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?

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….’

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.

Days at the beach

Goodbye, old year! Hello, new! No two days the same, but always the same opportunity, to live life to the full. To cast aside judgements and embrace life. This is very much a blue sky blog, but there are darker days too. All are beautiful.

Yesterday I went to my least favourite place here in the Algarve, Monte Gordo. The sky was brightest blue but a sharp wind niggled the bones and I wished for a warmer jacket. Still, I was in a forgiving mood. Hard not to be with this glorious beach, stretching off towards the Spanish border. Seagulls wheeled in the air, shrieking at each other and fighting over the latest catch. A number of small rays seemed to have been washed up on the tide, a feast for the bounty hunters.

Just a few days earlier, and a few kilometres further west, I joined the new boardwalk at Altura to admire the drama of the skies and the deserted beach. Sombre though it looks, there was no rain, and the clouds retained the warmth of previous days.

Always there are ripples of shells to explore, harbouring each other in a companionable way.

We all of us prefer blue sky days and the warmth of the sun on your back. Life’s not meant to be perfect, is it? Tomorrow the sun will shimmer on that water again. Maybe, even today?

For those of you expecting a Monday walk, I’m trying to keep them fortnightly, so I’ll be here next week. Take care till then!

Nativity in miniature – Epiphany

It’s long been put to bed in many households, but Christmas is finally over here in Portugal on 6th January, the Day of Kings, or ‘Dia de Reis’. I reluctantly take down my tree and dismantle the crib in the fireplace for another year, and remind myself of the connection to the kings. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, and the day when we celebrate the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem, bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. Traditionally in Portugal it’s a day for families to eat together after work, and perhaps share small gifts. It’s almost certain that ‘Bolo Rei’ will make an appearance. This cake is in the shape of a crown, decorated with candied peel ‘jewels’ and containing a bean. If you’re the lucky person with the bean in your portion, it’s your turn to buy the cake next year.

Nice traditions, aren’t they? And so I’m taking you back to a very traditional village, here in the Algarve. You might remember the decorations in the streets of joyful Santa Rita? We returned a day or two later to visit their display of Nativity scenes.

Inside the simple community centre we were greeted warmly, then left to look around. Russian dolls, amazingly intricate arrangements of abalone and finely worked and sculpted shells, lovingly constructed tableaux and displays carved from wood, all sat side by side on table tops and boxes. Some of the figures were tiny, some taller. Some serious, some smiling. Some were woven from rafia, wrapped around with linen cloaks. Some inhabited a book, or a log of wood. Astoundingly, some were even made of paper, folded and coiled, round and round. There seemed no end to the ingenuity in telling the Christmas story.

The notice explained the ancient tradition of building a small altar in the home for baby Jesus, decorated with oranges and other fruits, and offerings of bread for the prosperity of the family. Outside again, we paused to admire the village one last time.

If it wasn’t such a long walk to the sea, I could live there! Happy Epiphany, everybody!

Some reminders of Christmas past :

Castro Marim

Vila Real de S. Antonio – K is for Kings

Six Word Saturday

Jo’s Monday walk : Tavira at Christmas

Last week’s post in Santa Rita was a hard act to follow. For me it embodied all the joy of an Algarve Christmas, but it doesn’t seem right to say goodbye to an old, dog-eared year without first taking you for a stroll around Tavira, in all her sparkly finery.

From our house, it’s a short walk into town, passing the Fonte Salgada roundabout. Most years this is lit quite simply with a ‘Boas Festas’ sign- ‘good parties!’ The crib scene was a nice surprise. Over the level crossing I vary my route, seeking out lighted windows, balconies draped with fairy lights and Christmas window displays. I think the wedding gown might need a warm bolero!

Across the river all eyes are drawn to the tree, standing proud in Praca da Liberdade. As we watch, a ripple of colour spreads upwards and the tree changes from electric blue, through turquoise, green and red. Behind the arches of the council buildings, solemn, slightly spooky kings carry their presents to the holy infant. I play hide and seek with the kings, watching the light sparkle on the fountains.

We wait for our turn and then take a twirl inside the tree, looking up as the colours flow all around us. Christmas magic!

