Three things I love about Porto

Porto, seen from the water

Porto, seen from the water

A great sight, whichever way you look!

A great sight, whichever way you look!

Challenged recently to come up with three things I love about my favourite city, I barely hesitated before my thoughts turned to Porto, in Northern Portugal.

Accor Hotels are inviting bloggers to create a post (or a video) illustrating their three favourite things about any city they love.  In return, you can win a three-night stay for two, in London, Paris or Amsterdam.  Something nice to look forward to at this dreary time of year?  But you’d better get your skates on- last date for entries is Monday, 26th January at 12.01pm.  Sorry I couldn’t give you more notice.

The quayside at Peso da Regua

The quayside at Peso da Regua

So, why Porto, you might be asking yourself.  If you were around when I came back from my trip two years ago, you might remember that I was totally besotted.

1.  The city lies at the mouth of the River Douro.  Step into a boat (or catch a train if you’re a landlubber) and you have before you one of the most beguiling landscapes you could ever imagine.  As you depart the city, the hills ripple away on either shore, swathed in vines that change hue with the seasons.  Utterly tranquil, yet with the frisson of a huge lock or two to navigate, and ruggedly wild beauty as you penetrate further along the river.

2.  Porto has a beach!  Crucial for someone who could never envisage life away from the sea. Nothing could be more delightful than hopping on the tram and rattling out to Foz do Douro.  Or perhaps you would stroll it, but save some energy for when you get there.  There’s a long promenade after the last tram stop.  An old fort sits on the headland and there’s Seaworld if you prefer your fishes in a tank.  Bars and restaurants abound for a lazy toasted end to the day.

A restaurant with a view, at Foz do Douro

A restaurant with a view, at Foz do Douro

3.  It’s all in the name!  The home of port wine, there is no better setting for sampling a glass or two.  Three if you’re going to try Ruby, Tawny and White port.  No need to rush it!  There are numerous wine lodges, beside the river or up on the hill with magnificent views, if you can handle the climb.  You will amble home with a smile on your face. That’s for sure!

Barcos rabelas at ease in their moorings

Barcos rabelas at ease in their moorings

If you’d like to spend a little more time in Porto with me, try Simply beautiful blue and white.  It’s a feast of azulejos! But then you should decide which is your favourite city, and visit A tale of three cities for details of how to enter the competition.

Tavira House Hotel

The lounge with its extraordinary ceiling

The ballroom, with its extraordinary ceiling

Having a home in Tavira, in the Eastern Algarve, I don’t normally devote space to local hotel reviews.  But there’s always an exception, isn’t there, and this is it.

I was leafing through the East Algarve Magazine when an article on Tavira House Hotel caught my eye.  I didn’t recollect seeing it and no address was supplied, but it was stated to be within the old castle walls of the town.  It looked very beautiful and my curiosity was piqued.  A stroll through Tavira is never a hardship, especially one with a purpose, and the hotel wasn’t too very difficult to find.

The front door was closed and I stood gazing up at the balcony, trying to get some impression of the inside.  Rather taking me by surprise, a young man appeared at the window.  “Would you like to come up?” he enquired.  I couldn’t have been more delighted!

The reality was beautiful

The reality was beautiful

And the gilded swans, a complete masterpiece

And the gilded swans, a complete masterpiece

Casa Alice, as the house was originally called, was built in 1860 for a high-ranking Portuguese army officer.  It was a maze of corridors and false walls, allegedly for hiding his many mistresses. When it was purchased by the present owner it had been uninhabited for 20 years and was in a poor state of repair.  By 2006 permission had been obtained to renovate this listed and protected building.  The work, over 8 years, was laborious but the finished result is a triumph.

Nuno Reis, the young hotel manager, was extremely pleasant and happy for me to look around and take photos.  The only exception was the bedrooms, because the hotel was fully occupied, but an offer was extended for me to come and view one the following week.  The Mediterranean Diet Fair was in full swing in the town, and the 9 bedrooms were all needed.

The folk troupe, in 'full swing'

The folk troupe, in ‘full swing’!

