Portugal

Jo’s Monday walk : Todos a Caminhar!

Something a bit different this week.  We’ve often remarked that we seldom see Portuguese people out walking, as we stride around the countryside.  Maybe they don’t regard it as a leisure pastime, or are simply too busy earning a living and looking after their families.  It obviously hasn’t gone unnoticed because, a few months ago, we came across an initiative called ‘Todos a caminhar’- walking for everyone!  Sponsored by local councils, it aims at promoting better health in the community.

Each Sunday morning, at 10.00, a different venue across the Algarve hosts the walk.  A couple of Sundays ago we turned up for the one at Castro Marim, a beautiful village right by the River Guadiana.  I had visions of tramping through the salt pans with flamingos wings beating the air all around me, but it was not to be.  Coaches had arrived from all across the Algarve and, there in front of the sports pavilion, a sea of people did variations on a ‘warm up’.  Unphased, we joined them, and off we all surged, on the road out of the village, but nowhere near the salt pans.

Almost immediately we were in open countryside, in an area unfamiliar to us, and surrounded by chattering groups of Portuguese.  Determined older ladies and their gents, who were keen to show they still had what it takes, groups of giggling teens, singles striding away, everyone using up those calories so they could enjoy a really good, late Sunday lunch.

A right turn took us up a hill, in the direction of Vista Real, and so it was, a royal vista.  Once we’d gained height, far across the fields I could just make out the outline of the mighty castle at Castro Marim, with the Guadiana beyond.  As the hill dipped again there was an option to collect a free orange and a bottle of water, and complete a shorter circuit of 3.5km.  Fitter individuals could tackle the longer 10km course.  Well, what do you think?  In for a penny…

It was a blustery day, with rain threatened, the scudding clouds encouraging us to pick up the pace.  The group was well spread by now and we were keen not to be last.  There were arrows marking every junction and cheerful helpers riding back and forth, ensuring no-one had come to grief.  After another steep climb, with views of the salt pans, there was a second opportunity for water and an orange.

A couple of horses, probably bored with the sparse grazing, took an interest in us motley passersby.  The route climbed through the village of Monte Francisco, a few characterful older properties and a sequence of mostly new villas.  Locals nodded a polite ‘Bom dia’.

The best views of all were afforded to the Castro Marim Country Golf Club, a swish establishment with as extensive and beautifully laid out golf links as any I’ve seen.  However, nothing surpassed my first sighting this year of a cistus in flower.

Smiling down the home strait, the blossom twirling in the breeze, I enjoyed the placid cows and the ruin.  Soon we’d come full circle, and finally I sighted my first flamingo.  And where there’s one, there’s often another, isn’t there?  Not quite as I’d hoped.

It took us about an hour and a half to complete the 10km.  We marvelled at the scale of the operation.  Not all are as big as this one.  There were ambulances on hand, in case anyone over exerted themselves, and everywhere, smiling, happy faces.  Best of all, the rain held off, the clouds blew away and afterwards we treated ourselves to delicious tapas on a lovely sunny corner in nearby Vila Real de S. Antonio.  Life could surely be worse!

So much variety, here in the Algarve!  I hope you enjoy sharing it with me.  Come back next week because I have something rather wonderful to share.  Meantime, thank you very much for your company, and if you have a walk you’d like to share with me, please feel free.  Details, as always, are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Please do visit as many of these walks as you can.

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Mosaics, history and emerging Spring in Israel from Lisa this week :

Shoham Forest

Meg takes us time traveling through the twists and turns of her beloved Australian landscape :

Aragannu

Let Amanda take you back in time with the amazing Pergamon Museum in Berlin :

Finding Heine and Treasures in Berlin

Still shivering with Irene in the Midwest!

Chilly Reflections

And heavens, Janet almost disappears in the snow!

Monday walk… winter walk

How about some warming stew with Jackie?

El Guisado Stew

And you can usually rely on sunshine from Lady Lee :

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

My good Danish friend is giving us an easy option this week.  Thanks so much, Drake!

Walk the easy way

But Cathy doesn’t know the meaning of easy.  Go along with her and Mike, and just enjoy yourself!

Prague, Czech Republic : exploring Mala Strana

This one won’t take long.  You have to love Tobias’ sense of humour!

A tour of the Academy

Thanks again to you all for spending time with me.  I have another busy, but sometimes lazy, Algarve week ahead.  Take good care!

Silence in the Salt pans

Couldn’t you just lose yourself in this silence?  The end of another hot day in the Algarve, and the sun sinking gracefully into the salt pans.  The scene was so different when I walked out to Quatro Aguas earlier in the day.

