Looking back on a quiet moment
A hazy beauty, not quite real? Looking back to just over two weeks ago, I have to wonder if I dreamt it. But no- as so often, my photographs tell the story. Castelo de Vide, in Portugal’s Alto Alentjo, a world away from our current woes.
I had come in search of a mighty fortress, at hilltop Marvão, and all I knew of Castelo de Vide was its spa waters, bottled on shelves as far away as the Algarve. But where there are castles, there is often a sad interlude in history, and so it is, here. During the Spanish Inquisition, many Jews fled across the border to make their home within these castle walls. And the resulting Jewish quarter is like nowhere I’ve ever seen. Complete with Synagogue, though the international crisis was catching up with even this remote place, and I was unable to look inside.
The castle itself was closed for renovation, but I had climbed the hill anyway. How glad I was, for it was not the castle itself that was the prize. The medieval streets within the walls were astounding, with solid stone doorways, preserved in all their beauty, though some needed a little help.
Within the castle walls, the 17th century church of Nossa Senhora da Alegria, resplendent with Moorish-styled tiles, and surrounded by the tumbling, spellbinding streets of the Juderia. In the sleepy warmth below, the town was awakening to market day, the calls of the vendors noisily jostling for trade. I slipped inside the main church, Santa Maria da Devasa, to pay my respects. A lady, rummaging in her handbag, pulled out spectacles and a sheaf of music, and into the hush began to practise on the organ. As I listened, smiling, another bustled in with two bags full of white lilies, which she placed beside the altar. The life of the church, unchanging.
Outside the church, a modern sculpture, mother tenderly regarding small child. And a fountain, one of 300 in the area, I’d been led to believe. I came across several more. In a quiet square, the Fonte da Vila, with four marble spouts, a coat of arms, and a tribute to Jewish victims.
I was beginning to need a coffee, and hoped to sample boleima, a type of Jewish unleavened bread with apple and cinnamon. Or something sweet.
The clock on the town hall chimed and it was time to move on. Sadly my visit was coming to an end. King Dom Pedro V described this town as the “Sintra of the Alentejo”, and I had felt something of the same magic.
As if sorry to see me go, the clouds began to swoop in across the hills. I crossed the gardens, turning for one last look.
It’s a tenuous link, but here I am, back in the Algarve, looking at the lovely Serra de Sáo Mamede and its towns and villages, from a Distance. Easter and Holy Week are very special and traditional in this part of the world. I can’t conceive of it this year, but I hope that one day, in the future, I might cross that distance again. Meantime, many thanks to Tina and the lovely Lens-Artists ladies for keeping us strong.
Still sharing! It’s what we do best here in blogland. Stay safe out there!
As heart warming a walk as I’ve ever taken. Thank you so much, Drake!
It’s therapeutic getting out there in nature, as Alice will tell you :
And Eunice is still determined to enjoy beach and countryside :
Margaret sums it all up succinctly :
And Rupali smiles at us, from a distance :
I think we’re all agreed that Becky is a ‘Top Notch’ blogger. It’s 1st April soon (no fooling!) :
Happy to share a poetic stroll beneath the birch trees, with Jude :
And I found a fascinating walking tour of Porto, for the future :
While Cathy shares a good slice of the exotic :
Saving this treat for last. Don’t miss Pauline’s lovely photography and wonderful artwork!
It’s an amazing world out there, isn’t it? I’m so glad we can share it together.
I’m known to cheat on occasion, but I think Loulé Carnival 2020 can provide many of the items Tina was looking for in her Treasure Hunt. And hopefully she’ll have fun looking. While Debbie continues to amaze with her ingenuity. Happy Saturday everyone!
The only kind of ‘snow’ I’m fond of- a bed of salt crystals, making a backdrop for the Presépio do Sal, in Castro Marim. Every year, throughout Portugal, Nativity scenes take pride of place in towns and villages. In this small Algarve village, more than 7 tons of locally produced salt form the basis of the scene. This has been an exceptional year for salt production, and the Nativity is a wonderful tribute to the salt pans and their workers.
At weekends there are story times for children and music concerts. You have until 6th January to visit if you are in the area. I’m happy to add this post to Amy’s Lens-Artists theme, On Display, this week, with wishes to all for a Christmas full of joy.
One Monday morning, earlier this year, I was wandering in the sleepy back streets of Sáo Brás de Alportel. In a ruin mostly used for car parking I stopped to examine the remnants of old photos pasted onto the walls. This is a town rich in tradition, where paper flowers are liberally used to decorate the streets at Easter time. The scenes feature a quiet nearby street, the bombeiros or fire brigade, a local dance, and a lorry load of cork. A museum in the town is dedicated to the cork industry, and piles of cork can often be seen drying in the surrounding hills. The use of Monochrome can make a scene look ancient, but in Sáo Brás the past never seems very far away.