Being fully engaged in the fair, I never managed a return, but the website gives a very good impression of the bedrooms, and I’m sure they’ll be of a standard with the rest of this immaculate building.  They are named for flowers that grow locally and range from a small double, accented in gold, the Mimosa, to the Geranium suite at the top of the house.  Beamed ceilings and a view over the rooftops of Tavira makes the latter rather special.

Spend a little time on the website.  It will tell you about the preservation of the Algarvian arched walls and the painstaking reconstruction of the unique ballroom ceiling.  In the ‘Explore Tavira’ section, there’s also a link to an engaging Daily Telegraph article about the town.  You don’t just have to take my word for it- it’s a beautiful place!  And I would be more than happy to stay at Tavira House Hotel.

Thursday could be special

I love this tranquil time of day

An evening’s reflection

I love a bit of drama, and I rather think Paula does too, so I thought I’d post a couple of night time/evening shots from my recent Algarve visit. Every day is special in its own way, isn’t it?

Can you feel the warmth?

Can you feel the warmth?

Almost gone

Of the setting sun

Capturing those last rays of light

Gently captured in the windows

I love the patterns on the wall

Or the patterns on the wall

And the boats, stranded on the shore

While the boats lie stranded on the river bed

I hope your Thursday is special too.  You have the power to make it so.  Paula thinks every Thursday’s Special.  Visit her to see why.


Six word Saturday


I’m back, but where to start?

Maybe with where I've just been?

Maybe with where I’ve just been?

You recognise it, of course!

You recognise it, of course!

And a bridge you must have seen before

With a bridge you must have seen before

And its companion, the Military Bridge

And its companion, the Military Bridge

Now sporting a love lock or two

Now sporting a love lock or two

So pretty at sunset!

So pretty at sunset!

With a caipirinha, maybe?

With a caipirinha, maybe?

In the Praca da Republica

In the Praca da Republica

Or a meal at my favourite restaurant, 'A Taska'

Or a meal at my favourite restaurant, ‘A Taska’

Some fine entertainment in the square

Some fine entertainment in the square

And a whirlwind of folk dance!

And a whirlwind of folk dance!

Followed by a stroll home in the moonlight

Followed by a stroll home in the moonlight

And that’s just a beginning!  I hope you will excuse me but I have so much catching up to do this weekend, along with my normal chores.  I should just about be ready for our Monday walk.

Have a happy weekend, won’t you?  I’ll be round as soon as possible.  Meantime, are you playing Six word Saturday?  Visit Cate at Show My Face to see how it’s done.


Jo’s Monday walk : Fortaleza de Sagres

The Wind Compass in Sagres fort

The Wind Compass, inside the fort at Sagres

When we started our epic journey, I had the west coast of the Algarve firmly in mind.  Known for its cooling breezes on warmer days and its wild stretches of Atlantic facing beach, I planned a visit to the Costa Vicentina.  Unfortunately, by the time we had completed last Monday’s walk at the Barragem de Bravura and our sojourn at Figueira beach, it was already mid afternoon.

The uppermost thing in our minds was a drink.  Water, wine, orange juice- almost anything would have done by this stage!  So, what did I end up with?  A tin of Sagres, the locally brewed beer.  I am not, by nature, a beer or lager drinker, but the popping of the can was bliss to my ears. Parking the car on the clifftop at Sagres, we almost ran downhill to the nearest kiosk.  Michael selected his favourite, Fanta orange, and sat, staring vacantly at yet another beach.

The town beach at Sagres, with the Fortaleza in the distance

Mareta, the town beach at Sagres, with the Fortaleza in the distance

I had planned to call at Sagres on my way back from the Costa Vicentina.  The last time I had been, it was a chilly, overcast day, early in the year.  Not today!

The town has an interesting history and is closely linked to Henry the Navigator, who set up a nautical school locally.  He helped to finance the Portuguese voyages of discovery, and by the time of his death, in 1460, landings had already been made at Sierra Leone in Africa.  An amazing achievement for the tiny caravels!  The Sagres link above takes you to Wikipedia, for some details.

