Tavira Island

Bright and breezy

“Always look on the bright side of life…” Not always so easy to do, but I find it easier when our beaches are open. Happy and sandboy come to mind. Wishing you an Easter filled with hope and optimism. Oh, yes- and chocolate!

Becky’s playing with squares again. She’d love you to join her. The theme is BrightSquare.

A photo walk to the beach

A walk to the beach from where I live always involves crossing water, so I’m starting from the bridge at Barril. We have to cross the Ria Formosa to the barrier island of Tavira. In the distance, Santa Luzia, a haven of tranquility at this time of year, a warm day in early October. You always have the option to hop on the steam train, or you can do as I usually do and cross the causeway on foot.

You’ll have to use your imagination here. Think scurrying crabs and scented pines, and a soft blue sky overhead. It takes 15 minutes or so to make the crossing, and you can be sure the train will chug past you at some point. Be friendly and wave!

The main fascination with this beach is the Anchor Graveyard, and I’ve brought you here many times. Each time I’m captivated by the beauty and pathos of these anchors as they cling to their home on the dunes. Each time, a little more rust. Each time, another gaping hole in the metal. How long, I wonder, till they crumble to dust?

But let’s not be downhearted. The beach stretches far in either direction, and I wander idly, listening to the ssshush of the waves. At my feet, a cornucopia of shells. Sometimes I gather a handful, confident that the sea will replace them, but today I simply stoop and take an image or two.

The tide is low today and I’m fascinated by the swirls and grooves in the sand. Leaping children and mermaids tails. What can you see?

Always the glint of sunshine on the water holds me in its spell. I hope you felt the warmth. I’m answering Amy’s invitation to share a Photo Walk this week, but you may have noticed a plethora of squares for Becky. Kinda beautiful!

Jo’s Monday walk : Beyond the River

‘Why Tavira?’ is a question I’m asked all the time when I talk about the place where I live.  Although I love the peace of the Algarve countryside, I could never willingly live in a little hillside cottage.  I would forever be gazing at the horizon, imagining the lap of the waves at my feet and the sound of the ocean in my ears.  Here in Tavira the river brings the sea to me, and it’s one of my greatest pleasures to board a ferry and ride out there to meet it.  This week the town ferry reopened.  There was no queue at the kiosk, nor in fact any other passengers aboard than me and my husband.  And a crew of five, some of whom were youngsters, learning the trade.  Prosperity will come again, and they need to be prepared.  For now, the instructions are to wear a mask on all forms of public transport, and so, bizarre though it felt on the open deck of a boat, we did.

We pulled out of the quayside, where the work of building a new bridge continues apace, and soon were chugging out through the marshes.  Lilac heather lines the riverbank, but my gaze was directed far beyond, counting the flamingos.  The day was full of billowing clouds, which could have explained the emptiness of the ferry.   After all these years, still I find the views from the landing stage compelling.

We followed the path across the Ilha towards the beach.  The main seafood restaurant was being industriously cleaned and rearranged, in readiness for hoped for customers.  The adjacent campsite is to remain closed this summer, and the object of our affections, The Sunshine Bar, had yet to open, but the recycled fish at O Xiri has a new lease of life.

With no particular objective in mind, we set off along the deserted beach, walking into a boisterous breeze.  As we paused to regain our breath, a tiny figure appeared on the horizon.  We watched as the quad bike drew near, and then passed us by.  The maritime police with a pleasant occupation.  Nothing but a few gulls to keep us company.  In vain I tried to capture them in flight.  Better to focus on the jewellery of the beach!

We had reached the area known as Terra Estreita.  Another ferry and a boardwalk connects this beach with Santa Luzia on the mainland.  Beach umbrellas in residence, but not a soul to be seen.  Just the tyre tracks of the young policeman.

Turn back, or carry on?  The legs were starting to feel a bit leaden in the soft sand, but we knew that the Beach Bar at Barril was open.  A fair incentive for another half hour or so’s walking.  Maybe even cake?

The clouds were starting to amass and the wind to bluster, but I was intrigued by the clumps of greenery and plants I had never before seen growing on this beach.  Nature rearranging herself in the absence of humans.  We had already noticed that the shoreline was different in places.  The action of wind and waves.  Soon I was in the mesmerising presence of the anchors at Barril.

