Jo’s Monday walk : above the Guadiana

The river beach at Alcoutim is a pleasant spot to begin and end a walk. Following the path alongside the Guadiana river, a left turn will bring you to the cafe and a few facilities. At this time of year it will be deserted, but in summer, hot and probably noisy. Or you can do as we did recently and walk around the back of town to reach the hills beyond. I had never previously paid attention to this wall. How could I have missed it, the quotes mingled with the life of these parts, told in azulejos?

The view beyond the wall is across to Sanlucar de Guadiana, on the opposite bank of the river, in Spain. Hotel d’Alcoutim sits in a quiet spot, overlooking the river from our side, and behind it a rough path leads upwards. The views down to the river easily take your mind off the climb, especially when the blossom lingers.

On up and around the hill you climb, the grass in sparse clumps, dotted with leggy asphodels and pretty yellow lupins. A ruin bides its time for a new owner, while a cat looks down in none too welcoming fashion.

A last sight of the river before we turn inland, much admiring the large white faces of the rock cistus that thrive in these hills.

Light clouds scud across the sky as we follow the dusty trail. An unexpected pool of water is home to a number of frogs, who leap hastily away at the tread of human foot. Tortured tree limbs arrest the eye.

Until a couple of weeks ago rain had been a scarce commodity. Dry river beds, for me, have an undefinable mystery. Pebbles crunch together with larger stones, worn smooth by the action of water. Striations of shale are beautiful to see. The sun barely crests the top of the hill, its rays spreading gently through the shadows.

Sheep range freely in these hills, but a watchful shepherd will arrive with his gun at the first suggestion of danger to his flock. In such a peaceful landscape it’s a shock when a shot rings out. We are warned never to venture into the hills on Sundays and Thursdays in the hunting season.

Wonderful to see the last of the blossom as we emerge from the valley, heading back towards Alcoutim.

High above the village, the castle that crowns Sanlucar de Guadiana on the far shore is visible in the distance.

The path brings us gently around the village, bypassing a few more sheep, and back to the river beach. And surely it’s time for a little refreshment? Like this very delicious chocolate profiterole cake…

The walk was a little under 9 kms, but if you’re feeling ambitious you could add on a visit to Castelo Velho de Alcoutim. It’s barely a kilometre beyond the village, but in a somewhat upward direction.

Drake has a pretty good idea of what works for me :

Recognisable

Pretty blue harbingers of Spring, beautifully captured by Rupali :

Crocuses aren’t supposed to go unnoticed

Doesn’t Teresa live in a fabulous place?

Being a Tourist in My own City…

A lovely, accessible riverside walk, with Shazza :

Keswick Railway Walk

NiNa discusses the health benefits of walking :

Take that walk!

But Sarah is high above the canopy. What a wonderful world!

Hanging bridges and butterflies

A bit of amazing cave action and rock art with Berto and Corna- a couple new to me, so please say hi!

Hiking at Cederberg Park Kromrivier- 2

And you may not know Kelly. Fancy a workout, anybody?

The Tracy Hill Trail, Red Bay, NFLD

Of course, you know Mel- she’s good at walking and talking, and planning too :

A Wee Wander in the Wilderness, Wellington, Central West NSW

Tackling the Great North Walk – 16 Days walking through the Aussie Bush and ‘Burbs

Alison is a little more relaxed, and I always enjoy a good garden :

Enjoying Essex – Hyde Hall Gardens, Chelmsford

Speaking of gardens, let Margaret take you along to the Valley Gardens on a lovely English Spring day :

Don’t take selfies! Enjoy the flowers!

Next weekend I’ll be back in England, quite briefly. The long awaited house purchase is finally happening and I can’t wait to see my son and his future home. You can be sure I’ll report back. Meanwhile, take good care of yourselves.

