Silves

Jo’s Monday walk : Alte and about

Fonte Pequena at Alte

One of the great things about our Algarve walking group is the knowledge we can share.  Walking one day in Spring I was talking to a lovely lady called Stephanie.  She mentioned a favourite walk which included an abandoned, ruined village, and later sent me an email with a map.  So it was that, heading west for a wine tasting, we decided to seek out the village.  Just one problem- I didn’t have the map with me.  But I did have some scribbled instructions, which I thought should do.  The start was in pretty as a picture Alte, which we know well.

I always want to linger by Fonte Pequena, the smaller of the two natural springs, but my notes said to cross over the bridge and follow the signs for Julia.  Not paying attention, as usual, I turned left instead of right.  When the track became perilous and tangled with scratchy shrubs, I realised my mistake.  Back down and turn right.  Boa Vista beckoned, from the top of a seriously steep hill.  Lovely views, and a stunning passion flower.

A sign at the hilltop indicated that it was just 1.6km to Julia.  Being June it was a little too hot for hiking and I was grateful for any shade I could find.  At the edge of the village I hesitated, unsure of which way, but a villager pointed us in the right direction.  So far so good!  Down through the small cluster of houses we went, scrambling a bit as we hit some loose rocks.  Just as I was beginning to get in a lather, we came to the main road, N124.  An accusing look from the other half!  ‘Couldn’t we have driven here?’  An all too familiar scenario.  ‘But where’s the fun in that?’

The road was empty, but shade was non-existent.  A cowardly decision was about to be made.  Or should I say, good sense prevailed?  The signpost indicated 4km down a dirt track to Esteval dos Mouros, the ruined village.  Neither of us fancied getting hotter and stickier, and we still had the wine tasting venue to find.  The ruins would have to keep for a cooler day.

Back into Alte, hugging the sidewalk for shade.  The spring gurgled down the hill, vivid lemon cactus flowers blinking in the sunlight.  A relief to enter the cheerful pastelaria.  There’s just time for a morsel of cake.

Back on the road, Quinta do Francês proved tricky to find and we arrived with minutes to spare.  A very pleasurable time was spent wine tasting, but I was reluctant to bring an end to such a lovely day.  Our route home took us through Silves, where a striking mural caught my eye.  A quiet stroll by the river and beneath the jacarandas brought the day to a perfect close.

Linking this to Sami’s Monday Murals, where a bunch of like-minded people love to share.  I hope she won’t mind.  I had hoped to see Stephanie when the Algarve walkers met at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire this week, as she lives nearby.  If she’s reading this I can assure her that we’ll be back to complete her walk this Autumn.  In the meantime I shall be sharing some English walks.

Next weekend is our wedding anniversary and I’m dragging him off up the Northumberland coast.  I hope to schedule a walk for next Monday, but my response rate may not be great as I’ll be in transit.

Many thanks to all of you who contribute and comment to keep my Monday walks alive.  I appreciate your company so much.  How can I possibly quit with you folks to spur me on?  Join me here any time.  Kettle on now, and settle in for a read :

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How fascinating is this, our starter from Rupali?

Monday walk to “the Norwegian book town”

And these botanical gardens are rather special too.  Take a look with Miriam :

Jo’s Monday Walk : Huntington Library 

If I was looking for a piece of real estate, and I had lots of money in my pocket… I’d join Alice!

A walk on Queen Street

The things Janet gets up to in Wyoming!

Monday walk…to the phone booth

Lady Lee has been gadding about again!  🙂  🙂

Our long weekend in Cologne and Bonn

Time to write : Picture Prompt 19 (Creative Writing Prompt) – Gin, Rex and Niki

And as for Jackie, what’s on the menu this week?  Sounds good!

Jambalaya Crawfish Pie and File Gumbo

Melodie takes us hiking and then for a swim, in a quieter part of the English Lake District :

Orthwaite

Or you can enjoy a glorious splash of colour with Drake!

Color Inferno

Koalas and kangaroos!  This is a very cuddlesome post from Carol, though maybe not the echidna!

Feathers and Fur

Eunice is definitely an animal lover too, and she likes a good ramble :

Jumbles Reservoir – a long walk

‘Far from the madding crowd’ with Cathy, in the most beautiful scenery!

The Devil’s Garden Hike at Arches

I’ve watched TV coverage from the Algarve these past couple of days, and am horrified at the fires engulfing swathes of the countryside that I love.  What sad times for so many!

