Saturday, February 23, 2019

The last (Portugal) Post

Since I have actually been alive and busy since we went to Portugal, I realise I should get on to blogging about my current doings rather than wallowing in one week in January. So this is definitely my last post about Portugal, but it's visually a feast.

We spent most of our time to the east of Faro and Olhao and loved our visits to Vila Real, Ayamonte and Tavira (which I haven't yet mentioned...oh dear). Olhao stole our hearts and I've no doubt we'll be back there next winter as it seems an ideal place to find some warmth and sunshine. Anyway, I digress. Two days before we left, we took the train to Lagos in the west, mainly because I wanted to see the amazing rock formations at the coast there. The journey took more than two hours to cover the 100-odd kilometres from Olhao, but it was worth it.

I was afraid Lagos would be horribly touristy, but it wasn't at all. It's a charming town with some very steep hills, narrow streets and typically Portuguese architecture. It definitely owes its living to tourism, I admit, but not in a tasteless way. I found it friendly, attractive and quite appealing.

View from the upper town over the harbour

In the heart of the tourist centre
As we walked through the main street in Lagos, we noticed the tourist shops and the cafés with English boards, but it was very pleasant, and we were greatly entertained by a sixty-plus Englishman busking on the street doing a sterling job with well-known folk songs by the likes of Johnny Cash.

Cafés and restaurants abound on this hilly street

Boats always draw us

We had lunch at one of the more outlying cafés, which was served by some very friendly local ladies, and then we walked towards the end of the harbour where we found what I was looking for. The headland to the west of Lagos harbour is the most amazing lace-work of stratified and eroded rock that result in some stunning formations. I realise we only saw a fraction of them and had we taken a boat tour, we'd have seen much more, but for us, this was enough. I shall let the photos speak for themselves.

I think it is all amazing and very beautiful, but it's also quite dangerous as the rocks crumble easily and are prone to falls. We trod through the holes that enabled us to go from beach to beach very carefully.

Here's an aerial photo I pinched from Google just to give you an idea of the headland. It's astonishing.

After crawling from one section to the next, and gazing at them in complete awe, we made our way back through the upper town before descending to the station to make the homeward trip back to Olhao. We'd only spent a couple of hours in Lagos and by the time we got back we'd spent a total of five hours on the train, but we wouldn't have missed it for anything. 

And now back to normal life again... have a good weekend allemaal!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

I spy with my little eye things beginning with S (in Portugal)

It's hard to believe it's a month since we were in Portugal and I'm still processing everything we saw there. 

Three special things that really grabbed me and keep coming back to me were the storks, the salt pans, and the traditional Portuguese side streets. Okay, so they aren't unique to Portugal. Lots of places have storks and the Carmargue in France is also known for its salt pans (and maybe storks as well). Many more have fascinating back and side streets, but for me they were special here in the Algarve: nothing to do with tourists, totally natural and with a sense that these are essential to Portuguese life.

Take the storks here, for instance. I love the way they utilise all the high spaces to build their multi-storey nests, which can also be home to other birds and small critters. I watched them with fascination, awe and amazement as they circled the high buildings looking for the best spots or finding older nests that could be recyled...the stork version of being environmentally friendly. They are part of life in the Algarve and as such, they are as inherent to the atmosphere and colour of the region as the buildings and the people.

And then there are the salt pans. The Algarve, like the Carmargue in France, produces sea salt in the most natural way possible. Huge pans are flooded at regular intervals during the warmer seasons and allowed to evaporate to the point where the salt is harvested. It is quite a long process, but I was intrigued to see these pans as they lay waiting, ready for the operational activities of the hot months. It seems a marvellously traditional method and a special feature of these coastal marsh and lagoon lands. I'm so glad they still maintain the custom of producing their salt in this time-honoured way.

And then finally, there were the side streets with their colourful tiled houses and their rooftop terraces. I loved seeing this little dog peering over the roof and the wonderfully random tiling that you can see everywhere if you duck down a back street in Olhao. It's intimate, it's charming and we wandered around for hours taking it all in and enjoying the friendly greetings of the people who lived in these neighbourhoods. These are folk who've probably lived there since childhood and the streets are as much a part of their homes as their rooftops. We saw old ladies sweeping the paving in front of their houses, old men sitting outside their doors and children skipping through the alleyways. Lovely!

And then to come across the train track, in the middle of nowhere, but on the edge of a quiet neighbourhood. It's still the line that runs all along the coast.

Now I've had a chance to absorb it all, I know I'll want to go back. For longer next time. The eastern Algarve is not 'wow' kind of country; it's a 'yes, I like this; in fact, I love it' kind of place. Gentle, charming, scruffy, warm and friendly, but also calm, open and untamed.

Next week, I'll post my photos of Lagos and its amazing rock formations...really wow stuff, but for now, I hope you enjoy these more serene scenes.

Have a good weekend allemaal.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

A short delay

How does life get in the way of blogging? Discuss...

Well, there’s not much to discuss really except that this is a busy time of year when everyone wants a piece of me. Admin is my biggest nightmare. The taxman’s axe threatens and I was up until 2a.m. compiling my defence which had to be delivered to the lawyers accountants today...okay, it’s just my paperwork for the year, but needs must, or I shall find the results more than taxing...sorry. It’s also a time when lots of other people come knocking at my virtual door for renewals, repairals and, scrub that last one. I seem to be in morbid mode this morning.

Anyway, suffice to say I’ve been a tad occupied but normal service will be resumed very shortly.

On a final note, I do wonder why it is that every time I go to Amsterdam, it’s colder, wetter and generally lousier than it is anywhere else in the country. Monday was a case in point...maybe it’s the price they pay for being more of everything else, e.g. prettier, livelier, hipper etc. Perhaps we should discuss that instead!

Have a good week, allemaal. I’ll be back with a bang and some more pics soon.