Portugal

Six word Saturday

The culmination of a lovely week!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks but I’m back, just in time to join in with the very last of Becky’s Square Roofs.  I thought I’d share a few roofs that she might be familiar with.  Above is the roof top bar at the Maria Nova Hotel in Tavira.     

The captions might be helpful, or maybe not.  Almost all are in Tavira.  The other I have observed fondly for years.

I had a wonderful time and then, to cap it all off, I met Andrew Petcher yesterday.  Right here in Hartlepool marina.  How very strange is life?  Debbie’s Six Words this week are very appropriate.  I hope you’ll join us all and have a great weekend.

Six word Saturday

Random images remind me of ‘home’

In the midst of packing, and abysmal English weather, I pause to look back at what I have to look forward to.  One of these images might get me into trouble when I return.  My very last day, when the dry river beds weren’t, but the company was good.

I hope Spring has sprung for you.  Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!  Let’s get straight to the point with Debbie and her Six Words.

Jo’s Monday walk : Furnazinhas

This isn’t a walk so much as an amble into the sunny Portuguese countryside, but with the potential for a great deal more.  Furnazinhas is a small village, sometimes used for an overnight stay, at the eastern end of the Via Algarviana.  The whole walk runs from Alcoutim on the River Guadiana, the border with Spain, all the way to Cabo S. Vicente on the west coast.  You can break it down into stages, whilst taking in some of the Algarve’s most picturesque scenery.  Furnazinhas is a tranquil and lovely place to stay.  There’s a sense that time has passed the place right by.

It’s a small village and, arriving by car, we passed swiftly through it, then parked alongside the narrow roadside and walked back in.  It was one of those days that wasn’t going to plan.  I had tried and failed to join an exercise class in Tavira that morning, and plans to join Becky and Robert for lunch had fallen through.  The sun was shining brightly, so I tucked my pet lip away, and we headed for the hills.  My husband was convinced that the village would be a disappointment too, so I was wearing flip flops and intending to go to the beach afterwards.  For once, he was totally wrong.

Some places just speak to you immediately, don’t they?  As we strolled into the village, absorbing the silence, this sleepy little place was already getting under our skin.  Almost our first sighting was the signpost pointing out the PR10.  A stone slabbed lane led off through the village towards the hills beyond.  The realisation dawned that I needed my hiking boots to do this place justice.  Or at the very least, trainers.

We stopped to examine a map, and realised that we could have had two choices.  The PR9 was a circular 7.7km route, with a variety of ups and downs, while PR10 was a linear and flatter 7.8km, and a part of the Via Algarviana.  Unable to sensibly follow either, I determined to explore as much as I could of the village.  An elderly gentleman, seeing our interest, seemed happy to chat.  Before much longer he was leading us across the road, to his father’s former stables.

What a lovely surprise!  First he showed us the house where he and his wife live, when they don’t have guests for the Summer.  Then he unlocked the door of the smaller house opposite.  Steps lead down into a beautiful dining room, with a bedroom sleeping 4 above.  The old stone walls and ceilings of wood and bamboo give the place wonderful character, while spanking new bathrooms wouldn’t be out of place in a glossy magazine.  A small kitchen sits at the rear of the property, with barbecue looking onto an expanse of garden.  It had so much charm, I couldn’t stop smiling.

He explained that he’d worked in Faro until his retirement, but now he liked the peace and quiet of the countryside.  Who could blame him?  He said with a smile that he could always pop back to the city if he needed a bit more ‘life’.  Meanwhile Casa do Lavrador, the conversion of his Dad’s place, seemed to provide him with contentment and a living.

Having walked as far as I could through the village, I crossed over to explore the back streets of the opposite side.  An old lad, on a disability scooter, looked rather incongruous as he performed circuits, nodding at us as he passed.  A couple, deep in conversation on a doorstep, looked up, but scarcely paused to draw breath.  I was starting to feel hungry.  In the garden of a house set back from the street, a couple of gents were busy tucking in.  I could see no sign to indicate a restaurant, but it might well have been.

