Mos to Pontevedra: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 9 and 10, September 27th – 29th 2019

Mos to Redondela

pilgrim with umbrella tree avenue
I walked along avenues of acers only just starting to turn yellow where it rained slightly (as it is prone to do in Galicia)

Walking this Camino was a prize for the long year I had spent writing my first book and the exciting but stressful dash to submit the manuscript to the publishers by the end of August. I had sat down – researching, typing while travelling – and eschewed long distance walks for that reason. Today, as I was ambling along, I realised that there was now some space into which a new project might come – and it came! The great Camino de Santiago forum is absolutely chock-a-block full of interesting information about pilgrimage in Spain and elsewhere. There is a mind boggling amount of collective knowledge in it, submitted by enthusiasts from all over the world, and when I am on the road I often consult it for hostel information, path directions and more. My searches the previous evening had led me to interesting topics related to my previous explorations and that then trickled through my mind as I made my way towards Redondela. Walking is such a great way to allow those creative thoughts to flourish!

coat of arms camino shell stone marker
Typical Camino de Santiago stone with the familiar shell and an unidentifiable coat of arms with a stemmed rose and daisies
wp-15757574735184115352271808108207.jpg
Another sign of grief? Stone statue of a woman covering her eye

Food and Wine on the Portuguese Camino

Local food
Pulpo (Octopus ), a Galician delicacy, on a stall outside

What, you may ask, can a vegetarian eat while walking the Portugues Camino, when meat is such an important part of the local diet? You can usually find eggs and vegetables (though they are often cooked rather longer than we might do them in the UK) and of course salad galore, though if we are walking out of season we might find we are served the packaged iceberg which is familiar back home. What we can never eat unless we beg at someone’s front door (no, I haven’t done this myself!) are the wonderful tall greens which so many grow in their front gardens, but which are not to be found, not in local shops, supermarkets or restaurants.

edible plants in growing situation
Tall brassicas growing in O Cruceiro, Spain

So, look out for Padron peppers (very small and grilled ones which are not really from Padron, but more of that in another blog), caldo verde (warming cabbage soup) which is usually not made with a meat stock but check, and also be careful that they don’t garnish it with sausage; bread and olive oil of course; roasted chestnuts (see below); and you most definitely can eat pastel de nata (the most delicious bijou custard tarts) as long as you are not vegan because they have eggs in them.

bowl of roasted chestnuts Portugal
Lea and friend, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal (not on the Camino Portuguese da Costa) with whom I shared 100s of roasted chestnuts – yum!

Fun Fact

Conventual deserts: Traditionally, eggs whites were used in convents to starch the priest clothing and the nun’s robes. Left with the egg yolks and time to kill, the nuns had to get creative. Making the most delicious and famous desserts became a tradition in Portugal.” From Authentic Food Quest

huge orange feild pumpkins
Field pumpkins. Although there were squash everywhere in the fields and gardens, I never saw them offered on a menu

If you are pescetarian (that is, you also eat fish, but not meat) you will have no trouble because Portugal is well known for sardines (although very attractive, don’t buy the smartly decorated tins as they are many times more expensive than the ordinary ones – make sure they are Portuguese) in the smaller shops or supermarkets); bacalhau (salted cod fish – variable, some stupendous, some just salty), octopus (pulpo, see above) and other delicacies from the ocean.

plant detail and Latin name
Moss Rose (Portulaca gradiflora, a semi-succluent) with red and yellow flowers indicating a mixed seed bed. Thanks to the helpful folk on houzz.com for identifying this for me

Finally, these stages of the Camino Portuguese are close by the Soutomaior, one of the sub-regions of the DO (denominacion origen) the vineyards of the high-quality, light-bodied white Albarino wine, produced by the Rias Baizas.

Civic buildings Redondela
The Concelo (government offices) de Redondela, Spain
Xunta sign entrance outside Pilgrim Hostel
Albergue de peregrinos rennovated 16th century Casa da Tore, Redondela, Spain

There are 42 beds, it costs 6 euros, opens between 1-10pm and is open all year round.

urban Redondela
View from the hostel window with a large blue and yellow camino sign, typical stone balconies and showing the narrow streets of the town, Redondela, Spain

Because the room opened straight into the middle of the town, it was extremely loud with revellers late into the night and early hours of the morning.

interior hostel with bunks
Metal bunks in crowded rooms, full to bursting in late September 2019, Xunta (municipal) hostel, Redondela, Spain

Redondela to Pontevedra (almost)

This was a good day despite my foot /feet still hurting. Such wonderful scenery and sun! That’s why I love to walk like this – to be in nature, to be surrounded by beauty, to be amazed, step-by-step.

map of Camino route
This part of the Camino Portuguese, Spain

I left just after dawn, the lights still on under the aches of the bridge.

wp-15757582309304865887284464690737.jpg
Heavy mist in the valley making the view mysterious and other-worldly, Camino Portuguese, Spain
water fountain
Water stop – natural, fresh water from the fountain at the junction, Camino Portuguese, Spain
wp-15757582307781621467779182786975.jpg
Shells and other Camino paraphernalia, Camino Portuguese, Spain
Long view of river and Arcade
Looking down onto Rio Verdugo and Arcade, Spain
wp-15757582306345867371402776829862.jpg
Eucalyptus catching the morning sun
wp-15757582304795510892613551927832.jpg
Down now to a welcome stall set up by local weekend volunteers offering tea and snacks (for donations). You can see the partially wet ground from the regular showers of rain, Spain

Saturdays are very busy days on the Camino with cyclists and local walkers as well as those who are making their way to Santiago de Compostella.

IMG_20190928_095044
A town which celebrates the Camino and its pilgrims – silhouette cut-outs on the walls of this hostel, Spain
wp-1575758230402985514243139777939.jpg
A way-side grotto with Camino knick-knacks, Spain
horreo
The first horreo (stone shed for storing maize over the winter, on stilts to keep out the rats and the wet) with plenty of religious protection, Spain
wp-15757582302759106576697906478999.jpg
I crossed the Verdugo river by the Ponte Sampaio (or San Paio) bridge getting a good view of a more modern one further along, Arcade, Spain

The Puente (Ponte) San Piao: ‘It is here where a decisive battle for Spain’s independence was held against Napoleon’s troops in 1809 which ended the five month French occupation.’ from Santiago-Compostella.net

wp-15757582302041974639778526243213.jpg
Another horreo – blue skies at this stage and so it was hot for the climb up the hill on the other side of the river, Arcade, Spain
wp-15757582301277047412698431770066.jpg
Back into the countryside and more paths made up of large stones which would be running with water and very slippery if the weather hadn’t been fine, Spain
wp-15757582300435206322642768291167.jpg
Pine and other mixed woods, trees towering over me, Spain
wp-15757582299658687062367829718813.jpg
Deep in the woods was a rare peregrina (female pilgrim) statue and lots of shells. There was no difficulty finding the way, Spain
wp-15757582298922616719338549107426.jpg
Plastic chairs ready for resting and enjoying the dappled surroundings, Galicia, Spain
wp-15757582298131283678518243671301.jpg
I spotted huge slugs of all shapes and sizes amongst the sweet chestnut prickles and ferns, Galicia, Spain
wp-15757582297342372984993972078112.jpg
If you look carefully, you will find little mementoes in the rocks, Camino Portuguese de Santiago, Spain
wp-15757582296598612575987469710254.jpg
Actual crowds of pilgrims in great chattering groups, Camino Portuguese, Spain
wp-15757582295948488488118612593639.jpg
I crossed the Fatima Camino here: Santiago in yellow, Fatima in blue

