Eastern Algarve

Thursday’s Special : Estival

I’ve always meant to tell the story of Flor de Sal, so much a part of summer here in the Algarve.  A walk through the salt marshes is one of the joys of summer, though you do have to pick your days as it can be unbearably hot.  A hint of breeze can make all the difference.

The pink colouration, from crill, especially transfixes the eye.  The fusion of sunshine and salt water creates the salt crystals, which need high temperature and strong sunshine with only gentle winds.  This year conditions have been perfect and it’s a very good harvest.

The process starts around April, when the tanks are prepared.  Mud and clay has hardened over the years and a first channel of salt water is fed in with the tide, to a good depth.  The system of tanks or reservoirs are connected with locks and channels, and gradually the saltwater is transferred to increasingly shallow tanks, warming the water in the process.  Finally it reaches the crystallisation tanks where, from June to August, ‘flor de sal’ is formed.  The fragile crystals form on the saltwater surface.  Harvesting is done by hand, the ‘marnotos’ being highly skilful in collecting the crystals, which must never touch the bottom of the pans.  They are raked gently off and left to dry in the hot sun for 7 days, where they become more crunchy, and identifiable as the ‘flor de sal’ which is sold in the markets.  Their appearance through a microscope is like a flower.  Just one more miracle of summer.

Many thanks to Paula, at Thursday’s Special, for the inspiration.

Jo’s Monday walk : Guadiana dreaming

Although I love a good walk I would almost never turn down a boat trip.  This one came with the option of an hour’s guided walk at our destination, Foz de Odeleite.  But it was hot and I was feeling lazy, so I declined.  Put your feet up and ride along with me?

We leave from the quayside at Vila Real de S. Antonio, at the mouth of the mighty Guadiana river.  Briefly we head towards the ocean, passing the glossy marina, while our guide relates a few facts and figures.  Midstream we turn to head up the Guadiana, with Portugal on our left hand side and Spain on the right.  Ayamonte, with its plazas and tapas bars, sits directly opposite to Vila Real.

Soon we are passing the inlet that leads to Castro Marim, with its fine duet of castles and church.  A wonderful Medieval Fair in late August usually brings the town to life, though not this year, of course.

Ahead lies the road bridge that links the Algarve with Spain, closed for a while when Covid-19 was at its peak.  A small car and passenger ferry also shuttles to and fro between Vila Real and Ayamonte.

As we approach the bridge it becomes less attractive, swaddled for protection while repairs take place.  The water is flat calm and smooth, but we are astonished at the apparently endless fleet of jellyfish streaming past us out to sea.

The first of several former customs offices maintains a sleepy vigilance on the shoreline as the gentle hills drift past us.  These hills never seem so gentle when you are on foot, but now we are at leisure to observe.  Perched high in a tree, someone spots an eagle and we crane eagerly to see it.

And then we are approaching our mooring at Foz de Odeleite.  Another boat docks ahead of us and we hover, waiting our turn.

An ugly, half constructed building has overlooked the tiny, picturesque village for as long as I can remember, and we wonder if it will ever be completed or removed.  A short walk takes us uphill to our restaurant, where we can swim or sit in shade while a few energetic people take the hour long walk.  It’s an area we have walked before and it’s much too hot to feel guilty.

I have to say here that organised trips, with entertainment, are not normally our thing, but we were a group of 8 friends, happy to be together, and we all agreed that this was a great way to spend a day.  The food was excellent and our hosts did their utmost to give us a good time.  Everyone, kitchen staff and our guide included, joined in with the singing.

We booked online with Riosultravel and were made very welcome at Quinta do Rio.  I would recommend it.  Both on board and in the restaurant it was easy to maintain social distancing.  Soon enough we returned to our boat and the journey back downstream.  The atmosphere was mellow, and singing and dancing continued for a while, till we subsided to watch the world glide by.

