Saying goodbye to Aljezur

Some last impressions of “Life at the Quinta” …………….

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My highlights of the Algarve

17th of June, 2015

In a few days I am leaving Portugal and the Quinta, where I spent 5 intensive weeks. Never thought I would have a connection with chickens (especially that white fat one), ducks and goats (like the  “leader” of the group, called Antonio).DSC02705

I realize very well, that they like me so much because I treat them often with some extra food and the chickens just love the fresh produce of the garden, like the figs, cucumber, nectarines and whatever else they are offered.

Today was a special day, as I got the opportunity to take the first picture of the arrival of a new duckling! Probably, there will be a few more!DSC02900DSC02901

Yesterday, I visited with a friend my favorite restaurant “Ze Mogadinho” in Alvor. In the winter I took some pictures of the accordionist Anibal Filipe and I made some prints and an enlargement for him. I was so glad to see him playing again in the same little corner of the cozy, authentic “open air” restaurant. We spent a wonderful afternoon in Ze Mogadinho, eating the famous sardines with lovely potatoes and salad and listening to the music of the accordionist.

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This week, I also went back to Cacela Velha and Tavira. In Cacela, the same cat I fed in January was still there. With so many fishermen living in the small village and a restaurant around the corner, he or she will have eternal life,,,,,,DSC02834

I had lunch in “A Barquinha”, on the Rua Jose Pires Padinha 142, the same restaurant along the river, where I started my first meal in Portugal in December. Again, it was great food and very well priced and I was served by the same wonderful lady as in December. Although there were many more tourists now, it still was not at all over crowded and the weather was superb to go for a stroll.

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In the small garden at the Fortress all kind of different flowers were blooming and while two guys were singing and playing guitar, I just enjoyed sitting on the old walls and soaking up the beautiful view over Tavira.

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The beauty of the coast around Carrapateira and Odeceixe

11th of June, 2015

From Aljezur it is a short drive up North to Odeceixe, on the border of the Province of Alentejo. A small, but idyllic town, still unspoilt and proud of it’s gorgeous beach and rocky landscape. Nice to walk around the town first, have a coffee on one of it’s many terraces, go for lunch and drive along the river to the beach, park your car at the top and walk down and enjoy the spectacular view.DSC02557DSC02537

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Carrapateira is a nice start to walk to Praia da Bordeira and from there you can go all the way to Praia do Amado, but for sure DSC02774bring water and energy “bars”, as it is a longer walk than expected, due to some walking through heavy sand in the dunes. The  walk is impressive, the views are amazing and the pictures can’t tell how unbelievable the rock formation crawls along the coast and from what distance the cliffs emerge in the sea. There are barely any tourists now in June and only a handful of campers on the parking spots. Today the light is beautiful, but yesterday is was cloudy and foggy and often the houses here are covered in mist in the morning. The walk from Praia da Bordeira goes all the way until Praia do Amado, but you can turn halfway to the left and take a short cut to Carrapateira.DSC02742

The story of “The ugly duckling of Aljezur”

June 2015, Aljezur

It is getting busy on Animal Farm here at the Quinta. There is mother duck with 5 ducklings and there is mother 2 with 14 ducklings and there will be mother 3 soon!!! Let’s not talk about dad……he literally passed out……….

So it was time to widen and open up the old pond. I was grateful, that the Thai people were still present here! We don’t know what will happen once we have two ponds in one big cage with two Duck families. It might be interesting. The neighboring chickens are very curious what all this excitement is about and I am ready with my camera to get the first shots.DSC02561DSC02577DSC02586

After not being able to have a bath for such a long time, as mother 1 and her 5 ducklings were in a separate cage, this is like a “school trip” for them!!!  Mum first and then, very careful, the children…..It is party time!!!DSC02527

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On the other side of the shed, there is mother 2 with her children. One of them is totally different. Completely yellow, as the others are black and yellow. The yellow one wants to meet the new neighbours, but mother 1 doesn’t agree with that and sends her back. Now mum 2 doesn’t want her child back anymore and is very aggressive. She chases her and picks on her and finally we have to save the yellow one from all the aggression and put her in a separate shed within the chicken cage. There she is safe at least, but also very lonely. So our next project is, to get one of her siblings to keep her company. Story will be continued……….