Just… telling a story, Portuguese style

There are lots of ways to tell a story. Here in Portugal the most popular way comes in the form of wall tiles, or azulejos. Huge old panels of the tiles are to be found in many churches and public buildings, some of the finest examples appearing in Lisbon’s Museu Nacional do Azulejo. They beautifully illustrate scenes from the bible, and Portuguese history and lifestyle. By contrast, it’s great to turn the corner in a holiday complex in Cabanas and find a modern equivalent. The scene above portrays peasant life, complete with burro. The Algarve hasn’t yet strayed too far from its roots. You can still find a donkey in the nearby fields, and simple homesteads, where people grow most of what they need and sell, or give, any surplus to their neighbours.

Loulé is one of my favourite places for a mooch. A great place for stories and links to the past. The central market is a beautiful building, reminiscent of tales of Arabian nights, and resplendent with jewel bright treats. Within its walls are reminders of traders from the past: the knife grinder, sharpening scissors with a steady pump of his foot, while the market stalls in the surrounding streets are not vastly different than they have been for a hundred years or more. On Saturday mornings the place comes to life, the stalls stacked high with fresh produce- vibrant greens and carrots, ruby red tomatos and peppers, juicy olives, honey from the hills, aromatic cheese and spicy sausage- all disappear, quite rapidly, into bags and baskets. Coffee shops abound in the neighbouring streets, and news and gossip is exchanged as ever it was. But by early afternoon the stalls are packed away and the streets swept. Inside the market the floors are hosed and surfaces gleam, though the smell of fish may linger. And peace descends, till Monday.

Browsing the old blog for details of the Tile Museum, I came upon this link, which illustrates Loulé rather well. It includes azulejos in Nossa Senhora de Conceição, but beware- it’s rather chocolate heavy!

Another week goes by, and still no resolution in sight. What can we do to bring this misery to an end?

Jo’s Monday walk : Praia Verde and beyond

I usually try to vary these walks, but today I’m taking refuge in a happy place. I was smitten with Praia Verde from the very first time I saw it. The approach is through a forest of umbrella pines and, as you crest the top of the hill, you can’t fail to breath a sigh of delight. The pines tumble down the hillside, ending at a deck and smart restaurant. Once it was a more humble, beachfront restaurant with exceptional food. I can’t vouch for it now because I can’t afford the prices. Nor see any good reason to pay them when the money could be so much better spent. But I can still admire that view.

I saunter on down towards the beach, which idles away in both directions as far as the eye can see. Today I’m turning left, heading towards distant Spain. The tide is rolling out, and seabirds far outnumber us humans.

Already there are fishermen, waist deep in the water, fighting the sand to release the shells and molluscs it harbours. I shiver, though the sun is warm. Their bikes lie propped on the beach, forlornly waiting for home. And then, a treat! A rider gently coaxes his horse towards the water, pausing to smile and salute. On firm sand once more, he gallops off into the distance as I gaze after him.

The exuberance of walking on the beach carries me along, until I reach a boardwalk that heads a little way inland. Fondly known as the Chameleon Trail, these pine woods stretch from Monte Gordo all the way to the Guadiana River, the border with Spain. The little creatures are a protected species and you’d have to look very hard to find one.

On the boardwalk at Monte Gordo are a number of restaurants, and wooden benches at intervals. You can bring a picnic if you like, and watch the fishermen at work on their nets.

Finally the boardwalk leaves the beach, returning to the woods, though if you prefer you can continue on along the sands, until you reach Vila Real de S. Antonio at the mouth of the river.

The woods are lovely at this time of year, white broom and prickly pear lapping at the base of the trees. Several paths wind through them, as they wrap around the town. I emerge close to the lighthouse, and from there it’s a short distance to the river that divides Portugal from Spain. Where better to indulge in moist cake, laden with local figs?

For most of this walk I was accompanied by a lovely lady called Denise and her small but happy band of walkers, and I’d like to extend her my thanks for being great company.

Share the beauty of Tuscany with Alegria!