And then we were approaching the end of our trip, with Ayamonte on our left hand side.  Hardly any walking this week, and our dessert was a healthy chunk of melon!  Sorry to disappoint  🙂

This is as good a time as any to announce a rest from my walks.  Over the spring and summer I felt unable to discontinue.  It’s a popular feature and I wanted to stay in touch with you all.  It’s been a strange one, hasn’t it?  I will continue to walk with a small group of friends, as restrictions on numbers currently apply in Portugal, but the routes are unlikely to be new.  There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding all our futures, but I’d like the freedom to post as and when I choose.  I hope you’ll understand.

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I have a wonderful selection of walks to end with.  Please enjoy these, and thank you everybody for all your support and encouragement.

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I always like to introduce somebody new (to me), and this is such a beautiful part of the world.  Meet Vanessa :

Berchtesgaten, Germany/7 day itinerary for a hiking holiday in the Bavarian Alps

Also in Germany, Ulli shares a few observations on life :

Objets trouvés

It’s a while since I’ve been in Italy, and never to this lovely place :

Ostuni: la cittá bianca

Drake often prompts me to song.   ‘You must remember this, A kiss is still a kiss, A sigh is still a sigh…’ :

As time goes by

Let’s go rambling and ambling with Albert in North Korea :

Pujon Stone River and Revolutionary Site

Can we find Rupali, in the fog?

Wordless Foggy Walk

I hate grey skies!  Mutter, mutter!  But not with Margaret :

Wild-ish Walking in Wensleydale

Eunice hit the jackpot with blue skies and a lovely canal path this week :

Lancaster Canal – Garstang to Catterall

Not always the best weather but you’re spoilt for choice with Anabel.  Got a favourite?

Blairgowrie: the walks

Prickly pear are the subject of Janet’s walk.  Ouch!  🙂

Monday walk…Careful where you step!

If you ever find yourself in Belgium you could do much worse than try one of Denzil’s walks :

Three walks in Hainaut Province

And if you can’t find something to delight here, with Lynn, you’re really not trying!

Local Walks: Two Walks by the Water

The last word, from Carol, in Oz :

It’s a Sign

Don’t worry- I’ll be back, in one form or another.  This week I celebrated 9 years of blogging.  It’s addictive, isn’t it?  Take care till then!

Jo’s Monday walk : Street art spotting in Sáo Brás

Leaving the sea behind for a little while, one of my favourite roads in the Algarve is the N270.  It winds steadily up into the hills, a series of twists and turns, with glimpses of small villages in the valleys below.  As the road levels out you come to the market town of Sáo Brás de Alportel.  It’s a nice peaceful spot for a wander.  Come with me and we’ll see what we can find.

As with most traditional towns in Portugal, the streets are mainly cobbled.  Claiming a convenient patch of shade, a snowy white cat regards me solemnly with its one green and one blue eye.  Is it my imagination or does that lady on the wall look more anxious as I look back at her?

Around the corner, the entrance to the episcopal palace gardens, beyond which sparkles the municipal pool.  This lovely outdoor facility was renovated last year and I expected to see it busy on this warm summer day.  Another casualty of Covid-19, I suspect.

Much of Sáo Brás is a little dog-eared and worn, but resourceful locals have done their best to brighten the shabbiest walls.  The local tourist information office and art gallery was open and I popped in to examine current trends.  An interesting perspective on a corn field?

The town has a lovely church, the scene of devout and colourful celebrations at Easter.  The streets are decorated with a multitude of flower heads and floral torches are paraded through them to a chant of ‘Hallelujah’.  Not this year, of course, but at least they can’t take away the beautiful view.

Somebody must have had a job lot of paper swallows, because they appear on several of the artworks.  How many swallows make a summer?

But the town is not short of more conventional beauty.  The azulejos are as fine as any you will see.  This cheerful scooter picks out the lemon of the background tile rather nicely, don’t you think?

The central square had a makeover a couple of years ago, and has become home to several modern art pieces.  I was happy to find this metal family in a nearby street.  Very appropriately, wearing their masks.

Perhaps you’d like to see the town in happier times, Celebrating life at Easter.  We have to believe they’ll come again.