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Never a dull moment at the Quinta

June 5th, 2015

It seems every day brings something special here. Yesterday I got the shock of my life, when I realized that it was not a turtle, who was visiting my studio, but an enormous toad. I can’t remember I have ever seen a toad as big as this one. It looked Prehistoric! Even the Thai lady got upset about the animal, which directed itself down the stairs towards her living quarters……..I must be grateful, as the toad was really posing for the pictures.DSC02642

The story of the ducklings continued. The neigbour came over and he needed two female ducks for the male ones he had, so it was time to see goodbye to the mums and the tiny “ugly” yellow duckling could return to its siblings and even to the 5 older ducklings of the other mother.  All the children were getting along very well from the start and one of the older ducklings took over the mother role.  So mum no. 3 is still here, but she is for ever sitting on the eggs……..DSC02667DSC02661

The two Thai people also left; there was just not enough work anymore on the land. They took their food with them; an amazing way of smoking meat!!!DSC02625DSC02626

This morning I was watering the garden very early and I had my breakfast from the trees; the plums are starting and they are small, but very tasty. Then I tasted some nectarines…. and apricots, just gorgeous! The figs are nearly ripe also. Now the Thai people left, we have to eat many more eggs, but how many CAN you eat??? My arteries will get plugged from the overdoses of calcium……….

By now the harvest of the peas is finished; too bad for the goats, as they just LOVE the leaves (and the peas……).DSC02518

The next job is an extra area for the goats or maybe in the future the horses? Nearly all the poles are in place and later the wiring can start. It is an enormous piece of extra land and it will keep the wildlife out and other uninvited visitors.DSC02521

Daily life at the Quinta

May, 2015

After 10 days here in Montes Galegos, I feel totally at home. My daily routine is as follows; I get up at 6.00 and have a good breakfast, check my house sitters websites and other mails and start outside at 7.30. First thing is to start the water pump, then the chickens are going out of their night shelter, check the ducks and start watering the vegetable garden. Continue to the terraces and do some weeding in between. Every so many days different trees have to be watered. There are so many around the house, that it is impossible to do it in one day. Of course there is always happening something. The pump in the pond by the house didn’t work. It turned out that there was a small snake in it. That had to be removed with a knife. Then a part of the pump in the big lake fell off to the bottom and now somebody has to be found to go into the water and pick it up again. So we have to look for somebody, who wants to go into the water in exchange for a meal? While feeding the Koi fish, I bumped my arm into an Agave plant. For two days I couldn’t lift my arm anymore…..it was all swollen and red at the elbow. Very painful, especially in the night!

Two Thai people are also working on the land and while they work the whole day, I finish around 11.00 or 11.30 a.m. when my back starts hurting and the sun is getting hot. I also have to do some laundry and cleaning, working on my blog and now and then I go to Lagos for my weekly shopping. Lagos is fun to be, filled with tourists and lots of boats going up and down the river, to and from the sea. So totally different than in January, when I visited Lagos in the afternoon for a brief moment and there was nothing going on.DSC02438

At the end of the day, around 4.30, the chickens and ducks need to be fed and by now there are a lot of ducks! Buckets full of water need to be cleaned and filled and the shelters checked, as a fox tried to get in during the night. The goats are fun, they always are happy to see you, especially when you bring them weeds. Around 6.00 everything is checked and the evening starts. It is wonderful to be outside most of the day in such a beautiful environment!DSC02473DSC02475

Last Sunday we went looking for Samphire or Glasswort or Salicornia (Zeekraal in Dutch). It grows in abundance at the roadside, close to the Praia de Amoreira, where the river “Ribeira de Alfambres” flows into the sea. There were only around 4 families on the enormous beach, surrounded by impressive rocks and the dunes on the other side. Nothing built here, only on both sides of the beach a restaurant on the cliffs.DSC02429DSC02436

Yesterday evening we went to an other beach, called Praia de Monte Clerigo, just around 10 minutes driving from the Quinta. There is a small restaurant with a terrace over viewing the sea, beach and rocks and there are just a few old fishing houses, bordering the beach. Still so unspoiled……We had a simple meal, but the chicken was excellent!

This part of Portugal is so totally different than the Southern coast. So quiet and peaceful and very green! Hopefully, I can explore more areas in the coming days and weeks!

