Time and tide…

It’s one of those sights that has always gladdened my heart, since I first started coming to the Algarve- the pontoon bridge at Barril that links Tavira Island to the mainland.  With the tide low, the gangplank descended steeply, but by the time you had walked to the beach, loitered a while, and walked back again, the current would be sweeping in, and have raised the bridge to level.  It never ceased to amaze me.

Every visit to Tavira has always resulted in at least one crossing, there and back, and I suppose I had started to notice the signs of wear and tear.

But no more than one notices the wrinkles on an old friend.  I have lingered by that bridge to watch the sun glinting off the water, and set, in a glory of colour, at the end of many a day.

I suppose change is inevitable.  I don’t always accept it with a good grace.  In July this year I arrived at the bridge and gazed in admiration, tinged with horror.  My bridge had gone, to be replaced by a shiny new model, with no ups and downs, or rusty bits.

More practical?  Certainly!  Still beautiful?  I think so.  But oh, how I shall miss my old friend. Past meets Present, Becky.  What do you think?

I’m going to chance my arm, and say that my bridge was Unusual too, though maybe not in the class of this week’s challenge from Draco .

Jo’s Monday walk : Barril beach

Barril beach

Barril beach

I’m sure that some of you will be delighted to know that this is a walk where you can cheat hugely.  It’s definitely one to take the children along on, or maybe you have a husband who always wanted to be an engine driver?

Look what runs alongside the footpath!  Too tempting!

Look what runs alongside the footpath- too tempting!

I can’t remember ever visiting the Eastern Algarve without a visit to Barril.  Come along with me and I’ll try to show you why it’s such a favourite.

If the weather’s not too warm and you’re feeling fairly energetic, you can start in the nearby village of Santa Luzia and complete a circular walk.  I’ll give you more details later.  For now, we’ve tossed the coin and decided to do it the easy way, from Pedras d’el Rei.  Your start point is beside the salt marshes and all you need to do is cross over the pontoon.

Looking back over the pontoon to Pedras d'el Rei

Looking back across the pontoon, to Pedras d’el Rei

There are distractions, of course.  A box of ripe figs alongside the pontoon!  I didn’t want to carry them with me on the outbound journey but I really hoped there might be a couple left on my return.  One thing’s for certain- the sea broom will be your constant companion along the way.

The sea broome in delicate shades of lilac

The sea broom, flowering in delicate shades of lilac

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

One of the big attractions for me is the variety of wild flowers you will find alongside the path.

I know this will be a challenge for my friend Jude.  She loves to identify flowers.

How about this one?

How about this one?  An Aeonium?

And you know this is my absolute favourite!

And you know this is my absolute favourite!  The Ice plant

Tiny crabs caper in the mud of the salt marshes.  I stopped to watch two in a courtly dance, but I don’t have a photo for you.  I’d left my ‘still ailing slightly’ camera back at the house, with the battery on charge, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to borrow Mick’s camera till we were part way there! (he didn’t offer till then, but he could see I was getting desperate)

I love the landscape

I love the landscape

With the hump of Monchique always in the background

With the hump of Monchique always in the background

As you approach the beach the flowers I have been calling Livingstone daisies, but I now find are Ice plants, appear in the dunes.  I featured a hot pink in my Six word Saturday, but in the Algarve they are more commonly lemon yellow.

Cacti and aloe vera begin to take over

Cacti and aloe vera begin to take over

And you're onto the boardwalk at Barril beach

And you’re onto the boardwalk, at Barril beach

A little detour to the anchors, of course!  They always capture the imagination.  A reminder of the days when the tuna fishing industry thrived in this area, the rusting “Cemetery of Anchors” provides a wonderful photo opportunity.  I would love to be there are sunset.

I liked the crisp catamaran beside the aged anchors

I like the modern catamarans, beached beside the ancient anchors

And there are beach bars , for refreshments

And there are beach bars too , for refreshment

Here you have a choice.  Remember I suggested a circular walk from Santa Luzia?  If you turn left when you reach the beach, 20-30 minutes walk along it will bring you to a point opposite Santa Luzia,  to which a ferry runs in Summer.  Access is across a long boardwalk.  My husband suggests that you should do this longer walk the other way around, starting with the ferry from Santa Luzia, to ensure that it is running.  He is a very practical soul.