I defy anyone to walk past without taking at least one or two photos of them.  Possibly after refreshments.  The sky was miraculously clearing again by the time we were ready to return, and the wind gentling us along from behind.  More found treasure!

Finally the lighthouse at the river mouth came into view.  It’s not a bad life being a beach attendant right now.

Almost ready to board, but I can’t leave you without a bit of biscuit cake, can I?  A treat, because it’s been a sobering week, in many ways.

walking logo

Janet led the way, last week, in being too upset to walk.  Many of us knew just how she felt :

Today I can’t walk

But Margaret will cheer you up :

A Tale of Three Birds: Chapter Two- The Curlew

And Anabel has beautiful rock formations in Berwickshire :

Cove to Siccar Point

Trees, sky, tiny flowers… just a few of the things in Susan’s new world :

Walking around a lockdown

Drake demonstrates how beautiful green can be :

Most of all greenish

While Rita celebrates the blossom trees in Toronto :

Feeling high at High Park

Doesn’t matter what day it is, Rupali can find beauty :

Wordless Wednesday Walk 3

And Sheetal can get excited about Florence :

Date with David

Irene contents herself with the simple things in life :

Along the Trail

I’ve never hiked Dartmouth… but I’d like to.  Please meet Zara!

Dartmoor Hiking Trails: Princetown to Fox Tor

So far I’ve been documenting and diarying my life here in the Algarve, in this exceptional period.  I think you can see, it’s a beautiful place.  I don’t intend to stick to a schedule from now on, so if you share a walk with me I’ll be delighted, but I can’t be sure when I’ll share it here.  Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy transition to a better world.  It’s ours to make the best of, isn’t it?  Stay safe!  And eat cake?

Jo’s Monday walk : Praia de Barril

Such a familiar sight, and one that I love, especially when the heather is in bloom here at Barril.  The salt marshes can be a wallow of mud and scurrying crabs, but catch it right, with the tide in, and it’s very beautiful.  The temperatures have been steadily rising this week, and with them the temptation to visit the beach.  We parked at our usual spot, looking out to the bridge, and the Ilha beyond.

The path over the causeway is narrow, and has been closed while emergency measures were in place, but the time has not been wasted.  New signboards describe the antics of the bocas cava-terra, or Fiddler crabs, and the wading birds that happily fish these waters.

Track maintenance has taken place too, sand being always anxious to reclaim its rights, and the engines and carriages have been given a shiny new coat of paint.  A 15 to 20 minute stroll brings you to the beach, Praia de Barril, on Tavira Island.

A fringe of green weed decorates part of the shoreline, and in the distance a heat haze.  We turn to walk in the opposite direction, aware of other footsteps in the sand, but not a soul in sight.  The haze persists on yonder horizon too.

The strangest thing!  As we walk, the haze expands to meet us, and before too long we are shrouded in a fine, damp mist.  Turning back, we can’t help but chuckle that it’s just like the sea fret on the north east coast of England.  Only once before has this happened to us here.  I can remember the eerie feeling as we sat on the beach, engulfed in a sunny fog.  Then, as now, it had rolled away again within half an hour or so.

The graveyard anchors clung on, unimpressed.  I’m sure they must have seen much worse in their many years.  The beach bar was newly reopened and we stopped for a drink and chat to the young waiter, who had had no work or income for 2 months.  He shrugged and smiled, glad to be working again, even if custom was poor.  ‘We have to try!’  And in bright sunlight we started back.

The engines, in various stages of undress, made me smile.  Hopefully they will be pulling full coaches again, before the summer is over.

Back over the bridge and homeward bound, where I can offer you a choice of something sweet, or savoury if you prefer.  And shade!

Now and again I like to spoil you.  🙂  The heat has reached a crescendo around 30C this weekend, and an evening stroll by the water is a luxury.

walking logo

Let’s see what my walkers around the world are up to.  Many thanks to all of you for continuing to share.  Your company is always appreciated.


Start at ‘Ye Olde Fighting Cocks’, with Debbie :

Wandering around St. Albans again

Janet appears to have found an oasis in the desert :

Monday walk…at the olive mill

But Rupali doesn’t need words :

Wordless Wednesday Walk

And Drake is all at sea!

