Spain

Jo’s Monday walk : Punta del Moral

I can get a bit obsessive sometimes, so when it was suggested to me that the area around Punta del Moral, in Huelva province, has more than its share of beautiful, white bridal broom right now… well, nothing for it but another trip to Spain!  By one of those strange quirks of fate, Todos a Caminhar were holding an event there this Sunday, which gave me just the excuse I needed.

I’ve introduced you to Todos a Caminhar before.  It’s an initiative to keep people healthy by getting them out walking.  Each Sunday at 10 they meet at a different venue, and on this particular weekend it was a coordinated effort with the council in Ayamonte, across the Guadiana in Spain.  Coachloads converged on Punta del Moral from around the Algarve, and the locals came too.  There are always a few characters at these things, and the gentleman with the strange horn amused himself, and the crowd, with a spinning top and a hoop.

There was a great feeling of camaraderie, free drinks and even a small cake- don’t tell!  People lined up in semi-organised fashion after a bit of a warm up and, with a minimum of jostling, we were away.  Soon the crowd thinned out as people found their own walking pace.  There were 3 different walk lengths, from 4.7 to 10.5km, to cater for all abilities.

It’s a very watery world, out there on the salt flats.  A lazy amalgam of river and sea.  Much of the heather looks like scrub with the tide out, especially at this time of year.  In summer it glows a beautiful lilac, but it’s too hot then to walk in this open terrain.  The river wanders wilfully, twisting and turning, often sluggish as the tide nudges in and, just occasionally, gushing and frothing with enthusiasm.

Our path takes us close to Ayamonte, clearly visible across the channel, and then turns its back to head for the ocean.  A lone fisherman searches for shellfish to eke out the diet while, beyond him, the fancy resort of Isla Canela fills the horizon with empty apartments.

In the opposite direction, the lighthouse at Isla Cristina commands attention, blinking in bright sunlight.  Around we go again, pausing only to glug a little water, and admire a cluster of cistus, who seem to be a long way from home.

The broom are not so prevalent here, but thronged the road in welcome as we approached, and are there to nod goodbye.  Before we left I persuaded the other half to take a final look at Isla Canela.  We once considered buying there, but are very glad we didn’t.

For a boat lover like me, the marina is a magnet, but there’s no heart to the place.  I’m consoled by a single, shocking pink Livingstone daisy- old friends of mine.  And, on the very edge of the resort, stop briefly by Ermita de Nuestra Senhora de Carmen.  I’d narrowly missed opening time- 11.30-1.30 on Sundays, but if I’m ever around on 16th July, I might get to see Our Lady carried to the estuary.

After all that walking, you wouldn’t begrudge a little something sweet, would you?  And packed full of healthy fruit!

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Spoilt for choice again this week!  There’s a bumper bundle of walks- please do visit as many as you can.  And feel free to join me here on Jo’s Monday walk with one of your own.  I’ll try and make you welcome.

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Debs didn’t have enough energy to haul us right up the hill.  I would never suggest she should eat more cake!

Burials in Old Calton Cemetery

Janet seems to be feeling a touch prickly :

Monday walk…This yard looks sharp!

Not an easy one to spell, but this looks like a beautiful place, Natalie!

Day Trip to Chichicastenango

Fishy stories with Jackie  🙂

Noche El Pescador

If I was looking for an idyllic place to live, I could well be tempted by Alice :

Wilson Village

I seem to be traveling backwards with Carol!

Welcome to 1867

And Geoff revives some of my memories, as well as his own :

Walking With The Wind At My Back : Part Four

I normally expect Karen to take me walking in Australia, but this one fooled me!

Stratford Walk 1: the lake

Gunta takes us down among the Redwoods- a stunning sequence!

A walk among giants

Irene assures me that the deer and squirrels are coping well :

Left Behind in the Snow

But I couldn’t stop shivering when I read this one!  🙂

Place – Walking the Flip Side

Glad to see things are improving down Lisa’s way!

Walking in Blue Skies in February

And Margaret has completely shrugged off the snow, and found a robin :

A winter walk: footprints, snowy sheep- and just one robin

While Sandra had me peering out of the window in delight!

#Snow Days #Saturday Snapshot & Monday Walk

No such problems in ‘la belle France’, with Tobias :

Chateau La Coste

I love the rugged tree roots in this one!  Come and paddle with Amanda!

