Casting a net on the Guadiana
Something calming, peaceful… I’d love a tiled panel like this, up on our roof. It’s Saturday again, and I’m sharing Six Words with Debbie.
Something calming, peaceful… I’d love a tiled panel like this, up on our roof. It’s Saturday again, and I’m sharing Six Words with Debbie.
Although I love a good walk I would almost never turn down a boat trip. This one came with the option of an hour’s guided walk at our destination, Foz de Odeleite. But it was hot and I was feeling lazy, so I declined. Put your feet up and ride along with me?
We leave from the quayside at Vila Real de S. Antonio, at the mouth of the mighty Guadiana river. Briefly we head towards the ocean, passing the glossy marina, while our guide relates a few facts and figures. Midstream we turn to head up the Guadiana, with Portugal on our left hand side and Spain on the right. Ayamonte, with its plazas and tapas bars, sits directly opposite to Vila Real.
Soon we are passing the inlet that leads to Castro Marim, with its fine duet of castles and church. A wonderful Medieval Fair in late August usually brings the town to life, though not this year, of course.
Ahead lies the road bridge that links the Algarve with Spain, closed for a while when Covid-19 was at its peak. A small car and passenger ferry also shuttles to and fro between Vila Real and Ayamonte.
As we approach the bridge it becomes less attractive, swaddled for protection while repairs take place. The water is flat calm and smooth, but we are astonished at the apparently endless fleet of jellyfish streaming past us out to sea.
The first of several former customs offices maintains a sleepy vigilance on the shoreline as the gentle hills drift past us. These hills never seem so gentle when you are on foot, but now we are at leisure to observe. Perched high in a tree, someone spots an eagle and we crane eagerly to see it.
And then we are approaching our mooring at Foz de Odeleite. Another boat docks ahead of us and we hover, waiting our turn.
An ugly, half constructed building has overlooked the tiny, picturesque village for as long as I can remember, and we wonder if it will ever be completed or removed. A short walk takes us uphill to our restaurant, where we can swim or sit in shade while a few energetic people take the hour long walk. It’s an area we have walked before and it’s much too hot to feel guilty.
I have to say here that organised trips, with entertainment, are not normally our thing, but we were a group of 8 friends, happy to be together, and we all agreed that this was a great way to spend a day. The food was excellent and our hosts did their utmost to give us a good time. Everyone, kitchen staff and our guide included, joined in with the singing.
We booked online with Riosultravel and were made very welcome at Quinta do Rio. I would recommend it. Both on board and in the restaurant it was easy to maintain social distancing. Soon enough we returned to our boat and the journey back downstream. The atmosphere was mellow, and singing and dancing continued for a while, till we subsided to watch the world glide by.
And then we were approaching the end of our trip, with Ayamonte on our left hand side. Hardly any walking this week, and our dessert was a healthy chunk of melon! Sorry to disappoint 🙂
This is as good a time as any to announce a rest from my walks. Over the spring and summer I felt unable to discontinue. It’s a popular feature and I wanted to stay in touch with you all. It’s been a strange one, hasn’t it? I will continue to walk with a small group of friends, as restrictions on numbers currently apply in Portugal, but the routes are unlikely to be new. There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding all our futures, but I’d like the freedom to post as and when I choose. I hope you’ll understand.
I have a wonderful selection of walks to end with. Please enjoy these, and thank you everybody for all your support and encouragement.
I always like to introduce somebody new (to me), and this is such a beautiful part of the world. Meet Vanessa :
Also in Germany, Ulli shares a few observations on life :
It’s a while since I’ve been in Italy, and never to this lovely place :
Drake often prompts me to song. ‘You must remember this, A kiss is still a kiss, A sigh is still a sigh…’ :
Let’s go rambling and ambling with Albert in North Korea :
Can we find Rupali, in the fog?
I hate grey skies! Mutter, mutter! But not with Margaret :
Eunice hit the jackpot with blue skies and a lovely canal path this week :
Not always the best weather but you’re spoilt for choice with Anabel. Got a favourite?
Prickly pear are the subject of Janet’s walk. Ouch! 🙂
If you ever find yourself in Belgium you could do much worse than try one of Denzil’s walks :
And if you can’t find something to delight here, with Lynn, you’re really not trying!
