Six word Saturday


Five places to go back to

The light cascades down over you

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

I was invited a while ago by to take part in their promotion and maybe have the chance to win myself an iPhone6.  All I had to do was write a post about 5 places I would be happy to go back to.  It’s a tempting idea and it just happens to work well with my Six word Saturday.

Barcelona had to be on my list.  Gaudi’s work left me speechless (and you should know, that’s not easy to do!) and I would be more than happy to revisit Parc Guell.  The main reason for going back would have to be to observe the progress of the incredible Sagrada Familia.  It’s not due for completion for a number of years yet so I shall postpone my revisit a while.

Especially with the swimming pool!

The lovely location of The Vintage Hotel on the banks of the Douro

Somewhere far more serene than Barcelona, the Douro region of Portugal made a lasting impression on me.  Using Porto as a base, I had only a couple of days to explore the natural beauty of this landscape.  The highlight for me was cruising back from Peso da Regua along the Douro River, the vineyards rolling away on either shore.  I am quite determined to return some day and stay in one of the hillside villages where I can savour the pure, clear air. (and maybe sample the grape)  Springtime, with the blossom all around me, would be ideal.  Or Autumn, when all those vines turn wine red!

The frocks shimmered in the dark and then began to change colour

Shimmering frocks at Lumiere 2013, in Durham Cathedral

The city of Durham is right on my doorstep, and I return to it again and again.  The University and student population make it a lively place and there’s always an event of some kind going on. Currently the Cathedral is fund raising via their Buy a Lego Brick campaign.  I did, of course, and it’s fun to return and see the project grow.

If you really want to see something special, you should time your visit for Lumiere.  This event only takes place once every two years, the next being November 2015.  It’s a long way off, but put it in your diary.  I’ll be there!

Theview from the cafe in magnificent Musee d'Orsay

The view from the cafe in magnificent Musee d’Orsay, Paris

How could I not include my new love, Paris, in my list?  I wandered far and wide around the city and found nothing to disappoint. Even sitting on the top deck of an open top bus with the rain streaming down my neck didn’t seem so bad in Paris!  The wonders of Versailles and Monet’s incredible garden at Giverny will stay with me forever but I would love to go back.  I don’t really think it matters how or when.

A place where the spirit soars

The Algarve, a place where my spirit soars

My last choice won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, and I’m returning there on Monday.  The Algarve is where I am at peace with the world.  I have spent endless hours wandering on its beaches, and hope to spend many more.  Tavira feels like home to me, and that’s always a reason for going back.  It’s time for another glass or two of port in this beautiful riverside setting.  I’d love it if you could join me there some day.


I won’t be around for Six Word Saturday next week.  I’ll be wandering on one of those beaches!  But I hope you’ll still join Cate at Show My Face.

One of the entry conditions of the promotions was to name 5 other bloggers to participate.  I’m not sure if we’re out of time but my nominations would be Le chic en Roselolawi, Behind the Story, Stranger in USA and Hey Jude.

Booked.netTop Destinations to Go There


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?

Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post : Unforgettable


Unforgettable, one of my all time favourite songs.  Isn’t it yours?  I don’t even have to mention Nat King Cole and it’s smouldering away in your head.  He certainly had that “unforgettable” quality.

Some of you know that I have just experienced one of the most unforgettable weekends of my life- the wedding of my daughter Lisa to Leonardo.  The honeymoon alone is worth a post, and I wasn’t even there!  But I will tell you that they had snow in Venice- a magical thought.  It swirled around the lagoon like a giant snowdome.  And the claxons sounded for Aqua Alta whilst they were at a masked ball.  The water rose and rose to the first floor of the hostess’ home in Ca D’Oro, and they had to remain till 4.30 in the morning when the level had dropped sufficiently to escape.  Never mind- the band and the opera singers played on, and the food was good.  I think that definitely comes in the category of “unforgettable”, but the memory isn’t mine to cherish.

Click on any of the photos to view them gallery style.

I’m pretty sure most of you will have unforgettable moments in your life, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.  Click on the lucky snake logo or the link to visit Jakesprinter with me.  Thanks Jake for being unforgettable yourself.

Cee’s fun foto challenge : water

Do I need a logo?  I’m not sure.  I’ve never taken part in Cee’s fun foto challenge before.  But I do know that I love water, and that’s this week’s subject.  So I’m going to shower you with a few of my damper moments.

Ooh, look Mum!

