Portugal

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!

Jo’s Monday walk : Magnificent Marvão

Dawn breaks over the castle at Marvão, serene and beautiful.  I had been niggling for a little while.  ‘Can we have a few days away?’ before company arrives and the summer hots up.  How lucky was I?  A virus was nibbling away at all our lives.  The situation was to take a turn for the worse in my absence.  But I was granted a reprieve.  Pure escapism!  To the border country, on the heights of the Alentejo, here in Portugal.

It was a little drab on our arrival, cloud pressing down on our heads, but undeterred we took to the walls.  Finding them full of rich promise.

As evening settled around us, slowly, a break in the clouds, and the last of the sun’s warmth painted the sky.  Coral tones, delighting my heart.

I could hardly wait to see what the next day would bring!  The world floated beneath me, the natural park of the Serra de Sáo Mamede.  Ahead the proud and mighty castle, never yet conquered, with its petticoat of gardens, and a fountain playing gently in the dusk.  Nearby the Igreja Santiago seemed still to be open.  Timidly I poked my head inside, to be greeted with a welcoming smile.

Gratefully we returned to the hotel for supper.  Although the forecast for the next day was good, I wasn’t overly confident, but it dawned with clouds high and puffy in a beautiful blue sky.  I would be able to see Marvão at its glorious best.

Much of the village is in pristine condition, but here and there a door or window caught my eye.  A candidate for a little affection.

Personality and gentle humour seem to characterise Marvão, but nothing overshadows the castle, looking down on the village from its granite crag.

The cisterna is remarkable for its size, 10 metres by 46.  It was built to gather sufficient rainwater to last 6 months, in case of siege.  There is no other natural source on the peak of the mountain, almost 900 metres above sea level.

Just beyond the castle, the former Igreja da Santa Maria is now a very beautiful museum.

We had much to see in the valley below, but later that evening we returned to Marvão for supper, to find the castle floodlit.

The photo quality is poor, but I know you always appreciate cake.  You may have realised that I was completely smitten with Marvão.  We were leaving the next day and, desperate for one last look, I crept out of the hotel at dawn, entranced by the mists floating in the valley.

I had not intended to return to blogging so soon, but much is happening in our world, and for me you are all a part of that.  On our return, Portugal had closed schools and suspended all public and social events.  Group activities are at an end, restaurants are reducing numbers if not closing, and now the border with Spain is closed.  It is all precautionary and time will tell how effective it will be, but meantime I shall try to brighten your lives, as I always have.  And, of course, there are walks to share.

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Rupali, reminding me what snow looks like (and it does snow in Marvão, but not on my visit)

Just a walk…

Liesbet has a little fun, and gets licked!

Happy Cows – A Walk in the Field

Drake knows Paris better than most of us :

Feeling at home out

Miriam brings us beautiful vistas, in her own special way :

Wild about the Grampians

While Cathy continues to be beautifully disgruntled in Rome!

Promises, promises in the Vatican Museums

And Margaret?  Well, it seems she likes wallowing in mud  🙂

Roughly the Same Walk as Last Week

That’s it for now.  Take good care of yourselves, and don’t loose heart.  We’re all in this together!

Jo’s Monday walk : Vaqueiros in Spring

Last week’s walk may have been a little long-winded, and I was chided over the lack of cake, so this one needs to be both short and sweet.  The blossom is appearing everywhere and it’s a crime to be indoors.  Come with me to Vaqueiros, in my Eastern Algarve.

Vaqueiros is another hill village situated on the 300km Via Algarviana, and a good starting point for two circular walks.  I took you along on one of them a couple of years ago, so let’s go and see the other.

An information board indicates the way out of the village, on a gentle ascent.  A tinkling of bells alerts me to the presence of goats, an elderly goatherd leaning, unconcerned, on a wall in the shade.  And then, in a valley, a wonderful surprise.  Clear, sparkling water, flowing freely.  It’s been a long dry spell and recent, welcome rains have done their work.

The patterns in the rock crisscross like a giant game board, and I linger, thinking what a great place for a picnic and a paddle.

Our walk leader tells us we have a steady uphill climb for half an hour, and to keep our voices down when we pass the beehives.  It’s probably too early in the year, but the last thing you need is a swarm of angry bees.  Fortunately, nothing stirs as we tiptoe past.

Next we find ourselves the object of much curiosity.  Sheep certainly seem to abide by the maxim ‘safety in numbers’.  I couldn’t spot the shepherd but I’m sure there’s a stray goat or two in the pack.

The trail wends its way around and beneath a canopy of trees, mostly pine.  We pass by a nicely shaded picnic table, knowing we are not too far from our café stop at journey’s end.  And you know what that means!

In the small reservoir a bird flaps down to perch on the stump of a tree, and I try to zoom for a clearer photo.  Not my forté.

Now I’m not really sure that you’ve earned cake, though we’ve certainly burned a few calories.  Sorry!  Somebody just couldn’t wait  😦

But at least one of them makes a delightful square for January Light.  Just 5 days of Becky’s challenge to go!

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So nice to have water in the rivers again, though I may not be saying that tomorrow when I have to cross one!  Thank you all for your company, and please find a little time to visit each other.  Join me any time, here on Jo’s Monday walk.

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Just a warm-up from Natalie, but so pretty you might want to linger :

Hiking to Peguche Waterfall

Amanda has found a happy new home by the sea to put a big smile on her face :

Sunday Morning Beach Walk

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t mind the odd invigorating walk, and I’m happy to join Jonno and Jo :

Wild and Windy Walk at Heddon Valley

Speaking of windy, what better than the one and only Chicago?  Thanks, Janet!

Jo’s Monday Walk… the Windy City

Slade, and a pink house that I remember, in Montmartre with Drake :

Kind of rocking culture

I’m not great at whistling, but I’d give this a go, Alice :

Echo Square- Savannah

Denzil takes us gently wandering again in Belgium :

Sclaigneaux 2k(for kids) and 10k walks

And how beautiful are these, from Irene?

Glimpses of Dawn

Living Desert Garden

Margaret takes me very close to ‘home’ with this one :

Highlights of a Bird-free Bird Reserve

In fact, this was my very first Monday walk, and I can’t resist re-sharing  🙂  Almost 6 years ago!

Jo’s Monday walk : Greatham Creek

I’m sure you’ll have heard of this place (the English version follows the Italian).  Please stop by and say hello!

Alberobello:tutto il fascino dell’orientalismo pugliese

Cathy does a fabulous job here!  Don’t miss her truly gorgeous photography :

Morocco: the blue-washed Chefchaouen

It’s going to be a great year here for blossom.  I hope you can enjoy it with me.  Take care till next time!