Fun with the Monkeys

No guesses where?

No guesses where?

Have you ever been clouted around the head by a monkey?  No?  I hadn’t either, until last week on Gibraltar.  It wasn’t a deliberate act on the monkey’s part. At least, I don’t think so!  I had read the advice on not interacting with them and just letting them get on with their lives.  We’re the intruders, after all.  I was happy to just take a couple of shots and move on.

The problem arose when I leaned over the wall, holding tight to my camera, to take a shot of a mother and youngster just below me.  Mum was busy with her fruit and the youngster desperate to get in on the act.  As he squirmed about, I tried to get a good shot.  Suddenly- smack!  Two medium sized monkeys had galloped along the wall and straight over my head.  Serves me right for leaving it in such a vulnerable place!  The good news is that I didn’t drop the camera down the face of the Rock.  Now that would have been a disaster!  Here’s the shot I was striving for.

Not so great, is it?

Not so great, is it?

So, that’s me and monkeys!  Shall I tell you about the rest of the trip?  It was a pre-dawn start and a four and a half hour bus ride from the Eastern Algarve.  Some foolish folks at Lagos, in the western end, had boarded at 4.20am!  I’m fine once I’m on board and rolling.  A new panorama unfolding outside my window is always a buzz for me.  I watched the sun coming up through the umbrella pines in perfect contentment.

Over the Spanish border and just past Lepe, sudden thick fog descended and I had a moment of panic.  I had left the Algarve sunshine for this? Somewhere south of Seville it began to clear and my nose was then pressed hard against the window.  I hadn’t been prepared for the lovely lakeside scenery around Los Barrios, when finally, there it was, up ahead- the unmistakable shape of The Rock.

It was midday and melting hot.  Pedro, our affable tour guide, had arranged for minibuses to whisk us up to the heights.  Truth be known, there wasn’t much whisking going on!  Traffic in Gibraltar was gridlocked due to some power failure or whim of its own.  It’s that kind of place!  A very smiley Moroccan eventually manoeuvered us onto his minibus and we set off.  Some of the Brits on the bus were very offended by the German audio commentary.  I just dissolved into giggles!  A comedy of errors it definitely was.  It was a relief to be free of the traffic and allowed off the bus at Europa Point.

Trinity Lighthouse.  Isn't it a good-looker?

Trinity Lighthouse. Isn’t it a good-looker?


But the best bit was Morocco, beyond the shimmering sea

But the best part was the sight of Morocco, lying in a shimmering haze

Normally I research a destination to death before I set foot in it, but I hadn’t been sure that Gibraltar would be an option, so I arrived equipped only with a few preconceptions.  Back on the minibus, I was in for a very pleasant surprise.  Have you heard of St. Michael’s Cave?  A natural grotto, it was apparently used during World War II as a hospital.  Currently it stages a beautiful light show.  There is an auditorium too for private events.

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I’m not fond of caves but it had me entranced for a little while.  The views from the top of The Rock were pretty impressive too.  I would have loved to whizz down on the cable car but the minibus returned us to shore level.  With not a lot of time to spare, I headed for the Tourist Information Office in Casements Square to pick up a map.

Looking out from The Rock

Looking out from The Rock

A tree with style but not many leaves!

A tree with style but not many leaves!

I might have liked a wander through the town, but the main sights had been pointed out on our way down and my next priority had to be boats. There are two marinas, one of which (Queensway) seemed to include a rather nice bathing area.  No time for that, so I headed to Ocean Village, which was also in the direction of the border where I had been dropped off. Yes, it was a little glitzy and fake, but I am a complete sucker for any kind of marina.  The bars and restaurants were full of happy, smiling faces- endless cocktail hour, apparently.  And boats!

Just a small one- please!

Just a small one- please!

Boat heaven!

Boat heaven!

There was just time to linger for a wrap and a glass of wine, while the misters on the corners of the umbrellas sprayed us, and the food, at regular intervals!  Pedro had warned us to allow plenty of time to return from the town and pass through the border controls.  There was a no.5 bus but it seemed far more adventurous to walk back across the airport runway.  I had hoped to see a plane landing and I was in luck.  Barely had I crossed the runway than sirens sounded and the barriers came down.  Such an air of anticipation!  I shuffled my feet and gazed expectantly with the rest of the crowd.  Ten or fifteen minutes passed.  I awaited the heavy drone of engines and a rush of wings.

Eventually there was a tiny humming sound.  My vision is not the very best and I had to peer quite hard to see the incoming flight.  I barely just caught it on camera.

Can you spot it?

Can you spot it?

I’m sure that I missed lots, but I got a flavour of the place, which is all that a visit like this can give.  Was it what I expected?  Mostly, yes.  A little crazy, but with a certain charm.


The simple kind

The simple kind

Ready to go!