The last word, from Carol, in Oz :
Don’t worry- I’ll be back, in one form or another. This week I celebrated 9 years of blogging. It’s addictive, isn’t it? Take care till then!
I love the approach to Alcoutim! You can follow the road from the coast out alongside the River Guadiana for much of the way, with tantalising glimpses ahead and back as you round the many bends. Just as you come to the village, the road curves and you have a fine view, down onto Alcoutim, and across to whitewashed Sanlucar de Guadiana on the opposite shore, in Spain. With morning mists swirling above the water, it’s a wonderful sight, and the promise of another beautiful day.
We park the car on the edge of the village and walk across a rivulet and down towards the water. The mist is already beginning to clear and the sun feels warm. There, waiting for us, several members of the choir, Ossónoba, and a guide. It’s the third time we’ve walked with them, and we’re greeted enthusiastically and made to feel welcome. A representative of the Via Algarviana joins us, to promote the walks and ensure there are no problems. Once assembled, brief explanations are given, and we set off.
It’s normally a peaceful spot, with the ferry crossing, when summoned, in a desultory fashion. Today a regatta is taking place and there’s an air of bustle. We chat to a Dutch man who has moored his boat midstream and joined the walk, hoping the event will be over when we return.
We leave the village and start a gentle ascent, looking down on the river. Yachts dot the water, lazing the day away. But not for us, the idle life. As Alcoutim recedes, we reach a junction and begin the climb in earnest. The walk is not long, but challenging in places.
But there is the distraction of the view and the distant sparkle of the water. A small patch of arable land surprises. Despite the nearness of water the soil is bone dry underfoot. Rock Cistus cling to the slopes, and I am delighted to find one or two already open and flaunting their beauty.
At the crest of the hill the roof of a tumbledown watchman’s cottage appears, through a froth of weeds. I peer through the sorry window, and out at the landscape beyond. So frail, the skeletal timbers. No place to hide.
I don’t envy the chill nights up here, a lonely vigil, watching for the enemy. But in the brightness of day I could be seduced into a watchman’s life.
And then it’s time to begin the descent. Slowly, at times, keeping my knees together and pigeon-toed, or sideways like a crab, on the steep parts. A helping hand is extended if I wobble, but I’m glad to return to level ground. I have little in common with mountain goats. Some of the choir begin to sing, purely for the joy of it, and I smile as I recognise the tune.
Back in the village, we follow the signs for the river beach. A chorus of delight greets a large family of black pigs, rootling about as pigs will. Pork is plentiful in the Algarve, porco preto appearing on many menus. Lamb is more expensive, and I can never bring myself to enjoy it, especially when, as now, they frolic in the fields, pestering mum for another feed.
Sand has been imported for the river beach, and there’s a pleasant little café and seating area. Plans are afoot to extend the beach, for this is a hot spot in summer. We carry on into the village, heading for lunch, where we are joined by the rest of the choir.
A poster on a weathered door announces their presence. They file into the restaurant, laughing and talking, and we meekly join them. We share a table with 2 Belgian ladies, trading experiences throughout the meal, a Portuguese stew and carob and almond desserts. As coffees are hastily produced, the choir master counts them in, and a rich, full sound fills the restaurant. Minutes later we are climbing the hill to their venue.
Performance over, it’s back into the hot sun and a gentle saunter, past the river and towards the car. Yes, I know there’s something missing, but we were busy talking during the meal and I didn’t like to interrupt with photos. But I can share with you a rather wonderful pastry that’s special to Loulé. Folhares are flaky and sugary, and oozing with warm custard.
We will be joining the choir again next week, for a final walk on the Via Algarviana. I expect I’ll share it with you at some point, but for now I intend to step back from the blog for a while. I hope you’ve enjoyed walking with me, and I’m sure that we’ll do it again. Many thanks to Ossónoba!
Guess what? Janet’s found a little warmth this week :
I think it’s always warm in Charleston, isn’t it Alice?