Fatima travel blog link

The final stage of this day’s walking through the Valley of Tomeza and Salcedo, took me through a riparian area (a wetland by a river). The ground is peaty in places (as in Scotland – there are many connections between Galicia and Scotland), moist forests of alder and willow, oak, ash, birch, chestnut, brambles (blackberries) and even cherry blossom (Prunus padus or Cerdeiro de acio in Galician) and hops can be found (as in my native Kent). The sign said that the presence of otters is a sign of good water quality. It certainly looked bubbling and clear, but sadly, I didn’t see an otter.

stone bridge Rio Tomeza Spain
Ponte da Condesa (stone bridge) over the Rio Tomeza, near Pontevedra, Spain

This last part was particularly gorgeous – green, verdant and peaceful apart from the trickling water and birds chanting around me.

rural Galicia
Rio Tomeza near Pontevedra, Spain

Accomodation: The previous evening I had come across an air bnb called Casa A Grade online and tried to find out if there was a space, unsuccessfully. I had even phoned and the woman said they did not have any single beds. Well, as I was walking through these wonderful woods, there was a hostel sign. I crossed the quaint bridge and wound my way through what turned out to the the end of the garden. There I came across a plunge pool glittering in the hot sun and it was the same place. And they did have a single bed for me!

wp-15757582293813899321997848964774.jpg

I lay in the garden, dipped into cool water, washed and hung out my clothes (which dried in the scorching sun), bought vegetables from their garden plus bread and prepared food for the evening meal. Breakfast was included in what i think was the 25 euro price. All the beds were full – a family room was taken by a mother and father who were accompanying their daughter to a Rhythmic Gymnastics competition – she was a champion), and 4 singles (2 pilgrims and 2 holiday makers) along a corridor and separated by curtains. There is one bathroom and everything was clean. The owners were very friendly and helpful.

Finally, it was only 40 minutes into Pontevedra, but that was another day!

La Guarda to Mos: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 7 and 8, September 25th – 27th 2019

La Guarda / A Guarda, Galicia, Spain

La Guarda is in Spain, even though it is a town on the Portuguese Camino. I was happy to be back in Galicia, one of my favourite parts of Spain. I should have liked to see the Celtic hill fort and village of Castro de Santa Trega which connects with Scottish history (I live in Edinburgh) on the top of the hill that La Guarda sits beside, but I was not comfortably ambulant.

In the morning, I walked a short way (30 minutes, 2 kilometers) from the Albergue Municipal in La Guarda where I had spent the night, to visit the churches, but it was a strain and took me much longer than it should have. As a result of the pain in my foot, I decided to turn back and take a different route.

church architecture and detail
Santuario de San Roque, Parroquia de Salcidos with Saint James in the front
Saint James in traditional costume
St James carrying his crook with wearing his hat with the camino shell on it. Also with an angel and a dog. Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I thought they were charming tiles

The two churches (above and below) are almost next to each other and I was the only one there. A few people were on their way to work and school, on the main road, and the churches were closed as they always are unless there is a service on. However, I admired their grandeur and solidity, the Santuario de San Roque having seen many pilgrims over the centuries.

Church architecture
Igrexa Parroquial de San Lorenzo de Salcidos, Portugal
wp-15757570962413123946437021357236.jpg
The mountain was just visible above the clouds as I looked from Salcidos, a borough of La Guarda, Spain

Then I rested for 20 minutes and took the bus. It runs from Salcidos to Tui (get off / on near Repsol gas station (estacion de servicio) on N-550) regularly and takes around an hour. This was the second day that I could not walk, something that had, thankfully, never happened to me before, and it was very hard to accept. The journey took me through urban areas with grey stone buildings boasting elegant balustrades around the windows, along the northern side of the River Miño, and deposited me opposite some public gardens bright with bougainvillea and sporting a grand metal statue of cantering horses, the Monumento al Caballo Salvaje.

horse statue bougainvillia
Monumento al Caballo Salvaje (wild horses monument) in the park, Glorieta de Vigo, Tui, Spain

Tui

Tui is a busy city, full of hustle and bustle and with all facilities you could possible need. There is an excellent market, with cafes and shops galore. Not far from the Albergue is a friendly eating place / hostel (Albergue Ideas Peregrinas – not the cheapest, but with a European atmosphere and great, healthy breakfasts, including vegan food), and that is opposite one selling crêpes, and so on…! All tastes are catered for and many people holiday here even if they are not hiking. There is an extensive Natural Park to the north west with hills, Monte Aloia, for excellent views of Baiona, Vigo and the whole region.

I picked up a copy of Jim Crace’s The Melody in the hostel the night before and made the most of my enforced resting time to have a good read. Described as a meditation on grief, it connects with all my recent writing on the subject – there’s no such thing as a coincidence!

wp-15757574747764672425951298900250.jpg
See St James peeking out from behind the column where Arzobispo (Archbishp) Lago Gonzalez (1865-1925) sits. His high cheekbones and benign expression make him look as if he is listening to a child telling him a story.
urban and rural vista
The location of the Albergue de Peregrinos is magnificent with views from the rocky hill across the river Miño and hills of northern Portugal
Chapel architecture location
The Capela da Misericordia is right next door and only slightly uphill (Rua Parroco Rodriguez Vazquez) from the Albergue de Peregrinos. Situated at the back of the Santa Maria Cathedral of Tui, it is simpler and almost unadorned. Spain
location city establishments
The hostel is wonderfully situated in this historic city. Elegant cafes are to the right of the Plaza da Concello, opposite the Concelo (the government offices of the social security finance department) and the Police. The side of the Santa Maria Cathedral is in the middle (in the background) and just past the flags, on the left and down the steps is the Albergue de Peregrinos, Tui, Spain
Roman and Medieval architecture cobbled street ancient arch
Through and archway in the eleventh century city walls you can see the old Roman street which predates it, giving a sense of the elevation of the town, Tui, Spain
signage albergue hostel
Entrance to the Albergue de Peregrinos with the typical Galician government, metal sign of a cartoon-type pilgrim with her water gourd over her shoulder, Tui, Spain

I was early into the town from La Guarda and encountered a difficulty: the hospitalera behind the reception at the hostel was talking animatedly to a gentleman who was lounging nearby. On seeing me, she launched into an attack on pilgrims who pretend to be walking, but actually must have come by public transport because they would never, otherwise, have arrived by this time. She laughed, he laughed, they compared notes and got increasingly irate about such behaviour.

I was dying to get the weight off my back and feet, and trying to explain in Spanish that I had not done this before, but had no choice with my foot pain. She ridiculed me and said I shouldn’t be carrying such a heavy load. It was most upsetting and as I became distressed she started to shout, saying that she wasn’t being nasty, just that ….

It is true that the municipal Xunta (the Galician council) albergues are for the pilgrims and that, increasingly, people are either not carrying their own packs or are taking buses and trains some or all of the way. It may have been an external voice, too, uttering the very words which I was hearing inside my head, and been part of my having to come to terms with being human and not always strong. Anyway, I said I would go away and then she started calming down and took me through the familiar process: passport check, credential stamp, payment (cash), and bedding. I was shaken.