Meeting a Catbird

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Cathy in Alte

Never having met one before, I wasn’t at all sure if meeting a Catbird would be scarey.  You can tell from the smile on Cathy’s face that it was anything but.  In fact, from the second we met, we were nattering away like old pals, and by the time we’d dragged her humungous purple suitcase to the car, we were well into our life stories.

Cathy’s is convoluted, and mine not as straightforward as you might think, so it all took some time to unravel.  We each had remembered snippets about the other, but needed to explore the detail.  And what fun that was.

For any of you not familiar, a little background.  Cathy Dutchak, an American lady, has been working in the Gulf State of Oman for the past eighteen months, and before that in Korea.  Intriguing, yes?  When I came across A native in the Land of Niswa I just had to know more.  I followed Cathy through the ups and downs of life in the rich Arab world and marvelled at the beauties her photography revealed.

Then Cathy announced that her time over there was up and, before returning to the USA, she was spending a month touring Spain and Portugal.  It coincided with a visit I was making to Tavira, so how could I not offer a little hospitality? (but a touch nervously, still not too sure what kind of creature a Catbird might be)  How glad I am that I did.

Time went all too quickly.  We discovered a love of boats in common and, as the temperatures were into the 30s, an expedition onto the water seemed a good idea.  The birdwatching and historical tour of the Ria Formosa was perfect (but not before a visit to the Post Office to try to dispose of some of Cathy’s rapidly accumulating luggage- more of that later!)

Off we chugged from the quayside at Tavira

Off we chugged from the quayside at Tavira

Wasn't there a "Tilted" challenge out there somewhere?

Isn’t there a “Tilted” challenge out there somewhere? Good candidate!

I hope you'rte not expecting great bird photography? He's out there- look closely!

I hope you’re not expecting great bird photography? Look very closely!

But I do get better as we approach the lovely village of Santa Luzia

But I do get better as we approach the lovely village of Santa Luzia

Our skipper was concentrating- don't want to ram a fishing boat

Our skipper was concentrating- don’t want to ram a fishing boat

And there were lots

And there were lots

And lots

And lots

And a catamaran

And a catamaran

And the Santa Luzia ferry

The Santa Luzia ferry

And more boats

And more fishing boats

More?  Enough, I think!

More?  Enough, I think!

Then we headed down the channel to the sea, to look back at Tavira Island

Then we headed down the channel to the sea, to look back at Tavira Island

Then back to shore, past the twin lighthouses

And returned to shore, passing the twin lighthouses.

Back on dry land there was much to see, and we leaped into the car and off to the hills and the village of Alte.  It’s a favourite of mine and I’ve written about it and been there many times.  Today was about finding a cool spot beside the fontes, or springs, and a cafe extraordinaire for refreshments.

I think the cat succeeded

I think the cat succeeded

Who says the Algarve isn't green?

Who says the Algarve isn’t green?

Our cafe is also a shop crammed full of ceramics like these.

Our cafe is also a shop crammed full of ceramics like these.

Cathy very much likes ceramic tiles and the Moorish connection, so it was on through cork and eucalyptus country to Silves, with its mighty fortress.  I was there in May this year, resulting in S is for Silves, but a few more photos had to be taken.  I was pleased to find the Igreja da Misericordia open for an art exhibition, a reward in itself.

We were warm and tired when we made it home, but after a brief “feet up” we were out again, in search of food.  At some point I’m sure you’ll read Cathy’s version of this, so all I’m going to say is that she provided enormous entertainment for Luis and Philippe, the owner and the waiter in “A Taska”.  The food was delicious, as usual, but while I simply nodded and smiled my approval, Cathy went into full blogger mode.

Charm turned up full (with maybe a little extra confidence from the port), she proceeded to photograph the decor, the menu, the food, and of course, Luis and Phillipe.  “She’s funny” said the latter, rolling his dark eyes and minding not a bit.  Then it was onto the streets, and straight into the nearest shop.  Did I mention that Cathy likes to shop?  “Casa das Portas” is a very beautiful place to do it, but for once restraint was exercised.

"Casa das Portas" with some of its iconic door paintings

“Casa das Portas” with some of its iconic door paintings

The case was rather full, and I ended up bringing a good amount of her clothing back to the UK in my hand luggage.  She had already shipped some home from Barcelona and I did not want to waste more of the holiday queuing at our post office. It is speeding its way to the USA right now.  Goodness knows what purchases she might have made in Lisbon, but the Spanish skirts I saw were extremely nice.