If you like the peaceful life, and don’t mind a little wind…
Have you ever been to Charles de Gaulle airport? If so, you’ll know exactly what Drake means :
Or you can stay closer to home, and a place that I love :
Winter seems endless in some places. I don’t suppose birds mind grey, Irene?
And Ice Sculptures last much longer in cooler climes, Natalie?
A gentle sunset stroll with Carol. Is there water in the river?
It’s pretty dry where Cathy was :
Candy offers up some great photo opportunities :
And Georgina shows us a different side to Spain :
Let’s end with a bit of squidge from Margaret! But at least there’s blue sky :
Keep walking! I certainly will, and you know that I can’t resist sharing for long. We have a short trip to England in April, but we’re back here for Easter. More parades, I hear you sigh! And hopefully some pastures new. Take care till then!
I’ve been acting tour guide for the past couple of weeks, so not a lot of time for serious walking, and it’s been too hot. Still, I’d hate you to think I’m taking it easy. The first of our Striders walks kicked off the season with a good stiff uphill, above the River Guadiana, to get the lungs working. There was much puffing, panting and grumbling, but it was great to be back in this glorious scenery. Catching up on the lives of our walking friends took some of the pain away, and soon we were looking back down again.
You’ll notice how dry it all looks. It’s been a long summer and the reservoirs are low. Almost every year the Algarve faces this problem and somehow the plants survive to burst forth in another glorious Spring.
There’s often a reward at the top of a hill, and so it was with this one. I’m told it’s the oldest intact windmill in the Algarve. I peered at it from every angle, even venturing cautiously inside this photographer’s dream.
I speculated on how it must have been on this hilltop the day the wind took the roof off, half expecting to see the witch’s red shoes peeping out from under the vivid rust.
There’s a pathos to the abandoned houses in these hills, wells and bread ovens on standby for better days. Here and there a hint at occupancy, washing on the line and pomegranates ripe for picking. Urns with a sense of humour.
A blaze of parched colour fills my vision, and then a gentle descent to the river. No time to stop for food today. Tour guide duties beckon.
But we do snatch a swift drink, with a lovely couple who are seldom far from an icecream.
I hope you enjoyed our company this week. I’m going to take a week off walking duties as my lovely daughter arrives soon and I need to give her full attention. I’ll be back with a Jo’s Monday walk on 28th October. Meanwhile I have some great shares for you.
I love a lass who doesn’t let the weather put her off. Thanks, Anabel!
You can count on having fun with Debbie :
And funnily enough, Lady Lee was there this week too!
While Eunice is in Limerick, and what a lovely place it looks!
But I’m afraid Drake has me wanting to escape!
Some great street art, doors, windows, and food- of course! It’s Jackie!
How closely do you look at your surrounds? Meg doesn’t miss a detail :
And Suzanne is always aware of the beauty that surrounds her :
Let’s end with Cathy, smiling in the rain :
Bye for now! Take care till the next time.
I’ve done and seen some wonderful things down the years, but I never had any thought that I could walk on water! For one thing, I’ve never worn a halo. Water wings would be more useful. Nevertheless, last Saturday I found myself joining a queue to walk across the River Guadiana- a distance of approximately 720 metres- from Alcoutim, on the Portuguese side, to Sanlucar de Guadiana, in Spain.
Alcoutim is normally a sleepy little place and, over on the far shore, the enticing white village of Sanlucar is even quieter. If you have any desire to cross the river, you first have to summon a ferryman, who may or may not be located somewhere near his craft, but will always greet you with a friendly smile. Not so on this occasion. The ‘Festival do Contrabando’ was in full swing and, even as I walked down towards the river, I could hear the hubbub of the crowd.
Entertainment was in full swing, with a feisty matador swinging his cape at a ‘burro’ as the band played on, and the crowd cheered as clay pots were hurled through the air and skilfully caught.
This was not the Alcoutim I knew! I eased through the crowd to the ‘ticket office’, where I purchased the mandatory bandana, for my admission fee of 1 euro. I joined the queue to cross the river, wondering at what rakish angle I should wear it, and why some were wearing red ones when the vast majority were blue, like mine. Just then the washer ladies arrived, and I was scolded gently and treated to a rub with scented soap. I obviously wasn’t clean enough to join the party.