Montefioralle- A Tiny Italian Village Hidden Behind Stone Walls

And Corsica looks incredibly beautiful through Drake’s eyes :

Isolated cosiness

But I’d be very happy to walk with Sarah in Costa Rica too :

On the Pacific coast in Drake Bay

Teresa shares a day out with her daughter :

A Special Place

While Alice takes a walk with her granddaughter on a special day :

Presidents Day Walk

And Terri gives us a little encouragement to stay fit :

Fitness Friday: Five Fixes to save your Workouts

A positive bonanza of walks from Mel! She’s feeling adventurous this year :

Going Bush in the City – Introducing the Great North Walk

Life Out on the Wallaby Track – Learning about the Aussie Swagman

And a blast from the past with Vanessa!

Hiking to the top of Tibidabo Mountain in Barcelona

Janet might be feeling a touch prickly :

Monday walk… Chihuly-less

But Margaret is definitely wallowing!

Her Name was Mud

While Christie is walking in some famous footsteps :

Strolling through Key West: a walking guide to the southernmost city in the continental U.S

Not so easy to be light hearted in these times, is it? Lots of fund raising is going on, among my walking community and elsewhere. Few of us can imagine how it feels to be a displaced person. How lucky are we? Take care, till next time.

Just… windows, doors and things

What is it that captures your eye as you wander? I find some things almost impossible to pass by without pausing for a photograph. Windows and doors can be particularly compelling, and several of these caused me to retrace my steps because I just couldn’t resist.

Balconies, light reflected in windows and reflections are all great subjects. Usually I opt to stay out of sight, but occasionally a doorknob or detail will lure me close. A beautiful tile will always stop me in my tracks, especially if it’s crumbling at the edges. That black cat seemed to follow me round the corner, demanding a photo. The blue door intrigued, and there was no question but that I would pursue the water tower for a close up.

How about you? What do you find irresistible? And currently, how are you distracting yourself from the distress we are witnessing? Praying for peace in the Ukraine.

Jo’s Monday walk : the Alvor Estuary

By and large there’s plenty of good walking in the Eastern Algarve, but once in a while I like to stray a little further west. The landscape changes significantly, the sands becoming red-gold, backed by ragged cliffs. Between Portimão and Lagos, the Alvor estuary opens gently to the ocean. The Rocha Delicada Trail takes you around the marshland, rich with bird life, and out to the mouth of the river.

Across the estuary figures stoop to dig in the sand and shallow water, collecting shellfish. Back breaking work, but it’s free food. Weekends and evenings whole families come and join in, picnicking on the sands, while their dogs race around in high excitement.

The path follows the river and for a while you are surrounded by water. Rio Alvor joins with Ria de Odiaxere, and together they meander toward the distant ocean. The wetlands are at your back, and tiny figures form silhouettes on the silver shoreline.

It’s pure exhilaration being surrounded by such glorious nature. Leaving the sea to its own pastimes, the trail heads back then, towards the Rocha looming over the bay. An information board suggests what there is to see, if you keep your eyes open. The second half of the walk carries you away from the ocean, through peaceful farmland with horses grazing quietly.

The blossom lingers, as the shoreline recedes. The fields are a vibrant green, farmhouses prosperous or abandoned in equal measure. Dappled shade shields from the warm sun as we complete the circuit back to our start point, Mexilhoeira Grande station.

The station is simply a platform, with no facilities, so we can opt to drive into Mexilhoeira Grande itself, or continue around the bay to Alvor. The riverfront there is a pleasant place to relax, with some interesting metal sculptures by a favourite Algarve artist.

An apple tart with a caramel topping, in case you’re wondering. And the art, the work of Carlos de Oliveira Correia.

8km of mostly level ground. Perfect for a sunny Monday.

Where shall we go first? Let’s accompany Teresa!

Stopover in London

I don’t know the South of France at all, but Drake knows it rather well :

Walk a civilised path

Goat fence for whom

Newer and ancient in harmony

It’s still winter in some parts of the world, as Indra will tell you :

Snow-scapes: Of angels and freezing rivers

And Rupali is no stranger to the white stuff, but Spring is coming :

Enjoying the three states of water

Welcoming Spring

A Cornish winter is a little kinder, isn’t it Jude?