Having got a second wind, it was time to stroll through the town and along the Rua de Fortaleza, the approach to the mighty fortress.  Of course, Michael wanted to know why we couldn’t just have parked in the enormous parking bays beside the fort.  Where’s the drama in that?

The Rose Compass

The Rose Compass, or sundial

Inside the simple church

Inside the simple church

The purpose of the Rose Compass is a little uncertain.  It may well have been a navigational aid, or just a sundial.  The setting is undeniably powerful.  Soaring cliffs drop away on either side of you, as you gaze out at the open sea.

Work on the huge battlements is ongoing, and not entirely sympathetic, but I found myself moved my the place.  A path leads out around the headland, with majestic views.

The shoreline crumbles beneath you

The shoreline crumbles beneath you

The canon still poised, ready!

With canon still poised, ready!

In the far distance, Cabo S. Vicente lighthouse- the most westerly spot in Europe

Far distant Cabo S. Vicente lighthouse- the most westerly spot in Europe

The beacon, closer to hand

The beacon, closer to hand

Yellow polka dots strewn among the plummy aliums

Yellow polka dots mingle with the plumy aliums

The view back to Mareta, and beyond

The view back to Mareta beach

The feet were tiring as we headed back through the hefty tunnel entrance.  Tiny Praca da Republica, the main square, has a choice of restaurants with outdoor tables.  ‘A Cabana’ suited us nicely.  I imagined it would be a lively spot on an evening but it was time for the drive home.  It had been quite a day! walking logo

Even as I was taking this walk, I just knew it had to be one of my Jo’s Monday walks.  What I could never have imagined is what took place last week.  On Sunday, 30th June, I received a walk from Christine at Dadirridreaming, back in Australia after a wonderful European holiday.  She and Stuart had taken the walk up Glastonbury Tor one rainy day on their visit to England.   We joked about the weather!

In this virtual world of ours, it’s easy to miss comments sometimes.  Christine’s last comment to me, on 1st July, I didn’t spot.  She was advising me that I should link my walking logo to my Jo’s Monday walk page, as she had done.  I have, Christine.  I have!  How very typical of this dearly loved woman, and I’m in tears again as I share this with you.


It’s hard to follow that, isn’t it?  But when you have some time, please return here and share the walks of my other contributors last week.  There are some very fine ones.

Drake takes us to beautiful Berchtesgarten  :


It was wonderful to have been joined this week by Laura.  And only 3 weeks after back surgery, that’s impressive!  : http://telltaletherapy.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/walkabout-1-st-margarets-to-rye-house-circular/

Jude took me down Memory Lane with a glorious evening stroll around Derwentwater  : http://smallbluegreenwords.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/a-lakeside-evening-stroll/

You will certainly not have ‘the blues’ when you see Elisa’s post!  It made my heart skip  : http://elisaruland.com/2014/06/29/hiking-shorts-the-pacific-blues/

A friend you may not know, Kat, has introduced me to beauty and thrills in Corsica.  It’s one not to miss  : http://www.thecorsicablog.co.uk/2012/09/hiking-la-restonica/

And last, but never least, Yvette has gone on a Summer break, but not without leaving me a great post : http://priorhouse.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/walking-in-rva-street-portraits-3/

It’s been an emotional week, hasn’t it?  I’m off out walking very soon but will catch up with you all this evening.  Have a good week my friends.

Figueira beach

Figuera beach

Figueira beach

I’m back in the business of lifting spirits this morning.  My own as well as yours, I hope.  It’s what Christine would have wanted, isn’t it?  She loved beaches, too.

Do you remember that I took a walk at Barragem de Bravura, forgetting to take water with me? Stupid, I know!  Back in the car, the plan was to head for the village of Figueira, just 15 minutes away.  The attraction was a short walk to an unfamiliar beach.  I can never resist checking out a ‘new’ one.

The village was very small.  Not wanting to walk too far, when my husband spotted the ‘praia’ sign he turned into the narrow lane that led to the beach.  I couldn’t fault the logic.  If only there might be the tiniest of beach bars!  But I had that sinking feeling as we left the car, far from the village, to follow a winding trail.

Will there be a beach bar? I don't think so!

Will there be a beach bar? I don’t think so!

