Jo’s Monday walk : Fonte de Benemola

This is such a magical time of year in the Algarve. Wild orchid time! Give or take a couple of weeks because it’s not a precise science. Luckily for us we were being led by a lady who’s something of an expert in flora and fauna, and her timing was spot on!

Some days are simply exuberant. The weather had been a little ‘mixed’, but the skies were clearing and heavy rain had guaranteed that the ‘fonte’ would be brimming. And so it was!

Stopping to eye up a rusted pump, I smiled at the shadows created through the single remaining wall of a ruin, before stepping out into bright sunshine. The path was damp and a little slippy in places but so worth the effort. The play of sunlight on the water through dappled shade was almost ethereal. Newly created ‘stepping stones’ give access to the opposite bank.

O Olho – the Eye

A dell fit for fairies, because what came next is purely magical. We had been watching the grass verges in hopes of sighting wild orchids, which thrive in this damp environment, and suddenly they were there in abundance. The bee orchid, quite hard to spot initially, and the naked man, flaunting his finery for all to see. We peered at them from all angles, amazed at the ingenuity of nature.

And then we were on our companionable way, trading reminiscences and memories, yet keeping a watchful eye, greedy for orchids.

The hills rolled away, and in the distance I thought I could see the outline of Rocha da Pena while, close at hand, vivid pink rock cistus lined the trail. Chunks of rock littered the grass, as though forgotten in a giant game of jacks.

No shortage of plants to admire, nestling in the woodland shade. Before we knew it we were back at the parking.

Fonte de Benemola, PR16, is a relatively short 4.5km walking trail, off EM524 between Tor and Querenca. For beauty and variety it’s hard to beat at this time of year. No cake! It’s not easily available in this location, but I do have a rather special share.

Chocolate fudge, anyone? Not my birthday any time soon, but this weekend we paid a visit to a lovely couple, in Obidos. The fudge is one of many memories we shared, from their days in the Algarve.

Prague twinkles like a star at night. You’ll enjoy it with Teresa :

Tour of Imperial Europe

I do love a river! And so does Anabel :

Border Break 4: Tweed and Teviot

Terri’s doing her best to keep us fit. Let’s get walking!

Fitness Friday: Five Popular Ways to Track your #Fitness Progress

Are you ready for Mel’s next adventure? Here goes!

The Great Ocean Walk, Victoria – Day 1

Feel the heat with Sarah, in colourful Costa Rica :

A short (hot} walk around Guiones

The Pyrenees make a fabulous backdrop :

Salty sand walk

Carcassonne! It looks forbidding but it’s always been a dream of mine, Drake :

History turn green

Helen is always so upbeat and cheerful! The English countryside obviously agrees with her, despite the grizzly tale :

Combe Gibbet, Gallows Down & Ham Village

I don’t plan to be around the blog much in the next couple of weeks. I’m fulfilling a long cherished dream to be in Braga at Easter, and to travel a little in the north of Portugal. Take good care till I’m back!

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 : 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 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.

Jo’s Monday walk : back to Santa Barbara

It’s blossom time! I can’t remember a year when the almond blossom was more prolific. It dances across the fields and along the gentle ridges of hills. From whitest white to a rosy pink, bitter almonds and sweet. Nowhere is it more lovely than in Santa Barbara de Nexe.

Remember that we walked with Faro a Andar last year? The first walk, up into the hills to Bemposta, the second, high above the village of Santa Barbara to the windmill of the stars. We weren’t sure if the pre-Christmas walk would proceed, but extremely hopeful that these walks for the community would resume this year. And so they have! Remember to check the meeting point before you set out. We foolishly assumed that this walk would start from the same place as last time, by the church in Santa Barbara. Fortunately we were a little early, but bemused to find nobody else there! Consulting the programme we realised that the meet point was actually Junta de Freguesia, at the opposite end of the village. With indecent haste we got there, just in time for a short warm up and brief explanation of where we were going, before we set off. A good sized group, multi racial, men, women and children. We were about to discover the world of water wheels, pumps and irrigation.

We walked out of the village, following a lane that looped back on itself. I started a conversation in my best Portuguese but, as so often happens, the young woman twinkled back at me and broke into fluent English. Of course, I should have asked her to continue in Portuguese, but I was interested to find out a little about her, and happy just to be conversing with a local. Her job was problem solving for foreigners buying property in the Algarve, which explained her ease with language. It was a pleasure to share the morning with her bright, cheerful smile.

The lane curved past a large water wheel and alongside a field rippling with olive trees. A tired old cottage didn’t look like it would take too much effort to bring back to life, but modern villas are a more popular choice in this neighbourhood. It was obvious that half of the purpose of the walk was to show off the luxuriant blossom surrounding the village.

Phones were out in force, taking photo upon photo of these delicate beauties. I hung back for a while to fully appreciate them. The next stop was by a water wheel, where our walk leader enthusiastically turned the handle to release a trickle of water. It was hot in full sun and a few cupped their hands to drink, while a lady explained the function and history of the local wells. We retraced our steps beneath the row of blossom trees, and started to climb towards the windmills.