Mousehole : A Winter Walk

Rain is always either desperately needed or not wanted at all. Rainforests, though, are rather special. Let Sarah take you to Costa Rica!

Corcovado: a walk in a rainforest

But it’s sunshine all the way with Sheetal, in mystical India :

Strolling in Sarnath, India

It always gladdens my heart when a post features somewhere close to ‘home’. Thanks for this, Fraggle!

Wynyard Country Park – Sept 2021

It should have been Carnaval in the Algarve this week. No processions were authorised, but we did see some diminutive fairies and butterflies. Children can always find the joy in life, can’t they? Wishing you all a happy March!

Just Fuseta… impressions

The first is one of my favourite photos ever of Fuseta. Or is it Fuzeta? I never know, but the old photo of the railway station would seem to indicate the second. A dual personality almost sums up this place. As you approach the town from the E125 you drive over the railway lines, passing the railway station labelled Moncarapacho – Fuseta, yet Moncarapacho lies some 6km inland from Fuseta. Three minutes away by train, Fuseta-A station is at the back of this small town, and you might never know it was there.

A campsite fronts the riverbeach, giving the place an air of impermanence, but on a quiet winters day, with the sun on your back, you might want to linger. The old lifeboat station is a poignant sight, out in the bay, but I really like to browse among the boats moored along the river. Most are primed for action, others hauled out of the water, in varying stages of disrepair. In ramshackle contrast with the state of the art, solar-powered luxurious lady at anchor, who waits to play hostess to a romantic sunset on the water.

The best bit, for me, is the ride out to Armona, reclining gracefully there on the horizon. As she clears the river mouth, the ferry gathers speed. Glides past the lifeboat station and chugs across to the ilha. Lobster pots lurk by the landing stage, and the boardwalk carries you to yet another beautiful, ocean washed beach. Back on dry land, the Algarve cycle track runs for miles through the salinas. There’s always somewhere to wander here.

So hard to capture, but it smells sublime!

Just as the blossom starts to fade, I’m swept off my feet by the aroma of white broom. Walking out through the salinas to the ruins of Fort Rato, with scarcely a hint of breeze, the smell wafts toward me. So delicate, the flowers tiny, for most of the year the broom has a straggly presence that’s easy to ignore. But it’s a tenacious shrub that thrives in sandy soil. It may be invasive but I love it, never more so than this year when it has transformed so much of the scrubland by the shore. ‘Heaven, I’m in heaven….’

Jo’s Monday walk : Pego do Inferno

If you’ve ever seen a promotional video for the Algarve, chances are you’ll have seen the image above. Pego do Inferno, literally Caught in Hell, was high on our list of must see places when we first came here. So famous was it that a boardwalk was built to make access easier. Sadly, fire ravaged the site not too long after completion and the blackened, ruined boardwalk had to be removed for safety. Although I was sad at the time, back in 2012, in retrospect it wasn’t such a bad thing. The setting is rural and peaceful, and coachloads of tourists would do little to enhance the scene. So much better to seek it out for yourself. Which we did, quite recently.

Still smitten by the almond blossom, I was in no great hurry to reach the waterfall. The trees are laden with oranges and the land undulates gently, passing an occasional property with quirky feature like the onion-shaped glass dome. Pego is in the parish of Santo Estêvão, about 7km from Tavira, and formed from the Asseca stream. There has been so little rainfall in recent times that we doubted that the small emerald green lake would still be there. Or whether we would even be able to gain access.

It needed a measure of bravado, or at least a sense of balance, to negotiate the steep path down. But the sound of falling water was unmistakeable, and spurred me on. Hanging on to tree roots and overhanging branches it was possible to edge your way down to the waterfall. Slowly the pool was revealed, with a rope swing suspended over the water.

Yes, you’re quite right! I resisted the challenge of shimmying out along the branch for that photo opportunity. Disappointed? Well, I didn’t have a change of clothes and I’m not the best of swimmers. Oh, yes, and I have an aversion to cold water.