Ready to go

As far as you can take me

As far as they can take me!

Edited by Viveka Gustafson

Or maybe something grander?  (Edited by Viveka Gustafson)

With a little more style

With a bit more style
And panache!

And oozing panache!

Some elegant wood carving

Perhaps some elegant wood carving

And a figurehead to charm the world

And a figurehead fit to face the world!

Jake has asked the question this week- how do you like to travel?  You might have noticed that I’m very partial to boats- all shapes and sizes.  How about you? The last five shots were taken when the Tall Ships Race came to Hartlepool in 2010.  My lovely friend Viveka admired them but it wasn’t a bright day and one of them needed a hint of brightening up.  She was kind enough to do it for me, unasked.  Isn’t that what friends are for? I think my husband may have taken some of the Tall Ships.  My memory’s not so good these days! But I do remember to join Jake in his Sunday Post challenge whenever I can.  The subject this week is Transport.  Come take a look!


Just one last sunset!

Sea defences softened by   sunset

Hartlepool sea defences, softened by the setting sun

All of my life I’ve been a diarist and a chronicler.  There’s nothing I like better than to tell a bit of a story.  And these days, to illustrate it with a photo or three.  How, and when, did it happen that my camera became an extension of my arm?  I don’t really know, but I do know that I love putting captions onto the images of my life.

So maybe it’s no surprise that, in blogging, I feel as if I’ve come home.  I’ve found an audience with whom I can share a smile (and the odd reflection).  I try to keep it light.  The world has enough sorrows.  But I’m happy to listen, to encourage, and to give and receive lots of hugs.  This walk around Hartlepool marina, as the sun sets, is my way of saying thank you, to all of you, for a wonderful year in your company.

I love the shape of the breakwater

I like the shape of our breakwater

Its arms stretch out in a great hug!

Its arms stretch out to the sea in a big hug!

The boatyard is gloriously backlit

The boatyard looks great, backlit by the sinking sun

And the Headland is within touching distance

And the Headland is just out of reach, in the distance.

The light just gilding St. Hilda's church

The light gently gilds St. Hilda’s church.

The boats are peaceful at their moorings

The boats are peaceful at their moorings.

But in the Hrabourmaster's Office, a surprise!

But who’s that, up by the Harbourmaster’s Office? He’s a surprise!

The boats are undisturbed by his presence

Those boats aren’t the least bit disturbed by his presence.

The deer seems to sniff the air

The deer seems to sniff the air

And then the sun goes, in a blaze of glory!

And then the sun sinks, in a blaze of glory!

This is the last Hartlepool sunset of 2013 that I’ll share with you.  On Thursday I’m up, well before the lark, and flying south to the Algarve.  Naturally the camera will be as excited as me, and we’ll do our best to bring you back some lovely images.

I hope the New Year will be kind to you, and thank you again, for sharing, and enriching, my world.

Travelling “My Way”

Don’t worry, I’m not about to burst into song.  Well, I might, but you won’t have to listen.  This is simply my entry for the Travel Your Way photography competition being hosted by Rhino Carhire.  Lovely Lucy nominated me.  She’s on holiday in Portugal right now, recovering from her honeymoon.

I have to post four shots (or more!) depicting travel by air, sea, road and rail.



I have to admit to being one of those people who sit with their nose pressed to the window on a flight.  Kindles and iPads are wasted on me, though I could do with a large map upon my knee.  I’m forever trying to work out which bit of coastline or land mass I’m flying over, while all around me people snore or follow the plot of the latest thriller.  The balls of fluff below and the occasional snowclad peak are all the thrill I need.

The photo above is one of many taken on the journey back to the UK from the Algarve.  Well- you recognised it, didn’t you?  The sun was just setting, touching the lakes with flame.

Traditional barcos rabelos at Peso da Regua

Azulejo panel of traditional barcos rabelos at Peso da Regua

Impossible to capture the boating experience on Portugal’s beautiful Douro with just one photo.  The traditional way of transporting the barrels of port, the winding and weaving river, the terraces of vines- all combined to give me the experience of a lifetime on board with Tomasz do Douro.

Plying a different trade now.

Plying a different trade now.

Yet still remembered on our dining room wall

Yet still remembered on our dining room wall

And culminating in beautiful Porto.

And culminating in beautiful Porto.

Road trips for me usually mean a few days outing from our Algarve home, and always, always result in a lot of walking.  One of my favourite places, ever, was the Spanish city of Cordoba.  We started off on the embankment with this alluring view.

The sky was mean and moody but the sun shone

The sky was mean and moody but the sun shone

A place to rest the feet- the lovely gardens of the Alcazhar.

A place to rest the feet- the lovely gardens of the Alcazhar.