But you and me are going back the way we came.  I still have those figs to collect, remember?  We might even cheat and take that train.  It’s a holiday, after all!

Use it or lose it?

Who doesn’t love the age of steam?

It carries water, beer and anything else the ilha needs

The little train carries water, beer and anything else the ilha needs

Crossing back over the pontoon, I’m not very surprised to find the ‘fig man’ gone.  But then I spot him, coming towards me, wheeling his bike with fresh supplies on the saddle.  He sees me too, and stops, the bike propped against his leg.  ‘Help me, please’, he says, in smiling English, and invites me to take a plastic bag from under his arm.  In doing so, I catch the edge of his cardboard box and the figs start to tip!  We both lunge for them and manage to stop all but one from crashing to the floor.  Phew!  They are 5 for 1 euro, and he pops an extra one into my bag. Thankfully all his customers are not as ‘helpful’ as me.

I haven’t even shown you the beach yet, but it’s a beauty.  Barril is just a small area of Tavira Island, which starts at the mouth of the River Gilao and rolls westward.  If you don’t have a car, a bus will take you from Tavira town centre to Santa Luzia, 15 minutes away, and continues on to Pedras d’el Rei, just a few minutes further west.

I guess I have to show you the beach?

I guess I have to show you the beach!

Next week I think I might take you on the walk where I fell down a ‘hole’.  Life’s seldom dull, is it?

I think I should maybe design a ‘rules’ page for the walks, too.  Not that there are any rules really, but then I wouldn’t have to bore you with the details each time.  Please spend a little while visiting these walks.  They give me an enormous amount of pleasure and I’m very grateful.

Drake has us perilously climbing a French ruin :

You know Yvette loves art?  Meet Modigliani! :

Alberta is staggeringly beautiful, until Sue almost comes nose to nose with a bear :

I got really excited when a newcomer to my blog took me on a walk beside the Seine :

And my plant expert, Jude, has excelled herself in the Lost gardens of Heligan :

Paris is popular this week!  Isn’t it always?  Christine’s is delectable! :


Happy walking, one and all!

Sunshine on the water

I’m not much of a sailor but I truly love the sea.  That glint of sunshine on water always lifts my spirits, and calls to mind that old John Denver song.  A warm mid-October day finds me strolling on the Eastern Algarve beach of Ilha Tavira.

The ferry had carried us out from Quatro Aguas, the meeting point of river and the salt water channels of the Ria Formosa.  Sailing boats bobbed alongside, trying to pick up a breeze on the silky calm water.

In the salt pans flamingos still lingered, not yet needing to head south for the winter.  As we cross over the island beneath fragrant pines, the warm breeze rushes to greet us.

Michael spreads a towel.  I wander from beach to shallows, slowly following the sand martins as they dart industriously about.  The retreating tide wriggles and squirms backwards.  Tiny pinpricks in the sand indicate where small sea creatures lurk, clinging on for dear life.  Portuguese fisher folk are only too keen to wrest them from their homes.

A lady nearby collects shells.  “Gorgeous, aren’t they?” I ask.  “Yes, I’m going to make them into a necklace”.  A magical idea for an enduring souvenir.  Perhaps I could try?  I like to think I have an “eye” but I’m really not good with my hands.

Train at Barril

Two days later we have crossed to the island from Barril, using the land train that always makes my husband smile.  The same sea, a different day- urgent waves slapping the shore.

A Dutch family launch themselves with huge delight into the bubbling foam.  All along the beach, castles and sea defences tumble, childish faces both captivated and dismayed at the rampant destruction.   Adults just stand and gaze at this awesome display of power.

Looking inland hazy blue hills rise gently to the heights of Monchique.

Another ferry, small and bustling this time, takes us from the smart new boardwalk at Cabanas across the lagoon to another impeccable stretch of beach.  Hot today and calm enough to lay at the water’s edge as it laps over you.

How can so much beauty be contained within a few short miles?  The images play over and over again in my mind.