Ooh, look Mum!

Water feature in the Rynek (market square), Wroclaw

Water feature in the Rynek (market square), Wroclaw

A little warm rain in the botanic gardens

A little warm rain in the botanic gardens

The moorhen doesn't seem to mind

The moorhen doesn’t seem to mind

Japanese water gardens always look so serene

Japanese water gardens always look so serene

Or you can have dancing waters and a musical accompaniment

Or you can have dancing waters, with a musical accompaniment

Especially pretty on a night

Especially pretty by night

I like my water on the wild side too

I like my water on the wild side too

Or lapping gently at a shoreline

Or lapping gently at a shoreline

With a few bubbles in it

With a few bubbles in it, for fun

Or the odd branch

Or the odd branch, dangling down

Or stunningly,as part of a "waterfall" light installation

Most stunningly, as part of a “waterfall” light installation

I probably should stop now.  My eyes are tired, and maybe yours are too.  But I’m not good at doing things by halves, so maybe just a couple of my lovely Portugal to finish with.

Tickling a sunny square in the Algarve

Water tickling a sunny square in Lagos, the Algarve

And sparkling in the Douro at Porto

And sparkling in the Douro at Porto

So many shots I have of that Douro

So many lovely shots I have of the Douro

Time to let the sun set, at Peso da Regua

But it’s time to let the sun set, at Peso da Regua

I did say that I love water, didn’t I?  And I know that I’m not on my own, so visit Cee’s page to join in with the challenge, or view the many other great entries.

Sunday Post : Peaceful


“Peaceful, like heaven on a Sunday…”  Anyone know this Paul MCartney song?  I’ve been singing the opening line all day long, and have only just realised where it comes from.  In the nick of time really, because I need to pull my post together for Jakesprinter’s theme of Peaceful for this week.

Regua in the Douro as the sun sets

Regua in the Douro, in the peace of sunset

Peace and calm at the end of the day, just the tinkle of masts

Peace and calm at the end of the day, on Shell Beach, Tavira

I love a stroll- don't you?

Not a soul to disturb the peace of the Douro


Out on the water, it’s still, flat calm

The beach at Burgau

The tide gently laps the beach at Burgau


Nearer home, it’s peaceful on the Yorkshire coast

Algar Seco, near Carvoeira

Serene at Algar Seco


High tide in Tavira- no space for people

That perfect light off the Turksih coast

Gentle sunset off the Turkish coast

And dusk in Bardolino

And dusk in Bardolino

Sunday was indeed Peaceful this week.  I scrolled back through my media gallery to select my photos for Jake, and this is the result.  Did you notice that they all seem to contain water, and not too many people?  My recipe for peace, I think.

Thanks Jake for supplying my Sunday fun.

Click on the flying dragon logo or the link to visit Jake’s amazing world, and join in.  I always enjoy rounding off Sunday reading the other entries.

P is for Porto

You knew it was coming!  The final post on my visit to Porto.  Just one more time I’m going to take you there, and try to capture the impact it had on me.

Looking out to the river mouth (Foz do Douro)

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a northern city that I felt such an affinity with Porto.  At home I’m used to the north/south divide and the differing attitudes of the two.  Being “from the north” confers a kind of backward status, despite us having some beautiful cities of our own.  I felt a little of the same in Porto.  Like us north-of-Englanders, Porto is far from feeling inferior.  It’s proud of its past, and fighting for its future.

Barcos rabelos below Dom Luis I Bridge

The lovely Porto skyline

In Roman times, the twin cities at the mouth of the River Douro were known as Portus, on the right bank and Cale, on the left.  During the Moorish occupation, the entire region between the Minho River, to the north, and the Douro, was called Portucale.  When Afonso Henriques founded the new kingdom in the 12th century, and became its first king, he named it Portucalia after his home province.  So you see, Porto and the Douro are an integral part of the Portuguese nation, and have every right to be proud.

They’re quite feisty too.  Porto is known as A cidade invicta, “the invincible city”, because of its unparalleled resistance to Napoleon during the Peninsular Wars.  In modern times too, the city was the centre of opposition to Salazar’s right-wing dictatorship.

You can’t get much closer to the river than this cafe

One of the best things I did in Porto, and I would recommend it to anyone relatively fit, was the free walking tour with Pancho Tours.  I had in mind that the person we would be meeting beside the Dom Pedro IV statue in Praca da Liberdade would be a guy sporting an orange t-shirt emblazoned with the company logo.  Wrong!  A small, dynamic, curly haired bundle of fun by the name of Iris was our guide.  She proceeded to entertain and enthrall 24 of us multi nationals for two and a half hours!