We passed by an elegant couple of villas, tucked away behind sturdy walls. The views out to the distant coast were lovely.

All of Santa Barbara de Nexe lay spread out below us, the avenue of soft colour we had walked beneath clearly visible. Slowly we descended, in no real hurry to part company with the trees and their luxurious blossom.

Footsteps began to quicken as we re-entered the village, the prospect of a nice lunch not too far away. This circular walk is 8.48km.

Isn’t this the most beautiful season of the year? Yes, we need rain, but it will come when it’s ready. Meanwhile, let’s just enjoy!

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Because she lives ‘Down Under’, Teresa is often the first to contribute a walk, or even two!

The journey continues..

Australia Day Walk

Sarah is so good at capturing people on camera! I know you’ll enjoy this :

Gallery: a stroll through a Kerala village

Drake takes a thoughtful look at the city of Basel :

With colours in the thoughts

You don’t always have to walk far to find beauty. Especially with Margaret’s eye :

A Sunset Walk

Marsha always enjoys life, no matter what the challenge :

PPAC #32: Wickenburg Walk #2

This has to be one of the most enchanting walks I’ve ever been taken on. Many thanks, Alegria!

Walking on the Ocean Floor

While Rupali takes us walking on a rather chilly earth :

Memorable Moments

On a bright English day, Emma embraces the cold :

Hilly 9.5m- 15.5km Coastal Circular: Seven Sisters, Friston Forest and East Dean

The love affair with Chihuly continues. Thanks, Janet!

Monday walk…neon in the neighbourhood

And I kid you not! Cady will wear you out!

A New Day and a New Neighbourhood in Oslo

Riding on a wave of emotion this weekend. I have to congratulate Rafa Nadal for a simply unbelievable achievement. Vamos!

Knockers!

Or should I more correctly say door furniture? It’s much less personal, and less prone to cause embarrassment if you then ask one knocker, or two? In the back of my head I can hear Frankie Howerd saying ‘titter yee not, missus!’ And the cause of this merriment? Brian, own up! But it’s my own fault for listening in to other folks’ conversations in the comments. Sorry, Sue! Anyone else have this unfortunate habit? Guilty as charged, m’lud! Meanwhile…. how about this pair?

Great, aren’t they? Could be the start of a series. Hope I haven’t offended anyone with my Monday chuckle!

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!

Jo’s Monday walk : Santa Barbara de Nexe

The second of our walks with Faro a Andar was not quite so strenuous, but we knew that it involved windmills, and where are they always sited? At the top of a hill, of course! But the sky was blue and smiles broad as we congregated by the village church, in Santa Barbara de Nexe. The size of the group was much reduced and there were no children this time. Was that a bad sign? We hoped not.

Looking around us with interest, for this was not a village we knew much of, we headed away from the church and almost immediately turned right and began to head uphill. A path led out of the village, beside a stone wall. Beyond this we could see Monte Figo rising, whilst in the nearest field a couple were harvesting olives.

There followed an interlude without much chatting. Better to save breath for the climb ahead. Can you see the windmill on the hilltop?

To be fair, the views were beautiful, gentle clouds gliding across the sky and the windmills growing progressively closer. The coast was a distant glitter, and below us even Santa Barbara was beginning to look small. I paused to admire some scarlet flowers and try to peer at the villa hiding behind them, before continuing upwards.

Eventually we reached the windmill of the stars. I imagine it would be beautiful up here on a night. Now, if I was a shepherd or goatherd… Can you see that grey windmill in the distance of the last photo? We expected that we would carry on to that point, but the walk leaders opted to turn back, after a short talk about our surrounds. Perhaps the track was too rough. We might try it ourselves sometime. But we were happy enough to follow an easy route back down the hill, a procession of trees accompanying us. Gurning, mangled olives, full of character and holes. Almond trees, wispily waiting to bloom. A cottage, complete with alfarroba.

And then we were back at the church, passing a house I had serious designs upon. What do you think? Behind a lovely flowering hedge it had a veranda facing out to the far distant sea. Mistakenly I thought it was single storey and very manageable, but approached from the side it was on two levels and the garden was huge. Absolutely not in my price league, and ever practical Michael declared that you’d have to be very fond of church bells.

We had spotted a couple of cafes and thought that we might have a drink together before going our separate ways. Sadly, one was full to the brim and the others closed. No cake today! Instead a look around this quiet but well-heeled village, making notes for a return.

Ending by the cemetery. Wikipedia tells me that the impressive church was constructed over a 12th century chapel, but that human settlement in the area goes back over 30,000 years. I wasn’t able to see inside the church, but found a video celebrating the local Saint’s Day on 4th December, 2019. Unfortunately this year’s concert was cancelled again due to Covid.

In January, Charolas are performed locally to celebrate the new year, by groups of singers accompanied by simple instruments- accordion, castanets, tambourines and triangles. I have to wonder if these will be allowed next year. No New Year fireworks will take place in Faro, or on the bridge at Tavira.