But there were some interesting looking ruins up on the top

But there were some interesting looking ruins up on the top

And some beautiful rock formations

And some beautiful rock formations

And a man fishing from the rocks

And a man, fishing from the rocks

And water, everywhere!

And water, everywhere!

But you know very well that there wasn’t a beach bar, don’t you?  It just wasn’t that kind of beach. It was undeniably beautiful though, and I had remembered towels!  Michael slumped down against the rocks and closed his eyes.  Are you feeling sorry for him, yet?

I raced off to paddle.  Blissful, cool water between my toes!

I had all those interesting rock formations to explore

Then I explored all those interesting rock formations

Sculpted by the sea

Sculpted by the sea

And dramatic in their beauty

And dramatic in their beauty

Looking back across the beach

Looking back across the beach

And up at the cliffs

And up at the cliffs

This is my kind of beach!

This is definitely my kind of beach!

Yes, I did eventually run out of steam, and slump down beside Michael.  But not for too long.  The need for water was becoming more urgent.  Reluctantly we turned our back on the beach.

You’ll be happy to know that at our next stop, we did find liquid refreshment.  But that’s a story for next Monday’s walk.

It’s July 4th and American Independence Day today, so some of you might be going to the beach. Have a great time, won’t you, but please don’t forget the water!


Jo’s Monday walk : Barragem de Bravura

The colour of the water delighted me

The colour of this water delights me

Over the weeks I’ve shown you quite a few different aspects of the Algarve.  Today we’re going to what the ‘Rough Guide’, my travel bible, describes as ‘the most picturesque’ of the Algarve’s many reservoirs.  I could find no reason to disagree.

Situated north of Lagos, at the western end of the Algarve, we drove first to the village of Odiaxere and followed signs from there.  It is also signed from Bensafrim on N120.  Unspoilt countryside rolls away beautifully to either side.

I wasn't sure if this meant  we were welcome, or not!

I wasn’t sure if this meant we were welcome, or not!

This sign confused me rather, and I worried for a moment about overt commercialism, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  The restaurant appeared closed and I don’t think we passed more than 4 people on the entire walk.  The car park lay just beyond this point, and from there a pebbly path wound down to the dam.

The dam keeper's cottage?  In a lovely situation

Past what I presumed was the dam keeper’s cottage, in a lovely situation

And there was the dam!

And there was the dam

Crossing over the dam leads to a rough track around the edge of the reservoir.  It wriggles prettily in and out of coves, disappearing into the distance.  An invitation to follow.

Looking back at the dam

Looking back at the dam

And out across the lake

And out across the lake

The eucalyptus forming a screen

The eucalyptus forms a screen

And that alluring water beckons

And that alluring water beckons!

And wispy leaves invite

While wispy leaves disguise

The wider vista beyond

The wider vista beyond

Now is probably a good time to mention that at the outset I had no idea of the length of this walk. I expected to find an information board or two along the trail, as is customary, but none materialised on the stretch I walked.

You might have realised by now that I’m not always a practical, sensible creature.  While full of good intent, I had omitted to bring bottled water with me on this warm Summer’s day.  (In my defence, I did have a map and a guide book!)  There was nowhere around at which a purchase could be made.  Looking across the lake I could see from the many inlets that walking right around it was not going to be an option.  So it was a case of walking to a point at which I could bare to turn back, and then retracing my steps.

This was no hardship, as the views in either direction were lovely.  The additional good news was that I couldn’t possibly get lost.

The path continued to meander

The path continued to meander

Guarded over by the eucalyptus

Guarded over by the eucalyptus

Hiding amongst the tree roots were delicate flowers

Hiding amongst the tree roots were delicate flowers

And Mr. Frog!

Mr. Frog!

These were quite common, too

And little ‘lemon drops’, grabbing the shade

At one point we came upon a couple with a picnic.  Now, wouldn’t that have been a sensible idea? You would certainly have needed insect repellent though.