Slowly the queue shuffled forward, controlled by customs officers, of course. The red bandana folk caught the ferry. Maybe they had a pressing engagement in Spain. I followed the washerwomen, laughing and calling out to each other as they flounced ahead. The moment finally arrived and I stepped out onto the pontoon, trying not to look concerned as it wobbled. What a bizarre sensation! The river lapped gently all around me and I rolled slowly with its motion. Gasps and giggles came from my partners in crime, as we staggered towards the middle of the river, not quite believing in what was happening.
Fortunately it was a calm day. I think I might have felt a little seasick otherwise. As it was I had assumed the rolling gait of the mariner by the time I reached dry land. And a huge smile split my face. I had walked on water!
Over in Sanlucar de Guadiana the antics continued. Flamenco, involving the crowd and a very attractive ram. A good time for all was guaranteed. I wended my way past wondrous craft stalls to a quiet corner where I could survey the scene.
A mooch among the stalls and it was time to join the ever growing queue to return to the other side. A few clouds had rolled in and there was talk of storms brewing, but fortunately the weather stayed clear and dry all weekend. One last look back, and I’m home.
For a fuller account, including the story of the ‘last smuggler’, all of 97 years old, read Becky’s An unusual walk into Spain. That’s it from me, as my son arrives tonight. I’ll be back with a walk on Monday, 15th April. Take good care till then!
It seems strange to be blogging again. The even keel with which I was sailing seems slightly out of kilter. When I visited Ayamonte I had no idea that Dad was ill. With my usual exuberance I was seeking out a less well known aspect of this intensely Spanish town, visible from the Algarve across the River Guadiana. The ferry journey is part of the attraction for me, and I love to watch as the white houses draw nearer and we nose into the quay. An hour has slipped away on the 10 minute crossing, and a different culture awaits.
Maybe you remember A little side trip to Spain ? This time I had my eye fixed on the church at the upper level of the town, San Salvador. Looking back, the road bridge follows me into Spain. The shoreline leads past an enigmatic statue and a severely embattled boat hull.
Beyond the boatyard a network of noisily inhabited streets open out. The Spanish greet and call out to each other in a tongue more harsh than I’m used. I exchange shy smiles and try to remember that ‘thank you’ is not ‘obrigada’ in Spain.
Ayamonte has changed hands between Portugal and Spain a number of times in its history. The name is thought to come from the mound on which the settlement was built. The Romans knew it as Aya Montis (or Mount Aya). Beyond the modern apartments The Templo de San Francisco beams indulgently. Once it belonged to a Franciscan convent, founded in 1417.
The street is nothing if not colourful, and my eyes wander from rooftops to doorways and back again. I am particularly taken with a fully tiled jade green building, balconies gleaming with cool elegance. I anticipate plenty of customers for the fish restaurant.
Turning the corner the street narrows and starts to ascend. Still looking up and down, the random delight of spouting gargoyles, serpentine door knockers, a subtle school and the indisputably Spanish window grills. A senhora pours water down the gutter and languid chat ensues.
Halfway up the street I encounter the mystery of El Boqueron. A chapel and a huge well denote the place where an underground tunnel links the former castle at Ayamonte with the Portuguese town, Castro Marim, on the other side of the Guadiana river. The passage is about 300 metres long and runs from the area of the well on Calle Galdames. It is part of a sewerage network, channeling rainwater and domestic water from homes. A large trough ripples gently in the bright sunlight.
I knew nothing of El Boqueron in advance and, not being fluent in Spanish, it wasn’t until I returned home that I could unravel this mystery. Incredible to think of this structure, used as a hiding place in war time, beneath these tranquil streets.
Continuing upwards, finally I reach Plaza del Salvador. The magnificent pink-belfried church of San Salvador dominates the square. All is silent and the church closed, so I cannot verify the lovely Mudejar ceiling from 1400, nor climb to the belfry for the fine views.
Beyond the plaza the modern world intrudes, overlooked by the remnants of a fortress. I make my way back down towards the waterfront and make one final discovery, on Calle Marte. The bull ring, resolute in its presence, though I could never have persuaded myself to witness its spectacle.
