Grupo Coral Ossónoba

Jo’s Monday walk : Alcoutim, with the choir

I love the approach to Alcoutim!  You can follow the road from the coast out alongside the River Guadiana for much of the way, with tantalising glimpses ahead and back as you round the many bends.  Just as you come to the village, the road curves and you have a fine view, down onto Alcoutim, and across to whitewashed Sanlucar de Guadiana on the opposite shore, in Spain.  With morning mists swirling above the water, it’s a wonderful sight, and the promise of another beautiful day.

We park the car on the edge of the village and walk across a rivulet and down towards the water.  The mist is already beginning to clear and the sun feels warm.  There, waiting for us, several members of the choir, Ossónoba, and a guide.  It’s the third time we’ve walked with them, and we’re greeted enthusiastically and made to feel welcome.  A representative of the Via Algarviana joins us, to promote the walks and ensure there are no problems.  Once assembled, brief explanations are given, and we set off.

It’s normally a peaceful spot, with the ferry crossing, when summoned, in a desultory fashion.  Today a regatta is taking place and there’s an air of bustle.  We chat to a Dutch man who has moored his boat midstream and joined the walk, hoping the event will be over when we return.

We leave the village and start a gentle ascent, looking down on the river.  Yachts dot the water, lazing the day away.  But not for us, the idle life.  As Alcoutim recedes, we reach a junction and begin the climb in earnest.  The walk is not long, but challenging in places.

But there is the distraction of the view and the distant sparkle of the water.  A small patch of arable land surprises.  Despite the nearness of water the soil is bone dry underfoot.  Rock Cistus cling to the slopes, and I am delighted to find one or two already open and flaunting their beauty.

At the crest of the hill the roof of a tumbledown watchman’s cottage appears, through a froth of weeds.  I peer through the sorry window, and out at the landscape beyond.  So frail, the skeletal timbers.  No place to hide.

I don’t envy the chill nights up here, a lonely vigil, watching for the enemy.  But in the brightness of day I could be seduced into a watchman’s life.

And then it’s time to begin the descent.  Slowly, at times, keeping my knees together and pigeon-toed, or sideways like a crab, on the steep parts.  A helping hand is extended if I wobble, but I’m glad to return to level ground.  I have little in common with mountain goats.  Some of the choir begin to sing, purely for the joy of it, and I smile as I recognise the tune.

Back in the village, we follow the signs for the river beach.  A chorus of delight greets a large family of black pigs, rootling about as pigs will.  Pork is plentiful in the Algarve, porco preto appearing on many menus.  Lamb is more expensive, and I can never bring myself to enjoy it, especially when, as now, they frolic in the fields, pestering mum for another feed.

Sand has been imported for the river beach, and there’s a pleasant little café and seating area.  Plans are afoot to extend the beach, for this is a hot spot in summer.  We carry on into the village, heading for lunch, where we are joined by the rest of the choir.

A poster on a weathered door announces their presence.  They file into the restaurant, laughing and talking, and we meekly join them.  We share a table with 2 Belgian ladies, trading experiences throughout the meal, a Portuguese stew and carob and almond desserts.  As coffees are hastily produced, the choir master counts them in, and a rich, full sound fills the restaurant.  Minutes later we are climbing the hill to their venue.

Performance over, it’s back into the hot sun and a gentle saunter, past the river and towards the car.  Yes, I know there’s something missing, but we were busy talking during the meal and I didn’t like to interrupt with photos.  But I can share with you a rather wonderful pastry that’s special to Loulé.  Folhares are flaky and sugary, and oozing with warm custard.

We will be joining the choir again next week, for a final walk on the Via Algarviana.  I expect I’ll share it with you at some point, but for now I intend to step back from the blog for a while.  I hope you’ve enjoyed walking with me, and I’m sure that we’ll do it again.  Many thanks to Ossónoba!

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Guess what?  Janet’s found a little warmth this week :

Monday’s walk to the rookery

I think it’s always warm in Charleston, isn’t it Alice?

St. Michael’s Alley

If you like the peaceful life, and don’t mind a little wind…

Scotland Tour: Hiking in the wild North West

Have you ever been to Charles de Gaulle airport?  If so, you’ll know exactly what Drake means :

Track to the sky

Or you can stay closer to home, and a place that I love :

New look, old charm

Winter seems endless in some places.  I don’t suppose birds mind grey, Irene?

