Eastern Algarve

A house for Jude

Often enough we go wandering in the hills. Sometimes we follow a trail. Sometimes one of us has trod that way before. One of us is looking for a home with a beautiful view. It might be modern, or a more traditional Portuguese style. But we all stop, look and offer an opinion. It matters not, of course, for the house is seldom on the market and, if it were, would be way beyond our budget. But it’s a harmless pursuit.

We start in the village. A rather ramshackle window is firmly shuttered, inviting no buyers. An uphill cobbled track leads to a country lane, and the most exquisitely gnarled olive tree trunk. I stop to admire.

A feature of this part of the world, great boulders are stacked one upon another. They interlock, braced against the sky. Has some idle giant been playing at jigsaws, then strode off into the clouds? The textures absorb the sunlight.

The land opens out, with a scattering of almond trees. How beautiful will they look in spring, laden with armfuls of white blossom? A narrow lane leads to a quirky little bungalow. Perhaps I could live here, but it’s much too far from shore.

The views are far reaching and lovely, and I can picture the smoke-coloured evening hills. Still, the valley can never surpass the sea for me.

But maybe for Jude? I’d better ask her!

2020 Photo Challenge #46

A birthday treat

I’m going to be a little bit naughty today. You see, Su’s invited me to a tea party and, as usual, I’m totally unprepared. So what I thought I’d do is share with you my birthday treat last Thursday. Raspberry cheesecake with a chocolate base, anybody?

Let me set the scene. Heavy rain is threatened and a warning in place for electrical storms. I know I’m lucky to be able to go out to celebrate the day, but I did have such plans. A nice little spot overlooking a dam. Serene and beautiful. Sunset on the water, and a sunrise full of misty promise. But when the rain drifts in, visibility nil. Go to plan B. A restaurant I’ve been curious about for some time. Cha Cha Cha, in Olháo.

Initially we think, hop a train. A leisurely afternoon with fine wine. But the storm threatens and we jump in the car. Into a head wind on the waterfront. Will we make it before the storm hits?

Barely just! We have the place almost to ourselves. Heavy wooden doors bolt us in. A tiny outlook to a bougainvillea clad wall. Swiftly and firmly closed and the plum velvet curtains swished shut. The sound of drumming rain and the growls of thunder prowling the rooftops. We don’t mind. Secure and warm. And there’s cake! An atypical Algarve birthday, in an atypical year.

Now come on over to Su’s place for sumptuous food and a bit of a gossip.

Virtual afternoon tea, November 2020

Sunshine after the rain

I’ve had the song running through my head since I read Ana’s post on Saturday. The sun will come out tomorrow is almost guaranteed in my present home in the Algarve. But it wasn’t always so. Back in the north east of England there were as many grey days as blue. I’m one of the lucky ones, who’ve managed to turn the dream into reality, and I try to be grateful for that every day.

Rain, here, is something to be cherished, though I didn’t actually tap-dance, Gene Kelly style, when the heavens opened last week. I did watch, awe-struck, as the lightning rolled and the thunder clapped. And marvelled afterwards at the fresh green beauty of my world.

I find the salt pans almost as lovely under leaden skies, but there is no denying the joy I feel when sunlight glints on the water. The world sparkles with a magic all its own. It fills me with hope for a brighter and better future. If only we can make it happen.

Jo’s Monday walk : Idling through the lanes

We’re back in the lanes again this week. Not so much a walk as a collection of reminiscences. In these past few weeks we’ve walked, in 2s and 4s, and once, daringly, in an 8. Our horizons were broadened and then, like the slamming of a door, curtailed.

In common with much of Europe. Patience is required. Not something that comes naturally, to me, at least. And yet, I’m surrounded by beauty.

It is the time of year to return to the hills. Slowly, for there is no hurry. Savouring the subtle aroma of orange blossom. A day’s worth of rain brings life and colour to the fields. Gentle sunshine breathes warmth over ripened vines and olives. The grape harvest now complete, nets are spread hopefully beneath gnarled trees to catch the olives. Pomegranates blaze a dark red promise of the luscious jewels to come.

As we ramble, snippets of information are exchanged. Our own grapevine of survival. Stories that make us smile. Some that make us sad. Linking us to one another. I stop to peer at a chequered fork, lying on the cobbles. Fallen from a bike’s panier after a picnic, perhaps? A quirky find. Softly coloured houses, one with a spreading vine, one trailing delicate green fronds over a wall. Its shadow dances at any hint of breeze.

A slight gradient follows, and a climb into the hills. Overhead the clouds soar and bubble away to the horizon. We look back to the coast, glistening in the distance, and point out our homes. The rock formations crumble on either side of us, raw nature reminding us that the earth has survived many ages. And, with or without our help, will continue to do so. Unlike some of the abandoned hill villages in the Algarve.

Dark clouds swoop, a portent of further life-giving rain, and a nudge back down the hill in time for lunch. I’m sure we can find cake somewhere? After all, it’s Monday!

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Hopefully I’ve rounded you all up from my last Monday walk. Apologies to anyone I’ve missed. I’m intending to make Jo’s Monday walk a monthly feature at present, so feel free to drop by with a walk at any time. I’ll always try to make you welcome.

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Janet has discovered a whole new and wonderful world in Arizona :

Jo’s Monday walk…diversity

Is it Autumn where you are? Rupali trails colours in her wake :

Weekend 106 : Autumn walk

While Margaret takes note of each step and stone :

Trusty’s Hill and Rutherford’s Monument

Carol shows off her native Australia :

Small but beautiful Part 1

Small but beautiful Part 2

Wonderful autumnal scenes and an ‘almost selfie’ from Drake :

Doing it the own way

Next path at the right

Way back in time, LadyLee had a holiday!

Kranzbach holiday

And Marion explored a beautiful English town :

Ross-on-Wye, Hertfordshire

Have you ever been to Armenia? No, nor me! Interesting, though…

Armenia: The Beauty of Not Hiking Mont Azhdahak

I’m always a sucker for enthusiasm. Where better than Tuscany?

San Gimignano, the turreted village

While Frank muses on the shoreline :

4 – Shells – Beach Walk Reflections

Please do visit the above. They’re all lovely people and you might make a new friend. Meanwhile, have a great month!

Of its kind

The message last Monday was much stronger, but still, I love the lighthouse at Vila Real de Santo Antonio and, living where I do, so close to the salt marsh habitat of the Ria Formosa, I always have a soft spot for a flamingo. Croquet with the Queen of Hearts, anyone?

KindaSquare

Monday Mural

Seascapes

Cacela Velha

What’s a person to do? Not enough days in the week to fit in all the challenges. I can’t deny Jude a Seascape, can I, and I don’t want to square these.

So Becky will have to wait till tomorrow. Sorry, hon! Back to play soon.

2020 Photo Challenge #40

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!