A different quality of silence and not so easy to savour.  Almost harsh.  I like the gentler, reflective tones, when you can daydream a little.

How does silence look to you?  We had a different silence again here in the UK this morning, with a soft blanket of snow.

Jo’s Monday walk : In search of Tiles

There were two main reasons for my visit to Lisbon last October.  I’ve already shared with you the first- the Jerónimos Monastery.  This is the second- the Museu Nacional do Azulejo.  It’s not normally recommended to walk there, but it’s not a great distance, and there’s a very nice restaurant when you arrive.  So, why not?

My start point was Praça do Comércio, always an interesting space, where Lisbon fronts the water.  Some people can sleep anywhere, can’t they?

I even found a tiny strip of beach, but let’s not get distracted.  The road threads along the riverfront, beneath Alfama.  Roadworks were a bit of a nuisance, as was a chap on a bench, who misdirected us for the price of a euro.  That’s cities for you!  I had it in my head that along the way I might stop off at São Vicente de Fora, for the cloisters, a coffee, and a view.  Don’t try it on foot!  A tuk-tuk ride would be a much better idea.

Google Maps showed that it was only 1.2 miles from the Praça to the museum, but I found myself hugging shade as it was remarkably warm for late October.  Interesting rather than scenic is how I would describe the route, as we passed the cruise terminal and then Santa Apolónia railroad station.  At a bridge spanning railway and docks, a tourist bus sped past.  And then, amazingly, there it was!

What a wonderful use for an old monastery.  Tile lovers, you are in for a treat!  The convent of Madre de Deus was founded in 1509 by Queen Leonor.  Over time, many azulejo panels were stored there, and in 1957 it was decided to have an exhibition commemorating 500 years after Leonor’s birth.  The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation undertook the restoration work needed.  When the exhibition ended, in Jauary 1958, a wealth of tiles were available and it was proposed to transfer the Ceramic Section of Lisbon’s Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga to the building.  It was finally opened to the public as a museum in the 1970s.

First things first!  It was into the restaurant for some recovery time with delicious salads, in a prettily tiled setting, or a leafy outdoor courtyard if you preferred.  Fully fortified, it was time to tackle three floors of azulejos.

The museum surrounds the courtyard and cloisters, and has an incredible collection of azulejos, dating from 16th century to present day.

The magnificently restored church is incorporated into the museum.  You will be advised not to miss it and I could easily see why.  The decor includes rich, gilded woodwork, fine paintings and, of course, azulejo panels.

Time to climb to the next level.  There are interesting distractions along the way, but if you really can’t manage it then there’s a lift.

The azulejos change style and era on the next floor.  I tried to keep track of the accompanying details but it was too difficult.  Much easier to simply admire.  The museum website has an App to help you identify the pieces.

One of the most thrilling aspects of my visit to the Jerónimos Monastery was the moment when I stepped through a doorway to find myself looking down into the body of the church.  The same thing happens with Madre de Deus on the second level of the museum. I love the feeling of omniscience.  A seat in the Gods.

There is just one more level.  The exhibition culminates, at the top of the building, with an amazing 40 metre panorama of Lisbon, dating from 1730.  I have to admit, my eyes were starting to glaze over by the time I’d looked my fill.

The good news is that you don’t have to walk all the way back to the centre.  There’s a bus stop directly outside the museum and in 10 minutes you can be whizzed back to Rossio, and a different world.

Thanks for your company again this week.  It’s much appreciated.  I hope you can join me with a walk of your own soon.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Meantime please do enjoy these :

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Powder white, fresh snow makes for the most beautiful scenery.  Thanks, Drake!

The white track

I think Pauline might be grateful for a handful or two :

Hiding from the heat in the gallery

Becky will be enjoying this in a week or so’s time :

Another glimpse of the Guadiana

You could get the impression that Jackie doesn’t do anything but eat!

Cold Turkey

And Woolly?  He’s visiting War Graves again :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk48_Prowse-Point

An old friend takes us on a hike, California style.  Thanks, Kongo!

March to the Sea

Ending with something simply splendiferous!  Don’t miss this from Jude :

Heligan by Night

Whatever the week has in store, I hope you enjoy it.  I’m off out with my English walking group today.  See you soon!

 

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos – Lisbon

If you came on my Monday walk to Belém, in Lisbon, you will have guessed that this is the Monastery of Jerónimos.  Not hard to see why it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but I hope you will join with me in celebrating its beauty.

My expectations were high, for this was the third time I’d come to Lisbon, hoping to visit the monastery.  They say God works in mysterious ways, and it’s not for us to understand.  I was happy simply to stand in the midst of all this glory.