Like most Portuguese villages, there were signs of abandonment.  The young have to leave home to find work, and not everyone wants to return.  Terraces of crops and trees lined the fields behind the village.  Somebody had been hard at work.

I expect you’ve guessed that I’ll be going back, equipped with water and some proper shoes.  We may even rent the cottage and relish the peaceful life for a few days.  If that’s something you’d like to do, Casa do Lavrador is a Turismo Rural, and the phone number is +351 281 495 748.

The Via Algarviana stretches for 300km across the Algarve.  The website includes details of the trail, places to stay and a very seductive video.

Something to think about for the future?  I hope you’ll join me next time.

Many thanks to all you lovely people who follow me, and especially if you’ve shared a walk.  Please find time to read and share.  You can put the kettle on first, if you like.  I’ll wait.

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Join Drake in the desert?  He always makes such excellent company :

Sand excursion

Or simply gaze at the still, calm water with Irene :

Mirror Reflections

Emma has a good grumble in Mumbles.  Justified, I think :

Walking the Gower Coast; Limeslade and Langland Bays

What has Marsha been up to lately, you might be asking yourself?

Thrill of a Lifetime: How Novice Kayakers Navigate the Mangrove Tunnel of Doom

Feeling intrepid?  Sue leads the way.  Even on holiday, that girl can’t rest!

10 Tips Before Hiking Camelback Mountain, Phoenix

Treat yourself to the sweet scent of rosemary and lavender.  Becky had a wonderful Easter Sunday :

The ‘carpet strollers’ of São Brás de Alportel

A blockbuster of a share next, from Denzil :

The ‘In Bruges’ movie walking tour

No Jude this week, but Victoria does a stirling job on the Cornish coast :

4 Stunning Walks on the North Coast of Cornwall

Let’s finish with a flourish (and an icecream) and go hunting Eastern Water Dragons and penguins, with Karen :

Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf

That’s it for another week.  I think I’ll be back to sharing an English walk next Monday.  My Jo’s Monday walk page will tell you how to join in.  Please do!

Old Quarteira meets new

Quarteira is one of our ‘go to’ places for a lazy stroll.  It’s a bit of an anachronism, with high rise hotels and apartments dominating the seafront.  Stroll along the lengthy promenade in one direction and you come to the Fish Market, with a little harbour beyond.  The ‘smart’ resort of Vilamoura is on the horizon.  High rise of a finer calibre.  Stroll back the way, and where the promenade ends you have a wonderful expanse of beach.  This way lies Vale de Lobo, and the truly ‘smart’ set.  I don’t really belong in either, but I don’t mind to take a look, now and then.  I rather liked the exhibition of fishermen, erected by the sea.

But the real purpose of today’s post is to share with you a little of what Quarteira was, ‘back then’, before the developers arrived.  A series of signboards have been placed along the front, flashbacks to the 60s, and I found them fascinating.

The backs of the signs indicate their situation on the seafront.  I haven’t kept to order, nor have I included all of them.  A couple I find particularly poignant.  Life wasn’t easy back then.

I don’t know how much of the small print you can read, but one of them tells of the ‘Vestigios Romanos’.  Offshore the remains of a Roman settlement were found.  Now that’s antiquity!  But let’s end with a smile.  Wednesday’s are market days and I have a fondness for the cheese stalls.  This character was peddling his wares.  Salad, anyone?

Linking this to Becky’s Past meets Present.  I hope she likes it.

Escaping the rain

Time to kick back and have a little fun in my life.  I don’t know about you but I’m tired of all this rain.  And I haven’t shared with Paula in the longest time.  I really loved the elegant lady in her Black & White Sunday, After and Before.  I thought I’d share my husband.  Discreetly, of course.

He always complains that I only ever show his back in my photos.  Perhaps he’ll like this better?

My Place in Tavira

Sometimes words tumble around in your head, eager to evade the paper.  I’ve been following Cathy’s latest venture over at Wanderessence with interest, as she evokes a stream of memories.  Some of you may already know that I plan to move to the Algarve, in Portugal, this year.  Estate agents are almost at my door, the spur I need to start sorting through almost 30 years of squirreling stuff away.  What can I not bear to part with?

