Category Archives: Africa

The Algarve – Train Ride to Lagos

Life at the Tui Blue Hotel was rather tedious I have to say with a looping Groundhog Day daily itinerary so we decided to break out and do something different.  A train excursion to the city of Lagos, thirty-five miles or so west of where we were staying at Olhos de Agua.

There was an expensive taxi ride to the railway station at Albufeira one of those taxi rides where I watch the meter ticking away and increasingly panic about the cost and then to compensate inexpensive train tickets to Lagos at less than five euro each return (seniors rate). The price was right but the train was soporifically slow and stopped several times and took over an hour to reach our destination and we arrived just about midday.

I liked it immediately as we walked from the station to the old town.  So much nicer than Albufeira with a a retained history, a nostalgia and a satisfying whiff of the past  Some of my favourites – aged doors with sun blistered paint and elegant iron balconies, cobbled streets and whitewashed houses.  Really lovely, really lovely.

Lagos was once a Moorish city, the capital of the Algarve and one of the most important cities in all of what is now Portugal.  How the Moors must have loved life in Iberia, excellent weather (not as hot as North Africa), no deserts, an abundance of fresh water, good fertile soil for crops and not nearly so many flies.

This idyllic lifestyle came to a sudden and abrupt end after the Reconquest when the Moors were forced to abandon their city after a brutal siege by Northern Crusaders.  In Spain and Portugal they celebrate the reconquest but in reality it was the replacement of a benevolent and progressive regime with a barbaric and medieval reversal of progress.

Without the Moors the city rapidly became neglected, the port silted up and the city went into a long period of decline.  This is something that always intrigues me, it is rather like the Roman Empire, great civilisations provide advancement in human development but Barbarians always come along and tear it down and set progress back several hundred years.  Rather like BREXIT in the United Kingdom right now.  It really frustrates me because we learn absolutely nothing from history.

What happened to the Ancient Egyptians, the Native Americans of USA, the  Classical Greeks, the Romans, they all showed great progress in human development and then they disappeared and the process was reversed.  What lies ahead for us I wonder?

Down at the seafront was a statue of Henry the Navigator, quite possibly, no, almost certainly the most famous of all Portuguese sailors and adventurers.

I had seen him before of course in Belem in Lisbon at the The Monument to the Discoveries. Located on the edge of the north bank of the Tagus, the fifty metre (I hate Boris Johnson and I emphatically refuse to go back to imperial measures) high slab of concrete was erected in 1960 to commemorate the five-hundredth  anniversary of his death. The monument in the capital city is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry looking out to the west, perhaps contemplating another voyage of discovery. 

The statue in Lagos is rather less spectacular.

Lagos was an important port during the Age of Discovery when Portugal was a major maritime nation as it built a World empire.  It competed primarily with neighbours  Spain to make discoveries in the New World and in 1494  after years of challenge a Treaty was signed which gave Brazil to Portugal and all the rest to Spain. For Spain this might have seemed like a good idea at the time but it rates as a serious negotiating disaster  as it gave up the Amazon rain-forest and all of its riches for the barren Andes of Patagonia.

By the mid nineteenth century Portugal had the fourth largest European Empire but at only 4% of World territory was way behind France (9%), Spain (10%) and Great Britain at a huge 27%.  That is a massive amount of land grab but I wonder if the Roman Empire might have been even greater given that the known World was much smaller two thousand years ago.

We spent a very enjoyable afternoon in Lagos, it was different, it wasn’t the tourist Algarve of Vilamoura or Albufeira, much more similar to Silves and Tavira; had a very pleasant pavement lunch and then took the train ride home, had a few stressful moments trying to secure a taxi ride to the hotel but eventually made it back to our accommodation,

We had tired of the hotel catering by this point but had discovered a very nice Portuguese restaurant in the village which served traditional food so were we glad to abandon the school dinner hall tonight and spend an excellent evening with proper food.

A to Z of Windows – Q is for Qawra in Malta

I had walked about four miles or so by now and I was coming to the end of the urban development, the asphalt road became unpaved track and thereafter a dusty footpath that kept going to the end of the peninsular and I carried on because at the end of the mainland there was something I wanted to see – St Paul’s Island.

I was at Qawra Bay also known as St Paul’s Bay…

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A to Z of Statues – W is for William Wilberforce

I nearly went to Scotland this week for William Wallace or Walter Scott…

But eventually decided to stay closer to home and include William Wilberforce from Hull…

William Wilberforce is probably the most famous son of the city.  He began his political career in 1780 and dedicated almost all of his life to the campaign to abolish the slave trade.

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People Pictures – Rainbow in Morocco

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken at the Roman City of Volubilis in Morocco.  While I was busy taking pictures of the ancient Roman city Kim spotted this party of local tourist women with a tour guide…

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Monday Washing Lines – The Tannery in Fez

A very different sort of washing line this week…

This is Fez in Morocco, a tannery to be precise, hanging up in the sun are animal hides waiting for the dying process in the limestone vats below.

The price to pay for a rooftop view of the famous limestone dye pits was another difficult twenty minutes in a leather shop selling coats, jackets, slippers and bags. I didn’t think we were going to get out of there very easily but again Micky was our saviour when he negotiated the purchase of a belt and we were able to get away.

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Monday Washing Lines – Marrakech in Morocco

 

Welcome to my new project – Washing Lines

I spotted this one in Marrakech.

There is a real basic pegging out error here. Can you spot it?

Peg sharing! This is when one peg is used to secure two items of washing. It looks sloppy and untidy because in my opinion each item should be hung with two pegs (same colour of course) and completely separate from each other so that they dry properly. I would be ashamed to peg out like that.

It is a Challenge. Feel Free to join in.

Monday Washing Lines – Fes, Morocco

Welcome to my new project – Washing Lines

This one I spotted in the Moroccan city of Fes…

A sneaky picture this because people in Morocco don’t like having their picture taken. As we walked through the city Kim kept snapping away taking pictures of local people as they went about their business. She had to be quick however and mostly secretive about what she was doing.

This is something to do with being suspicious about having an image made of themselves and on most occasions when someone saw a camera pointed their way they would either turn away or wag a reproachful finger to say no.

It is a Challenge. Feel Free to Join in.

People Pictures – Unusual Headware

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken in a street in Marrakech just outside of the busy Souk…

Why do you think she has got a plastic footstool on her head?

a – She has just bought it and it is the easiest way to carry it home
b – She supports Manchester City
c – She takes it shopping with her so she can reach the top shelf in the store
d – Health and Safety – a Moroccan Hard Hat
e – It keeps the flies off

Monday Washing Lines – Fes in Morocco

 

Welcome to my latest theme. Monday Washing Lines.

This rooftop washing line I spotted in Fes in Morocco…

The clothes now wave that hang upon

the tired old line that stretches from

a leaning pole to a rusted hook

left here now for folk to look.

Every garment pegged and spaced

each shirt and sheet carefully placed

along the line the stockings run

until they dry in the scorching sun.

 

City Planning – Roman Style

On 4th March 2020 I was enjoying my last day of a week’s holiday to Cyprus.  I was visiting the archaeological site at Paphos and I got to thinking about designing my very own ancient city…

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