Our tour group, captured by my husband, Michael

As you can see from the photo, there are many ups and downs involved in a walking tour of Porto.  It wasn’t an historical tour, but gave you a real insight into the city and an appetite to come back and see more.  At a brisk pace most of the important sites were pointed out, with essentials like the cheapest places to eat good Portuguese food, and where to buy the best cakes. (everywhere!)  Believe me, in Porto you’d soon burn up the calories.

One of the high points of the tour (literally) was the upper tier of the Dom Luis I Bridge.  The Metro rumbled past perilously close behind us, but the views were staggering.

Michael’s again. The steps or the funicular?

We wound our way down the steps to the quayside, and, tour over, indulged in a meal in Iris’s company.(our feet needed a rest and it seemed a good opportunity to try the Francesinha– a chunky spicey meat-filled toasty smothered in cheese and served in a piquant sauce)

Riding the cable car over Vila Nova de Gaia

Back on my feet again, I couldn’t resist a ride in the cable car over on the Gaia side of the river.  I love a bird’s eye view!  My only complaint, the ride was over too quickly.   I compensated later by riding the funicular up to the clifftop.  It’s only as it glides into the old city walls that you realise how solid they once were.

Still chasing views, and with a fresh pair of legs the following day, I undertook the 225 steps to the top of the Torre de Clerigos.  This six-storey granite tower was built in the 18th century as a landmark for ships coming up the Douro.  Well worth the climb!

The tower has some interestingly shaped windows

The view from the top

For a change I found myself looking up when I visited the Palacio de Bolsa, the former Stock Exchange.  The palace can only be seen as part of a half hour organised tour, but I was keen to see the famed Arab Salon.  Loosely based on the architecture of the Alhambra, it was without question built to impress, and it did.

The internal courtyard in the Bolsa Palace, decorated with heraldry

Just like my ceiling at home (er, not quite!)

The stunning Arab Salon- courtesy of Wikipedia

Not all of Porto is quite so perfectly preserved, and it’s part of the gritty reality of the place that the ramshackle lives side by side with the chique.  The indoor market at Bolhao was decidedly shabby, but for the people selling their wares in the little kiosks it was their whole life.  Iris informed us that it was soon to be another casuality of the city, as there are simply insufficient funds to restore it.  I was glad I saw it when I did.

Bolhao’s indoor market- courtesy of Michael Bradley

Cherubs on a peeling wall, Rua de 31 de Janeiro

Renovated, and not, opposite Sao Bento railway station

One of the shinier, newer parts of the city came as a real surprise to me.  I had little idea what I would find at Foz do Douro, other than the river mouth, so I mounted the tram with real excitement.  It trundled out along the shoreline with wonderful views to either side- the houses tumbling to the water on the one, and the ever widening river on the other.  The tram ends at Passeio Alegre, and from there you can stroll and stroll.

The lovely old tram, complete with lady driver

The view back towards Porto

Forte de S. Joao Baptista da Foz

Suddenly I was at the seaside, with the tang of the salt air, and the snap of the waves.  The sunshine was radiant and I collapsed at a bar to feast on the sparkling water.

The waterside world in Foz do Douro

Squishy loungers were severely tempting

I wished I could have spent more time in this lovely spot, and if (when!) I return, I will certainly do so.  The tram has two routes and after I’d struggled up the steep incline to reach the gardens of the former Crystal Palace, I discovered that one of them bypasses the gardens.  It’s a peaceful spot, and I guess the views down to the river were compensation for the climb.

The Jardins de Palacio de Cristal- Michael does distance shots much better than me

You’ll notice that I haven’t even mentioned the “A” word once?  Azulejos, that is.  The reason of course is that I went to town on them in my Simply Beautiful Blue and White post.  If you didn’t see it and are thinking of coming to Porto, please take a look.  It might just convince you.  I still haven’t managed to fit everything in.  It’s probably a capital offense but I didn’t even mention port-wine tasting!  Well, you know I do my share of that anyway.

For now, I’ll leave Porto, with lots and lots of beautiful memories.  Many thanks to Julie Dawn Fox for giving me the opportunity to post this in My Personal A-Z of Portugal.  If you haven’t already seen her A-Z Challenge, click on the banner below.  It might give you some ideas.