Sifting through a pile of photos, mostly of Dad and my Polish family, I pull out a couple of battered exercise books.  Evidence that I had tried to learn both Polish and Portuguese, unsuccessfully, I might add.  Several of the pages were loose, and came away in my hand.  I began to read…. not grammar at all, but the story of my early days in the Algarve.  It all came flooding back.

What is it that draws you to a place, asks Cathy?  She suggests that you keep a detailed diary to help you reminisce.  The pages I had stumbled upon took me back to 2004.  Our immaculate navy blue and white, new bathroom had plumbing problems and had to be bashed about to resolve them.  The whole street seemed to shudder and shake as our bathroom was ‘mended’.  It was an agony to listen, so we escaped while sanity was restored.

The previous October we had taken a one week holiday in Vilamoura and done a little scouting around.  I’d never been to Portugal before, but had liked the sound of Tavira.  A ruined castle overlooking the river, and a ferry to take you out to the beach.  Could it be as nice as it sounded?  Autumn that year was a little mischievous, but the patches of blue in the sky made up for the puddles of rain in the streets.  I lost my heart, right there and then.

February 2004 saw us return for a couple of days, to finalise a sale and rush around buying a few basics.  A bed and some yellow canvas deck chairs came first, I recall.  The plates, we brought with us from England, that April, our first proper visit to our home.  The excitement of  first outings and purchases!  A trip to Faro to buy an acoustic guitar, regarded as an ‘essential’ by our son.  The soft magic of the ilha.  And later, in July, a blow-up dinghy which gave such pleasure, as he and a mate paddled across there.  My heart was often in my mouth as a ferry chugged a little close, but they would emerge spluttering and teasing each other.  A repair kit seldom fixed the leaks for long.

The memories crowd in, one tripping over the next.  The joy of Summer fairs, paper flowers bedecking the bandstand.  Our first drive into the Algarve countryside, enthralled by the greenery and the rolling hills.  Balmy evenings by the riverside.  Azulejos, of course!  The pride in showing visitors all of our wonderful discoveries.  That never ending blue sky and sea.  Sunsets on the roof.

Fourteen years later, many things have changed, but our love for Tavira remains undiminished.  Neighbours have come and gone.  Our favourite cafe, Anazu, is now just a memory.  The garden we started so optimistically has fallen victim to the weather.  It’s time to move out there and give it the nurturing it deserves.  I hope I’ve given you a sense of the place, and what draws me back.  Many thanks to Cathy and her legion of ideas on how to enhance the travel experience.  Please pay her a visit.

Jo’s Monday walk : Hunting camelias in Monchique

I had always thought of Monchique as rather a drab little town, despite the approach to it through beautiful countryside.  An astounding number of storks spectated from their nests along the roadside, and frolicked in the fields and orange groves.  Leaving them behind, the road climbs into the hills known as the Serra de Monchique, with their highest point 902 metres, at Foia.  Further down the slopes, I had been lured to the market town of Monchique with the promise of a Camelia Fair.

But where?  Arriving in the town around midday, all was quiet.  The Tourist Information Office was closed, and a large billboard advertised the advent of the Sausage Festival, next weekend.  Expectations lowered, but still with a glimmer of hope, for it was a day to enjoy.

Who would have anticipated the large open air pool?  What a place that must be to splash about in the Summer!  Steps led upwards, an open invitation, with the tip of a bell tower just visible, spurring me on.  Built in 16th century, the Igreja Matriz, or Mother Church, is dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Our Lady of Conception.

The doorways are in the Manueline style, depicting images from the sea and from nature.  I step into the hushed interior, where strong pillars support the wooden ceiling.  Soft blue and gold adorns walls and alcoves.  I linger to admire the Capela do Santissimo (Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament), the azulejos reaching high into the dome. (a lovely ‘square’ for Becky)

No sign yet of camelias but there are other distractions.  A shop offers homemade chocolates, cork products and Happy Donkey walks.  All three appeal.  The direction is definitely upwards, a discreet sign pointing to O Convento.  Escadhinas da Boa Vista promise fine views.