It is a large hostel with solid wooden bunks. Although there is a sitting area where you can eat inside at the back, the kitchen is across the little garden and so I sat there for my tea as the sun set and it cooled down.

wp-15757574742867347663360790166193.jpg
I delighted in the little face peering over as if she was having a chat with what look like two shepherds (there is a lamb at the feet of the right hand character). Catedral (cathedral) Santa María, Tui, Spain

You can see the beautiful cloisters and internal gardens of the Santa María Cathedral de Tui in the photos on their website.

detail statuary carving ancient stone portal cathedral Tui
The very grand entrance to the Santa Maria Cathedral on San Fernando Square, Tui, Spain

The tourist information is also in San Fernando Square and the staff are extremely helpful and kind there.

statue gold costume
The seventeenth century, richly attired King Fernando carrying a sword and globe with a cross on it representing the might of the expansion of his Catholic empire around the world
wp-15757598564053748652909952871253.jpg
The Virgin with a halo of golden stars, robes flying and cherubs dangling in the interior of the Cathedral Santa María, Tui, Spain
city outdoor market stalls produce
Market stall with salami and cheese – local products of the area, Tui, Spain

Tui to Mos

It is 25 kilometers to Mos and even though I had rested up for 2 days (well, a lot less walking than usual), it was too far, so I took a bus part of the way and trekked the rest (only 8 kilometers) to see whether I could manage. It was such a beautiful day and I was so happy to be on my feet again under the blue sky.

rural Spanish Galician landscape
Vines loaded with dusky black jewels are spied between tall, thin trunks with mountains in the distance

I am walking along the Via Romana XIX linking Braga and Astorga, enjoying listening to the birds and smelling the countryside after being in towns for the last few days. Sometimes the signs are hidden amongst pink roses. In the distance the open fields are empty now after harvest.

rural landscape plants
Ferns and lush farmland. The Mos population is spread across the region, with no one major centre. It is at a relatively high altitude commanding open views
Catholic shrine by the road
This quiet area has a respectful energy about it with fresh lillies and roses decorating this wayside shrine
rural mountains village church houses
Belltower of the Iglesia (church) Santa Eulalia. Nearby there is a very tall column with a crucified Christ at the top. It is a well-to-do area in places with carefully kept gardens (white camelias were spotted) and expensive cars, not like some parts of Galicia on the Camino Frances
close up flowers
Beautiful tall flatsedge, nutgrass or umbrella sedge (Cyperus eragostis)

There is a native, milky coloured drink called horchata de chufa or horchata de Valencia which is the region where I first came across it. It is made from the tubers of the nutsedge (not the type in the photo above). (Thank you to floral_uk on the ‘name that plant’ forum of houzz.com for this information). It is similar to a Mexican version except that the latter is made from rice, not this sedge.

Mos, Galicia (Redondela Region)

I stayed at the Casa Blanca hostel near the Santa Baia church where I sat in the evening. The albergue is new with a bar that serves ice cream and snacks, and there is a restaurant oppostite which cooks wonderful Padron peppers and does breakfast as well as evening meals. The accommodation is in a separate building and all are situated on quite a hill. There is a coin-operated washing machine and I shared a load with others after much negotiation, however there is not enough room to hang the clothes to dry outside and, anyway, it was already cold at night so my things had to come in at bed time to avoid being damp by morning.

I went up looking for a fruit and veg shop. Instead, I saw a man on the top of a ladder picking grapes who told me I had gone in the wrong direction. On the way back down a woman pulled up in her car and spoke to me in French. She took me through to the back of her gradmother’s house (derelict) into the stepped garden full of fruit trees and picked figs. We stood and chatted over these juicy fruits and then she introduced me to her husband. He filled my shopping bag with massive bunches of black grapes for sharing with the other pilgrims back at the hostel. I laid them on large fig leaves in the self-catering kitchens for folk to help themselves.

El Camino de Santiago con correos (post) blog

El Camino de Santiago blog (a different one)

Another way to Santiago blog showing a picture of the hostel at Mos

Colin Davies, Tui to Santiago blog

Viana do Castelo to La Guarda: Camino Portuguese

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 5 and 6, September 23rd – 24th 2019

Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo to Caminha is 28.2 kms which was too far for me because my left foot hurt, so I stopped in Vila Praia de Ancora instead which was approximately 23 kilometers.

architecture Viana do Castelo Portugal
Escola Dr Alfredo Magalhaes, Viana do Castelo, Portugal

Through Areosa, Afife, then Carreco, and Vilarinho.

Carreco beach monument Portugal
Monumento Natural do Alcantilado de Montedor, Carreco, Portugal
remains of windmills Portugal
Old windmill round towers along the Cima coast, Portugal

This type of circular tower would have been a mill and there is one which still has its four wooden sails, nearby – see below.

detailed plant description
Wild Parsnip (yellow Pastinaca sativa). Red headed cardinal beetles love it. Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster)
windmill Portugal
Moinho de Cima, windmill, Portugal
Portuguese coastline detail shrub
Juniper shrubs (Juniperus turbinate) and hills in the distance (perhaps Vila Praia de Ancora or even La Guarda). The Atlantic Ocean battering against the rocks

Although my foot was painful, it was a wonderful walk across little bridges over the Ria Ancora and its estuary. I sat to look at the map and was bitten again and then kept going around the coast into the next town.

coastline Portugal
Overcast and atmospheric at Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal
narbour Vila Praia de Ancora Portugal
Harbour, Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal
dunes and inland water Portugal
Praia do Duna do Caldeirao, Ancora, Portugal

As ever, be careful of automatic translators on your phone / ipad as some of the Portuguese names are also words which mean everyday things and it can be very confusing.

Vila Praia de Ancora

hostel Vila Praia de Ancora Portugal
The wonderfully situated Hostel D’Avenida (private) opposite the harbour and ‘Children’s Beach’, Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal

There are separate women’s and men’s dormitories at this hostel. The kitchen is quite sohisticated ie it has utensils and tables and chairs! The next morning I had breakfast in a cafe around the corner, admired the sculpture (see below) and then tried to walk, but could not put any weight on the ball of my foot, despite the pain being on the top around the metatarsal bones of the 4th and 5th toes (TH / GB for those of you who speak Shiatsu).

Town square architecture
Catholic church Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal
Memorial to fishermen and their families translation
Homage to the people of Vila Praia do Ancora – the fishermen and their families. In recognition of the power of the sea to cause pain and tears as well as to feed those on land
church front architecture banner
Holy House of Mercy of Caminha in Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal
decorative tiles Portuguese town web link
Traditional blue and white tiles depicting a Portuguese fishing scene which reminded me of the Newhaven fisherwomen in Edinburgh, Scotland

I took the train (15 minutes) to Caminha (alongside a surpring number of other backpackers) and whiled away the time, first in a cafe and then with a picnic and a good book in the park near the ferry terminal. I was very sorry to have missed the countryside between the two places.

When I arrived I visited the Centro de Saude (Health Centre) in Caminha, using my European Health Card (which will presumably not be valid after we leave the EU – I cannot understand how that will be a good thing). There was a certain amount of hassle with reception photocopying my passport and staff asking each other questions while I waited. The doctor spoke good English and she wiggled my foot, looked at my rucksack disapprovingly, and gave me anti-inflammatory cream and pills. On top of that I had blisters on the other foot, perhaps from the extra pressure I had put on it by limping. One way and another I still had to walk approximately 10 kilometers in all.

The ferry takes 20 minutes, does not sail on Mondays and costs 2 euros.

River Minho Portuguese Spainish border landscape
Crossing the Minho in a small ferry from Caminha in Portugal to A Pasaxe in Spain.