Foreigners missing

Natalie doesn’t have any problem with getting out among the Spring flowers :

Life with Moments of Beauty

And I didn’t mind a few grey skies in Berwickshire, with Anabel :

Duns Law

Mel takes us silver mining in the Outback :

Walking through history in Broken Hill

While Denzil takes us on a longish walk from a pretty Belgian town :

Walk from Diest to Loksbergen (and back)

Ending with Cathy, in one of the loveliest cities I know :

A first glimpse into the glory of Florence

Next week we’ll go and look at a reservoir, to see how well they’re faring.  I hope you’ll come along.  Meantime, enjoy your week!

Six word Saturday

The message is ‘stay at home!’

A glorious, but empty, sight.  Though, to be fair, it’s pouring again today.  And there was me, getting ready to sing on the balcony!  No, we haven’t reached lockdown yet, but our President is trying his best to contain the beast with State of Emergency measures.  We can only respect that.

Meanwhile, Debbie is making the earth move.  In Six Words.  Join me for another walk on Monday and some virtual fresh air.


Time and tide…

It’s one of those sights that has always gladdened my heart, since I first started coming to the Algarve- the pontoon bridge at Barril that links Tavira Island to the mainland.  With the tide low, the gangplank descended steeply, but by the time you had walked to the beach, loitered a while, and walked back again, the current would be sweeping in, and have raised the bridge to level.  It never ceased to amaze me.

Every visit to Tavira has always resulted in at least one crossing, there and back, and I suppose I had started to notice the signs of wear and tear.

But no more than one notices the wrinkles on an old friend.  I have lingered by that bridge to watch the sun glinting off the water, and set, in a glory of colour, at the end of many a day.

I suppose change is inevitable.  I don’t always accept it with a good grace.  In July this year I arrived at the bridge and gazed in admiration, tinged with horror.  My bridge had gone, to be replaced by a shiny new model, with no ups and downs, or rusty bits.

More practical?  Certainly!  Still beautiful?  I think so.  But oh, how I shall miss my old friend. Past meets Present, Becky.  What do you think?

I’m going to chance my arm, and say that my bridge was Unusual too, though maybe not in the class of this week’s challenge from Draco .

Jo’s Monday walk : Along the shore

Can you guess where?

Can you guess where?

I wasn’t sure what to post for this week’s walk.  I haven’t yet taken you to Nottingham and I know that many of you like castles and history.  But when this is published, I will be in the Algarve, and hopefully on my way to a Monday walk.  It seemed only right to take you along.

My favouurite kind of shell

My favourite kind of shell

The river beach on Tavira Island is rich with this type of delicate beauty.  It never ceases to amaze me that, no matter how many are taken home, there are always more to discover.  Come with me on a simple stroll along the beach and see what we can find.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When you ride across to the ilha on the ferry, the river beach is where you land.  Often enough I loiter here.  There’s always a passing boat to wave at or admire.  I like to follow the shoreline looking for ‘treasure’.  There is a greater variety of shells on this side of the island, which seldom gets dashed by the Atlantic waves.

Looking back at Tavira from the river beach

Looking back at Tavira from the river beach



When I tire of looking, I head over the ilha to the main beach.  There are a number of sandy trails crossing the island- some easier to follow than others.  I sometimes get a little disoriented and wish I’d stayed with the main path, but eventually the sea always appears on the horizon.

Am I nearly there yet?

Am I nearly there yet?

At last!

At last!

Depending how hot the day, I may just choose to collapse here for a little while.  Down on the beach, someone has been creative with shells and two fish survey the world, just a little wearily. It is rather a warm spot to be out of the water!

Creative with shells

Creative with shells

Leaving behind the crazy fish, I simply have to kick off my flipflops and dip my toes in the surf. I know I’ve said it before but this beach really does stretch for miles.  You have the choice of simply returning to the river beach by following the sea wall, or you can walk along the beach till you’re ready to flop.  I’m sure you can guess which I’m inclined to do.

Fancy a paddle by the lighthouse?

A bit of a splash by the lighthouse?