In Ayamonte eventually everyone gravitates towards Plaza de la Laguna, and so do I. The restaurants surrounding the striking square hum with Spanish lunchtime chatter. In a quiet corner, children choose an after dinner treat from the sweet shop. The assistant solemnly awaits the outcome of this most important decision.
For me it’s time to return to Calle Muelle de Portugal for the ferry crossing back to Vila Real de S. Antonio. I hope you enjoyed my visit to Ayamonte. Further details can be found in this Ayamonte guide, and in the link to El Boqueron.
Thank you so much for your kindness and for the many messages of support I have received. Dad had a fine ‘send off’ and I’m doing my best to adjust to life without him. It’s what he would have wanted.
I’m back in business for walks this week so if you have any you’d like to share I’d be grateful. As usual details are to be found on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Just click on the logo above. Meantime please enjoy these select few :
Becky does find interesting subjects for her walks. Don’t miss this one!
And equally unexpected and interesting from Yvette. I almost missed this one!
I passed by this place on a long ago trip to America. Let Elaine show you around :
‘Your money or your life?’ Nope- that was Dick Turpin, wasn’t it, Becky?
Take care of yourselves. I hope to be out and about visiting you all soon.
In a week or so of very mixed weather, we drove north from the Algarve in radiant sunshine. I was certain that luck would desert us as we crossed the border into the Alentejo. For a little while hazy clouds veiled the sun, but then Mertola was displayed in all her glory.
If ever you want to step back into Portugal’s Moorish past, this is a fine place to do it. I don’t intend to do a lot of talking, partly because I don’t have the time, but also because these cobbled streets cast their own magic. All you really need to do is follow.
Your first sight of the town, as you cross the bridge over Ribeira de Oeiras, is the castelo perched high above you. It’s enough to whet your appetite. There is parking on Estrada de Circunvalacao and from there Alves Redol leads quietly upwards, until you reach the viewing point in the photo above. Below, tables are laid at a riverside restaurant and the Guadiana squirms away into the distance.
On Largo Vasco da Gama, the blue and white of ‘Casa Guadiana’ is tucked into a corner where you melt in summer. Needing to stretch our legs first, we pass by the tiny Mercado and the Tourist Information centre. (where you can acquire a town map) A remarkable walled street invites you to follow it’s contours. Could you decline?
The doors, balconies and mysterious chimneys captivate. Each one a story in itself. I stop to watch a lady shaking and pegging out a tablecloth. And then there’s the beautiful clock tower, Torre do Relogio. Alluring, isn’t it?
Rua Combatentes da Grande Guerra follows the river. Just another clue to the turbulent history reenacted here, in this serene and peaceful setting.
I’ve passed by the Camara Municipal, with its stylish red balconies. Red and ochre compliment the white so well, the shabby blending well with the chique. Turning up Rua Dr. Antonio Jose de Almeida, I am but following my nose, not sure where to look next.
The decision is made for me when I spot this playful graffiti on a peeling wall. Isn’t it beautiful? And on the other side of the narrow street, an elegant vermilion door, with a single flower tucked into the window. Never forget to look up too! Overhead, ornate drain pipes open mouths wide.
Intent on the lovely distractions, almost without realising it you’ve climbed up to the castle walls and are looking down on the Oeiras tributary of the River Guadiana. Time to inject a little history as we approach the castelo and the lovely Igreja Matriz. The Mother Church began life back in the 8th century as a mosque. In 1238, Christian knights conquered the town, led by Santiago ‘Mata Mouros’.(the Moor killer) The Koran was replaced by the Bible, and the mosque converted to Nossa Senhora da Assuncao. A keep was added to the castle, but the church retains its ‘mihrab’ (prayer niche) to this day.
New pathways and landscaped gardens have been added since I was here last, and a huge project is ongoing to excavate the ruins of the town and elaborate mosaics. In May every odd year a Moorish festival takes place in Mertola. I must ensure to attend in 2017 to inspect progress.
I peered with interest at the ruins and promised myself to find the site online when I got home. Here it is. For us it was time to head back down, past Igreja Matriz, and search out somewhere to relax. Ever alert, my other half had noted a cafe at the back of the small Mercado. ‘Cafetaria Manu’ has a tiny terrace overlooking the Guadiana, and you can buy cake or a simple sandwich to accompany an excellent glass of wine.