The time usually changes between Portugal and Spain – one hour difference!

Spain from ferry
Getting closer to the northern side of the Minho River looking towards A Pasaxe in Spain.

La Guarda / A Guarda (Spain)

Note: there was no need to book at the Municipal Albergues at this stage of the Portuguese Camino, although there were a good number of pilgrims everywhere, but I did book the private hostels via booking.com

It was a further 40 minutes walk to La Guarda (by road), 3 kilometers. I could not walk, so I looked around the car park to see who was getting into their car and then asked the most friendly looking person if he knew whether there was a bus or taxi into the town. He said he didn’t know, but would give me a lift, which was what I was hoping! It only took 10 minutes or so and he kindly put me down close to the Municipal Albergue de Peregrinos (pilgrims), Rua Puerto Rico.

Luckily, it wasn’t far to the shop that evening for ingredients for my tea and I spotted a nearby bakery for the morning.

Days 1 and 2: Porto to Vila do Conde

Days 3 and 4: Vila do Conde to Viana do Castelo

 

 

Tavira, Portugal

October 2019

The Algarve of Portugal, the southernmost region, is best known for its beaches, and spectacular they truly are.

Impressive cliffs Algarve
The magnificent cliffs and expansive beaches of the Algarve, Portugal

However, there is a wealth of interest inland too, with small villages in the foothills and spread along rivers, all linked together with expanses of citrus orchards and olive groves, random whitewashed properties with terracotta rooves, and a not inconsiderable bus / road / rail network making touring a manageble and enjoyable experience.

Winding roads and scrubland of inland Portugal, Algarve
The typical whitewashed villas of the hills of inland Portugal, near Tavira

Getting there

I arrived in Faro (capital of the Algarve) by bus from Seville (and before that from the north of Spain). The bus (Terminal Rodovario) and train (trem) stations are a few minutes walk away from each other so I was able to amble from one to the other to comare prices.

Paper map of Faro, Portugal
Map of Faro

Tavira, to the east, was my first stop and you can get there by both modes of transport: train is quicker (30 minutes), but more expensive, and buses (taking 1 hour) seem to be more often. This website is an excellent source of information.

Town buildings of Tavira with Roman Bridge (Ponte Romana) across the river Gilao
Ponte Romana (Roman bridge) de Tavira, River Gilao, Portugal

There are two bus stops in Tavira: Porta Nova and Tavira, but you must stipulate which destination when buying your ticket (always buy in advance), as they are slightly different prices.

High rise apartments in Tavira, Portugal
The apartments of Tavira, Portugal

Tavira

There seem to be two sides to Tavira: the old town and the newer developments (above) where lots of the ex-pats live. Most people I speak to really like this place and there is not only a lot to see, but good beaches and good countryside restaurants nearby as well if you have a car, so no wonder it is popular. For cyclists and walkers, it is a great setting-off point – there is a network of cycle routes and you can now walk from Tavira to Santiago de Compostella. The locals are geared up to having vistors around all the time and are courteous and understanding, speaking excellent English.

Church of our Lafy of Learning or Saint Paul, in leafy square with statue, Tavira, Portugal
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda ou de Sao Paulo (Church of Saint Paul), and the Jardim (Garden) da Alagoa, with statue of Dom Marcelino Franco, Bispo (Bishop) of the Algarve 1920, in the Praca (Square) Dr Antonio Padinha, Tavira, Portugal

This beautiful square has lots of cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy the leafy view.

web link church Igreja of the da Misericordia, Tavira, Portugal
Tracy and the Igreja da Misericordia
Building in Tavira showing the blue and white decoration, balustrades and tiled exterior, Portugal
Typical Portuguese blue and white decoratedhouse, Tavira, Portugal
Decorated exterior of building with blue and white tiles in Tavira, Poetugal
Tiled exterior of Tavira architecture, Portugal
Tavira riverscape
The River Gilao, Tavira, Portugal
decorated floor market Tavira
Mercado (market), Tavira, Portugal
baskets Tavira
Basket stall, market, Tavira, Portugal
unknown fruit
Cherimoya, custard apple native to the mountains of Equador and Peru
Fish on market stall Tavira
Fish stall, market, Tavira, Portugal
overhead view gardens Castelo do Tavira
The gardens of the Castelo (castle), Tavira, Portugal
Castelo do Tavira ramparts
Tracy on the ramparts of the Castelo do Tavira, Portugal
wp-15722791921532366607911287098584.jpg
The blue potato bush or Paraguayan nightshade (Lycianthes rantonnetii (previously Solanum rantonnetii). Poisonous, evergreem lightly fragrant flowers followed by red berries
english and latin name of plant
California or Arizona Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera)
palm tree hibiscus
Date palm and hibiscus, Tavira, Algarve, Portugal

Pedras del Rei

The Tavira area was the first place I ever went abroad when I was a young teenager with my parents. It was memorable for a number of reasons, not least the trip to the beach which was reached by a little train and boat. When I accepted Tracy’s kind invitation, I had no (conscious) idea that her new place was near this early holiday destination, so you can imagine my pleasure when I was taken for a late afternoon walk only to be faced with a sign saying Pedras del Reí. The memories came flooding back!

passenger train to beach Tavira
Train to the Praia do Barril beach, Pedras del Rei, Tavira, Portugal
train engine Tavira
Train engine, Pedras del Rei, Tavira, Portugal
path in woods Praia do Barril beach
Walking along the boardwalk towards Praia do Barril, Tavira

Praia do Barril

anchors in the sand Praia do barril beach
The beach is stunning and memorable for its anchor graveyard and ex-tuna fishing buildings
Praia do Barril beach, Tavira, Portugal
Praia do Barril beach – kilometer upon kilometer of golden sand
Sunset marshes Barril
Back across the marshes to Tavira from Praia do barril beach
The evening light turned the saltmarsh cordgrass (correct me if I am wrong) golden

Fabrica

I also visited the beach across from Fábrica and the small village of Cacela Velha, both located in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Like much of the coast in this area, the beach is situated on a spit of land which is separated from the mainland by a strip of water, so we took a boat across.

boat to Casela Velha beach
Taking the boat across from Fabrica to Casela Velha beach
Fabrica Tavira
Looking back towards Fabrica where there is a smart restaurant and a small cafe

Casela Velha – beach and village

sand and sea Casela Velha Portugal
Cacela Velha beach

Cacela Velha is a small village in the parish of Vila Nova da Cacela on a hillside next to the Ria Formosa, between Tavira and the town of Monte Gordo.

village scene Casela Velha
The popular outdoor market at Casela Velha
web link church entrance Casela Velha
The Parish Church of Casela Velha
view of lagoon from Casela Velha
The easternmost lagoon of the Ria (river) Formosa
main door Casela Velha church
Parish Church of Casela Velha, Portugal
Village scene Casela Velha
Just before it rained! the village of Casela Velha in the hills outside Tavira, Portugal

From there I returned by car to Faro airport (thanks to Tracy and David, wonderful hosts), and took a bus to Albufeira. The posters at the bus stop do not all contain truthful information as far as I could tell, so careful!

Many thanks to the folk on the houzz.com plant forum for help with plant identification

Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal

Pull Up a Seat, week 52. Just making it into the last 2019 photo challenge. It’s all about sitting down – something I support wholeheartedly!

My day at the hostel began with yoga on the roof before sun up. I tiptoed past these comfy cushions to get my mat so as not to wake anyone. Later I flopped down onto the big squashy beige one for a rest on my way back down. Whew!