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Saying a very beautiful goodbye to Autumn with Drake :

Just around the corner

While Teresa takes us on a whistlestop museum tour :

Edinburgh to Glasgow and back

A little bit of magic with Alethea, remembering lovely Sue :

A Magical Walk with a dragon, a coyote and a blackbird

A more down to earth kind of magic in the streets of Triana, with Sarah :

A walk in Seville’s picturesque Triana district

Not so far away, Rupali continues a love affair with Barcelona :

The astounding interior of Gaudi’s building

Marsha always finds so much joy in life. It’s quite simply infectious :

FOTD, Fan Of, Monday Walks, Changing Seasons: Remembering Fall

You could do worse than these show-stopping views from Janet!

Monday walk…Mt. Lemmon

The next Faro a Andar walk is scheduled for 19th December, but currently I have no idea whether it will take place. I hope you enjoyed this one. Have fun with your Christmas preparations, and take good care.

Jo’s Monday walk : Levadas da Ilha do Rosario

Hark back to my birthday weekend in Silves. Remember it? I found a levada, and lost the amethyst from my engagement ring. Not much of a swap, really. I’m still waiting for the stone to be replaced, but hopefully it soon will be. On that bright morning I had no idea that disaster might befall. Many years previously we had followed a route just outside Silves, which we thought to be this levada walk. With no clear signage and not a whole lot of levada, we were never quite sure if we’d got it right. Here was our chance to try again, but with the benefit of Wikilocs and Google maps.

We drove out of Silves on the N124 and parked by the Mira Rio restaurant, just 5km out of town. A lightbulb moment- we’ve been here before! We decided to do the walk in the reverse direction of our previous attempt, and this would at least guarantee us a stretch of the Rio Arade to walk beside. Triumph! Not only did we find the levada and the magnificent tidal river, but we managed to follow it for quite some distance.

With the sun glittering on the water it’s hard not to relax and savour the unspoilt countryside that surrounds you. Gentle hills rise from the river banks, but the walk is level, following the sinuous curves of the levada. After a hot summer there was little water to be seen, but the deep channels testify to the years of patient irrigation that keep this valley green.

It came as a bit of a surprise to cross a narrow road where, hidden among the trees, stood a rather grand building with a turret. Hardly a humble levada keeper’s abode. Back on the path, the valley spreads out before you, tall grasses tantalising in the whispered breeze.

Tucked into yet another curve of the river, a tiny marina dozes, with Silves sitting serenely on the horizon. At this point the levada parts company with the river and heads inland. We marvel at a muster of storks, circling above the river, before we too turn inland. We pass a few homesteads, alerting a dog or two. At one the owner comes out and gives us a nod, but mostly we are disregarded. Of no relevance in this wide landscape.

We follow a gravel path and then, to our alarm, a gate appears before us, firmly closed. We look at each other, dismayed. Where did we go wrong? Without a great deal of conviction I turn the knob. A satisfying click and the latch opens. It’s never fun to have to retrace your steps. We step through and close the gate behind us, and continue up the lane unhindered.

Soon we have the choice to continue on to the N124 and follow it back to the car, or mount a hill for views over the valley and back down the other side. It’s a no brainer, isn’t it? Sure enough we are rewarded with the high rise of Portimao in the far distance, while below us the river flows. At a cluster of houses a lady smiles softly at us, and we gesture and exclaim at how beautiful it all is. And descend slowly to rejoin the levada at our start point. Where, surely it’s time for cake?

The total walk is a little over 7 kilometers. I found this very tranquil video of the walk, with rather more water in the levadas, orange after recent rains, matching the ochre soil here. Thanks for keeping me company.

A good friend plans to take this walk next Spring, so I’m leaving her a link to Wikilocs here. Exactly which walk we did long ago remains a mystery, but we started and ended at the same point, this time with a great feeling of satisfaction.

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Aggie made me want to share her post, written from the heart :

A walk to remember

And I simply had to share these glorious views from Italy!

Liguria: A Fabulous Hike to Monte Grande Mountain Top

Denzil demonstrates what a beautiful place Belgium is for walking :

Gendron-Furfooz-Celles 18km Hike

And Drake wanders in Pere-Lachaise cemetery :

At the end

While Margaret takes me back ‘home’ :

A morning walk with the rangers at Studley Royal

And Teresa treats me to a fabulous tour of the Scottish Highlands :

The Scottish Highlands

Sarah is delighted to be traveling again. Seville was a good place to start :

The bliss of returning to the air

And Rupali takes up the theme in Oslo’s pretty Christmas streets, and beyond :

Blissful Travel – Getting back to Normal – Part1

Blissful Travel – Part 2 – Barcelona

Always a delight to wander with Jude. These gardens are simply fabulous!

Garden Portrait: The Bishop’s Palace Gardens, Wells

I seem to be back in the Jo’s Monday walk groove, but there are no guarantees. Join me whenever you like. Take care till then!