Still the water was exquisitely turquoise

Still, the water was exquisitely turquoise

Winding back around the lake

Winding around the lake

And back to our beginnings

And back to our beginnings

On my return to the UK I tried unsuccessfully to find a website with a few more details about the trail around the reservoir.  The nearest I came was a German walking site which suggested that a full circuit would take between 7 and 8 hours!  This was not recommended because at some point the trail leaves the water’s edge and crosses higher ground, without benefit of any shade.

My cycling friends would probably be quite happy to make a full circuit.  For the less energetic of us, I would suggest that it would be a grand spot to take a book and just listen to the birds.  And picnic too, of course.

For me the walk was part of a three way adventure.  I’ll tell you more about that next time.

walking logo

Now it’s time to share last week’s walks.  I have created a Jo’s Monday walks page, which I hope will answer any queries.  Click on the logo if you need help, or come and meet my lovely friends.

Drake is quick off the mark!  He was first again last week, with beautiful Strasbourg  :


Some wonderful surprises occurred!  Colline joined me, all the way from Toronto, with an expedition to Chinatown  :


And Sylvia brought the Indian Ocean right to my doorstep  :


Remember Amy’s wonderful ‘hacienda’ in Spain?  I bet you’d like to see more!  :


I was a little scared about the ghosts till I read Sue’s post.  Then, I was gobsmacked!  What a stunner!  Take me to Banff, please  :


Please do join me if you can.  I love a bit of company when I’m walking.

More Algarve windows

The sight of Barril beach bar always lifts my spirits

The sight of Barril beach bar always lifts my spirits

It’s often the midpoint of one of my walks, or a place to linger when it’s too warm on the beach. Come, stroll with me around a few more Algarve windows.  Just click on a photo and off we go.

I know this isn't purely a windows shot but I love the atmsphere

And as the light fades, the windows sparkle!

Thank you for indulging me again.  There’s nothing I like better than a stroll in my Algarve streets.  I know that Dawn’s windows will be completely different, and it’s time to take a look.


Jo’s Monday walk : “Mind that hole!”

Isn't this a view worth falling down a hole for?

Isn’t this a view worth falling down a hole for?

Well, don’t worry!  I’ve already done the falling, and you really won’t need to.  The view above is at Cacela Velha, the midway point in a beautiful walk.  Let’s proceed with caution, shall we?

It was a little cloudy and cool when we set off

It was a little cloudy and cool when we set off

Good walking weather!  We started from behind the broad beach at Manta Rota, in the Eastern Algarve, and picked our way through the madly flowering sea broom.  We were heading west, towards Cacela Velha, with plenty of distractions along the way.

Like the sandbars out in the bay

Like the sandbars, out in the bay

Like the flowering cacti- almost as plentiful as the broom!

And flowering cacti, thriving in the sandy soil

There was a bit of a scramble at one rather steep point, but the men in the group shepherded us through, and then it was easy going again.

In an open stretch we came upon a well

In an open stretch, we came upon a well

Well rusted in close up, but still with water in the bottom

Well-rusted in close up, but still with water in the bottom

The clouds were beginning to break up as we skirted the stream

The clouds were beginning to break up as we skirted the stream

At this point, we trod quite carefully.  Sandy, the walk leader, emphasized we should keep clear of the slippery rim.  Normally the stream was forded by stepping stones, but they seem to have disappeared.  It wasn’t particularly tricky, so long as you kept your eye on the path.

In any case, the village of Cacela Velha lay just ahead of us, and a coffee stop was planned.  I make no secret of the fact that this is one of my favourite Algarve places, and that neither time nor man has been able to spoil it.

Though the addition of certain art pieces is questionable

Though the addition of certain art pieces could be questioned?

You might recognise that lamp in the corner of the shot.  There are several about the village, and one made a very discreet appearance in my Lingering look at Algarve windows last week.

The view really doesn't need any enhancement, does it?

The view really doesn’t need any enhancement, does it?

Is it any wonder I like to linger here?

Is it any wonder I like to linger here?

Is it any wonder I like to linger?

And linger some more!

The church was busy with a funeral so we kept a respectful distance

The church was busy with a funeral, so we kept a respectful distance

At this point it had become quite hot, and it was wonderful to be going down the steps to walk further along the beach, in the direction of the next small village, Fabrica.   Not so charming as Cacela Velha, but you probably wouldn’t mind owning the large property erected by a builder, right on the shoreline.