A hidden treasure in the Western Algarve, Portugal

Since Monday the 18th of May, I am so lucky to be in a beautiful spot, close to Aljezur, Algarve, Portugal. Helping out with watering the garden, feeding the ducks, chickens and goats and the occasional weeding. A truly amazing spot on top of the hill in Natural Park “Costa Vicentina”.  16 Hectares of land, all kinds of different trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. A hidden gem with an amazing view and also very close to the sea, with beautiful beaches and not spoiled by mass tourism and high rises yet. On the right hand side you can see the Monchique mountain range, in between agriculture land, rivers and small villages. The last couple of days I have been exploring the property, admiring the self made lakes with all kind of different coloured Koi fish. Taking tons of pictures and just been amazed about the work, which has been put into this property, by building it up “from scratch”……..I feel at home in between the plants and trees we also had in Greece and the smell of fresh produce from the vegetable garden. Yesterday, I was at the back of the tractor, holding myself steady while going up and down the hills, to go to the three different lakes and feed the Koi fish.  I learn about Loofah (Luffa), a sweet and tasty veggie, like squash or zucchini, from which you can eat the young flowers (like zucchini), but also from which you can harvest a sponge! You have to leave it on the vine, until the skin begins to shrivel, then harvest and scrub the skin away, shake out the seeds and cut the gourd into the desired shape. DSC02353

DSC02376The stones on the property are like a painting; all different colours and patterns.

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Yesterday, I went for a quick drive to Praia Arrifana, an amazing beach, with (most of the time) high waves, great for surf boarders! A few apartment buildings, a hotel and a small restaurant is all there is. The view from “upstairs” is gorgeous! Tomorrow I will go to the market in Aljezur and explore the little village with the old fortress on top of the hill.

My last days in Portugal (for now)….

January, 2015

There are a few places I visited in January, I haven’t mentioned. In these last days in Portugal I just enjoy some last encounters with people from around Cacela Velha, some last sight-seeing in the Eastern Algarve and trying to focus on my next trip to Spain.

There is Monte Gordo, a place full of apartment buildings and hotels, but with a fabulous wide beach, very busy in the Summer, but now just occupied by mainly Dutch overwintering retirees. The beach reminds me of Scheveningen, a famous Dutch beach town by Den Hague, but of course not as crowded.DSC00073DSC00074

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DSC00461Another interesting town is Castro Marim, where the two fortresses are seen from far away and from where you have fabulous views over the surrounding landscape and over the river Guadiana, which borders Portugal with Spain.DSC00468

The last place on Portuguese grounds is Vila Real de St Antonio. A busy little town, where a lot of tourists come for a visit during their overwintering in neighboring villages, but also popular by Spanish daily visitors, who are often interested in the Portuguese textiles, which are sold in many stores.DSC00437DSC00443

The old town of Alcoutim is situated on the Spanish side of the river. You can reach this town by boat or by car via the bridge, which is towering over the river.DSC00484

Exploring the Western Algarve

End of January, 2015

The last couple of days I have been busy with organizing my trip to Spain in February. As there is no opportunity for a house sit in Andalusia, I decided to rent a place in Nerja. It would have been better to get a place centrally located in Andalusia, as I would like to discover places like Granada, Jaen, Cordoba, Ronda and Malaga, but it seems that it can be very cold inland, so I better choose a place closer to the sea. In Nerja I rented an apartment for two weeks. I made sure that there is heating, as I have been very cold for the last two months! Also, I got connected with a Dutch lady, who lives close to Denia in the countryside and she offered me to join her in her beautiful house, for a week or two. She has three dogs, from which one is half paralyzed and I can help her out with the dogs, while experiencing her daily life in Spain. So now everything is arranged for the next month, I can make my last trips in Portugal and relax a bit more.