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Meanwhile, just a few walks to share this week, which inclines me to think I could make Jo’s Monday walk a fortnightly feature, and confuse everyone!  Today I’m going to join Sami, who shares street art every week on Monday Mural.

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Ducks and dragonflies… I’m smitten, Janet :

Monday walk…Sweetwater Wetlands

He’s home again!  Not such a terrible place to be, Drake :

Back in town

Is anything more splendid than this?  A Cornish garden, much loved by Jude :

Herbaceous borders

While Albert goes in search of another splendid view :

Sherwood Homestead (Former) Walk via Mountain Creek Road (Plus)

Ending with Janaline in exotic Shanghai :

Monday Walk in Century Park

Wishing you all a good week, though I know life is difficult right now in many places.  Take care till next time!

Jo’s Monday walk : a sea breeze

A week or two ago I caught the very busy ferry from Olháo across to the barrier island, Culatra.  The sea was flat calm and a limpid blue and the air scarcely moved, such was the heat.  Alighting at Farol, I followed the path across the island, passing chalet houses, a couple of cafés and the lighthouse for which it is named, to the beach.

A cluster of people were relaxing there, but I was surprised at how rapidly the ferry’s full load had disappeared.  My aim was to walk along the beach, catching whatever breeze I could, until I reached the small hamlet, Culatra.  There I would have a light meal while waiting for the ferry to carry me back to the mainland.

It’s a relaxed place, and I sat watching a youngster entertaining himself by throwing hoops, beside the church.

I sat for an hour or so, and in that time the wind steadily increased.  The umbrellas began to flap and sway and, as I looked out across the water, white horses began to prance and the boats to bob wildly.  A galleon at anchor in the bay had started to unfurl her sails, but must have thought better of it, for soon they were neatly stowed away.

In 1941 catastrophic gales hit this coast, wiping out much of the lowrise property and beach huts, and rearranging the sand spits and channels of the Ria Formosa.  This is the front line, which protects the Eastern Algarve from the ferocity of the Atlantic Ocean.  It comes as no surprise that the islanders, despite seemingly carefree ways, have huge respect for the nature that surrounds them.

Each August the whole island takes part in a thanksgiving ceremony to Nossa Senhora.  Maybe you have to be fearless if you’re born here.  By the ferry departure point the next generation lounge in the sun.  Minutes earlier they had been leaping with gay abandon into the choppy waters.

For a closer look at the island, let me direct you to an older post of mine, Ilha da Culatra.  Meanwhile, there’s cake!

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Many thanks for your company again this week.  Temperatures are starting to abate a little, and gentle walks will continue for the time being.  Join me whenever you like here on Jo’s Monday walk.

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Never mind the weather!  Mention food and Debs will be there!

A Borough Market wander for foodies

Come and count cacti with Janet?

Monday walk…Saguaro National Park

Alice certainly has some beautiful property on her doorstep.  Take a wander with her :

Harleston Village

Brambles or a story?  Take your pick with Susan :

Walking with a book in hand

Walking for blackberries

What is it about Drake and tractors?  Sark looks delightful :

In a way sailed back time

No traffic jam

Aseem might prefer crowds and big cities :

Photography: Daytime

But Sue has the beauty of nature right on her doorstep :

Brown Lowery Provincial Park – Calgary Day Trip Secret Gem

And Rosemay tackles the new block editor on our behalf.  Got to be worth a visit!

Torpedo Trail Yallingup

Another day, another dollar!  Well, hopefully, anyway.  Funny how Mum’s old sayings stay in your head.  Have a good week!

Jo’s Monday walk : Castelo Velho de Alcoutim

Discarded hilltop ruins are ten a penny in Portugal.  Truth be told, I had no idea that this one even existed.  Numerous times I’ve been to Alcoutim and admired the castle, sitting solidly on its hill, protecting the town and looking out over the Guadiana River.  Little did I know that there was a predecessor, whose ruins I could still see.  Castelo Velho de Alcoutim came as a complete surprise to me.