Never mind, I can always charm you with biscuit cake! Oh, and in case you were wondering about the name, legend has it that long ago a wagon accidentally upended into the pool. Neither passengers nor vehicle were ever found. Caught in hell!

The walk is a 7.50km circular, just off the N270, north of Tavira.

walking logo

Terri’s word of the year is ‘walk’. It could be mine too!

Sunday Stills : the Power of the Elements

And we get to walk, and sing along with Yvette!

Walk with Me (Virginia Beach Street Shots) & A-O-K song by Tai Verdes

I missed so much of Ancona! Good thing we have Sarah :

A walk around Ancona’s picturesque old town

I. J.’s off the couch and exploring the architecture of Mumbai. Suits me!

Walking, waking

It’s quite easy to do here too. Drake is in Menton, in the south of France :

Hunting lemons in February

I have to say, I’m a little sorry for Rupali, but she remains cheerful :

A walk in fresh snow

We have some friends who hail from Canvey Island so I was tempted by this one. Great murals, Alison!

Enjoying Essex – Canvey Island – Esplanade

And great water sculptures and architecture from Cady. She loves Oslo and it’s easy to see why :

The Last Walk in Oslo: Tjuvholmen Neighbourhood

That’s it from me! Still super busy and enjoying life. Hope you are, too. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Just skies…. and their stories

I’ve cheated with the colour of the first, but I like this version better. It dates back a couple of years, so you might have seen it before. The occasion was a barbecue on the patio of some very good friends, who arrive back in the Algarve this week. I’m smiling as I type this. They are wonderful hosts and I remember sitting and gazing at the mackerel sky, almost certainly with glass in hand. There may even have been a song or two involved. Funny how some days stick in your memory.

No cheating at all with the second, though you might think that sunset is surreal. I remember it most vividly because it was the last time I saw my daughter. We dropped her off at the airport last October, as the sky flamed all around us. The second week in February is always special to her. A wedding anniversary and birthday within two days of each other, and Valentine’s Day close on their heels. Wishing her the happiest of weeks!

What is there to say about number three? My mother was a superb knitter. So many of Lisa’s baby clothes came from her hands. Feather and fan was a style used for matinee coats and bonnets, not to mention cardigans and jumpers. For some reason this sky, over lovely Barril beach, reminds me of it.

There’s something about a silver sea, and I have countless shots of them. This particular one was taken at Quarteira, strolling along the promenade there. A shaft of light burst through the cloud laden sky, flooding the water with luminosity.

Do you have a favourite? Impossible for me to separate them from the memories.

Not dreaming… just living!

I’m no longer living the dream, though I do still sometimes have to pinch myself. Tavira is my home. This is real life, and I’m just living. Joyful, isn’t it? Whether you intend it to or not, life does tend to settle into a pattern. At some stage of every day I’m up on my roof terrace. Sometimes pegging out washing, or just cloud gazing. Scanning the horizon to assess the weather. As the day warms up or, after a walk, with a book. Later, watering the plants and encouraging them with a few soft words.

Whenever I can I’m outdoors. This is the loveliest time of year, almond blossom caressing the trees, as the ocean caresses the beach. Fields glowing with golden oxalis, the leggy Bermuda buttercup. Yesterday I saw my first poppy of the year, a splash of crimson in amongst the yellow. Elsewhere a mare nuzzling her foal, who skittered a few steps, then subsided at her feet. We spent a glorious day around the estuary at Alvor. Families picnicked and worked together on the beach, gathering molluscs while their dogs raced excitedly back and forth. Pruning the trees is brutal here, but everywhere new life burgeons. In town the streets are quiet. A smiling welcome in restaurants is assured. Gradually folk will return. There is no hurry.

That’s a little how I feel about Still Restlessjo. More mellow? I’m not sure. But enjoying the moment, and the friends that gather around me. Making gentle plans for the future and sharing a few stories here.