The beach bar at Barril acts as a powerful incentive.  And there’s the beautiful Anchor Graveyard. Because sunset comes earlier at this time of year, this trip I may just manage those sunset images I’ve always coveted.  For now, I’ll leave you with a gallery I took last time I was here.  I think you can find your own way home?  See you there!

I’ll be back in the UK for next week’s walk.  Maybe we’ll do Nottingham, but we’ll definitely be walking somewhere.  I hope that you’ll join me.  If you have a walk that you’d like to share, it would be great if you could link to me, or leave a link to your post in my comments.  The details are on my  Jo’s Monday walk page.

walking logo

Time to share this week’s walks.  Kettle on and feet up!  Many thanks to all my contributors.

Drake has me singing again as I stroll alongside him  :

Here, There and Everywhere 

High fashion and shoes this week with Violet Sky  :

Shows who you are

Enjoy a change of pace and place with Cardinal  :

Berlin Street 0741

Sharing comes naturally to Amy.  Do join her and her delightful ducks  :

Jo’s Monday walk

A very special garden from Jude.  Enjoy it because it’s her last before she’s off to Australia!

Garden Portrait : Abbotsbury sub-tropical gardens

Dear Meg takes us to the Australian bush, on a serene walk with nature  :

The river road 4

Noe is back this week, playing with the children on their island paradise  :

Amazing journey to Rajuni Kiddi Island

Brilliant, aren’t they?  I hope you enjoyed them all as much as I did.  Happy walking!

Jo’s Monday walk : Barril beach

Barril beach

Barril beach

I’m sure that some of you will be delighted to know that this is a walk where you can cheat hugely.  It’s definitely one to take the children along on, or maybe you have a husband who always wanted to be an engine driver?

Look what runs alongside the footpath!  Too tempting!

Look what runs alongside the footpath- too tempting!

I can’t remember ever visiting the Eastern Algarve without a visit to Barril.  Come along with me and I’ll try to show you why it’s such a favourite.

If the weather’s not too warm and you’re feeling fairly energetic, you can start in the nearby village of Santa Luzia and complete a circular walk.  I’ll give you more details later.  For now, we’ve tossed the coin and decided to do it the easy way, from Pedras d’el Rei.  Your start point is beside the salt marshes and all you need to do is cross over the pontoon.

Looking back over the pontoon to Pedras d'el Rei

Looking back across the pontoon, to Pedras d’el Rei

There are distractions, of course.  A box of ripe figs alongside the pontoon!  I didn’t want to carry them with me on the outbound journey but I really hoped there might be a couple left on my return.  One thing’s for certain- the sea broom will be your constant companion along the way.

The sea broome in delicate shades of lilac

The sea broom, flowering in delicate shades of lilac

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

One of the big attractions for me is the variety of wild flowers you will find alongside the path.

I know this will be a challenge for my friend Jude.  She loves to identify flowers.

How about this one?

How about this one?  An Aeonium?

And you know this is my absolute favourite!

And you know this is my absolute favourite!  The Ice plant

Tiny crabs caper in the mud of the salt marshes.  I stopped to watch two in a courtly dance, but I don’t have a photo for you.  I’d left my ‘still ailing slightly’ camera back at the house, with the battery on charge, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to borrow Mick’s camera till we were part way there! (he didn’t offer till then, but he could see I was getting desperate)

I love the landscape

I love the landscape

With the hump of Monchique always in the background

With the hump of Monchique always in the background

As you approach the beach the flowers I have been calling Livingstone daisies, but I now find are Ice plants, appear in the dunes.  I featured a hot pink in my Six word Saturday, but in the Algarve they are more commonly lemon yellow.

Cacti and aloe vera begin to take over

Cacti and aloe vera begin to take over

And you're onto the boardwalk at Barril beach

And you’re onto the boardwalk, at Barril beach

A little detour to the anchors, of course!  They always capture the imagination.  A reminder of the days when the tuna fishing industry thrived in this area, the rusting “Cemetery of Anchors” provides a wonderful photo opportunity.  I would love to be there are sunset.