A cool selection of pouffes and stools for hard working muscles to recuperate on
I sliced some lemon to have in hot water to rehydrate

And then I went off for a nosy around the town. It was somewhat overcast.

Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal

This cat had found something interesting to investigate. Meanwhile I had to turn the seat round to get this view:

View across the Mira River as it comes close to the Atlantic Ocean, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
Steps make a beautiful place to sit if there are roses like these beside you
At the end of my walk I returned to the hostel for a jakuzzi and, afterwards, lay back on the deckchairs to relax
I enjoyed a drink at sunset on these designer seats
In the evening, the cinema space at the hostel had these rugs and mats spread over the sitting area, giving it an Eastern look

XingfuMama host this challenge

I stayed at the Selina Milfontes hostel in November 2019

Porto to Vila do Conde: Camino Portuguese

Porto to Matosinhos to Vila do Conde – days 1 and 2 of my Camino Portuguese Coastal and Littoral routes (280 kms in total) * September 19th and 20th 2019 were the Littoral, that is, they followed the coast with all its ins and outs.

I did a practice walk in the opposite direction a week before starting which is why the sea, is on my right

This is a walk from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. There are 3 routes – the quickest is inland, and the other 2 travel along the coast, some more literally than others. It is the second most popular Way – the Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago being the most famous.

wp-15758038041221788677919301287781.jpg
Leaving Porto (also known as Oporto)

I stayed at the Albergue Peregrinos do Porto which was great. There was a friendly welcome from the group at the desk and I was able to buy my Credential (the first of the new version, I was told) which is the folded paper which I carried with me everywhere thereafter, and which had to be stamped twice a day (by hostels, cathedrals or cafes etc) if I was to be able to get a Compostella, which is the certificate you can buy in Santiago de Compostella to prove that you have completed the camino.

There is a beautiful garden which was ideal for me to do peaceful tai chi in and for sitting with a drink in the evenings. The only drawback was that the showers were also outside. Ordinarily this would not bother me at all, but mosquitos adore standing water and I was bitten to within an inch of my life. Not everyone is as delicious as me, and I had taken steps to put them off, but the bites lasted for well over a week and left scars. The bunk bed was 12€ per night/person. (10€ for the Albergue and 2€ for the touristic municipal taxes).

wp-15758037318112146227560722928827.jpg
Forte do Sao Joao Baptista

There’s lots to see on your way out of Porto: first along the Douro River, under the bridges, past beaches, restaurants and cafes (especially the Foz district which is smart), the lighthouse (Capel Farol Sao Miguel-do-Anjo), two forts, a helicopter pad, gardens and statues.

wp-15701778377747371684262718763347.jpg
O Mensageiro (The Messenger), ie the angel Gabriel by Irene Vilar (from Matosinhos with a studio in Foz do Douro), Douro River, Porto, Portugal

If you wanted to get to Labruge, the end of stage one (24.5kms from Porto), but take a shorter walk, you can take the Line 1 tram from Ribeira, with your rucksack, as far as Foz do Douro (remember to sit on the left so you can see the view!). Then you could have a coffee by Jardim do Passeio Alegre (Cheerful Walk Garden, according to Google Translate!) with its fountain and cool shade, before starting to walk. This will save you 6kms (1 hour and 10 minutes at the average walking speed).

A beach not far from Porto where people have made small piles of stones perched on the rocks, similar to the cairns we find on Scottish trails
Long boardwalks make for flat and easy walking. The Atlantic Ocean is right beside them
IMG_20190910_185123
A scenic lake nearby where the path winds and where I momentarily lost the way
IMG_20190910_184603
Sand as well as rocks with the Fort of St Francis (Francisco) Xavier aka Castelo do Queijo (of the Cheese) in the distance

The Fort of St Francis (Francisco) Xavier was designed by Miguel l’Ecole (1661). Occupied by Absolutists in 1832, it was badly damaged in a battle with the Liberals and abandoned. Later it was used as the headquarters of the Oporto Naval Brigade’s 1st Company, and is now the Northern Commandos Association

IMG_20190910_184421
The coast is a wonderful place for birdlife and they collect in the evenings like this, at the water’s edge
IMG_20190910_183043
Here you can get a stamp on your credential, Matosinhos, Portugal

I had a lovely swim. All along here the waves tend to be strong and I noticed that most locals do not take the plunge.

wp-15757544483932843871303334439742.jpg
‘She Changes’ by Janet Echelman, a giant net which hangs over the road at Matosinhos, outside Porto
dav
Moving sculpture by José Juao Brito (2005) inspired by a painting by Augusto Gomes (also from Matosinhos). It remembers the 1947 fishing disaster when 152 men died leaving 72 widows and 152 children behind

In Matosinhos I stayed at the Hostel Matosinhos Suites, a funny modern block in the heart of this area, a suburb of Porto. The room was small with 6 bunks packed into it. It had a table and 2 chairs (for 6 people), a kettle and mini fridge (but not enough sockets) and it got very hot with us all in. There was a small balcony where we managed to negotiate hanging up the washing by stringing a small rope and sharing pegs – just! It was clean and there were curtains across each bunk. Cost: 22 euros through booking.com.

There are loads of places to eat, including underneath the Suites. Matosinhos is best known as the place where Porto inhabitants leave the city and come to sit in the seaside restaurants to eat the famous shellfish.

IMG_20190910_181049
The second day of the Littoral route takes you briefly through the industrial heart of the port, over the Ponte (bridge) movel de Leca (the name of the river)
cof
The day began grey – the Farol (lighthouse) do Boa Nova at Leca da Palmeira
wp-15757544482756174021556678501239.jpg
Monument dedicated to Antonio Nobre (poet 1867 – 1900) with his muses, by Alvaro Siza Vieira. Location: Leca da Palmeira
wp-1575754448204379916664242248061.jpg
Capela (chapel) da Boa Nova (Good News), Leca da Palmeira. It was linked for many years (according to Wikipedia) to the hermits of the Franciscan Order prior to 1475
wp-15757544480488879416735500417997.jpg
Salt deposits
wp-1575754447958732764385222171053.jpg
Colourful lichen and seaweed on the rocks
wp-15757544478834042128990325440369.jpg
Beautiful deserted beaches. Here is Praia das Salinas (salt pans) or perhaps it is Praia da Memoria
wp-15757544477725206076421655929625.jpg
A caterpillar caught my eye1

There was a diverse range of flowers, mostly growing close to the ground on account of the wind, many of them also fleshy so they can survive without rain.

wp-15757544478321682892888719093026.jpg
O Obelisko da Memoria (Memorial Obelisk) marking the disembarkment of King Pedro IV and his 7500 men who came to liberate Portugal from the Absolutist regime which had dominated it
wp-15757544477165726491404040725988.jpg
By now the sun had come out and the waters were clear and still – perfect for a hike. Between Praia de Angeiras and Praia da Labruge
wp-15757544476262413606025789654788.jpg
Seagulls shared lunch, fighting over the remains
wp-15757544475509114907506625321536.jpg
Washing hung out to dry on the beach
wp-15757544474887940490871375022684.jpg
Vila do Conde in the distance

That night’s rest was in Albergue Santa Clara Albergue de Peregrinos Municipal (which can be found on Facebook). It has a large dining area which was very busy, and a small kitchen. Beware of leaving food out – someone stole my hard boiled eggs which were in a cup cooling for breakfast 😦

Vila do Conde
Igreja Sao Joao Baptista

The hostel overlooks the Igreja Sao Joao Baptista (Church of St John the Baptist) and a lively marketplace. There is a cafe just around the corner where you can sit outside with your beer (very good value), and it is in the centre of town for all other amenities.

