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.

Jo’s Monday walk : Barril beach

Barril beach

Barril beach

I’m sure that some of you will be delighted to know that this is a walk where you can cheat hugely.  It’s definitely one to take the children along on, or maybe you have a husband who always wanted to be an engine driver?

Look what runs alongside the footpath!  Too tempting!

Look what runs alongside the footpath- too tempting!

I can’t remember ever visiting the Eastern Algarve without a visit to Barril.  Come along with me and I’ll try to show you why it’s such a favourite.

If the weather’s not too warm and you’re feeling fairly energetic, you can start in the nearby village of Santa Luzia and complete a circular walk.  I’ll give you more details later.  For now, we’ve tossed the coin and decided to do it the easy way, from Pedras d’el Rei.  Your start point is beside the salt marshes and all you need to do is cross over the pontoon.

Looking back over the pontoon to Pedras d'el Rei

Looking back across the pontoon, to Pedras d’el Rei

There are distractions, of course.  A box of ripe figs alongside the pontoon!  I didn’t want to carry them with me on the outbound journey but I really hoped there might be a couple left on my return.  One thing’s for certain- the sea broom will be your constant companion along the way.

The sea broome in delicate shades of lilac

The sea broom, flowering in delicate shades of lilac

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

One of the big attractions for me is the variety of wild flowers you will find alongside the path.

I know this will be a challenge for my friend Jude.  She loves to identify flowers.

How about this one?

How about this one?  An Aeonium?

And you know this is my absolute favourite!

And you know this is my absolute favourite!  The Ice plant

Tiny crabs caper in the mud of the salt marshes.  I stopped to watch two in a courtly dance, but I don’t have a photo for you.  I’d left my ‘still ailing slightly’ camera back at the house, with the battery on charge, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to borrow Mick’s camera till we were part way there! (he didn’t offer till then, but he could see I was getting desperate)

I love the landscape

I love the landscape

With the hump of Monchique always in the background

With the hump of Monchique always in the background

As you approach the beach the flowers I have been calling Livingstone daisies, but I now find are Ice plants, appear in the dunes.  I featured a hot pink in my Six word Saturday, but in the Algarve they are more commonly lemon yellow.

Cacti and aloe vera begin to take over

Cacti and aloe vera begin to take over

And you're onto the boardwalk at Barril beach

And you’re onto the boardwalk, at Barril beach

A little detour to the anchors, of course!  They always capture the imagination.  A reminder of the days when the tuna fishing industry thrived in this area, the rusting “Cemetery of Anchors” provides a wonderful photo opportunity.  I would love to be there are sunset.

I liked the crisp catamaran beside the aged anchors

I like the modern catamarans, beached beside the ancient anchors

And there are beach bars , for refreshments

And there are beach bars too , for refreshment

Here you have a choice.  Remember I suggested a circular walk from Santa Luzia?  If you turn left when you reach the beach, 20-30 minutes walk along it will bring you to a point opposite Santa Luzia,  to which a ferry runs in Summer.  Access is across a long boardwalk.  My husband suggests that you should do this longer walk the other way around, starting with the ferry from Santa Luzia, to ensure that it is running.  He is a very practical soul.

But you and me are going back the way we came.  I still have those figs to collect, remember?  We might even cheat and take that train.  It’s a holiday, after all!

Use it or lose it?

Who doesn’t love the age of steam?

It carries water, beer and anything else the ilha needs

The little train carries water, beer and anything else the ilha needs

Crossing back over the pontoon, I’m not very surprised to find the ‘fig man’ gone.  But then I spot him, coming towards me, wheeling his bike with fresh supplies on the saddle.  He sees me too, and stops, the bike propped against his leg.  ‘Help me, please’, he says, in smiling English, and invites me to take a plastic bag from under his arm.  In doing so, I catch the edge of his cardboard box and the figs start to tip!  We both lunge for them and manage to stop all but one from crashing to the floor.  Phew!  They are 5 for 1 euro, and he pops an extra one into my bag. Thankfully all his customers are not as ‘helpful’ as me.

I haven’t even shown you the beach yet, but it’s a beauty.  Barril is just a small area of Tavira Island, which starts at the mouth of the River Gilao and rolls westward.  If you don’t have a car, a bus will take you from Tavira town centre to Santa Luzia, 15 minutes away, and continues on to Pedras d’el Rei, just a few minutes further west.

I guess I have to show you the beach?

I guess I have to show you the beach!

Next week I think I might take you on the walk where I fell down a ‘hole’.  Life’s seldom dull, is it?

I think I should maybe design a ‘rules’ page for the walks, too.  Not that there are any rules really, but then I wouldn’t have to bore you with the details each time.  Please spend a little while visiting these walks.  They give me an enormous amount of pleasure and I’m very grateful.