I liked the crisp catamaran beside the aged anchors

I like the modern catamarans, beached beside the ancient anchors

And there are beach bars , for refreshments

And there are beach bars too , for refreshment

Here you have a choice.  Remember I suggested a circular walk from Santa Luzia?  If you turn left when you reach the beach, 20-30 minutes walk along it will bring you to a point opposite Santa Luzia,  to which a ferry runs in Summer.  Access is across a long boardwalk.  My husband suggests that you should do this longer walk the other way around, starting with the ferry from Santa Luzia, to ensure that it is running.  He is a very practical soul.

But you and me are going back the way we came.  I still have those figs to collect, remember?  We might even cheat and take that train.  It’s a holiday, after all!

Use it or lose it?

Who doesn’t love the age of steam?

It carries water, beer and anything else the ilha needs

The little train carries water, beer and anything else the ilha needs

Crossing back over the pontoon, I’m not very surprised to find the ‘fig man’ gone.  But then I spot him, coming towards me, wheeling his bike with fresh supplies on the saddle.  He sees me too, and stops, the bike propped against his leg.  ‘Help me, please’, he says, in smiling English, and invites me to take a plastic bag from under his arm.  In doing so, I catch the edge of his cardboard box and the figs start to tip!  We both lunge for them and manage to stop all but one from crashing to the floor.  Phew!  They are 5 for 1 euro, and he pops an extra one into my bag. Thankfully all his customers are not as ‘helpful’ as me.

I haven’t even shown you the beach yet, but it’s a beauty.  Barril is just a small area of Tavira Island, which starts at the mouth of the River Gilao and rolls westward.  If you don’t have a car, a bus will take you from Tavira town centre to Santa Luzia, 15 minutes away, and continues on to Pedras d’el Rei, just a few minutes further west.

I guess I have to show you the beach?

I guess I have to show you the beach!

Next week I think I might take you on the walk where I fell down a ‘hole’.  Life’s seldom dull, is it?

I think I should maybe design a ‘rules’ page for the walks, too.  Not that there are any rules really, but then I wouldn’t have to bore you with the details each time.  Please spend a little while visiting these walks.  They give me an enormous amount of pleasure and I’m very grateful.

Drake has us perilously climbing a French ruin :


You know Yvette loves art?  Meet Modigliani! :


Alberta is staggeringly beautiful, until Sue almost comes nose to nose with a bear :


I got really excited when a newcomer to my blog took me on a walk beside the Seine :


And my plant expert, Jude, has excelled herself in the Lost gardens of Heligan :


Paris is popular this week!  Isn’t it always?  Christine’s is delectable! :



Happy walking, one and all!

My Algarve Insider Tips

Call me mean if you like but I’m always reluctant to share too many tips, for fear that my favourite Algarve places become over popular.  In general I like my beaches to be empty.  But Easyjet have tempted me to share a few things that might make your Algarve experience that little bit more special.  I’m always glad to promote Portugal – it’s a beautiful place.

The Ria Formosa from the castle walls of tiny Cacela Velha

So shall we start with the beaches?  They’re hard to ignore, and why would you?  My personal favourites are those that you reach by boat.  Watching the sun glint off the water as you glide towards your beach of choice is my idea of heaven.  I’m an Eastern Algarve lass, and Tavira Island beach is my natural habitat.  It’s in the Ria Formosa so you’ll be able to spy out egrets and heron as the boat heads down river.  Looking back, pretty Tavira fills the skyline.

Tavira’s iconic Ponte Romana bridge, church and water tower

Tavira Island ferry, surrounded by an international sailing regatta

If you happen to be a landlubber, you can reach a stretch of the same beach by land train from Barril, a little further west.  I usually ride out and walk back, depending on the time of day.  Tiny crabs scuttle in the salt marshes and wispy pines shade the varying blooms.

My lazy husband loves to catch the land train over to Barril on Tavira Island

I’ve already hinted that I love boats, and the harbour at Olhao is the perfect jump off point for the islands of Armona and Culatra.  The ferry loads up with all manner of goods from the local market before slipping past the yachts in the marina and across the limpid sea.  Armona, my favourite, is a bare 20 minutes away, but it’s a different world.  In Summer the beach houses that line the narrow paths across the island may be lazily occupied, but it’s still not hard to find your very own stretch of sand.  If the heat becomes too much, a cluster of restaurants provide welcome shade.  Youngsters cool off rather more dramatically by plunging off the pier.