Vila do Conde
Convento (convent) Santa Clara Vila do Conde

*There is a variation to the Portuguese Camino da Costa and Litoral (this word has 1 or 2 t’s depending on the language), which is reputedly very, very beautiful, called the Espiritual (Spiritual). It starts in Pontevedra (where the Inland and Coastal routes converge), and ends in Padron. More information here

Portuguese Camino next days 3 and 4 Vila do Conde to Viana do Castelo

Portuguese Walking Routes 2

The Via Algarviana (GR13) runs for 300kms and is mainly mountainous. It begins in the east and ends in the west travelling through the Algarve region of Portugal. Starting at Alcoutim on the border with Spain, it finishes at the spectacular Cabo San Vicente, said to be the western-most tip of Europe, with America across the Atlantic Ocean. From there you can walk the Ruta San Vicente going north towards Lison, or eastwards along the coast towards Faro and Albufeira, if you would like to keep going! November 2019

The beautiful Algarve of Portugal (inland)

Route: Alcoutim, Balurcos, Furnazinhas, Vaqueiros, Cachopo, Barranco do Velho, Salir, Alte, Messines, Silves, Monchique (with a monastery), Monalete, Bensafrim, Vila do Bispo, Cabo de Sao Vicente. There are 14 stages.

Below are a selection of views of the countryside at the start of the walk, the east of the Portuguese Algarve. Official website Please note that the fires referred to on this page were in 2018 and people were walking the route in 2019.

wp-15749724613372971272372040818998.jpg
Mountains
wp-15749724612603969034338734007141.jpg
Trees and shrubs – in flower even at the end of the year

wp-15749724613995547705495327075984.jpg

wp-15749724615252009807076832079201.jpg

wp-15749724615914961158812084127014.jpg
2019 has been a very dry year
wp-15749724617304969882710419270064.jpg
Taken from the bus

wp-15749724617863534873463418363992.jpg

Near Silves on the Sao Bartolomeu de Messines road is the National Monument, the Cruz da Portugal.

IMG_20191025_143107
The Cruz da Portugal, one of the paintings which cover the electrical boxes by Hélder José (known as ‘Bamby’), and Filipe Gusmão, of Style Spectrum (#stylespectrum_unlocked)
wp-15749717298785320173385978044550.jpg
Mural, also by Hélder José (known as ‘Bamby’), and Filipe Gusmão, of Style Spectrum, which is positioned in front of the Municipal Library, Silves (#stylespectrum_unlocked)
The Roman Bridge at Silves
wp-15749724619137292998017819429880.jpg
Silves, taken from the Roman Bridge
wp-15749717287744999984559207938021.jpg
Silves at night – castle and cathedral all lit up
wp-15749717296564467063377551588015.jpg
Deep brown, fertile land, the hostel and the village of Silves
wp-15749717295927503502730206332091.jpg
River Ebro at Silves (which flows to Portimao, the port at the mouth of the riverwestwards)
wp-15749717297903777420603839206218.jpg
The Horta Grande Hostel, Silves – highly recommended (use booking.com)

The fortress and sea views from Cabo San Vicente (end of the route) below

wp-15749729423076568498380287058881.jpg
Fortress, Cabo Sao Vicente
cat on wall cabo san vicente 2
Enjoying the view!

Tracy Burton’s blog (English)

Harri Garrod Roberts Guide (English)

More information on Silves the castle, the museum, the fanous medieval festival etc (the parts I didn’t get to see because I had an ankle injury or was there at a different time of the year).

Algarve Blog

Lagoa, Algarve

Lagoa (not to be confused with Lagos) in the west of the Algarve of Portugal. November 2019

wp-15749717290914306199458385564628.jpg
Igreja Matriz de Lagoa, Portugal with Neoclassical influences on the facade
wp-15749717292213850244867992743643.jpg
Igreja Matriz de Lagoa. Mid 16th century but affected by the 1755 earthquake (as so much of the region was) with a Baroque belltower
wp-15749717291592654163360802363383.jpg
Detail from the side of the Church of Our Lady of the Light (see above)
wp-15749717288474864882357735448966.jpg
Lagoa
wp-15749717289989014843973388694187.jpg
Convento de Sao Jose (Saint Joseph) 18th century, Lagoa

The Convento de Sao Jose (Saint Joseph) was built to shelter women and children who were looked after by an order of mendicant nuns. After the extinction of the religious orders, it was taken over by Benedictine nuns. There is more to see inside including a cloiser, but it was shut because it was a Monday. It is usually open between 9-12.30 and 1400-17.30 Tuesday to Saturday.

wp-15749717293547626356356534075505.jpg
Palacete Cor-de-Rosa (The Pink Palace). Originally the Palacio da Independencia. It has a neoclassical interior
wp-15749717292787842315130189035430.jpg
War memorial, Lagoa
wp-15749759663553897839518380409434.jpg
Lagoa boasts a radio station 
wp-15749759662905454107659195179900.jpg
Lagoa, Portugal
wp-15749759664146852316028688966691.jpg
All over this part of the Algarve you will find original artwork covering the municipal electrical boxes by ‘Bamby’ from Style Spectrum (#stylespectrum_unlocked)
wp-15749717294126389607231282080521.jpg
Town Hall, originally Ermida de Nossa Senora do Pe da Cruz (the Hermitage of our Lady of the Foot of the Cross) from 14th century dating back to a time of pilgrimage. There are only a few parts remaining from those days. It was used as a prison at another time in its history

The Lady in Red (LiR) Modern Art Gallery is in a winery (reputedly it smells of the vine) and it was also closed when I was there, but it opens 10-12 and 14-18 Tuesday to Saturday and costs 2euros entrance. According to a Trip Advisor contributor it is better than the Tallin Modern Art Gallery. Address: Rua 25 Abril 55, Edificio Adega Cooperativa do Lagoa 8400-343 opposite the bus station which has buses to and from many places you will want to visit in the area. Pay on the bus – very cheap fares.

wp-15749717289386102316852939496695.jpg

Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer, the first Count of Vidigueira. He was the first European to reach India by sea.

I recommend the Algarve Blog

Walking the Algarve Coast

From Albufeira to Portimao, November 2019

The south coast of Portugal is absolutely stunning and I highly recommend it. There are some very built up areas and busy beaches because it is so popular with tourists (especially British and German), but the sections inbetween are amazing and very unpopulated.

wp-15743533344833101741861731527422.jpg

Albufeira

I arrived in Albufeira by bus (Terminal Rodovario de Albufeira, just off Estr. de Vale de Pedras) from the airport. This was actually no mean feat, as the Rede Expressos poster information at the bus stop is erroneous. Rede Expressos is the national bus company and is usually an extremely good service (on time, efficient online booking system) which I used many other times with no trouble. I recommend that you use their website rather than written information, as it is up to date. However, do not allow your phone to translate it into English as it translates the place names which are also real words such as Sal from Alcacer do Sal meaning salt and Pias (a small town in the south east) meaning sinks! This makes it very hard for non Portuguese speakers to find where they are going.

IMG_20191021_111314

This is the correct information, as of November 2019

When I arrived, I walked into the town which took 30 minutes. The road takes you past Lidl and other stores. I went in briefly, but it was so similar to home, that I resolved to shop locally and left immediately.

