleman hiker I discovered at Denzil’s place.  Meet Guidowke with an interesting look at Belgium :

GR5AZ Rupelmonde – Branst

Or travel through history with David in a beautifully peaceful French village :

Village of Azincourt

What will I do when Jude runs out of Garden Portraits?  Give up blogging, I suspect :

Garden Portrait : Dunster Secret Garden

We drove home from Jerez in tumultuous rain, crashing against the windscreen, that old adage ‘the rain in Spain…’ drumming in our ears.  And now, on an English Bank Holiday Monday, it’s much the same.  Stay dry, and cheerful, this week, won’t you?

Six word Saturday

Determined to finish what I started!

No, seriously!  I need to finish sharing my visit to Jerez.  The Cathedral is magnificent.  Originally a Collegiate Church, it wasn’t granted cathedral status until 1980, by the grace of Pope John Paul II, though the church itself dates back to the Christian conquest of Jerez, on 9th October, 1264.  Briefly the sky was blue, but I was eager to see inside.

Just inside the mighty portal, I was surprised to find a model of an industrious looking Jerez, and close by, not so surprisingly, an altar to John Paul.

There was a wealth of beauty wherever you looked, the cathedral extending theatrically in a sequence of rooms behind the main altar.

My only disappointment was climbing the tower.  I never can resist, but the spiral staircase led only to a grilled window, with a limited view.

Slightly more than my allotted Six Words, I agree, but I do hope Debbie finds this Joyful.  Wishing you all a blessed and happy Easter.  And, heaven’s above, Becky’s March Square is finally over!  Let’s eat cake!

Six word Saturday

Hot stuff, to keep you warm!

I’ve never been closer to the action and the evening was all a bit of a blur.  I’m sorry that my photos can’t do it better justice but I hope that they convey a little of the heat and passion in Jerez during the Flamenco Festival.  What a show!

Debbie’s sheep has lots of hair to keep it warm.  Join her with Six Words to sum up your week?

A little side trip to Spain


I never like to have things hanging about in my ‘Drafts folder’.  I’m not an organised, scheduling sort of person though, heaven knows, it would be an improvement!   But this little side trip keeps smiling sadly at me from it’s lonely position in there.  Unfinished, until now.  So, with a flourish, let me present Ayamonte.

Remember my kings, strolling through the streets of Vila Real de S. Antonio on the Algarve’s eastern edge?  They were smiling and throwing sweets to their loyal subjects, as any good king should at Epiphany.  And then they boarded the ferry for Ayamonte, in Spain.  Just 10 minutes on the ferry, but a lifetime apart culturally and in temperament.

Ayamonte, seen from the ferry, is a simple whitewashed Spanish town.  At close quarters it reveals its medieval side in narrow streets and historical buildings.  This is Huelva province, and there is no shortage of Andalucian flamboyance.

The approach, by ferry

The approach, by ferry

Such pretty tiles around the fountain

Such pretty tiles around the fountain

Life is so colourful

Life is so colourful

Even under a cloudy January sky

Even under a cloudy January sky

The bronze dome pierces the clouds

The bronze dome pierces the clouds

I love the colour and the tiles yet it always surprises me how very different Ayamonte feels from Portugal, just a wave away, across the water.  The road bridge over the River Guadiana now links the two, for speedy access, but I prefer a gentler approach to the culture change.

A canal runs away from the Guadiana, around the old side of town and past a park at which I don’t look too closely.  There are animals caged there in an environment I would never choose for them.  A new boardwalk has been laid and there is an air that the town is thriving.  Not the case in much of Spain, nor Portugal, for that matter.

Beyond the canal, the older side of town

Beyond the canal, in the distance, the older side of town

And so I’ve had my little flirt with flamenco.  Back on the ferry now, and home to Portugal (and those crazy, likeable kings).