Looking across Armona to the mainland

Culatra is slightly further distant.  Chances are you’ll have seen the lighthouse at Farol as the plane banked in the skies over Faro airport.  As with Armona, a small community lives on the island, and you can wander the sandy paths down to the sea.  The ferry makes two stops on Culatra so it’s possible to disembark at the first and paddle along the shoreline to Farol, then pick up a later ferry back to Olhao.  A couple of cafes offer shade with a sea view.  The sun sliding down the sky on a golden evening is the perfect ending to a day by the water.  You might even spot a dolphin or two, playing in the waves as you sail home.

Farol, the lighthouse on Culatra

If your base is further west in the Algarve, you can sail out of Faro to reach Culatra, or to Barreta, popularly known as Ilha Deserta.  Don’t go without your sunscreen- the reflection off the sea will tan you instantly, and the only shelter is at O Estamine, the Algarve’s most southerly restaurant.

Peace and calm at the end of the day, just the tinkle of masts

As well as bobbing about in boats, I very much like to walk.  The Algarve has some truly beautiful countryside, and one of the best ways to see it is to join a walking group.  These are advertised each week in the “Portugal News”.  You benefit from the local knowledge of the walk leader, and like-minded people to chat to along the way.  People are always keen to share tidbits like the best places to eat and drink cheaply.  The walks usually include a stop off at a restaurant as a reward for your walking efforts.

Really keen walkers might like to check out the Via Algarviana, an inland walking trail which stretches all the way from Alcoutim at the Spanish border out to the very tip of the Algarve.  It’s possible to walk just a small section, or to book accommodation along the route in local farmhouses.  It’s an Algarve many people never glimpse, or even dream of.  You might be lucky and spot some of the spectacularly pretty bee-eaters, swooping low over the water, or a hoopoe hiding in the trees.

Looking out from Alcoutim across the river to Sanlucar de Guadiana, in Spain

Bikers are not neglected either.  Cycle tours are also featured in the “Portugal News” (grab one free at the airport on your way in).  There’s a coastal cycle path which is great for getting the wind in your hair on one of those warm Algarve days.  Bike hire is widely available throughout the area.

To really add some Algarve flavour to your holiday, you should try to seek out a festival.  The Portuguese are often quite serious natured, but they love to celebrate.  Carnaval in February is one of the year’s major events, and the parades are full of joy and laughter.  The town of Loule hosts the main one, but many of the villages have their own celebration.  I was lucky enough to catch the one in Paderne, not too far from Albufeira, this year.  The children delighted in wearing their fancy dress and skipping along behind the main procession.  If you do visit Paderne, don’t forget to check out the Corte Real art gallery.  It’s a lovingly restored very special farmhouse.

Carnaval carry-on at Paderne

A small ladybird gleefully joins the procession

Further inland, Alte has a great Carnaval celebration too, but more than this, there’s a superb Folklore Festival in May, and in September a traditional Wedding Ceremony.

Alte’s wedding ceremony is like no other

You can even pop very easily over the border to Spain from the Eastern Algarve.  Sanlucar de Guadiana has a beautifully costumed gypsy romeria the first weekend in May.  I came upon this quite by accident and it’s one of the delights of time spent in the Algarve that you can happen upon a local festival at almost any time of year.

There are lots of reasonably priced places to stay across the Algarve, but if you like the sound of the Eastern Algarve and don’t mind being just a little way from the main towns, newly opened Fazenda Nova will give you a warm reception.  Their “things to do” page will give you lots more ideas too.

The end of another lovely day in Tavira

These are my tips for tourists visiting the Algarve.  If you wind up in Tavira you may even find me, sitting with my evening glass of port, outside Anazu, watching the tiny swifts dart up to their nests above the cafe.  The riverside setting is perfect.  If I’m eating out, I could be round the corner at A Taska, just off Praca Dr. Padhina.  It’s the prettiest little restaurant I know.

If you need any more details, just ask. Many of my posts relate to the Algarve.  https://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/b-is-for-beaches/ will give you a flavour of the area.

How fitting that I’m flying south again tomorrow.  Hope to see you there soon.