From the eastern end of the Algarve, Mertola is easily reached on the virtually traffic free IC27, which leads north from Castro Marim. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and hope that you did too.
This is a scheduled post and I won’t actually be home until Thursday, so I apologise if my responses are a little scanty at first. I didn’t want to leave the gap between walks for too long, and needed to write this while it was fresh in my memory. Thank you all for your lovely company and support. I only have a few shares this week but I’m hoping you’ve been saving them for my return.
As usual, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Just click on the logo above.
I’m starting with a lovely man in Hamburg and an unusual look at life – thanks, Tobias!
A head for heights will help but is not essential to accompany Anabel, but money could be!
And Jackie tells me that Chinatown is great for food :
Geoff’s rambling again! I think we should humour him, don’t you?
This next is a bike ride so I’m afraid you’ll have to jog to keep up with Kathrin!
Hope this finds you happy and well. I’ll be back in person soon. Roving temporarily suspended….
Now don’t be too alarmed! It’s not as bad as it seems, and if you really don’t have a head for heights- well, you can tak’ the low road, and I’ll tak’ the high road. To be completely truthful, I was out of my comfort zone for a short while, but we can blame the partner for that (and he’s not here to defend himself).
The area along the River Guadiana is wonderfully peaceful at most times of the year. In places the road stays quite close to the river, making for a lovely scenic drive. But, of course, you have to get out of the car to admire the scenery properly. You never know quite what you’ll find. Parking alongside the tiny village of Laranjeiras, our first discovery was the ruins of a Roman villa. Not a lot to see, but the remains appear to date back to the 7th century.
Strolling into the village, life seemed to centre around a little riverside cafe, from which you could watch the occasional boat mooring at the jetty. A couple of youngsters indulged in that age old pastime of skimming stones. Entertainment for me presented itself in the form of a boatman, with a delivery of tarpaulin for the little boatyard. His antics, trying to find a convenient space to offload his cargo in the minute space, kept me happy.
Never content to sit for too long, I had a mooch about while Michael consulted the map. A path seemed to lead up the hillside and run parallel to the river before dipping back down at the next village, Guerreiros do Rio. Gamely, we set off.
There wasn’t much sign of the path and it was a bit of a scramble. Stopping to catch breath, we heard a tinkling sound, and suddenly two dogs burst out of the scrub. They darted to and fro, rustling between them a magnificent herd of goats. Sighting us, the creatures pressed on, with nervous sidewards glances. The goatherd gave us a nod, a third dog rounded up the stragglers, and the pack headed for home. Happy to have found a proper path, we followed them.
The trail rolled off across the hills, but we were quite happy to take a branch that led back down to the riverside. Enough of adventure!
It looks dry, doesn’t it? It had been a long, hot Summer and was still very warm in early September. Just around the bend we reached the next village, Guerreiro do Rios. Time for a drink! As usual, I left Michael sitting in the shade, while I went off to explore the back streets.
When I returned, one of those village cats had attached itself to Michael and was greedily begging the ham from his toastie. Good job he didn’t have the tuna kebabs he’d been fancying! Strangely, the cat was not at all interested in my glass of delicious white. I didn’t have time to hang about because I had discovered that the Museu do Rio was open! (the link is in Portuguese but you can translate it if you like)
We had passed the sign before, but never gone into this small museum, tucked away from the road. Here was my opportunity!
A lot has been achieved in the space available. I chatted to the nice young lady at the till, who sold me a ticket for 1.50 euro. This was also valid for admission to the castle at Alcoutim, a few miles up the road. A bargain, I thought! The museum is open daily except Mondays.
For us it was time to amble back along the riverbank, occasionally stopping to admire passing craft.
I hope you enjoyed our little Algarve adventure. It’s quite easy to just walk along the road and back between the two villages, if you don’t want to go following goats. It’s not a busy road. The riverside junction leading south from Alcoutim is the easiest way to find the villages.
Don’t let anybody tell you that the Algarve is just a strip of boring beaches, will you? Not in my experience, anyway.