More blue and white, with a splash of gold

It’s no secret that I love the gentle blue and white of azulejos.  But gold?  That’s where the River Douro glides onto the scene- a golden river.  When I looked out of my bedroom window that first morning in Regua, I was so excited to see the mist swirling delicately at the end of the garden.  I could barely wait for breakfast to head down to the riverside path and the gleaming water.

Sunlight glistens on the water, from the riverside path

I love a stroll- don’t you?

I planned to see as much of the river as I could, but was thwarted at the outset.  The boat to Barca D’Alva at the Spanish border was not running.  It was low season and there was no longer a demand.  I resigned myself to following the river upstream on the train- no real hardship as, from Peso da Regua to Pocinho, the tracks hug the river bank.  First stop, delightful Pinhao, sleepy in the morning sunshine.

A barco rabelo awaits passengers at Pinhao

Of course, you know what else I found, don’t you?

A railway station covered in azulejos- perfection! (Michael’s photo, this one)

And then you have the splash of golden yellow, too

I so love these boats- one day I’ll have these tiles on my Tavira home

The wine harvest

More boats- what else?

I couldn’t resist a sashay through the fabulous Vintage Hotel, and even an expensive glass of wine on the terrace. (Michael blanched at the price, but you only live once, don’t you?)  Couldn’t afford twice!

The Vintage Hotel, Pinhao

Just to prove I was there

A novel ticket sales office

The occasional boat disturbed the peace

Time to get back on the train for the ride up to Pocinho, through increasingly rugged territory.  Apologies for the blurry images out of the train window.  I had to try.

At Pocinho we hopped off the train and back on again, as the sun was starting to sink.  Just time to capture a quick azulejo on the platform.

On Pocinho platform

Regua, as the sun sets on the Sandemans figure on the hillside

Azulejo, Peso da Regua-style

With a train strike in the offing and a shortage of boats, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get back to Porto.  Luck was on my side, however, and Tomaz do Douro came to my rescue.  On the quayside the crew were readying the “Via Douro” for departure.  She was unbelievably beautiful!

Via Douro with tiny Porto Cruz moored alongside

All aboard!

Porto Cruz pulls away and we’re ready to cruise

Those last 3 photos are Michael’s.  I seem to have done something strange to my camera in the excitement of the moment, and launched into landscape mode!

Never mind!  The next 6 hours will forever be etched on my memory.  In the company of a young American couple (who later revealed that they were on the last day of their honeymoon!) we dined very nicely indeed, and exchanged travel tales, while gazing out at the sublime scenery.

The deepest lock in Europe provided hoots of laughter as we were briefly splattered with water in passing underneath.  Then the wonderful moment of sailing into Porto itself.  The sun sparkled on the quayside, and Porto rose majestically above us.

Sailing beneath Dom Luis Bridge, the walls and funicular

Moored at the quayside, the former Royal Barge, Spirit of Chartwell

What a journey!  What an ending!  I hoped you enjoyed sharing it with me.  For yet more blue and white, my previous post focuses on azulejos in Porto.

Six word Saturday

Taking my foot off the pedal

Having motored a bit to reach my 100th post earlier this week, I’ve taken my foot off the pedal, just a little.

The chief reason for this is that I needed some time to plan my upcoming visit to Porto and the Douro valley.  I sometimes wish I was one of those “jump in and experience it as it comes” travellers, but I’m not.  I’ve looked forward to this trip to the north of Portugal for so long, and I’m desperate to get it right.

Apart from that, I’ve been enjoying everything the English weather can throw at me.  And it packs quite a punch.

Across a cornfield

Do you like the “colour pencil” effect?

I love the poppies in with the corn

And the reflections in the mossy pond in Whitburn village.

A little rain?

Marsden Rock

Marsden with a swirl? Well, it was windy!

Tile effect, I rather like, too.

Or a pretty version?

Now I’m exaggerating! It didn’t snow at Souter Lighthouse. Not quite.

But it does look rather nice spotlit?

It was blustery as only an English Bank Holiday can be, but I did enjoy our walk.  And another opportunity to play, of course.

Back to my maps and guide books.  Hope you’ll be joining me next week on Six word Saturday?  Many thanks to Cate, our kind hostess, on Show My Face, where you’ll find all the details of how to play, and this week’s other entries.  Click on the button below for more fun.