We wandered the warm Tavira night, in search of a promised fig and almond icecream, which sadly we never found.  I was sorry to disappoint.  But one thing for sure, Cathy did not disappoint me.  I learnt a lot, and I laughed a lot, and I think we will be lifelong friends.

Me and Cathy, having fun.

Me and Cathy, having fun.

S is for Silves

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Silves is a city with a glorious past.  You can’t fail to know this from the second you set eyes on the rust red hilltop castle, dominating the town and its surrounds.  Always a sucker for faded glory, it was one of the first places I visited in the Algarve.  On my recent return, I wanted to inspect the castle gardens development.

My first visit to Silves in April 2007- Michael's photo

My first visit to Silves in April 2007- Michael’s beautiful photo

From earliest times, the Arade River was the route to the Portuguese interior used by Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, drawn by copper and iron, mined in the Western Algarve.  With its strategic hilltop position, Silves was bound to attract the Romans, but wealth and prosperity began with the Moorish invasion of 714AD.  By the 11th century, Silves was capital of the Algarve and a rival in importance to Lisbon.

Nothing lasts, and with the power struggles in the Muslim world, Silves was briefly restored to Portugal in 1189.  King Sancho 1 laid seige to the city in a brutal and gruesome episode, only to loose it to the Moors two years later.  By the 1240s the tide was turning again.  The river began to silt up, cutting off the trade route to North Africa.  In 1534 the episcopal se was transfered from Silves to Faro, and the power transformation was complete.

The Roman bridge over the River Arade

The Roman Bridge over the River Arade

The riverside, where there is ample parking, is a good starting point for a journey through Silves.  The narrow 13th century bridge is a little reminiscent of that at Tavira, which perhaps explains my fondness.  Wandering slowly upwards through the historic centre, the streets are still laid out as they were in Medieval times.  The 16th century pillory, or pelourinho, is a reminder of harsher times.

The pillory on Rua Dr. Francisco Vieira

The pillory on Rua Dr. Francisco Vieira

With its back to the ancient city walls, on Rua das Portas de Loule, you can find the Archaelogical Museum.  It contains an Islamic water cistern, or well, from the 11th century.  18metres deep, a spiral staircase now leads to the bottom.

Climbing steadily on Rua de Se, you come to the cathedral, a stern looking structure.  In red sandstone, like the castle, it sits on the site of a former mosque.  The grandeur and sobriety continue inside.  Opposite is the Igreja de Misericordia.

The cathedral, on Rua de Se

The cathedral, on Rua de Se

Manueline doorframe of the Igreja da Misericordia

Manueline doorframe of the Igreja da Misericordia

It is when you finally arrive at the castle that your imagination can no longer resist the temptation to recreate the past.  It is the finest military monument in Portugal to survive from the Islamic period.  Of the eleven towers, two are “albarra”- solid structures, joined to the walls by an arch that supports the walk around the castle walls.  They defend the double entrance gateway.  The doorway of the “traitor’s gate” still exists.

The castle once housed the Alcacova, the Moorish “Palace of Verandas” so described in poetry of that time.  A huge subterranean water tank is the main feature of the surviving remains, but excavation is ongoing.  An attempt has been made to recreate the feel of those Moorish times, but with a modern twist.  The rills and fountains beloved of the Moors today exist in 21st century red brick, and a restaurant has been installed, with modern seating.  I think it’s a brave effort.

The cork industry, dried fruits and tourism were Silves’ salvation.  In high season expect it to be a very warm place.  Whenever you visit, the Mercado, near the riverside, will be bustling.  You could purchase from its numerous stalls for a picnic.  But the delicious barbecue smells of the neighbouring restaurants often prove irresistible.

I could hardly wait to get out of bed this morning to write this piece, having arrived back yesterday evening.  Hope you like it.  Thanks, as always, to Julie Dawn Fox for the A-Z  personal challenge.

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Six word Saturday

Seeking new memories, in the Algarve

Castle walls, Lagos

Old harbour, Lagos

Mertola

Over the garden wall, Mertola

Another fountain candidate? Silves

Pego do Inferno

Cascades nearby Pego do Inferno

Grab a table at Mesa do Cume

Palace gardens, Estoi

Look, but don't touch! Vilamoura

Waterside at Cabanas

Easy to see why I keep going back, isn’t it?  I’ll be in the Algarve next week, making new memories to share, so I’ll miss the next Six week Saturday.  Why not join in with Cate?  Everybody’s got a story to share.  Follow the link to see what it’s all about.  You can click on the button below to see my previous posts, and I’ll look forward to seeing yours.