I love everything about travelling by rail, from the clickety-clack of the tracks to a belch of steam on the North York Moors.  I thought that I would probably post a shot of the wonderfully restored and nurtured steam engines, idling on the platform at Grosmont or Goathland.  But in the end I opted for a tram shot.  Nothing quite beats the thrill of these sleek beauties, chugging up and down inclines in Lisbon, and probably my favourite ride- along the shoreline of the Foz do Douro in Porto.

The tram trundles past Foz do Douro

The tram trundles past Foz do Douro

Fortunately for me the deadline on this competition was extended to 31st October or I would never have made the cut, so many thanks to Rhino Carhire for that.  It just remains for me to nominate 5 people who could use a spare £1000 for travel.  And quickly!

Bespoke Traveler has some great tales to tell, and some great shots to go with them.

Hope, the happy hugger – how lovely a name is that?  I’ve just been looking at some stunning bougainvilea shots on her page.

My guilty pleasures  Viveka?  Well you ALL know what a treasure she is.  She’s already got me singing on this grey English day.

Dear Bliary has been one of my favourite blogs for a long time.  Innovation is Gemma’s middle name.  Or was it Marie?

Janalines world journey is a terrific read.  I just hope she has time to take part.

You don’t need a nomination to join in, so if I’ve missed anyone who was desperate to be there, please don’t hesitate.

Hope you enjoyed travelling along with me.  Did you sing?

Boats, and more boats!

I always wanted a houseboat!

I always wanted a houseboat!

Do you know, I think I know what it must feel like to have your name up in lights on Broadway!  Or, maybe Shaftesbury Avenue?  Not once, but twice this week I have found my name in a blog!  Fame, notoriety, or just really lovely friends?  I think you know the answer.

First I’m invited to go Split-toning with Sonel.  Now you know, and I know, and even Sonel knows that technique and me are strangers when it comes to photography.  But I have been known to mess about a bit.

Whilst I was thinking how best to approach this, I suddenly found myself a sparkling diamond on Paula’s  beautiful Thursday’s Special.  What’s a girl to do but slap on some powder and paint, add a few spangles, and step onto the landing stage.  Ahoy there!

The marina transformed!

The marina transformed!

Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing.  I’m like a child with a paintbox- a splash of this, a dash of that!  I only know what I like, and am limited to Ulead Photo Express 4.0 to effect the changes.

I like a working boat too, don't you?

I like a working boat too, don’t you?

I could have sketched this myself? Maybe not!

I could have sketched this myself? Maybe not!

I’m not at all sure that this is appropriate but I really like the effect.  I used a variation of “Oilpaint” in Ulead Photo Express.  I think it looks a bit like a negative, or a picture in a child’s colouring book.

I don't mind a boatyard either

I don’t mind a boatyard, now and then

Sonel knows I like sepia. It's kind of my era!

And Sonel knows I like sepia. It’s kind of my era!

Such an exotic name for a tiny boat!

Such an exotic name for a tiny boat!

This is a watercolour effect

This is a watercolour effect- unsure if it’s appropriate, but I really like it.

I like the reflection on this one

I rather like the reflection on this one

This blue effect seems to bring the photo alive to me

But, for me, it comes alive with the blue effect.

Talking of reflections, this one I really like

Talking of reflections, this one I really love

Another one I love

And with a pink tint, too.

This little wooden craft is a favourite of mine too

This little wooden craft is a favourite of mine

Or a blue tint?

Do you like the blue tint?

And in the harbour mighty PSS Wingfield Castle

And finally, in the harbour, mighty paddlesteamer PSS Wingfield Castle

Sepia takes this right back in time

Sepia takes it right back in time, don’t you think?

I have to humbly apologise to Sonel if this wasn’t quite what she intended.  Do, please, visit Sonel’s Corner to see how it really should be done, and maybe try it yourself.  She is an expert in my eyes, and also the loveliest friend.

Meantime, the star of the show is Hartlepool marina.  I have spent many happy hours there taking photographs of boats.  Paula knows I love them.  I’d like to say thank you to her for making my Thursday very special.  Do you have something special you’d like to share?  Thursday’s Special is the place to do it.


Meeting a Catbird


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


Fluffy clouds





and boat people


Random moments from my Algarve week.  I seldom take photos of animals.  They have a habit of moving as soon as I point the camera.  The three cats intrigued me, however, as they sat and just stared, and stared.  I looked around for the hypnotist but he wasn’t anywhere about.  The boat, in “dry dock” in Albufeira, was equally unmoving.

It seems so much more than a week since I was there.  I have lots of golden moments to share, but there’s no time.  I’m off to Lisa’s wedding.  SO excited, I can barely type!  You can guess what next week’s 6WS is going to be.  Meantime, please visit Cate at Show My Face to share your week in six words.  Click on the header or the link for details.

I hope to catch up with some of you tomorrow, but I may be a bit giddy!