And now it’s time to turn our attention to other people’s walks. Thank you so much to all my contributors. You take me to places I might never reach on my own. Anyone is welcome to join in, and it’s very straightforward. My Jo’s Monday walk page has all the details. Just click on the logo above. Let’s put the kettle on and settle in for a good read, shall we?
Benches actually have several uses in Anabel’s world. Highly useful on a walk!
Fancy taking the train? Let’s go to Montreux with Drake! No regrets, I promise :
I gather there has been lots of rain in Texas, but Amy’s found some sunshine :
A lady I’d never heard of next, but an interesting post from Jackie, in Canada :
Demonstrating her versatility, Violet Sky finds us some very scenic caves!
So many lovely things to discover in Tasmania, thanks to Ruth :
I need to pull my socks up! I haven’t even made it to Amsterdam yet, and here’s Rotterdam looking so beautiful!
We’re joined this week by Fifi and Hop- isn’t that a great name? Please go and say ‘hi’ to Corey!
Indra at Trav Trails certainly covers some ground. Can you keep up?
Geoff’s Dog has had a poorly paw, so we might have to slow down a bit on this one :
‘Do you want this walk’, asked Meg? You HAVE to be joking! Wait till you see it!
Come and sing some Bruce Springfield with me? I love this song! Thanks, Kaz :
Nearer home, I don’t think I’ve been to Anglesey! Have you? Looking good!
And it’s simply impossible not to enjoy one of Tish’s posts! Look and learn!
As Jaspa demonstrates, on his trip to South America :
But you don’t have to go past Worcestershire for beauty- or pretty much anywhere on Jude’s blog!
Aren’t they a fantastic selection? Thank you very much everybody! I’m off to the Lake District on Thursday, celebrating another birthday, so hopefully I’ll have an English walk for you next week. Have a great time till then! Monday Escapes is on again this week if you’d like to join in.
It’s an odd thing! Castro Marim is one of the most peaceful spots I’ve ever come across. Yet standing there, glowering, at the top of the hill, is a monumental castle. Part of the ramparts that once surrounded the town provide wonderful contrast in the domestic scene above.
Looking out from the battlements across the broad sweep of estuary, the town of Ayamonte, on the Spanish side of the River Guadiana, looks like many another. But as your eyes travel along the shore, you might spot the fortifications at the top of the town. This is the pattern all along this river, a natural boundary between Portugal and Spain. Like pugilists, ready to punch and counter punch, these two nations have squared up to each other down the years. But today, thankfully, all is peace.
Castro Marim is a sleepy place, with one ancient street that straggles up towards the castle. The nature of the shoreline and the shifting sands of the Algarve has much to do with this. The first settlement here was back in the Neolithic period when Castro Marim was much closer to the sea than it is now, and surrounded by shallow waters. For thousands of years Castro Marim was a port that offered shelter to the ships that sailed up the Guadiana to collect copper from inland mines. Romans and Phoenicians settled here and such was its prosperity that Castro Marim was connected to Lisbon by a Roman road.
The castle and fortified wall that surrounded the medieval town date from the 12th century, when border disputes had become commonplace. Castro Marim subsequently became the headquarters of the Order of Christ, but went into decline when these were transferred to Tomar in Central Portugal. The castle fell into disrepair and was replaced by the fort of São Sebastião on a hilltop on the opposite side of town. The shifting sands did little to help the economy.
Today tourism has found Castro Marim in a small way. New housing surrounds the old town. The Architectural Museum in the partly restored castle tells of a fascinating past. But essentially the town is as self contained as ever, only rousing from its slumber each August for the Medieval Fair.
You may remember that I mentioned Castro Marim in A gift from the sea. You can gaze down on the salt pans of the nature reserve from the castle walls. And if you’re really lucky, you might catch a sight of the flamingos, stretching their wings in flight. For a better chance of seeing them, try my walk through the salt marshes.
Where to next? Maybe a tidal mill, or we could hop across the border. Or even join the smart set at Vale de Lobo. But not for golf. Come along and see.