Eventually we tear ourselves away and walk through the riverside gardens to the twinkling bandstand. I wonder if the terrapins who live there mind the unaccustomed night light. A very low key Christmas market is being set up and, for the first time ever, a small ice skating rink. Santa sits in a riverside cabin, bemused at being ignored by the tots, who laboriously push a penguin and a polar bear across the ice. I can’t help but think that padded suits might be more use. It’s a good thing that little ones bounce!

Inside the old market, a more traditional scene, with camels and traders, occupies one corner. Back on the quayside, we walk towards the shiny bow outside the new market. The lights of home beckon, from across the water.

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Can you see the conflict? Homespun or manufactured? Heartfelt or adopted? Traditional or modern? None of it really matters. The important thing is to give and receive love, and to make this a time of peace in our turbulent, worrisome world.

‘Imagine all the people living life in peace, You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…’ I’m singing along with Lennon again.

……………………………………………………..

Sharing the Christmas theme, here’s what Melbourne has to offer. Thanks, Teresa!

I Chose to Visit the City last Weekend

And from the warmth of her beloved Philippines :

Laguna

A bit strenuous for me these days, but what a terrific reward! Christie could certainly lead me here :

White River suspension bridge Trail – Pukaskwa National Park

And by way of complete contrast, stroll with Rupali :

Gaudi’s Work: Nature, Religion and Geometry

The word Fashion always has me thinking of Bowie. Sing along, Drake!

Fashion and fascinating

Sarah takes us to Plovdiv, to see some wonderful street art :

Gallery: a walk in colourful Kapana

And just to round it all off, Jude is sharing another garden with me. One day, in real life, hon?

Garden Portrait: Barrington Court Garden

And so I see out a year in which I’ve changed blogs, but not really left the old Restlessjo behind. I’m doing a quick sprint to the UK for Christmas, and won’t be posting a Monday walk next week. Wish me luck! Much love to you all. I’m so happy to share our world.

Santa Rita – the most joyful village!

You might remember my failed mission to Odeleite, and the Christmas fair that wasn’t? Life sometimes has a way of compensating, doesn’t it? On Monday I took you walking in Parque de Lazer. The road there passes through the small village of Santa Rita, a little off the beaten track. As we passed by we were thrilled to see the villagers setting up stalls for a Christmas market. There wasn’t time to stop just then, but I was keen to see the festivities so we popped back later. Too late for the fair itself, but what a treat awaited us.

It was late afternoon and we had the place almost to ourselves. A couple of older ladies were chatting on the doorstep, and they smiled and waved when they saw us admiring the decorations. It felt like Christmas should. Simple, homemade ornaments, arranged with love. A modern tree sparkled beside an imaginative crib scene and, down the street, lights twinkled in the windows.

The light was fading as we wandered the back streets of the village, entranced by some of the pieces, amused by others. Much thought and care had gone into the creation of this small celebration of Christmas, and I was sure that the village children must have had fun helping with the decorating. The grown ups, too!

I especially liked the paintings, and wondered which talented artist had been responsible. The sense of whimsy made me smile. Cute faces etched on stone, and painted on wood. The shawled, anxious family against the chipped tiled wall. Ornate cherubs, divorced from reality. Tinselled ladders propped, willy nilly, against walls. I loved it all!

And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, The near and the dear one, The old and the young…. in the words of John Lennon.

Merry Christmas, one and all! Join me in Tavira next week, if you can find time. The lights are beautiful.

Jo’s Monday walk : A tale of regeneration

We’ve done a lot of walking lately, and it’s almost become a tradition to say farewell to friends returning to the UK with a walk, and a relaxed, happy meal together. Nothing too taxing this time, for one had recently pulled a hamstring moving furniture! There are miles of boardwalk along the Algarve and, as we all love to be beside the sea, this was the obvious choice. I had already booked the restaurant and arranged our meeting place when the other half came up with a different suggestion. The Parque de Lazer is close by, he said. You could collect those pine cones you’ve been wanting for ages!

Did anyone mind the last minute change of itinerary? There were no dissenters but I had my suspicions. So, armed with a bag for the cones, off we went! As you can see, another idyllic, blue sky, Algarve day.

It proved more interesting than we might have expected. How could I have forgotten already those fires that swept across the Algarve in the summer? We were back in the UK, but worried for friends who lived very close to the conflagration. A change in the direction of the wind and they would have been in grave danger. These woods have a high percentage of eucalyptus trees, which burst into flames and blaze with wild abandon. A very scary sight, and not one you would wish to be too close to.