Albufeira is not peaceful and quiet…
Although if you leave the main square and walk steeply unhill, there are some lovely spots

The Orange Terrace Hostel (Rue Padre semedo do Azevedo 24, 8200-167 through booking.com) provided everything I needed, including breakfast. There were some great people there and a delightful terrace! Cost 16 euros.

This is the town’s beach , Praia do Peneco (it has an elevator down to it) – a glorious stretch of sand which was not busy in November

I hung out in a little municipal park with a sort of modern pond and benches overlooking the main strand, and shopped at a little shop at the top of the hostel street for bread and other provisions – very cheap.

wp-15743408955803983590483403575883.jpg
Past the marina and another whole holiday village area on the way out

A man was jumping from an enormous height into a big net when I went past the marina – the sort of things some people do for fun.

wp-15743408955266338114989108030135.jpg
Pastel coloured accommodation
wp-15743408954548277147858116353141.jpg
Views across the Atlantic Ocean
wp-15743408953869098235292021481868.jpg
I walked some of the way the next day with this fellow from Germany

I did not follow a trail, but instead either ‘followed my nose’ or changed my google maps into the satellite setting where you can see all the tiny paths on the cliffs .

wp-1574340895314712055916446429108.jpg

rhdr
Looking down there are rocks of all shapes and sizes
wp-15743413734038191881368332984118.jpg
The colour of the landscape is orange and red
wp-15743408951653565671073885471285.jpg
One of two people on each of the smaller beaches
wp-15743408949408186619586652490206.jpg
Isn’t it beautiful!

At one point I got rather lost in a maze of villas, trying to take a short cut as it was very hot and I knew there was a beach coming up where I could take my boots off and have a swim.

wp-15743413731648231212839382569318.jpg
Coelho Beach (praia) named after the famous writer Paul Coelho. There is a film about the Camino de Santiago and him on this page

Then it poured with rained and I spent a good hour with a green tea in the restaurant. Most people seem to eat big meals at these places so they are not really suitable for a cake and a cuppa, although in this case it was after lunch and they were very friendly (as they all always were).

wp-15743408947659064656729964408892.jpg
Then the sun came out again and I enjoyed the local flowers
wp-15743408946954400697475965374363.jpg
Bougainvillea
wp-15743408946193706921222013360689.jpg
The juxtaposition of colours always gives me joy
wp-15743408944595333003271897472621.jpg
The oranges were not ready yet
wp-15743413730988194201514852195974.jpg
When it rained again towards the end of the day, I took refuge in a disused shack. I could smell the sweetest aroma (perhaps released by the wet) and then saw it was this shrub
wp-15743413730245416839622163650515.jpg
Giant cacti
wp-15743413729542009821631950509675.jpg
And pink Prickly Pears

Patroves

I stayed at the Lost and Found hostel that night (more of a motel on a busy road, but it had a pretty courtyard where I could do my morning Tai Chi, an amazing kitchen and it was scrupulously clean. There were two supermarkets nearby, with ATMs for getting money out.

wp-15743413728347124228355213312867.jpg
The Lost and Found hostel, Patroves, Portugal
wp-15743413727571942824214162361081.jpg
The courtyard of the Lost and Found hostel, Patroves (a little inland), Portugal

I used booking.com again for this. Cost: 15 euros for a bunk in a dorm of four with a spacious shower room and toilet en suite. I shared with a Spanish man of few words, and had a good chat over supper in the kitchen with another who told me about the family restaurant near Granada where he works.

wp-15743413726967745629362706380699.jpg
I ate these little fruit, feijoa from Azerbaijan, which I had bought a few days previously. They were divine
wp-15743413728998149261380019783248.jpg
A moody sky as the sun set with thunder and lightening, but no more rain

The next day I made my way through Sesmarias to Praia de Gale and thence Praia dos Salgados. There are many sections of boardwalks (like the Camino Portugal de la Costa in the north) and they often traverse through protected natural areas where there are birds (egrets, for example), plants and animals of interest.

wp-1574341372626438699591495033526.jpg
Boardwalks to stop erosion and make walking easier
wp-15743413725627792665588390251879.jpg
Water birds (coots) are protected here
wp-15743413725041658461216139684111.jpg
A flock of goats being led to pasture through the car park
wp-15743413724322590376972400870039.jpg
Towards Armacao de Pera

It is basically one beach along the length of this part of Portugal.

wp-1574341372148374577191305863433.jpg
Even the dead leaves made quite a picture against a blue sky and in contrast to the flowers and grasses
wp-15743413720634525300612439994819.jpg
Giant Aloe Vera overlooking the sea

Wide open sandy paths run amongst still-green undergrowth. Inlets and lagoons, sand banks with fishermen and high-rise, white-washed apartments in the distance: Armacao de Pera, where there is a fortress, and knowledgeable staff at the tourist information. Here I stopped to buy a pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) for my elevenses.

wp-15743413723692441963924618708682.jpg

wp-15743413722942159608561761943708.jpg

wp-15743413722203287847548940196800.jpg
More beautiful coves as I walked on

My way wound through spiky bushes and always the sea was on my left. Brown and cream butterflies were warming their wings on hot stones which had been whitened by the sun; parched roots; yellow/green, soft pine needles; and palm trees in the rich man’s garden (Carvalho, the footballer, has a property above a beach named after him) where swans swam and lemons hung on branches of shiny leaves.

wp-15743523833473897122213244449624.jpg
The aptly named Praia das Escaleiras (beach of the steps)

There are high class resorts with grounds kept fresh from constant watering, and just the most spectacular beaches.

wp-15743533351403839415165554542737.jpg
Here I found a Coqulle Saint Jaques shell, symbol of the Camino

I took a wrong turn and went down. This meant that, of course, I therefore had to go back up – about 150 steps, which was hard work with the rucksack in the sun.

wp-15743533350888036659472851252017.jpg
Ermida de Nossa Senora da Rocha, (Our Lady of the Rock), Porches, Portugal
wp-1574353335024621709971084406258.jpg
Porch of the Ermida (hermitage) de Nossa Senora da Rocha, (Our Lady of the Rock), Porches, Portugal

Here I waited for a bus to take me to my lodgings as it had taken me longer than expected and I was reliably informed (by the surfing dude in the wooden cabin on the beach) that I would not make it by dark. He was right.

wp-15743533349624340997902383992485.jpg
Typical, open countryside of this part of Portugal, November 2019

I sat by the wayside waiting for the local bus which a woman tending a clothes stall had pointed me towards. This took me to perhaps the most disappointing hostel of my whole trip. It promised a garden, but it was separated into various areas which all seemd private or had a vehicle of one sort or another in them. The kitchen and dorm was open-plan. The hospitalero was not around once I had booked in, and there was one other person who seemed to be a long-term lodger, a chef in a local cafe. It being cold at night at this time of year even in the Algarve, I prepared my tea on a temporary stove in the one mug that I could find, and huddled until the morning.