Along the Icy Marsh

And Ice Sculptures last much longer in cooler climes, Natalie?

Do You Love the 80s?

A gentle sunset stroll with Carol.  Is there water in the river?

All or Nothing

It’s pretty dry where Cathy was :

Morocco: a short walk through Todra Gorge

Candy offers up some great photo opportunities :

Paseo do Monte Boi in Baiona

And Georgina shows us a different side to Spain :

February Fun, Fotos and Short Walks

Let’s end with a bit of squidge from Margaret!  But at least there’s blue sky :

Winter Walking in Nidderdale-with Added Mud

Keep walking!  I certainly will, and you know that I can’t resist sharing for long.  We have a short trip to England in April, but we’re back here for Easter.  More parades, I hear you sigh!  And hopefully some pastures new.  Take care till then!

Jo’s Monday walk : Sáo Bartholomeu de Messines

Don’t you just love the light through those clouds?  I was high above Sáo Bartholomeu de Messines, looking down on this small Algarve town.  Once again I had the opportunity to go hiking on the Via Algarviana with Grupo Coral Ossonoba.  You might remember the wonderful day we had together, ending with a concert in the church at Alte?  This time the performance was to take place in a local cinema, but first we needed to walk and earn our substantial lunch.

We started with a stiff uphill ascent, surrounded by cork trees, over slabs of rock worn smooth with age.  It was good to get the climb out of the way.  Already the first of the narcissi were in delicate bloom.

Back down into the valley, we skirted the edge of town and followed a dusty trail, for a short while bordering the railway lines.  It was something of a surprise to turn a corner and be confronted with stepping stones, surrounded by water.  I admit, I am far more adept at dry river beds.

This was not the last of the hazards, for the river ran beneath the railway lines and a sign pointed confidently towards the water.  No boat in sight, we had to scramble up the side of the embankment and cautiously cross the tracks to slither back down the far side.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way?  The trail led gently uphill, and we followed, wondering if it might be time to pause for refreshments.  And we did, in the perfect spot!

A picture of neglect, but what a picturesque place for a picnic… the ruins of Santa Ana church, on the site of a former battleground.  The poignancy of the pulpit and the faded altar, a compelling setting for a brief photo shoot.

From a height you could see the fullness of the river.  The trail wound gently down to meet it, sunlight brightening our path with each step.  The ruined church almost seemed to be restored by distance.

And then we reached my idea of the perfect day, walking by the river, wisps of cloud and purest blue reflected in the water.

Another poetic ruin observed us, silently, and we left the river behind, trading it for two starkly contrasting pools.

The deep ochre of the soil here always comes as a surprise, no matter how often I see it.  And then we’re headed through meadows lightly dusted with lemon flowers and youthful olive trees, towards the town.  A church looks down from the hilltop, and another beauty adorns the centre.

Ossonoba need to eat and get ready for the concert.  Having followed them through the town, we are pointed in the direction of Café do Largo da Pontinha, where we are treated to a fine array of food.  Platters of meat, cheese and bread, then black pasta with prawns and pork in fig sauce are heaped on the table, with fresh fruit and pastries to finish.  No, you don’t want to see!  It’s only a small place and they can’t fit you all in.  The venue for the concert is an old cinema, just around the corner.  Very different from the beautiful church at Alte, but the choir are happy to perform.

Spotlight on the choir!  A strange venue, but the same beautiful sound.  It’s a long way to walk for some January Light, but worth it.  Which leaves me to round off with a bit of street art.  I seem to find this in the most unlikely places.

Just another day in the Algarve.  I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me?

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More walks for you!  I’m always glad of a bit of company on Jo’s Monday walk.  Join me here any time.

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I could hug Margaret this week!  Look where she’s taken me!

Wandering round Cádiz

Or you could slide into the action with Sandra :

#Hiking – Tacoma’s Ruston Way

It’s rather a gloomy outlook with Drake :

Abandoned of colors

But I think he’d enjoy hanging out with Alice :

Riding the Waves on a Bulldozer

Snow in the Grand Canyon is always going to be special.  Thanks, Terri :

Winter Road Trip Preview: Walking in the Desert Light

Janet’s indoors, escaping the weather, but she has some lovely distractions :

Let me spin you a yarn

I think Colline will tell you that she’s won the jackpot with her Winter holiday :

A Walk on the Beach

It’s a little late (or early  🙂  )  but I do love these Moorish (as in Yorkshire) colours :

Autumn colours on a crisp November morning

And, by coincidence, Cathy is autumnal too!