The oleander are lovely this year

The oleander are lovely this year!

And the columbine are doing battle with the cacti

And the columbine are doing battle with the cacti.  Losing, I think!

There are a LOT of steps, but down is ok!

There are a LOT of steps, but down is ok!

And then you're on an unremarkable bit of beach

And then you’re on an unremarkable bit of beach

With a couple of dilapidated shacks

With a dilapidated but very picturesque shack

That's Fabrica up ahead

Up ahead lies Fabrica (and most of our walkers)

And everywhere, the boats bob!

Everywhere, boats bob in the water

Have I lulled you into a false sense of security yet?  It’s so peaceful, isn’t it?  Time to head for home.

There is only one road out of Fabrica, so we turned inland and followed it, back towards Cacela Velha.  As walkers do, we were chatting away, discovering fascinating facts about the surrounds, and about each other.  We pass a couple of horses and a donkey in a field, and turn back down to the coast.  Crossing over the bridge, we are back on our original trail.

It looks innocent enough, doesn't it?

It looks innocent enough, doesn’t it?

See that lip of soil, at the forefront of the photo?  Suddenly my feet shot off the edge and I was plummeting down, towards the stream!  Fortunately, one of the men had the presence of mind to grab for me, and then I was dangling by a hand.  As my feet scrambled for non-existent footing, another of the men grabbed my other arm and I was hauled unceremoniously out.  Bruised, shaken, and the cream shorts a bit the worse for wear!

I can’t even remember whether I took that photo before or after my fall!  It doesn’t really show the wicked little curve that I missed while I was busy talking.  My husband was far ahead but said that when he heard the shout go up, he knew immediately who’d fallen! I was very lucky because I would certainly have broken something if they hadn’t halted my fall.    As it was, I escaped with a wrenched shoulder and a few cuts and bruises.

Drama over, we continued around the bay

Drama over, we continued around the bay

The skies the clearest of blues, with just a few wispy clouds

The sky the clearest of blues, with just a few wispy clouds

I have to admit, I was happy to arrive at the restaurant, on the edge of Manta Rota, where we gathered afterwards.  I needed a steadying drink!  In the shade of the vines, with good food and company, I was able to laugh about the entertainment I had provided.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s walk.  The surroundings are lovely, aren’t they?  Both Manta Rota and Cacela Velha are signed off the E125, the Algarve’s coastal road.

I have acquired a faithful little band of walkers, and I am extremely grateful for their company. Each Monday I share the walks posted in the previous week.  Please join me and my friends if you would like to.  Let’s go visiting, shall we?

This week, Drake shares a little more of his delightful birthplace, the island of Samso, Denmark :


And you should see the lush gardens Amy found in Ronda! :


Speaking of gardens, are there any more beautiful than these in Cornwall?  Thank you, Jude! :


It was a late night for Sherri, but she still managed to take me to Barrington Court! :


Come to think of it, Yvette likes to be out in the dark  :


Have a great walking week, everybody, but do be careful, won’t you?

I just realised, this is my 400th post.  No wonder I’m feeling tired!


A lingering look at Algarve windows

Can you see the lamp reflected in the top left?

Can you see the lamp reflected in the top left?

It’s a while since I found time for a windows post, but I did find some rather nice ones in the Algarve recently.  The one above is in the village of Cacelha Velha.  The others are pure Tavira!

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I think I’ll save some for next week.  You can have too much of a good thing, can’t you? I like a bit of a story with my windows.  The one below is one of the upstairs windows at the cafe Anazu. You might remember I have a penchant for a glass of port there?  The piped music is always gentle and relaxed and, if that’s not enough entertainment, you can watch the swifts swooping overhead, into their nests.   The umbrellas provide a spot of cover, just in case!

A good view of the swifts nests

Here’s one, just returning!

I wonder what kind of windows Dawn is featuring this week.  Old, new, shiny, stained glass- they all have that something that makes you linger, don’t they?  She’s up to #week 25 in the current series!  Let’s go take a look.