For my two-day trip “out West”, I arrange a night in a simple hotel in Lagos, right in between some area’s I want to explore. My first stop is at Faro airport, where I sign a renewal of my contract for the car rental and confirm that everything is settled for my trip to Spain. They inform me that in Portugal I had free unlimited km’s driving, but in Spain it is different. I have 1500 km free; above that, it will cost 10 ct for one km. It is still worth it, even if I drive over the 2000 km. Other companies charge way more for the rent of a car and I also compared prices, in case you want to deliver the car in another place in Spain and I was shocked about the rental price. It can go up until 1500 euro’s or even more! Now I drive a car for 165 Euro a month, even in Spain and the only condition is that I have to deliver the car back in Faro. From Faro I can fly cheap with Air Transat to Toronto one way, non stop. I can’t fly direct from any other place in Spain to Toronto for that price! So finally it turns out that all my “homework” hasn’t been for nothing…….DSC00868 DSC00864 DSC00871

Now I am off from Faro airport to Monchique, in the mountains. Again it is a gorgeous day; good for pictures! My first stop is at Caldas de Monchique, now a desolated place, but probably in the season and weekends full of visitors. There are some apartments, a hotel, a wine shop and gift store (both open), but nowhere a place where they offer coffee! I visit the Spa hotel, which will open up again end of February and with nice packages of 113 euro, which includes a weekend for one person, including the spa, the use of a swimming pool, two overnight stays, a dinner, drinks etc. Not bad at all! I walk down the hill and see the water factory, but I can’t find the “Caldas”…..DSC00882 DSC00878 DSC00877 DSC00876 DSC00875

Monchique itself is a nice, busy little town, probably the last bigger place, before you go deeper into the back country. Definitely, prepared for visitors, with lots of touristic stores and local artists venues. I buy a thick lambs wool cardigan for 25 euro’s. That one will keep me warm for the rest of my stay in Portugal and Spain! I stroll up and down the small streets, have a coffee end finally drive the car all the way up the hill, where there are several restaurants, all with a gorgeous view over the mountains. One of the restaurants has a secluded terrace and looks very inviting, so I decide the have my lunch there. A lot of Portuguese people there, which is a good sign. The white wine is tasty and light sparkly, the pork cheeks with chestnuts  (an old-time favorite of mine in Spain) are delicious. More expensive than my local dining place, but well worth it! After lunch, I skip my plan to go to Aljezur, as I prefer to arrive on time in Lagos. That way, I still can stroll around in town before dark will set in.DSC00889 DSC00893 DSC00900 DSC00901

Lagos is an easy drive, once you are on the highway again. I only get lost once, which is amazing for me, but on purpose I choose a hotel, close to the main road. Also, I got this last-minute hotel for the price of 22 euro, including breakfast!!! It is perfect for one night, the bed is good and I always bring earplugs…….The parking garage is a challenge though and I am so happy I have a small Fiat Punto. There is an enormous sharp curve to get into the garage and obviously, it has been hit on various occasions, as the black stripes on the white paint prove…….I drop my stuff in the hotel room and get my camera to shoot some last pictures with day light. By now it is after 5.00 p.m. and the Fortress is closing down already. Some fishing boats quickly enter the harbor and in downtown, people are coming out to go for a coffee, some shopping or a bit to eat. The center is nice, definitely focused on foreigners, but with a good laid back atmosphere. I just stroll around and have something small to eat. Tomorrow a busy and long day, so I call it an early night.

DSC00922 DSC00902The next day I visit Sagres; nothing special, but the Fortaleza de Sagres is at the far end of the most Southern-Western point of Europe. From there, it is an easy drive to Cabo de Sao Vicente, the end of the world……. An impressive 60 meters high rock formation, with views along the coast. From there I drive back to Vila do Bispo and a bit further I take the left inner road to Bensafrim. Once in Bensafrim it is easy to join on the A22, direction Faro.

DSC00945 DSC00938 DSC00956 I decide to go for lunch in Alvor. What a good decision, as the old part of Alvor is still a very nice place to visit, with a small harbour, where fisherman are busy with repairing the nets and painting their boats etc. I decide the have lunch at the restaurant Ze Morgadinho, close to the Laguna. In the center of the outside terrace is an enormous BBQ, where the smell of Sardines is very inviting! An accordionist is playing favorite Fado tunes, but later it turns out that he also can play a lot of typical Parisian music. I finally stay here nearly 3 hours……The food is simple, but very tasty. The wine is great and the atmosphere too. I get to chat with the accordionist and buy a c.d. from him, on which he plays with people from Mozambique; nice! After, I go for a stroll along the Laguna, have a coffee at a plaza in front of a church, find even my car back, although I have it parked in a tiny street (parking is a big problem here in Alvor). It is getting late and I want to be back in Cacela Velha before dark. Once you are on the highway again, it drives very fast, as there is barely anyone else on the road. With a lot of new impressions and a load of new pictures, I arrive just on time back “home”.