Around about here I get my first hint of camelias, growing nonchalantly in a tub.  And then a second pair, nodding in a ruffle of breeze.

By now I have the bit between my teeth and am in hot pursuit, but there’s that convent to explore.  Upwards I go, dangling washing lines and delectably old houses doing their best to delay me.  Already I’m high above the Igreja Matriz.  A forlorn icon looks down on me, sadly.

Little prepares me for what I will find at the top of the hill.  A small homestead adjoins the most ramshackle ruined convent you ever set foot in.  I’m beckoned forward with an eager nod from the homesteader and, very gingerly, I step up and into the ruin.  My eyes adjust to the gloom and I stare into the central courtyard.  A chicken run occupies one corner, and the small creatures scurry about, pecking busily.

The old lad waves me onward and I gaze in wonder.  Never have I stood inside a more tortured shell of a building, and yet, its spirit shines forth.

Convento de Nossa Senhora do Desterro (Our Lady of Exile), a former Franciscan convent, was founded in 1631 by Pêro da Silva, later to become a Vice-Roy of India.  According to legend he brought a small image of Our Lady, in ivory, back with him from India.  After his death it was venerated as a relic, and now resides in the hermitage of S. Sebastião down in the town.  Da Silva is thought to have been buried at the convent, and the enormous camelia that almost fills the centre of the courtyard is believed to have journeyed from India with him.

The camelias are lush and profuse, even crumpled at my feet.  As I turn to leave, the chap waves his arms to indicate that I’m not yet finished.  An adjoining room, once a refectory, has on its crumbling walls the remnants of a panel of tiles reproducing Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper.  Beside this, what must once have been an exquisite half tiled wall.  A solitary, poignant cross represents the Via Sacra, or Sacred Way.

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The earthquake of 1755 was largely responsible for the destruction of the convent.  Astounding to me that such treasures should languish unprotected, but access is undoubtedly an issue.  There is no charge to visit the convent, but a small contribution produced an orange and a smile from the old lad, and then it was back down the hill, more easily than the ascent.

I still hadn’t completely given up hope that there might be a camelia show somewhere, but when I finally came upon the deserted showground I had to face reality.  Maybe a piece of delicious almond tart would compensate?  But you know how strange life can be sometimes.  Strolling back to the central square, what should I find?  A whole row of planted camelia!

Many of the blooms were brown and withered at the edges, and it seems likely that the show was cancelled for this reason.  A cold spell early in the year may have caused the damage.  A pleasant sit in the sunlit square would round off my day nicely.  It’s a good vantage point for some of the expressive statuary celebrating local surgeon Dr. Humberto Messi, by sculptor Jorge Melicio.

Refreshed, it was time to drive back down the valley, stopping for a short stroll around the lovely thermal spa at Caldas de Monchique.  I think I’ll save that for another day.  I expect your feet are tired.  Pop that kettle on now and we’ll share some virtual walks.

There and back with Lisa makes this a terrific stroll :

Walkway over the Hudson

Susan’s not been around for a while, but she always makes walking a pleasure :

Walking with the Skyview

Warm this week, with Irene :

Living Desert

But Suzan reminds us of what some of us missed :

Photos with Finesse

I do try not to be envious, but Carol’s trip to the Blue Mountains is turning me green.  Twice!

From the Top to the Bottom

Thrillseekers

Amanda, meanwhile, takes us to a far less well known part of Australia :

Moore Meanderings at Linville

Jesh likes to look at the world in an arty way (and I spotted a few squares and circles in there too!)

The Movement of The City

Jackie’s having fun again, down Mexico way.  Her posts always make me so hungry :

Comida del Dia

And you really can’t beat living the good life, with Lady Lee :

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Or with my good friend Cathy, and her boundless energy.  Watch out for her new blog soon!

Prague: A day of wandering through Nove Mesto & Vinohrady

Drake needs lots of energy too.  He’s always busy!

Business as usual

And Eunice finally discovers a lovely piece of local history on her doorstep :

A local discovery walk

Hope you weren’t disappointed in this week’s walk.  If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Many thanks to all my lovely contributors.  Here’s wishing you a great week!