Great emphasis is laid here on clearing the ground around your house, if you are a country dweller. It pays very great dividends in creating a fire break. As we strolled through the woods we marvelled at the devastation around us, and yet, there was no doubt that nature was fighting back. With a little help, perhaps. A logger was busy disposing of yet another fallen eucalypt.

The more observant of you may have noticed something? A distinct lack of pines! I had been deluded in thinking I was coming here to collect pine cones. It had been that kind of week! But still, the sun was warm and there were many beautiful patterns on the surviving eucalyptus trees, twisted, mangled and blackened though they were.

Impossible to be out of sorts on such a day. Bands of cloud drifted overhead, tangling in the trees. We chatted about the months to come, and when and where we might meet again. Some are moving house. Some have already moved. There are several choices of trail through the park, which is just off the E125, beyond the village of Santa Rita. We followed one that was just a little more than 7 km.

And in no time we were back at the car park, appetite at the ready for lunch. This time I struggled womanfully with the two slices of almond cake that arrived for my dessert. I really could have used a little help, or opted for something a bit lighter. As it was, we had the best of both worlds for we decided a little after dinner stroll on the boardwalk would be a good idea. Lots of smiling, happy faces.

And to add to my happiness, one of our group has since brought me a bag of pine cones. He won’t need them in his new home.

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Pretty lights are good for the soul. If I were in Belgium I wouldn’t miss this show. Thanks for sharing Denzil!

Enjoy a winter walk in Bokrijk

And what a pleasure it would be to join Drake in the Vosges :

Illuminated darkness

Or celebrate with Indra’s grand daughter :

Celebrations

Rupali cooks with love, and some other wonderful ingredients :

Random 51: Celebrating Culture – A Culinary Walk

Teresa does a little reminiscing this week :

Back in Cebu

Memories don’t come more magnificent than these from Sarah. Or wet!

Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders

Vines can look really beautiful in the autumn :

A day trip from Strasbourg: Mittelbergheim

The countdown to Christmas is on, isn’t it? I hope to be walking next week. Take good care of yourselves till then.

Where is everybody?

I do like a laugh, don’t you? Even when it’s at my own expense. Last Sunday, with huge enthusiasm, I persuaded a small group of friends to join me at the Christmas market in Odeleite, a beautiful village in the Algarve hills. I had seen it advertised in the monthly programme of events and was keen to go. Two years previously I’d enjoyed a morning up there, amid market stalls, crafts, carollers and cake! Metal sculptures lined the steep road down into the valley, and music and laughter drifted up, along with some tempting aromas.

This year was to be a little different. We arrived in two cars, and surveyed the empty car park with disbelief. No jubilant sounds reached our ears. Instead, curious gazes followed us as we started our descent into the village. ‘Bom dia’, we politely greeted them. As we turned the corner, just for a moment, I anticipated a flurry of activity. But no! A sad sight met our eyes. Preparations had obviously been underway for the planned fair, but had been abandoned.

The bullock rusted quietly in the empty stable. Last time he had been accompanied by a live donkey and a small pony as well as the traditional crib scene. Sheep had bleated from the hillside. I felt as perplexed as the new reindeer. Fortunately my companions found it highly amusing that I had brought them to a non-existent fair. I had even remembered my purse- a most uncommon event! But, oh, they did bemoan the lack of pork bifanas and cake. We wandered the village, looking for signs of life and formulating a plan.

It’s an attractive village and we whiled away half an hour, admiring the artworks, before venturing further. I was, of course, shod for a shopping expedition rather than a hike on rough paths, but I gave it a go. Until destiny, in the form of 2 hunters with guns, persuaded us that a better option might be to return to the village cafe. Sundays and Thursdays are fair game for hunters and we had no desire to be quarry. There’s usually a bright side, if you look for it, and we shared a couple of sweet mince pastries along with our coffee.

He’s just rootling! You know how pigs are. We adjourned to the restaurant, where there’s a great view down over the village.

And the moral of the story? Make sure the event hasn’t been cancelled before you set off. Portugal has recently declared a State of Calamity, which sounds so much worse than it is, but it does mean that some events won’t take place. Happily, just a few days later, we passed through a village where Christmas celebrations were in full swing. More of that later.

You want to know about the dessert? A sticky almond and coconut confection. I couldn’t even finish it! No pastry next time!