A special month in a special place.

January 2015

Never in my life I will forget my time in Cacela Velha. This place is so special, so full of beauty and serenity and the light is always different. I love going up on my roof terrace and look at the sleeping village at night, with here and there a soft street light on. Or going down, early in the morning, via the long stairs to the Laguna, where the fisher man are checking their nets for the molluscs or an individual is trying to find his or her evening meal. At the end of the day you can catch the most beautiful sunsets, if you are patient enough to sit for a while on the wall by the church, which overlooks the Laguna. DSC00432

My little house on the corner is situated right in the alley to the graveyard and from my bed I hear the small and noisy motor cycle of the supervisor of the cemetery in the morning. I spent one day just talking with some people in Cacela Velha and they all understand my Spanish and I understand most of their Portuguese, as many words are similar or have something in common.DSC00812

Last week it was busy in Cacela; there was one funeral after the other. That meant that I didn’t get much rest in my house, as the coffins are brought into the cemetery on a very noisy “cart”, with even noisier people behind it. This is the perfect moment to exchange the latest gossip! Now I knew already that everybody wants to be buried here (and have their wedding here), but what happened that suddenly everybody dropped dead? One day I did my evening round and I saw two pictures of dead people on the church door and also a wake took place in a separate room of the church but with the doors all open, so I could see the people sitting around the coffin. I knew that it would be a late and noisy night and an early and noisy morning! Normally the village is car free, but when there is a wake or a funeral, the cars are coming and going until late in the evening.DSC00850

The week after I went for a “stroll” over the cemetery and met the supervisor; a very nice man, whose perfume was the alcohol in his morning coffee………..The cemetery was a mess…..fresh soil dug up, stones left and right still waiting to be placed, flower wreaths in empty holes in the wall, coffins shuffled in the wall, but without a stone in front etc. I asked him if it had been a busy week for him? He admitted that there were too many funerals to handle for a guy alone and that he worked 7 days a week already! I asked him if there are possibilities for cremation in Portugal and he told me there are, but it is only done outside the Province of the Algarve and then later they can DSC00854bring the ashes to Cacela Velha. Of course I asked him why there were so many funerals this week and he shrugged his shoulders while saying ” It was cold”……..Stupid me…….Cold it was this week, very cold for the older Portuguese people, who often don’t have heating in their house, not even a fire place!

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IBN Darraj Al_Qastalli, Poeta natural de Cacela Velha    (958-1030)

Say to spring: Spread out your mantle of clouds and fill the sails with wind over the place.

Don’t stay away. o Spring, as my tears are flowing after you in long waves.

Mix the perfume of my welcome with the moisture of your cloud and sprinkle it on all those whom I love…….

This famous Muslim Poet, born in Portugal, lived for a while in Cacela Velha. Later he moved to Spain. Everywhere you see signs with his name.

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On one of my late afternoon visits to Fabrica to see the sunset and enjoy my glass (well, plastic cup) of red wine, I meet some locals and get to talk with them. Most are fisherman, from whom I learned a lot about their daily life, which is not easy…..hard work for a few euro’s. They get 15 euro’s for a bucket full of clams, which took them a few hours to find! I also meet an architect, who brought his Portuguese water dog. This is the first time that I see a real water dog. It is like a huge poodle, but with a total different head and legs. Lots of “Beattle” hair and therefor you barely can see his/her eyes. The architect tells me that the hair protects the dog from the UV rays. The legs have membranes in between the toes. therefor they are such good swimmers. The body is half covered with thick fur, so they are protected for the cold, but they also can swim fast, as the other half is shaved. They can catch the fish, which the fisherman loose out of their fishing nets. Next time I have to bring my camera, to take a picture of this interesting dog. His “boss” also has the black curly hair and of course I have to make a remark about that! So when I say ”  Usted se parece como el perro o el perro se parece como Usted” (“you look like your dog or your dog looks like you”), the whole crowd starts laughing………….I am thankful he can appreciate the joke; after all, I am the stranger here!