Until the council decided a change of image was needed. New fountains on slick marble squares, and metal animal sculptures now grace the centre of town. It’s surprising what a game changer this is. The whole mood of the place is altered.
In the same way, replacing the colour in a photo with monochrome creates a change of mood.
It’s a gentle palette in Sáo Bras. Washing adorns the wall as it must always have done. Azulejo panels softly crown each doorway, predominately blue and white. Modern art blends with old and crumbling buildings. And in the countryside, bleached fields patiently await a turn in the season.
But it will take more than a few sculptures to separate Sáo Brás from its claim to antiquity. You can follow a Roman road through the back streets of town. And where better to savour that most traditional of Portuguese tarts?
My walk today isn’t at all what I intended, but I was having far too much fun on Saturday and left my camera and phone at a party. I hadn’t downloaded my photos from last week’s adventure in Seville, so that will have to wait. Not half so famous and a fraction of its size, but I think this little town in the Algarve hills has its own brand of charm. I hope Patti will accept my contribution to the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week.
Not too many shares this week, so please take the time to visit if you can. Many thanks to all who participate. Contributions are always welcome here on Jo’s Monday walk. Have a great week everybody!
I love a leafy hollow in the woods. Drake takes us speeding through :
Natalie takes us through some very different woods to a beach :
Lots of leaves about this week. Good to share a smile with Lady Lee :
And linger a while with Irene :
A healthy splash of colour from Eunice this week :
And a city I’d love to revisit. West coast with Alice :
How much do you know about Waterloo? Denzil takes us through some of the history :
While Cathy is still on the Camino, but the end is in sight :
Who doesn’t like to end on a high? Thanks so much, Gilly 🙂
I’m easing off this week after a slightly manic time. Many thanks to all of you for following along and for your good wishes.
Relaxed and comfortable at the helm of his small fishing vessel, Luis has found his special place in the world. All of his working life, a fisherman, he was saddened at the sight of an elderly friend’s boat, abandoned by the water in Ferragudo, because he could no longer sail it. With great reluctance the friend sold his boat to Luis, assured that it would be far better to see her proud on the water than slowly decaying. She was lovingly restored and refurbished, so that Luis could sail her on these waters he so loves, and share with us his delight in this special place.
Many times I have crossed over the waters of the Arade estuary, either on the motorway or, more excitingly, over the gracefully arched bridge that spans it, low to the water. When the tide is out bare mud flats stretch all around, but when the tide swells and surges up the river, it is pure joy to be carried along with it.
Leaving the harbour, Luis takes us across to the other side of the estuary and begins to share the history of the local fishing industry. We look up at the baskets on the quay, where fisherman used to haul the catch by hand. The chimneys dotted around the landscape are remnants of sardine factories long since abandoned. We pass by Portimáo’s proud waterfront and head for a sequence of bridges. Luis takes great care when sailing beneath them not to catch the lines of the fishermen above, and then we are racing across the water towards the next bridge.
I look upwards, excited to finally sail beneath this beauty. And then we are beyond the bridges, gently bobbing on calm waters as we round a curve into open countryside. Luis stills the boat beneath a rocky crag where wives used to gather, gazing seawards to pray for the safe return of their fishermen. The spot was consecrated as a chapel in the rocks by a bishop. In winter these waters are not so benevolent.
And then Luis gently steers the boat to where the waters divide, and we enter the channel which will take us to our destination, Silves.
Slowly we approach the city, former capital of the Algarve, and visible from afar across this flat stretch of countryside. When the tide is out the water here is very low and it’s a paradise for birdlife. We watch, spellbound, for heron, soaring off across the water and storks circling overhead. One day we must return to hike the riverside trail. For now we are hugely entertained by Luis and his knowledge and humour. He waves gaily to passing craft, seeming to be on first name terms with all who sail here, from solar powered boat to the owners of a tiny marina/restaurant.
The clouds have gathered and I’m grateful for a brief respite from the sun as we glide towards Silves. A shower was forecast, but we seem to have dodged it. Two large Viking style boats are moored at the quay, leaving little space for Luis, but he good-naturedly nudges his boat alongside.
We step ashore with an hour and a half to stretch our legs. Time enough for a stroll through the riverside park and across the river to look back on this magnificent, ancient city. Coffee and cake, perhaps?
Back on board, we retrace our journey, pausing to examine a tidal mill and the caves beyond, and a former sardine factory, now a smart hotel.
The sun is low in the sky as we reach the bridges, again carefully avoiding fisher folk suspended above. Luis explains that the arched bridge is designed to look like a fish, the eyes glowing brightly when floodlit at night.
Soon we are approaching Luis’ beloved home, riding high above the water. I’ve grown to love this place too. The beauty of this stretch of water, with its many moods and tidal changes speaks to me. You can only sail this route when the tide is right, but there are other trips you can take with Ferragudo Boat Trips.
So, when Tina asked me to Pick a place, special to me, I had no hesitation. Join me on Monday and we’ll do a walking tour of Ferragudo.