Monday walk – Boreen Point Foreshore

I’m really lucky this week, because Becky has completed the other half of my Furnazhinas walk for me.  Thanks, darlin  🙂

A glorious walk through Geologic Time

And Cathy is sharing more of her Camino experience.  Another one not to miss, but do beware of the bulls!

(Camino: day 5) a rest day in Pamplona

That’s it for another week.  Hope it’s a good one!  Take care of yourselves, and I’ll see you next time.  No Spain, but maybe chocolate?

Jo’s Monday walk : Party time in Ayamonte

You could be forgiven for thinking that I don’t really like living in Portugal at all!  Here I am, hopping on a ferry and crossing the border to Spain, yet again.  Actually, I was trying to salvage a day that was rapidly turning into a disaster.

Not for the youngsters, and Spanish families, though.  Owing to my bad timing I managed to completely miss the traditional Three Kings procession at Vila Real de Santo Antonio in the Algarve last week.  They had already ferried across to Ayamonte when I got there and not a trace of them was to be found in the sleepy streets.  Portuguese families were quietly strolling, sipping coffee in the cafés and contemplating lunch.  In a vain effort to catch up with the action, I persuaded the other half that we too should ferry across the Guadiana.

The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different in Spain!  It felt like the whole world was on the streets, out for a thoroughly good time.  A party was brewing and each and every plaza resounded with lively Spanish chatter.  But still no sign of the Kings!  Taking a breather from the hubbub, we climbed steps through the old side of town to look down on the river.

Back at ground level, everyone seemed to be walking in the same direction, the noise level constantly rising.  Tempting to take refuge for a while in the tranquility of the marina, overlooked by a faded sunset drama.

From across the street another mural smiles at me, inviting despite her tattered appearance.  As people settle into bars and reach for another beer, I begin to realise that I am not destined to see the parade.  The sun is already sinking low in the sky and the last ferry will be leaving soon.  It’s a short ride across the river but a long walk back by road!

Time to make the best of the situation and simply enjoy a beautiful sunset ride home, on a warm and lovely January evening.

Next year I promise to be better organised.  Did you notice, we didn’t even stop for cake? (though I did pick some up to nibble on the ferry  🙂 ). If you’d like to know more about the celebration, this link gives a little background.  Right now I have walks to share.   Join me next time on Jo’s Monday walk?  You’ll be more than welcome.

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Say hello to Natalie!  She’s doing her best to get us all fit this year :

Wellness Post #1 : A Fresh Start

Suzanne’s not trying quite so hard.  Coffee and cake, anyone?  And beautiful scenery too, of course :

A Walk around Mt. Maunganui Mauao

There’s no doubt that Carol’s right!  The waterfront at Vancouver is the place to be :

In the Right Place

Is it Winter somewhere in the world?  Apparently so!  Drake’s tracked it down for us :

Live and let’s snow

No such problems at Alice’s place!

Outdoors in January

While Geoff launches a series of fond memories with his Dad :

Walking With The Wind At My Back : Part One

Jackie always seems to have a plan or two up her sleeve :

New Year Appetizer

And Anabel has always just been somewhere interesting and beautiful :

Hebridean Hop 18 : Vatersay

More amazing architectural explorations with Cathy, this week :

Chaco Culture: Pueblo Arroyo & the Casa Rinconada community

You may not wander far but, if you look, you can always find something interesting.  Pauline and Jack set a fine example :

Lens-Artists photo challenge : Curves in Buddhism

Next week I shall be sharing purely Portuguese almond blossom.  For now my attention is seriously distracted by Australian Open tennis and the return to play of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.  Have a great week, won’t you?

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Alternative Ayamonte

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 :

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Becky does find interesting subjects for her walks.  Don’t miss this one!

Unexpected and fascinating art on Howland Street

And equally unexpected and interesting from Yvette.  I almost missed this one!

Walk with Jo : Food and cast iron (SC Flea Market Part 2)

I passed by this place on a long ago trip to America.  Let Elaine show you around :

Hearst Castle

‘Your money or your life?’  Nope- that was Dick Turpin, wasn’t it, Becky?

Waylaid by Captain Kidd on the Thames Path

Take care of yourselves.  I hope to be out and about visiting you all soon.