What else does one do on a Sunday morning with the temperature climbing towards the 30s?  ”Just a short walk” was how he sold it to me.  A pleasant drive up to Alcoutim, with its lovely views across the river, and a mere 4km stroll.  No mention was made of a castle on a hill.

So we walked out of town, following signs for the PR3.  Already it was hot and I loitered whenever I came upon a scrap of shade.  Rounding a corner, a hill rose in front of me and, perched on the top, the aforementioned ruins.  I hesitate to say that I was surly, but I was!  I’m as fond of ruins as the next person, but a cooler day for them might have been nice.  Uphill was no pleasure at all, especially when the views were left behind.  While the river was in sight there was the distraction of whoops and cheers from the zipline, which stretches over from Spain.

As I grumbled to myself, Michael paused and indicated a short uphill scramble.  It didn’t look like a promising access to me but, as we hesitated, a car drew up on the stony path and a young woman stepped out.  Our timing was good, for she had come to unlock the gate, promptly at 11.00am.  Apparently the old castle is regarded as unsafe if the wind is strong.  There was almost no trace of a breeze that morning, and after walking all around the site to ensure that we were safe, she left us to explore.

It did feel a little precarious in places, but the views were superb.  It would certainly have been a good place from which to keep a lookout on Spain.  Built in the 8th-9th century, this castle was once an important Islamic military structure.  Exactly why it was abandoned in the 11th century is not known, but the younger castle was constructed in the 13th century, a kilometre away, within the town of Alcoutim.  It stands proud to this day.

As so often, the way back down was much more easily achieved.  I’m not sure that all of the zipliners felt the same way.  I was very happy to have my head back in the shade, and a magnificent view stretching before me.

I can’t remember cake, but maybe there was?  You’ll have to imagine your own.

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A few more walks to share this week.  Many thanks to all of you.  Please enjoy!

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Liesbet was happy to hit the road again, with a beautiful  destination :

Getaway to the White Mountains

Fancy counting butterflies with Sharon?  Hopefully there’s still time!

Salthill Quarry Nature Reserve

I love a seaport, and these are perfect examples from Drake :

Walk back time

The sunny side

Life at the beach isn’t always peaceful, as Alice can tell you :

Tropical Storm Isaias Passes By

Been a while since I shared one of Jude’s.  This is a beauty :

Summer on the Hill

Just time to slip in a little culture from Ulli :

Gothic Lady of Naumburg

Temperatures have seldom dipped much below 30C since we did this walk a few weeks ago.  Not walking weather, I’m sure you’ll agree.  I’m taking myself off for an anniversary jaunt into the Alentejo this week (correction- he’s taking me!).  It may, or may not be cooler.  Have a good week, whatever your weather!

Six word Saturday

If he could see the future?

This is a special place for me.  I love the outlook from this simple café, across the River Guadiana to Spain.  But more than that, it’s a place where I have a clear and vivid memory of my Dad, standing beside the soldier and smiling back at me.  I have to wonder what he would make of our world today.  From a perspective before Covid-19.

For a lighter mood, pop over to Debbie’s for a bit of Saturday shopping.  Have a good weekend!  I’ll be back with a round-up of walks on Monday.

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Six word Saturday

At the mercy of the tide

Such a fragile ecosystem!   The tide rushes in and out each day, reshaping the shoreline with every sweep.   It’s a watery Perspective that I love.  Not all square, nor strictly Six Words, but incredibly beautiful.  Have a good weekend!

P.S. No Monday walk again.  Someone has a birthday and we will be in the Western Algarve.  Back soon!

P.P.S.  If you are viewing this on a phone or tablet the colours are too harsh.  Imagine them a little softer.

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Six word Saturday

My perspective is a little squared

My perspective is all over the place this week.  Not aided by the UK government’s position on ‘air corridors’.  For a while I was soothed by some excellent jazz.  If only it would last!  Wishing you a peaceful, happy weekend with Six Word Saturday and Becky’s Squares.

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