A church dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém was the forerunner to the monastery.  This stretch of the River Tagus provided a safe harbour and anchorage for shipping back in the 15th century, and the monks of the Order of Christ gave assistance and spiritual guidance to seafarers.  The church was already in a state of disrepair when Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night before their voyage of discovery in 1497, praying.

King Manuel 1 sought a dispensation from the Vatican to construct a monastery on the site, and building began in 1501.  Completion was to take 100 years.  The elaborate style of architecture, involving knots, anchors and all things maritime, came to be known as Manueline, the work originally being funded by the spice trade.  Manuel chose the Order of St. Jerome, known as Hieronymites, to occupy the monastery, tasking them with praying for his eternal soul.  It was to be a final resting place for him and his successors.  The religious order was not dissolved until 1833.

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The first room that you enter is the monk’s dining hall.  Fortunately I can simply share a few azulejos, as Becky presents you with all the details in 500 years old this year.  You will be wowed!  I walk through the cloisters agape.  There is nowhere I can look that doesn’t delight me.  When I’ve almost looked my fill, I mount the stairs to look down on the courtyard.

An incredible moment arises at the top of the stairs.  You step into a chamber arching high above you.  As you perceive the body of Christ on the cross and the stained glass Madonna, you notice people gathered at a stone balustrade.  Stepping forward your eyes light up!  You are looking down into the body of the church.

Back into daylight,  the gargoyles and faces, intricate knots and flowers combine to seduce.

Until finally my mission is accomplished and, with sensory overload, it’s time to leave.  The monastery was secularised and handed over to a charitable institution in 1833.  The many twists and turns since then can be read on the monastery website.

It’s that time of year and the Weekly Photo Challenge suggests that you might want to share your 2017 Favorites.  For me the last post that I wrote is invariably my favourite, but I do have one particular image that sings out to me from this post.  I wonder if you can guess which it is?  It simply remains to wish you all a blessed Christmas, and good health and happiness in the New Year.

Scaling the heights (2)

Campolide is not an area of Lisbon that sees many tourists.  On a mission to find Aqueduto das Águas Livres, as usual I walked, disregarding the guide book advice to catch a bus.  It didn’t look far on the map.  The locals I asked assured me it wasn’t far.  But finding it involved a lot of interesting uphill and roundabout, as you can see from the gallery.

I already had some idea of what I was looking for because we’d passed beneath it on the coach into Lisbon.  Finally, perseverance paid off.

But the garden scarcely revealed a clue of what I was about to experience.

Aqueduto das Águas Livres was a monumental undertaking, designed in the 18th century to bring water to the parched city of Lisbon.  The main course of the aqueduct covers 18km, but the whole canal network extends almost 58km.  Construction began in 1731, the centrepiece a total of 35 arches spanning the Alcantara valley, conceived by Custodio Vieira, the tallest being 65metres high.  Opened in 1748, while still incomplete, amazingly it withstood the devastating earthquake of 1755.

Fascinating, don’t you think?  I thought I’d already used the title Scaling the Heights before, and so it proved, when I managed to Ascend to considerable heights, early this year in lovely Florence.  I do enjoy a good view.

 

Six word Saturday

Bedazzled by butterflies in Vila Real

Strolling one Sunday through the riverside market in Vila Real de S. Antonio, I was so distracted by butterflies I almost forgot to make a purchase.  

You never know what you’re going to find, do you?  I had a wonderful time in the Algarve, but it’s good to be back with Debbie and six words.  She’s paddling this week.  Go and see!

Wishing you all a great weekend.

Jo’s Monday walk : Loving Lagos

It’s not often that I venture to the western end of the Algarve but, when I do, the city of Lagos is a particular favourite of mine. I knew that my daughter loved it too, from a fleeting visit about 10 years ago.  What better excuse did I need for a bit of footloose and fancy free?

The old side of town is a warren of twisting and turning switchback streets, with fleeting glimpses of interest as you whizz around a harepin bend.  Lisa commented that she was glad not to be in the driving seat, but we put our faith in my valiant other half, and eventually we found parking, way up beyond the castle walls.  I had not realised that they were so extensive.  Following our noses led us to an interesting wall or two of graffiti.

Truth be known, these days some of Lagos is a little bit tacky with touristy shops and restaurants- a victim of its own success and having some of the Algarve’s most inviting beaches.  But I can overlook a street or two that resembles Albufeira because this is a very engaging place.  It has history and beautiful churches, and it has character in spades, if you go looking.

Peeping between the narrow streets, the spires of several churches catch the eye.  I knew Santo Antonio by reputation, but was a little disappointed not to be able to share the astounding architecture and elaborately gilded wood with you.  Photographs were forbidden, but I did manage to find a link.  On the main square, Santa Maria was much less elaborate, but still beautiful.

Lagos has a history stretching back over 2000 years.  Originally a Celtic settlement, it was colonised by the Romans (as Lacobriga), valuable to them for its fine harbour.  When the Moors arrived in the 8th century, they added fortifications of castle and walls, and established trading with North Africa.  Henry the Navigator made Lagos the centre of Portuguese maritime explorations in the 15th century, the caravels venturing further and further south along the west coast of Africa, hoping to find a route to India.  In 1434 Gil Eanes succeeded in rounding the cape but sadly, within 10 years, the slave trade was established.  Lagos has the dubious distinction of having Europe’s first slave market.  Prince Henry received one fifth of the selling price of each slave, helping him to fund further expeditions.

With the death of Henry, Lagos continued to receive shipments of goods and slaves but its role was gradually eclipsed by the rising star of Lisbon.  A string of forts was constructed along the coast to defend from pirates and neighbouring Spain.  Among them, Ponta da Bandeira Fort, which sits so picturesquely on the headland.  From 1576 to 1755, Lagos was capital of the Algarve, but the earthquake of 1755 destroyed much of the old town.  Some of the castle walls remain but many of the current buildings date from 17th century.

Knowing my tendency to linger by the sea, I was allowed only the merest glimpse of the fort before being whisked away to lunch.  The lure of white sangria just about did the trick.  Over lunch we discussed ‘where next’ and Lisa made it a mission to find for me the landmark ‘green building’ which appears in many images of Lagos.  We were, of course, permitted to dawdle by the odd shop.  Ingenious use is being made of cork these days- everything from tiny purses to sandals, with jewellery and even clever fans.  Eye catching balustrades and tumbles of flowers were duly noted.

Lisa was following Google maps (isn’t technology a wonderful thing?) in a haphazard sort of way.  There were simply too many distractions.  Crossing Praça Gil Eanes I could see just a snippet of Ribeira Bensafrim, the river that pours out into the ocean.  We climbed gently and found ourselves in a square looking at a very colourful building, which proved to be the living science centre. ( Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos)

A restaurant terrace looked out onto the marina and busy river.  No sign of the desired ‘green building’ but, as we retraced our steps downhill, there it was in all its glory.  How had we missed it?  ‘Azulejos e postais‘- Tiles and postcards, as it is now known, on Praça de Luis Camoes.

Close up the tiles were very beautiful, and the owner was delighted to discuss the restoration of his building.  Mission accomplished, it remained to find our way back uphill to where we left the car.  I hope you loved Lagos too, and enjoyed our ramble together.

I’m back in the UK now, so hopefully ‘normal’ service will resume, but I may be a while catching up.  Thanks so much for your loyalty, and for staying with me.  Once again I have a bumper bundle of walks to share, so do please find time to visit these lovely folk.  And if you’d like to share a walk with me, just follow the logo.  Many thanks!

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Everybody should see this place once in their lifetime, so thanks, Lady Lee :

Santorini

While nobody does spectacular better than Debbie :

Slow and exposed walk along the Thames

Drake treated me to the warm glow of Autumn in a place that I love :

Colorful Autumn

And Elaine took me to her pretty home patch, too :

Early November walk by the canal

While Jill took me to a place that I’ve long wanted to visit :

Come explore Cadiz with me

And Cadyluck Leedy took me to an area that I don’t know at all!

Jo’s Monday Walk : Dinan, France

Liesbet has some spectacular photos, taken between house sits :

Southern Utah’s National Parks

And Violet takes me waterfalling

Inglis Falls

I did think Silly Back Lane an odd place name, but then I looked again.  Cheers, Jude!

Siblyback Lake

But then Woolly made me sad all over again :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk43_Gibraltar-Bunker

There’s something so distinctive about French windows and shutters.  And about Tobias; style :

Beynac, Part One

Beynac, Part Two

I’m really enjoying  Carol’s ‘close to home’ series, with their wonderful details.  Just look at these trees!

BYO Birdseed

Becky’s cheating a little bit with this one :

Glass, iron and steel at Kew

But on Friday morning I was sitting right here, waiting for the ferry to the Ilha.  Sunny memories :

A short stroll at Quatro Aguas

I have a gazillion photos to sort, including those from Lumiere in Durham last night.  Amazing stuff!  It’s forecast a damp week so it looks like I’ll have time to spare.  Whatever you get up to, I hope it’s a good week for you.  Take care!