My next post seems to flow quite naturally from my recent trip across the Guadiana River. More than 800 kilometres long, if you look at it on a map it’s very clear that the bulk of this river is in Spanish territory. It rises in Castile-La Mancha and shortly after the Spanish city of Badajoz, turns south, forming the border with Portugal for most of the remainder of its length.
It’s this southern area that I love, and with which I’m familiar. The Guadiana glides out into the Atlantic Ocean. At the river mouth a brief ferry ride connects Ayamonte on the Spanish side with Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal. The difference between the two cultures is tangible, and the time difference simply serves to accentuate this. Unless you time it carefully you will frequently find that Ayamonte is engaged in a prolonged siesta when you arrive. The elegantly tiled main square and pretty calles are still worth a stroll, but remember to switch to buenas dias when you order your tapas.
Vila Real de Santo Antonio (as opposed to Vila Real in the north) is one of the architecturally more interesting towns in the Algarve. Demolished by a tidal wave following the 1755 earthquake, it was rebuilt on a grid plan by the Marques de Pombal. Using the same plan he had pioneered in Lisbon’s Baixa district, the rebuild was completed in just 5 months. The attractive main square bears his name and is often the scene of lively cultural events.
I love to stroll along the mosaic tiled river bank, picking a favourite yacht from the dozens moored in the extensive marina. 4km to the north, the arcs of the bridge linking Portugal with Spain are clearly visible. In summer a very pleasant boat trip can be taken up the Guadiana, to the Foz de Odeleite, where a restaurant and refreshing swimming pool await.
The swift and often empty IC27 runs north from Vila Real to connect with Alcoutim, the next town along the river. Alcoutim has a long history as a river port. It was fortified by the Greeks, Romans and Arabs, and the commanding castle dates from the 14th century. Not much battling goes on these days and Alcoutim is a delightfully sleepy spot to simply sit and stare. Across the river, idyllic Sanlucar de Guadiana looks back. If you can catch the small ferry, a wander through Sanlucar’s immaculate white streets is a lovely distraction. Restoration is taking place on the castle ruins so that might prove a rewarding trip for the future. The Romeria takes place the first weekend in May, for a feast of flamenco frocks. Just ask Flat Ruthie. She’s been!
The banks of the Guadiana are wonderful for walkers, and the riverside road back down towards Castro Marim, from Alcoutim to Guerreiros do Rio, is one of the loveliest I have ever driven. For now though, continue north on the N122, over the border into the Alentejo. Set high above the Guadiana, at Mertola, are the mighty ruins of yet another Moorish frontier castle. The region is home to the rare black stork and little other than birdsong disturbs the peace, though copper was once mined locally. At the top of the winding streets the mother church, Igreja Matriz, looks down. Behind the altar on the eastern wall the mihrab (prayer niche) testifies to her former life as a mosque.
North of Mertola the river carves through a deep gorge with limited access by road. For intrepid types the reward is the Pulo do Lobo waterfall and some remarkable rock formations.
Despite a lot of opposition to the project initially, the Alqueva Dam today presents a serene surface. It’s a developing market for gentle boating holidays. The 250square metre reservoir was created by damming the Guadiana, causing substantial loss of natural habitat, not to mention the compulsory relocation of the hamlet of Luz.
One of the best vantage points for viewing this vast expanse of water is the tiny hilltop village of Monsaraz. It has to be one of the most charismatic places I’ve found in Portugal, and believe me, I’ve found a few. Within its fortress walls there is essentially just one street, Rua Direita, with a village square, two churches and a castle, topped by the Torre das Feiticeiras (witches tower). Following Moorish occupation, it became a stronghold of the Knights Templar. Strangely the fort now contains a small bullring, which comes into its own for the annual village celebrations. The festive fireworks must be visible for miles.
From here the Guadiana continues north, swinging a right into Spain, through Badajoz and Merida, and is, sadly, lost to me. This is, after all, my A-Z of Portugal.
If you would like to join Julie Dawn Fox’s My personal A-Z challenge, just follow the link or click on the banner below. It doesn’t have to be about travel. If your passion is food or books you can still join in. We have an A-Z of Art on Alyson Sheldrake’s The Thought Palette and and lately an A-Z of Films by DML Designs. Be as creative as you like. Read my posts on my A-Z pages. Hope you’ll enjoy!