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.