D is for Douro

Rio Douro- the river of gold

This post is entirely aspirational.  I have long wanted to visit Porto and to cruise the Douro Valley.  So far we haven’t found a convenient flight from the UK and it’s quite a way north from the Algarve.  So permit me to dream a little.

Upper Douro by Gustavo Motta for Wikipedia

The River Douro rises in Spain and flows 897 km till it reaches the Atlantic at Porto.  Over 100 of these kilometres form the border with Spain in a series of narrow canyons- an effective barrier between two often warring nations.   The third largest river on the Iberian Peninsula, in recent times the river has been tamed by a series of locks and dams, making it navigable for all of its Portuguese length.  Looking down from the sky I always try to fathom whereabouts on the Douro we are crossing as we make our way back to Northern Europe.

Peso de Regua, by Husond for Wikipedia

The Douro is blessed with a microclimate which creates exceptional conditions for the cultivation of almonds, olives and grapes- in particular the variety of grape used in the production of port wine.  It’s no secret that I love to sit by the banks of a river with a glass or two of port.  Hopefully one day that river will be the Douro.   The region around Pinhao and Sao Joao de Pesquiera is known as vinhateiro, the centre of this liquid gold, and the quintas lining the riverbanks testify to the success of the enterprise.

Barco rabelo by Thomas Seibel for Wikipedia

Traditionally the wine was transported down the river in flat-bottomed sailboats called barcos rabelos , some of which can still be seen today at the quayside in Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto.  It was stored in oak barrels to mature in the cellars of numerous wine lodges.  After blending it would be bottled then stored again till reaching the level of maturation for that particular brand.  Names like Sandemans, Cockburns and Taylors are familiar friends.

A story goes that port was originally discovered by two English gentlemen, staying at a monastery in the Upper Douro.  They found that by adding a little brandy to the local sweet wine it would be better fortified to withstand the long sea journey home.  More probably, following a period of exceptionally warm weather in 1820 unusually sweet grapes were produced which was much to the taste of the British.  In order to capitalise on the British market the wine companies added aguardente or brandy to stop fermentation and fix the sugar content.


How am I going to get around so that I see the Douro from every angle?  There seem to be lots of choices.  One thing’s for sure, I will be visiting Sao Bento railway station in Porto, not just to see its magnificent azulejo tiles but to travel up the valley.  If I’m lucky I may even catch the Saturday steam train (May to October).  I know that the colour of the vines in Autumn is a spectacular red-gold, and that white blossom clothes the valley in Spring.

Blossom time in the Douro

The Dom Luis 1 Bridge leads over the river and into Vila Nova de Gaia and from here you can take a 50 minute trip beneath the bridges to admire Porto’s skyline.  This is just a taster.  The true beauty of the Douro reveals itself on a lengthier cruise up river.  How far you choose to go depends on how long you have available, and your tolerance for messing about in boats.  Mine is infinite, but if you’ve just come for peace and quiet you’ll be perfectly happy with a good book and the gentle slap of the water.

Vila Nova da Gaia,seen from Porto,by Jonik for Wikipedia

My impression is that the further you go up the river the wilder the scenery becomes, east of Pinhao with its beautiful railway station, the most spectacular.  I’m looking forward to the deep locks that have calmed the raging rapids.  You can combine a cruise with train journey for the best of all possible worlds, or to help shorten your trip. Peso de Regua is the collection point for the wine and from which it used to be shipped down river.  Less romantically these days transport is by tanker, but you can still see the sailboats in action at Porto on 24th June, the festival of Sao Joao.

The Douro, near Miranda, from Wikipedia

You can drive up the valley for fine views but this is never much fun for the driver.  The train runs beside the Douro from Regua out towards the Spanish border, passing Pinhao and then crossing to the opposite bank all the way to Barca de Alva at the Spanish border.

Of course, you can also do the 5 star cruise from Porto all the way across into Spain, and take in the historic city of Salamanca.  This isn’t really my way (too easy! says husband Michael- and certainly not cheap).  I just know I’d want to linger somewhere that the boat didn’t, but I did say that I could dream and Salamanca does sound tempting.  Maybe for a special birthday? will give you a flavour of the area.  Be sure to check out Amarante and Mesao Frio as well as Regua and Pinhao.  provides basic rail information but you need to seek further for the steam train.  Now I’ve completed this I can’t wait to book!

My previous A-Z s of Portugal are: