Portugal

Living the Dream- in the Algarve, Portugal

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Sounds familiar? A dream that many share but, though we chose the same country, my story and that of Alyson are very different. I was excited, and very nervous, to meet Aly not long after I started blogging, by invitation to their wonderful home in Ferragudo. I had been following Algarve Blog and comparing notes and experiences, because she and husband Dave lived almost at the opposite end of the Algarve from Tavira. They were lovely hosts and Alyson showed me her artist’s studio with great pride. It was to become key to their new lifestyle, and the development of Alyson’s own very individual style of painting. Me and Michael were plied with banana bread, and regaled with stories of how ‘living the dream’ became a reality for them. Some funny, some more of a warning for what we might face in our own pursuit of the dream.

Little did I know then that I was getting a foretaste of the book she was to write. What we share is an enormous enthusiasm for the Portuguese way of life. Its kind and generous people, who welcome us into their homeland, and tolerate our wilful ways, with little more than an occasional roll of the eyes and a gentle shrug. Alyson has done her best to integrate into the community, and she and Dave give back wherever they can, fund raising for the bombeiros, the crucial fire fighting service here, and Madrugada, for those who need a helping hand. I know from personal experience of Alyson’s generosity with her time and expertise. I struggled mightily with the technical aspects of running a blog at the outset, and she would often offer help. Her artistic flair was never in doubt, and I take great pride in the logos she designed for me, which I still use on Six Word Saturday.

I don’t really need to say more, do I? The book is a wealth of experience for anyone considering the move to a new country. It’s also a travel guide with many enticing recommendations. And it’s a darn good read! I’ll leave you with an early example of Alyson’s art work. I hope she won’t mind.

Jo’s Monday walk : Beyond the River

‘Why Tavira?’ is a question I’m asked all the time when I talk about the place where I live.  Although I love the peace of the Algarve countryside, I could never willingly live in a little hillside cottage.  I would forever be gazing at the horizon, imagining the lap of the waves at my feet and the sound of the ocean in my ears.  Here in Tavira the river brings the sea to me, and it’s one of my greatest pleasures to board a ferry and ride out there to meet it.  This week the town ferry reopened.  There was no queue at the kiosk, nor in fact any other passengers aboard than me and my husband.  And a crew of five, some of whom were youngsters, learning the trade.  Prosperity will come again, and they need to be prepared.  For now, the instructions are to wear a mask on all forms of public transport, and so, bizarre though it felt on the open deck of a boat, we did.

We pulled out of the quayside, where the work of building a new bridge continues apace, and soon were chugging out through the marshes.  Lilac heather lines the riverbank, but my gaze was directed far beyond, counting the flamingos.  The day was full of billowing clouds, which could have explained the emptiness of the ferry.   After all these years, still I find the views from the landing stage compelling.

We followed the path across the Ilha towards the beach.  The main seafood restaurant was being industriously cleaned and rearranged, in readiness for hoped for customers.  The adjacent campsite is to remain closed this summer, and the object of our affections, The Sunshine Bar, had yet to open, but the recycled fish at O Xiri has a new lease of life.

With no particular objective in mind, we set off along the deserted beach, walking into a boisterous breeze.  As we paused to regain our breath, a tiny figure appeared on the horizon.  We watched as the quad bike drew near, and then passed us by.  The maritime police with a pleasant occupation.  Nothing but a few gulls to keep us company.  In vain I tried to capture them in flight.  Better to focus on the jewellery of the beach!

We had reached the area known as Terra Estreita.  Another ferry and a boardwalk connects this beach with Santa Luzia on the mainland.  Beach umbrellas in residence, but not a soul to be seen.  Just the tyre tracks of the young policeman.

Turn back, or carry on?  The legs were starting to feel a bit leaden in the soft sand, but we knew that the Beach Bar at Barril was open.  A fair incentive for another half hour or so’s walking.  Maybe even cake?

The clouds were starting to amass and the wind to bluster, but I was intrigued by the clumps of greenery and plants I had never before seen growing on this beach.  Nature rearranging herself in the absence of humans.  We had already noticed that the shoreline was different in places.  The action of wind and waves.  Soon I was in the mesmerising presence of the anchors at Barril.

I defy anyone to walk past without taking at least one or two photos of them.  Possibly after refreshments.  The sky was miraculously clearing again by the time we were ready to return, and the wind gentling us along from behind.  More found treasure!

Finally the lighthouse at the river mouth came into view.  It’s not a bad life being a beach attendant right now.

Almost ready to board, but I can’t leave you without a bit of biscuit cake, can I?  A treat, because it’s been a sobering week, in many ways.

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Janet led the way, last week, in being too upset to walk.  Many of us knew just how she felt :

Today I can’t walk

But Margaret will cheer you up :

A Tale of Three Birds: Chapter Two- The Curlew

And Anabel has beautiful rock formations in Berwickshire :

Cove to Siccar Point

Trees, sky, tiny flowers… just a few of the things in Susan’s new world :

Walking around a lockdown

Drake demonstrates how beautiful green can be :

Most of all greenish

While Rita celebrates the blossom trees in Toronto :

Feeling high at High Park

Doesn’t matter what day it is, Rupali can find beauty :

Wordless Wednesday Walk 3

And Sheetal can get excited about Florence :

Date with David

Irene contents herself with the simple things in life :

Along the Trail

I’ve never hiked Dartmouth… but I’d like to.  Please meet Zara!

Dartmoor Hiking Trails: Princetown to Fox Tor

So far I’ve been documenting and diarying my life here in the Algarve, in this exceptional period.  I think you can see, it’s a beautiful place.  I don’t intend to stick to a schedule from now on, so if you share a walk with me I’ll be delighted, but I can’t be sure when I’ll share it here.  Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy transition to a better world.  It’s ours to make the best of, isn’t it?  Stay safe!  And eat cake?

When ‘living the dream’ goes pear-shaped

Pear-shaped is exactly how it feels, some days.  A sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  A sadness that won’t be pushed away.  No matter how many times I might repeat ‘get a grip!’  Get a grip!  It’s 18 months since we sold our UK home and renounced life in England, in pursuit of ‘the dream‘.  And yes, we found it.  A world of sunlight and smiling faces.  But often now, I wonder, at what cost?

Of course, we discussed the ‘what ifs’ before we made the move.  What if we’re seriously ill over there, or worse, the youngsters are?  Easily dismissed!  Portugal has a health care system.  Flights are cheap and easy.  Stop right there.  You can see the flaw in the argument now, can’t you?  Why didn’t we?  Hindsight, such a wonderful thing.  It does no good to say, as both children have, ‘but you’re safer there’.  It may well be true.  There is far less density of population here, and steps were taken in good time to help prevent the spread of infection.  But I didn’t come here for safety.  Far from it!  And I definitely didn’t come here to isolate myself from my family.  The dream included happy times shared with them, in this lovely place.  Was I greedy?  Wanting too much?  You can’t have it all, never was truer.

The clock ticks on and there is no real comfort in sight.  Flights can be, have been, booked, but there is no certainty that they will operate.  And what of the quarantine measures that may be applied?  Which employer is going to say ‘go, have a good time, and take an extra 2 weeks when you come back to self isolate’?  If there is still a job available.

The pragmatic view.  All things must pass?  But in the meantime I feel like I have betrayed my children.  Deliberately distanced myself when help, both physical and emotional, might be needed.  Hoodwinked, both them and me.  Overreacting?  Maybe so, but that expression ‘a heavy heart’- I know just how it feels.  Gradually things are starting to normalise here, and I can’t deny spontaneous joy at walking on beaches again, and meeting with friends.  But the future feels precarious, in a way it never did, ‘before’.

Life at the Top

From a wreck to a palace!  A quick hop back in time to my visit to Aveiro last year.  A place I’d always wanted to visit for its canals, but I had no idea that this fabulous Art Deco Museum existed.  Room at the Top?  Yes, please!  The views would be stunning.

Trading views with Becky this morning at #SquareTops.

Views of COVID 19 – Chile, England, Finland and Portugal

Taking time out today to look at the darker side of life.  Sue Slaught is compiling a series on the effect of COVID 19 around our world, and I was honoured to be asked to participate.  The full text is here :

Views of COVID 19 – Chile, England, Finland and Portugal

Hoping you are enjoying the peace of this very different Easter, and that no-one you love has been affected by this frightening illness.  God bless!

My Top View of Tavira

A little tenuous, this one, but it’s a view I love.  Church ‘on top’ of a hill.  The Ponte Romana, ‘atop’ the River Giláo.

It’s a good follow up to yesterday, and I’m hoping Becky will like it.  It’s all getting a little crazy over at her #SquareTops.

Jo’s Monday walk : Beja Blues

Last week was such a dreamy post, wasn’t it?  I’m moving a little nearer home, and reality, this week, to the main town of the Baixa Alentejo.  It was a long haul, going north to Marváo, and we decided to break the journey at Beja, where we had a little unfinished business.  Namely, the Convent of Our Lady of Conception, part of the Regional Museum of Beja since 1927.  Foolishly we had tried to visit once before, on a Monday but, like most other churches and museums in Portugal, it was closed on that day.

I’ve never really hit it off with Beja.  Some places speak volumes to me, others simply mutter.  Beja comes in that last category.  Still, everywhere deserves a second chance, and I knew that the museum was worth visiting.  The day had turned sullen as we left the Algarve, and the skies hung heavy over the castle.  Not an auspicious start, and the square in front of the castle was being dug up and re-tiled.  Skirting around a digger, I looked in through the Cathedral doors, not feeling inclined to linger.  I knew that the museum would be closing soon for lunch.

It’s a short distance through the narrow streets to the Convent square.  The former Convento da Conceição was founded in 1459 by Dom Fernando, brother of Afonso V of Portugal, and his wife Dona Beatriz.  Part of the Franciscan order, it was one of the richest and most important in the country.

Now part of the Rainha Dona Leonor Regional Museum, a hush descended as we entered through the Manueline portico, beneath beautifully curved arches.  Immediately in front of us, the church.  The lights were low and my eyes took a moment or two to adjust.

The first thing to hold my gaze was the tiled azulejo panel, dated 1741 and depicting the life, birth and death of St. John the Baptist.  The church is covered in carved wood and gold leaf, dating back to the 17th century.  Excessive to modern eyes, as was the array of highly polished silverware from the 18th century.  I felt truly grateful not to be the lady with the polish, but I did admire the altar of inlaid marble.

Leaving the subdued atmosphere of the church, I found myself in fabulously, fully tiled cloisters.  This was what I had come to see.  There is always an atmosphere of soothing calm to cloisters, and the soft glow of sunlight enhanced their beauty.

Beautiful, isn’t it?  Even in its unrestored state, it’s one of my favourite pieces.  But there’s no doubt there is money to be spent here… one day!

Some of the detail was extraordinary, but don’t take my word for it.  Becky does it so much better in Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceicáo’s Extraordinary Azulejos  Speaking of the lovely lady, are you taking part in #SquareTops today?  It’s a blockbuster!  Here are my two.

The colours and mix of styles is captivating.  I’ve seen many cloisters here in Portugal, but none quite like these.

I ventured up the stairs, hoping to be able to get out onto the roof space, but it was closed to the public.  I learned instead of Mariana Alcorforado, a nun at the Convento, who fell in love with a French officer.  Noel Bouton, Count de Chamilly, was in Beja with his troops in 1666.   The evidence of her unrequited love lives on in five love letters.  The fabric below, I included for my daughter.  She loves antique embroidery!

Back in the open, we found a café in the square overlooking the museum.  It was unbelievably quiet, though the virus had barely been heard of.  I wasn’t really hungry but wanted to sit peacefully with a glass of wine, before continuing our journey.  We ordered a toastie, but the waitress explained that they didn’t sell wine.  We could, though, buy it at the store next door!  Seeing our baffled faces, she must have taken pity on us.  Five minutes later she reappeared from next door, bearing two very delicious glasses of wine.  I think perhaps Beja looked better for it.

A wander through the streets revealed a strange mish-mash of old and new.  I didn’t really warm to Beja, but it doesn’t lack for character and humour.  And there’s a chance I’ll return, for I’ve realised that a substantial part of the museum is sited within the Church of Santo Amaro, beyond the castle walls.  Oh, dear!  But I did enjoy the street art.

They say a cat can look at a king!  Or a queen, in Becky’s case.  Do join her!

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Let’s share some walks now, shall we?  I’ve a humdinger to start with!  In Portugal too, with Debbie :

Remains of past industry

While Drake takes us to that tiny island he knows so well :

A fugitive crosses his tracks

And Terri shares some truly spectacular scenery :

Walking in the Valley of Fire

Everybody round to Margaret’s for Drenched Lemon Cake!  Well, virtually, anyway  🙂

Round the Edge of the Village: It’s All About the Texture

We can no longer walk on our beaches in the Algarve, so this is very poignant from Miriam :

Virtual walking on Phillip Island

In the early morning mists, we find Irene :

View from the Top

With first hand knowledge of China, share this epic journey with Indra :

Suzhou… Gossamer Antiquity

Always with a gentle, distinctive touch, there’s no mistaking Lynn’s love for nature :

LOCAL WALKS: Heart Lake

While Rupali looks at her world through eyes filled with beauty :

Simplicity

And Cathy experiences the excesses of tourism in Italy.  Certainly not any longer!

The Cinque Terre: A crowded hike to Vernazza

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for another cuppa.  Did somebody mention cake?  Please, stay safe out there!

Jo’s Monday walk : Castelo de Vide

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.

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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.

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Still sharing!  It’s what we do best here in blogland.  Stay safe out there!

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As heart warming a walk as I’ve ever taken.  Thank you so much, Drake!

Walks have to be started

It’s therapeutic getting out there in nature, as Alice will tell you :

The Blue Heron Nature Trail

And Eunice is still determined to enjoy beach and countryside :

Lytham/ St. Annes -a walk in two parts

Margaret sums it all up succinctly :

The Last Walk Before Lock Down

And Rupali smiles at us, from a distance :

Weekend 88 : Distance

I think we’re all agreed that Becky is a ‘Top Notch’ blogger.  It’s 1st April soon (no fooling!) :

Streets of Spitalfields

Happy to share a poetic stroll beneath the birch trees, with Jude :

The Birks of Aberfeldy

And I found a fascinating walking tour of Porto, for the future :

‘Other cities in the city’: a social history walking tour of Porto

While Cathy shares a good slice of the exotic :

Morocco: Aroumd to Imlil to Essaouira

Saving this treat for last.  Don’t miss Pauline’s lovely photography and wonderful artwork!

Day 2 of the birthday get away

It’s an amazing world out there, isn’t it?  I’m so glad we can share it together.

Fun with textures

I’m not sure that this qualifies in any way, shape or form for your challenge, Jude, but I like it.  It was taken through a shop window in Loulé some time ago, and was just lurking, waiting for an outing.  I’ve not really hit the brief with any of these, but it was fun trying.

Thanks for helping to keep us entertained.  Do you have a favourite?  2020 Photo Challenge #12

Jo’s Monday walk : Portagem to Ammaia

It’s always good to start a post with a flamboyant flower, don’t you think?  Though in this case it has only a little relevance.  How many circular walks do you know that start and end by a river, exploring Roman ruins along the way?  I can actually think of one other, in the Algarve, but I was quite unprepared for the scale of these ruins, at Ammaia, in the Alto Alentejo region of Portugal.  Ruins I’d never even heard of!

I have to say that the last walk was a very hard act to follow.  Having seen the valley from the lofty heights of Marvão, I was curious as to how the village would look when viewed from below.  Driving back down didn’t seem half so difficult as the haul up to it had been.  As usual, I wasn’t doing the driving, but gazing out at the scenery.  Sleepy Portagem was a lazy dream of a day in early March.  Come back in July and it might be a different story, with screams and splashes echoing up the valley from the river beach.

Yes, that’s Marvão, right up on the top.  No wonder it’s serene and peaceful!  I read that the village hosts a Medieval Fair in October.  What a sight that must be!  And yet, for once, I’d opted for serenity and loved every moment.

It was, pretty much, also what we found on our descent from Marvão.  A river beach has been constructed on the River Sever and, alongside it, a smart pool complex.  Totally deserted, of course, in March.  Used, as I now am, to an early Spring in the Algarve, I was astonished to find bare trees, just awakening to the gentle warmth of the sun’s rays.

Looking at the sign boards there seemed to be a choice of two walks, PR1 and PR5.  So long as we didn’t have to climb all the way back up to Marvão on foot, it didn’t much matter which.  The river curved away into the distance, beneath a beautiful old bridge.

Crossing the bridge, a decision of sorts was made.  Inaccessible castle ruins and a more modern calamity, ripe for renewal, directed our steps.

Poppies danced overhead as we followed a grassy trail around the back of the village.  I stopped to admire a haphazard clump of irises, triggering a frenzy of barking from behind the fence.  Buried among bright green foliage, could that be a wild orchid?

Moths and butterflies fluttered by, intent on the beautiful day, and a patch of tiny, jewel bright violas.  A narrow road led between fields full of olive trees, where a farmer and his wife were clearing and burning tired, old tree branches.  They surveyed us with curiosity, nodding at our greeting.  I doubt if too many strangers pass their way.  Set back against the hillside, we became aware of some ruined structures, and speculated on what their purpose might have been.  The sign Fornos do Cal da Escusa suggested a connection with ovens.  We later found that these had been lime quarries, quite possibly dating back to Roman times and the nearby city of Ammaia.

In the distance, across the fields of olives, vines and sheep, Marvão kept watch from on high.

We had circled back towards Portagem but, just before the village, a right turn took us through the tiny hamlet, São Salvador da Aramenha, home to some beautiful camelias.  Past the church and a diminutive café, a left brought us to the Roman ruins, unimposing behind a locked gate.

Thankfully they were simply closed for lunch.  Just beyond the gates, a small museum, with a film show relating the history of the site.  Then we were free to wander, full of expectation.  The website Ammaia can provide details.

The site is surprisingly large, and actually spans a country lane, but much of it has yet to be excavated.  Remnants of the South Gate, the Forum and a bathing area are clearly visible.  Ongoing since 1994, progress is slow and reliant on students and volunteers.

There is enormous potential here, and in the stillness of the surrounds you can let your imagination roam.  Romans, gossiping in the Forum, languid in the baths, or patrolling the walls with Marvão on the horizon.  Meanwhile the grass grows long, sprinkled with wild flowers of lemon and blue.  Leaving the site, it was about another half hour, through the dappled shade of fragrant pines and yet more olives, back to the village of Portagem.  I think we mostly followed PR5.

But where’s the cake, I hear you say?  Well, there’s plenty at Su’s place, and Jude has some luscious meringues to share.  Perhaps you’d like to join them.  In this sleepy corner of the Alentejo, I was hard pressed to find a cake shop.

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A few more walks for you this week.  Please, keep sending them.  I don’t mind if they’re just of your back garden- it’s all fresh air, and a pleasant distraction for each other.

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Alice has a beautiful walk for us in these troubled times :

Prayer Garden

But nobody says it better than Drake :

Lonesome Avenue

Fancy a little climb with Irene?

Top of a Sand Dune

Meanwhile Natalie is staying positive :

Looking Forward to Spring

And playing in the waves.  Wish I could!

Fit and Fun Walk: Waves

Nobody captures beauty better than Lynn.  Treat yourself to a walk with her :

LOCAL WALKS: Signs of Spring in the Pacific Northwest

Wonderful Italy!  Cathy shares a journey I always wanted to make :

The Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare

Still in Italy, Sheetal takes me across the lagoon, to one of my most beautiful memories ever :

Colours of Venetian Isles

Stay safe out there!  We’re all traveling by armchair now.  Might as well get comfy.  I’d better go and find some cake!