Drake has us perilously climbing a French ruin :


You know Yvette loves art?  Meet Modigliani! :


Alberta is staggeringly beautiful, until Sue almost comes nose to nose with a bear :


I got really excited when a newcomer to my blog took me on a walk beside the Seine :


And my plant expert, Jude, has excelled herself in the Lost gardens of Heligan :


Paris is popular this week!  Isn’t it always?  Christine’s is delectable! :



Happy walking, one and all!

Six word Saturday














Don’t recognise it?  It’s Tavira in the Algarve, but I’m home again, with that pocketful of memories.  You know I love to share, so here I am, participating in Six word Saturday.

Have a beautiful weekend, wherever you are, and don’t forget to join Cate at Show My Face.  Just click on the logo, or the links.


‘M’ is for Monsaraz


I’m going to struggle for photos for this post, because I visited Monsaraz on a damp, if not soaking wet, day!  Seems to be a recurring theme on here lately, doesn’t it?  But such was the impact it made that I loved it anyway.  Some day, I hope to return and see it like this.

So will you excuse me for borrowing from Wikipedia?

So will you excuse me for borrowing from Wikipedia?

It must have been an anniversary or a special occasion, because I was sitting at a table in “A Ver” when I first heard about Monsaraz. This Tavira restaurant is named for its view down over the rooftops and the prices are more than we would normally pay.  But treats are treats, and so I happened to be sitting at the next table to a couple whose evening was interrupted by the wife’s mobile phone. The wife excused herself and was gone for some considerable time.

I can’t remember what prompted me to start the conversation, but before too long the husband was telling me about this beautiful place that I must see for myself.  The fact that it was a 4 hour drive or more seemed insignificant to him.  And so Monsaraz nestled in my imagination until I could make it a reality.

The town square and pillory on a sparkling day- @ Wikipedia

The town square and pillory on a sparkling day- from Wikipedia

The “Rough Guide”, always my bible, confirmed what I wanted to hear.  Monsaraz is a tiny, hilltop, walled village with sweeping views across the Guadiana to Spain.  It’s name comes from the Iberian word for Cistus landifer, the Gum Rockrose.  Xaraz thrives in dry, acidic slate-based soil, thus Monte Xaraz was a hill surrounded by Rockroses.

Monsaraz is one of the oldest settlements in the South of Portugal, and there are many menhirs and neolithic remains in the area. Due to its strategic location, there was certainly a fort there before Roman occupation.  Then came the Moors, and in 1232 it became a stronghold of the Knights Templar.  In 1640 it was refortified, during the Portuguese Restoration War and the border struggles.  Then land reforms and the growth of farm estates heralded change.  These days Monsaraz is no longer embattled, but there are still signs of the past.

The castle and keep- @ Wikipedia

The castle and keep-  from Wikipedia

In late October 2009 I journeyed north from the Algarve, across the wide, empty plains of Alentejo.  My destination lovely Evora and proud Elvas, but on the return leg I knew I would visit Monsaraz.  The weather was autumnal this much further north.  Leaving Elvas I headed directly into a rainbow and travelling south the weather steadily deteriorated.  I clung tenaciously to the hope that I would be blessed with a patch or two of blue sky, but it was not to be.

I stepped out of the car under leaden skies and looked up at the castle walls, and then out across the Guadiana.  Nothing could prevent an idiot grin settling on my face.  I grabbed Mick by the hand and started up the slippery damp cobbles, and through the narrow archway in the walls.

Looking out from beneath the town walls, across the Guadiana

Looking out from beneath the town walls, across the Guadiana

Medieval Monsaraz has only one main street, Rua Direita, with the village square at its centre.  The Inquisition House and the pillory point immediately to troubled times.  I was more intent on escaping the chill as I slipped inside the Chapel of Sao Bento, with its serene warmth and frescoes.  The main church, Nossa Senhora da Lagoa, was closed.  Climbing up to the castle walls, in a light drizzle, I felt I had reached the summit of a watery world.   The plains below had been flooded by the creation of the Alqueva Dam, boating heaven in Summer and a vast body of water.

The castle is topped by the Witches Tower (Torre das Feiticeiras) and within, the unexpected sight of a bullring, complete with tiered seating!  Currently it’s used for Festivals and fireworks, so no sad bulls.  As the rain increased its pace, tiny Cafe de Cisterna provided shelter, warm turkey pies and a slab of delicious cake.  Despite all that water outside, a drinking supply for the villagers had required a huge cistern to combat the blazing summer sun.  It was just visible through a barred window and then the weather really did drive us away.

A castle in spades!

I had planned a leisurely route back, crossing over the dam by a bridge to Mourao, but visibility was so poor that I had no choice other than to agree as Mick pointed the car due south.  In a couple of hours I was back under the blue skies of the Algarve.

I’ve found a site with some lovely atmospheric photos of Monsaraz, if you click on this link.  And you can get a better look at the whole trip on my E is for Elvas, and Evora.  It wasn’t all rain!

Meantime it’s thanks again to Frizz for prompting me to respond to his Tagged ‘M’ and to Julie Dawn Fox for the Personal A-Z Challenge.  And many thanks to you for reading!