 

A little side trip to Spain

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I never like to have things hanging about in my ‘Drafts folder’.  I’m not an organised, scheduling sort of person though, heaven knows, it would be an improvement!   But this little side trip keeps smiling sadly at me from it’s lonely position in there.  Unfinished, until now.  So, with a flourish, let me present Ayamonte.

Remember my kings, strolling through the streets of Vila Real de S. Antonio on the Algarve’s eastern edge?  They were smiling and throwing sweets to their loyal subjects, as any good king should at Epiphany.  And then they boarded the ferry for Ayamonte, in Spain.  Just 10 minutes on the ferry, but a lifetime apart culturally and in temperament.

Ayamonte, seen from the ferry, is a simple whitewashed Spanish town.  At close quarters it reveals its medieval side in narrow streets and historical buildings.  This is Huelva province, and there is no shortage of Andalucian flamboyance.

The approach, by ferry

The approach, by ferry

Such pretty tiles around the fountain

Such pretty tiles around the fountain

Life is so colourful

Life is so colourful

Even under a cloudy January sky

Even under a cloudy January sky

The bronze dome pierces the clouds

The bronze dome pierces the clouds

I love the colour and the tiles yet it always surprises me how very different Ayamonte feels from Portugal, just a wave away, across the water.  The road bridge over the River Guadiana now links the two, for speedy access, but I prefer a gentler approach to the culture change.

A canal runs away from the Guadiana, around the old side of town and past a park at which I don’t look too closely.  There are animals caged there in an environment I would never choose for them.  A new boardwalk has been laid and there is an air that the town is thriving.  Not the case in much of Spain, nor Portugal, for that matter.

Beyond the canal, the older side of town

Beyond the canal, in the distance, the older side of town

And so I’ve had my little flirt with flamenco.  Back on the ferry now, and home to Portugal (and those crazy, likeable kings).

 

 

A day with Flat Ruthie in Portugal and Spain

Who better than Flat Ruthie, with her keen observational skills, to accompany me on a short foray across the border?  For a number of years the snow white village of Sanlucar de Guadiana has been calling to me, across the still waters of the Guadiana.  The village of Alcoutim, on the Portuguese side, is blessedly peaceful, but I always wanted to look back at it.  Mission accomplished!  With a little help.

Alcoutim, with a little help from a friend

Just minutes later the breeze caught her and she’d fallen out of a tree!  She was gallantly rescued from the rocks by my husband, looking daggers at me.  It’s a good job a Flat doesn’t bruise easily.  Maybe a beach umbrella would be a better option?  Softer landings, anyway.

Johanna, am I quite safe here? And by the way, it prickles!

Into my pocket she went, just for a little while, so we could have a proper look around, without her blowing away.

Such a delightfully pretty place

Can I be in this one, Jo please? I just love castles.

Just a minute- what’s happening here?

Ah, now I understand. It’s a festival!

We chatted to a lovely local lady who explained that the village of Sanlucar and the village higher up the hill. El Granado, compete in a yearly festival.  The procession would be lead up the hill by the mayor, with a floral cross and a donkey, to a meeting place, where the fun would begin.  What luck!  I hadn’t known anything about it.

In all their finery.

Such a patient donkey! And such lovely little boys.

Side saddle and very elegant

Incognito?

Take me with you!

And then they were gone, and our lovely villager was heading off to get changed to join in the fun herself.  The village was effectively closed to business.  We waved to the ferryman and crossed back to Alcoutim, where we sat with a drink and watched as the procession slowly mounted the hill.

The riverside cafe at Alcoutim

Of course, Flat Ruthie wanted to see another castle and flirt with the fountains a little, but that was fine by me.

New fountains at Alcoutim

Castro Marim main square with church and castle

The orange blossom is choking me!

A drink before we climb those steps? Is my foot stuck?

But it wasn’t!  The funny thing was that we had gone to Castro Marim expecting a festival to be taking place, and with the promise of an Algarvian goat contest.  The place was quiet as can be.  Reading the leaflet later, my husband pointed out that the festivities were actually taking place in a village called Azinhal, “near to” Castro Marim.  Ah well- something for another trip.  All’s well that ends well.

Many thanks Big Ruth for loaning me your little gal, and for your wonderful idea.  To join in and read Flat Ruthie’s other adventures, you should contact Cardboard Me Travels.  She even ventures to Hartlepool marina you know.