Carvoieiro

wp-15743533348845598964047386695122.jpg
Otherwise known as Hostel Carvoeiro. The owner very kindly gave me a lift into the village in the morning, but I would not recommend it

Once again I had been staying a little way inland and so had a short walk to the start of the Caminho das Promontorios (Trail of the Headlands). The route was harder to find and I lost my way several times, once bringing me to tears of frustration as I wandered around in circles. In the end I simply waited until someone else came along – a kind man who continued to look back to check that I was still following for the quite a long way. It was really lovely scenery and there were lots of hikers going one way without rucksacks and getting a taxi back.

wp-15743533347623609268157963912169.jpg
Carvoeiro beach. The small boats were leaving early to pick up tourists and take them to the famous, nearby Carvoeiro caves
wp-15743533347022136729707033608711.jpg
Leaving Carvoeiro

wp-15743533346318889253866756964297.jpg

wp-15743533342866283179022583443685.jpg
The striations of the fabulous rocks
wp-15743533342081268848716600968422.jpg
Dusty paths lead to secluded beaches
wp-15743533341298203658459001876287.jpg
Gluttering water and winter trees
wp-157435333398942253200826221156.jpg
Rei das Praias where I lay out my swimming costume and towel to dry

I phoned up that night when I realised that I had not remembered to gather together my things. I asked if anyone lived in Portimao and I was lucky. A few calls and days later, I arranged to meet someone and eventually I got the costume back (never the towel – the travel one which D had kindly bought for me from Germany. I managed without a towel for the remainder of my trip (three and a half weeks). I am very grateful indeed for their kindness.

wp-15743533339245274707317882510453.jpg
Aquamarine seas and the Farol (lighthouse) da Ponta de Altar on the next headland. The rocks out at sea are important breeding sites for egrets

Link to the Lighthouses of Southern Portugal page.

wp-15743533338482743736698423049696.jpg
There are huge holes in the limestone cliffs around here.
A fossil of a camino shell. I saw many similar ones along this coast
wp-15743533340684893600996228532962.jpg
17th century Torre da Lapa, Ferragudo

Smoke (by day) and fire (at night) signals were set by sentries to warn the populace.

From the Farol da Ponta do Altar (lighthouse) I made my way around the promontory towards Portimao and there was still a long way to go, so I took a water taxi, waiting on the beach with a cool and most welcome drink.

wp-15743533337792769705185428094986.jpg
Praia da Angrinha. Looking across to Portimao – another place that is extremely built-up and busy
wp-157435333364864207497071511178.jpg
Popular Portuguese beer cup (I had mineral water!)
wp-15743533337158302434611054509906.jpg
Castelo de Sao Joao do Arade

Portimao

When I read the small print for the Plaza Real by Atlantichotels which I had booked (again through booking.com), it said I had to leave a deposit of 200 euros which I have never had to do before. Despite my best efforts to contact both booking and the hotel, I could not get it waived and was rather nervous in the run up. However I needn’t have worried. The kind receptionist explained that they do not take it off your card or need cash, just take details in case you make a mess in the room. It was a bit like hiring a car without paying for third party insurance – slightly nerve-wracking, but then again, I wasn’t planing to have a party.

It cost 24.67 euros and I had a whole apartment to myself, that was 4 rooms! (There was also the use of a pool, but I arrived too late to use it and it was in shadow and therefore cold). The supermarket was a good walk away (back towards the city, although the were two smaller ones nearby).

The marina at Portimao, Portugal
From the canon in Portimao looking back towards the lighthouse I had walked past earlier that day
Bridge over the River Arade, Portimao
Moorish influenced architecture meets modern designs

My Feathered Friends

Today was all about the birds. 13th November 2019. And it prompted me to look through some of my other recent, avian memories of Portugal as I speed into Spain.

You can’t really see them, but this gorgeous tree in Vila Nova de Milfontes was home to hundreds

I was up on the roof today in Vila Nova de Milfontes (western Portugal) at 5.30am (that’s my favourite place to go on waking, wherever I am, if possible) doing my tai chi and yoga and standing around like a tree, as you do, when a wee gaggle of sparrows joined me. Lightly they hopped, pecking with their tiny pointed beaks between the ground mosaic for tid bits.

Clear signs of webbed beachcombers

I sat down to meditate and a ringed dove came a-paddling. She dipped her head every now and then to drink from the previous night’s rainwater. Pale grey with a black choker, she was tinged with pink and very pretty. I didn’t spoil the time by reaching for the camera – just enjoyed it.

Today I listened to the dawn chorus drowning out the school kids. A week earlier it was the starlings who entertained me outside the hostel window, while I watched four, then six, then eight egrets foraging in a faraway field.

egret
An egret photographed from a distance 

While I waited for the second bus later in Lisbon, I visited the Zoological Gardens (a stone’s throw from the Seite Rios bus and train station. The entrance is guarded by these pair of handsome eagles.

Stone eagles guarding the front gates of the Zoological Gardens in Lisbon, Portugal

Sitting across the water from me, my green tea and pastel de nata was a heron, just like he was the first time I visited two months ago. Like a humfy old man in a great coat, he stood patiently.

Heron, Zoological Gardens in Lisbon, Portugal

Lodging my rucksack in the cafe-staff locker room, I took a walk under now Autumn trees and moving cages with happy boys in them, waving, to the seagull side of the lake. She too was bathing intermittently.

Overhead viewing cages which you could ride in and see the Zoological Gardens from above
Although not in this photo!

And then I heard this whistling! It was so loud and repetitive that I thought for a moment it was a machine or recording, but after some investigation I found the parrots.

I watched and listened for ages: some were completely scarlet right up under the roof and they skweeked; smaller green, yellow and pink ones squwarked while crowding next to each other on a branch, one helping himself to the green leaves hanging out of his brother’s beak (no hard feelings!); some cuddled up close and preened each other; while a fourth species were tilting their heads and whistling like there was no tomorrow.

And then this beauty came to eyeball me.

I had been interested in her talons before (four per claw) which were large, but able to delicately hold the thinnest of twigs (the thickness of a blade of grass) while she bit off sections one at a time with her hooked beak and crunched it.

Now here she was using both feet and mouth to manœuvre into place and cling to the fence not more that 6 inches in front of me, so that these photos are real size. Positioning herself so that her eye was in a gap, she silently observed me.

I was being shown her belly, the soft, downy grey with spectacular tail feathers underneath. While her sisters hooted over the other side, she kept me in her sights, but didn’t talk back.

A pair of mallards, Zoological Gardens, Lisbon
Free range ducks, Almograve

These ducks were white balls, sound asleep until a rowdy truck disturbed one.

A deserted beach, just me and a pair of waders
Information board along the Rota Vicentina, western Portugal

I was mesmerised by a falcon amidst a flock of much smaller birds in Carrapateira. They seemed to be surrounding and then flying straight at him. Occasionally, he separated and made dive bombs, but minutes later he was caught up with the swarm again. Were they trying to warn him off?

Silves storks

Storks can be found all over the Algarve, particularly the Silves area where I had a perfect view of them gathering in the early mornings down by the river.

Stork, Silves

They perch on their massive nests which are balanced on top of poles, turrets and church spires.

Feathered fact: “White Storks are faithful to both their partner and nesting place each year and the building of the nest is carried out by the male and female together”
From Algarveblog

Unusual ocean setting for a stork

However, I was astonished to see one so close to the sea at Cabo Sardao.

Storks on Japanese ceramic, Tanzan Kotoge, 2015, Museo de Zaragoza
The motorway insersection I crossed from Seite Rios to the Zoological Gardens, Lisbon

My final memory is of swimming in a swirling sea, rocks all around me, when an oyster catcher plopped in just a little way away. I think I must be getting stiller for these birds don’t seem to be frightened and come surprisingly close. It’s a joy.

This was the setting but I didn’t have my camera in there for obvious reasons, so you’ll just have to believe me!