Everywhere has memories, doesn’t it? I still remember the very first time I laid eyes on Cacela Velha, and the wonder I felt. So when I was thinking of a good walk to say goodbye to some lovely friends, this one came immediately to mind. Walks are memorable for different reasons, and I have to confess that for most of this one my camera stayed idle. I was too busy chatting!
Hilary and Mel have been part of the fabric of our life in Tavira for the longest time. Back in the Striders days, Mel’s long legs would carry him effortlessly up hills, while Hilary strode determinedly alongside. They scorned the Strollers level walks! Call that exercise? But still, friendships flourished between the two groups, and we all were agreed that some distant day we might become Strollers too. In their search for the Algarve idyll, Hilary and Mel moved out of Tavira to the village of Santo Estêvão. Hilary always had vision and enjoyed a project, while Mel was the practical guy with the willing hands to make it happen. ‘He likes to be kept busy’, Hilary would often declare, though Mel wasn’t always so sure. Between them they turned a rather ramshackle cottage into a dream home, weathering all the ups and downs that came along. They are kind hearted people, always quick to lend a hand if one is needed, and famously generous with their hospitality. An invitation to Hilary’s guarantees good company and wonderful food. The lady can cook!
What happened next came as a bit of a surprise. Despite loving peace and quiet in her life- aside from Mel’s hammering in his man cave- Hilary loves the bright lights of Lisbon and Porto, and they are regular concert goers. Couple that with an inability to tolerate the heat of Algarve summers, and it wasn’t long after their home was complete that Hilary started to look elsewhere. The west coast appealed and, after several exploratory journeys north, they settled on the area around Óbidos. With cooling summer breezes, and within striking distance of both Lisbon and Porto, it sits above a beautiful lagoon which, for me, is reminiscent of Cacela Velha. It just remained to find the right property, at an affordable price. Partly we were elated for them when this finally happened. Partly we were sad. But friendships are not so easily broken. We are assured that 3 hours of driving will take us to their new doorstep. And when it’s too chilly up there, they’ll be visiting us!
And so, to the walk! Our start point was the village of Conceição, just off the E125, in the Eastern Algarve. Threading between a few villas, we took a back lane out of the village and headed east. The lane runs parallel with the busy E125 but, for most of its length, feels like a different world. A pretty farmhouse advertises honey for sale and the surrounding fields overflow with orange trees. Purple columbine twines through the hedges and, in January, the almond blossom is already starting to bloom.
Over a level crossing, we continued on gravelled path, with ample shade from the trees. After a while a golf course is visible between them, and before long we are sandwiched between two, both with big ‘keep out’ fences. Not being welcomed in didn’t make them a less pleasant backdrop, but soon we turned right, towards the tiny village of Fábrica. Past a couple of substantial villas, a rough track leads towards the sea, sparkling on the horizon. A steep bank winds down between the houses, into the western end of the village, and the lagoon opens out before you. Conversation forgotten, out comes the camera.
A kiosk sits behind the low stone wall, and often we have nursed a coffee, or a small plastic glass of wine as we gaze across the water. At most times of year a ferry putters across the lagoon to the beach. In high season 2 or 3 compete for custom. Between times the ferrymen mull over the latest news with the kiosk owner. We were disappointed to find him closed on this quiet day, but the empty benches beckoned and a short rest was warranted. The day was warm and still, and natural beauty filled our vision.
Breaking the spell, we left the village, walking along the shoreline. The tide was on the turn, but it’s only a short distance along the water’s edge to the steps that lead up to Cacela Velha. A huge flock of gulls were wheeling around over the boats, moored in the shallow water. We stopped and stared, never having seen so many take to the skies at once.
But then, there was no avoiding those steps. Up and up they go. More often we would do this part of the walk in reverse, so that we descend, but that still leaves a hill to climb. The lanterna is a soft and pretty mix of pink and yellow, climbing beside us. Later in the year, the crimson oleander will outshine it. And it’s always worth the climb.
The Ria Formosa is spread out before you, as far as the eye can see. In the near distance Fábrica juts gently into the water.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked down on this scene, but I’m never disappointed. A quick look at the church and the well, still decorated in its Christmas finery, and then we turned right, out of the village, and headed back in the direction of Conceição. I had an urgent appointment with a chunk of cake.
Overall the walk is about 12km. We had a table booked with Rosalia, in Conceição, for our celebration. She always does us proud and I wasn’t slow to put my hand up for the Chantilly cake. It just remains to wish Mel and Hilary all the luck in the world in their new home. I admire them for making the move. Boa viagem- safe travels! – until we meet again.
Drake has a fondness for Aarhus, from his student days :
I enjoyed Emma’s thoughtful comments on rewilding, as well as her walk :
Love the light in this one from Denzil :
Teresa loves to share family and friends, always with a smile :
While Rupali makes snow look very beautiful indeed :
And Terri walks us through all the seasons of the year :
Like Janet, I absolutely adore Chihuly. Easy to see why!
Sarah shares more of the culture of Kerala, and some wonderful insights :
But I can’t resist a canal walk with Ali. Even in the rain!
A very different concept, from Lindy :
And finally, don’t miss the glorious colours in this hike with Strafari :
Yesterday we managed another walk with Faro a Andar. Good to support a community based enterprise. I’ll be sharing it with you in 2 weeks time. Take good care, and enjoy life, till then.