Ushering in November at Meadowlark

Many thanks for your lovely presence!  Wishing you all a great week ahead.

Jo’s Monday walk : Benafim to Alte

I’m back in the Algarve for my last walk of the year.  Santa’s been, and I couldn’t ask for more.  It’s been an amazing year!  I’m taking you back into those hills that I love, to a tiny village called Benafim.  We are joining a group of choir singers for one of my nicest ever walking experiences.

The landscape is beautiful, with Rocha de Pena looming quietly in the background.  We meet our small group, mostly Portuguese, with uncertain smiles- an opportunity to practise the language- and set off through the village.  One of the group is carrying a toddler on his back, and an elderly gent relies heavily on his stick, so we know the pace will not be fast.  There are a couple of Scandinavians, who chat easily with us in fluent English.

Christmas is just around the corner and we observe the signs of celebration in the village.  It’s not a long walk, just 6.2km to the next village, Alte, but the gradient is steep in places.  Our guide is well aware of the limitations of the party, and stops at intervals to point out plants of interest.  Medicinal herbs and remedies, and one that was used in these hills before soap was widely available.  It’s warm, but with plenty of cloud cover.  There’s little shade up here in the heights.  We are following a short stretch of the Via Algarviana, which reaches end to end, the length of the Algarve.  We puzzle over some symbols on a rock- a message we don’t understand.

At the outset, we were asked if we would like a meal after the walk.  We are walking with some members of a choral group called Ossónoba.  Afterwards they will perform in the church in Alte, and we will be ‘very welcome’ to join them.  It seems like too good an opportunity to miss.

All are working up a healthy appetite when finally the rugged path levels, and we gaze down into a valley.  Alte is not far away, and it’s all downhill from here.  In the village, the sight of Singer sewing machines doubling as picnic tables makes me smile.

A hint of Autumn?  Yet it feels more like Spring.  We have been wondering how we will get back to Benafim, but this problem is easily solved.  A minivan takes the drivers back to collect our cars and bring them to Alte.  The rest of us proceed to the hotel, squeezing into the minivan with the excitedly chattering, choir members.  An elegant table awaits.

High on a hill, above the village, Hotel Alte is obviously used to hosting parties.  As we wait, a coach pulls into the car park and disgorges the rest of the choir, smartly attired in black and white.  Our walking friends  disappear off to the toilets, emerging transformed.  The choir are 40 strong!  Three of them sit at our table, and proceed to talk about their life, while we dine, very well indeed.  Meal over, we are treated to a rousing number, to stretch those vocal chords, before they all pile back onto the coach.  The best voice?  Our richly baritoned, minivan driver!

Is it any wonder that I love this village?  Still to come is the Christmas concert.  I had never been inside the church, so yet another treat in store.  The choir sings its heart out, in several languages; first surrounding us in the body of the church, and then from the gallery above.

Just down the road, Baltazar cocks an ear in his stable, and we drive contentedly home into the sunset.

Grupo Coral Ossónoba travel around Portugal (and occasionally abroad) performing.  Our walk together was a collaboration to promote the Via Algarviana.  Needless to say, we hope to take part in another, in the New Year.  We had a wonderful time.

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, but even more than that, I hope that the year to come is kind to us.  And maybe you’ll join me in another Jo’s Monday walk?  You’ll be more than welcome.

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I’m sure Jackie ate her share of festive food, aren’t you?

Holiday Cheer

Natalie started the holidays with a list.  Check out how she did!

Checking Off my Holiday Fun List

I’m always happy to admire this nation’s Capital, so thanks, Sandra :

Sidewalks and Tile – #Portugal

There’s nowhere Nicole would rather be than in the mountains :

Unforgettable Hikes along the Tour de Mont Blanc : Hike from Col des Montets to Lac Blanc

And such a nice atmosphere on the streets, with Drake :

Last Saturday street mood

Not much deters Becky when she feels like a walk :

We got nothing except seaweed

Margaret and Zoe were more than happy, just playing with bubbles :

Winter Walking on the South Bank

And not squidging in mud!

A Sunday walk, Accompanied by Thirteen Dogs

Let’s end with something a little more exotic, from Cathy :

Rick’s Café & a walking tour of Central Casablanca

Happy New Year to you all!  I shan’t be writing a review of the year, but I expect I’ll look back, as well as forward.  Thanks for your company!