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12th Annual Oxford Studio Tour May 4&5, 2019 — Oxford Studio Tour

I am not in the photo this year, but I do hope to see some of you at my gallery on May 4 & 5!  I have so many new pieces of watercolour and digital art to show you.

Location #4 on the tour.

The 12th Annual Oxford Studio Tour will feature 40 artists including seven newcomers in 16 locations Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Representing the group, are: (Ieft to right) Sue Goossens, Vonnie Snyder, Alex Smith, Lesley Penwill (front), Tabitha Verbuyst (rear) and Kate Innes. Information on […]

via 12th Annual Oxford Studio Tour May 4&5, 2019 — Oxford Studio Tour

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A Trip to the Edge of the World

My villa mates were extremely kind and invited me along with them for a car trip to the edge of the world and back.  (It was only about 85 km away.)  Well, it used to be considered the “edge of the world” back when people didn’t know yet if the earth was round.  It’s the most southwestern point of Europe, Cape St. Vincent, where the town of Sagres and a historical fortress mark the point where Prince Henry the Navigator allegedly operated his nautical school and scientific institute.  Here is where the great Age of Discovery began, and Portugal did very well because of it, until a few centuries later when a great earthquake made a mess of things.

There are actually two points on the cape, one of them more to the south and one more to the west.  Sagres, and the fortress, are at the southern point, and the Portuguese Navy’s St. Vincent lighthouse, the second most powerful in Europe, is at the more western point.  We visited the southern point first, and explored the fortress.  Go ahead and click on any of the photos to make them larger.

The most southwestern point in Europe, visible from the area near the parking lot of the fortress. You can see the fortress up on the right.

Here is the restored Fortress itself, as seen from the parking area.

The St. Vincent Lighthouse, visible on the other point. This is a magnified view.

Remnants of the compass rose? No one knows for sure what it is.

We explored the whole cliff area behind the fortress as well.

The area between points is clearly popular with surfers! (click on it to zoom in and see them)

There were lots of interesting kinds of vegetation on the cliffs, but these seemed awfully familiar 🙂 – crocuses in November? Nice.

Not all parts of the cliff are completely solid, and you can hear the ocean through the cracks. Have a look at the arrowhead shaped part of this one…

Lots of turbulence!

Selfie with the point in the background. This lighthouse is smaller than the other one.  It was a windy day!

All around the cliffs, there were several fisherman dropping their lines down to the water.  I shuddered to think of the balancing act required to reel a substantially sized fish in.  I photographed several of them.  I just finished this the other day.  This fellow was pretty much right on the most southwesterly point, and struck me as a great subject for painting.  And I also really enjoyed painting all the textures!

Fisherman at the “Edge of the World”. Watercolour on Paper. 15×22″. Artist Lianne Todd

One of the things I found refreshing in Portugal was the general lack of guard rails.  It gave you the feeling of being trusted to be sensible.  There were warnings about going near the cliff’s edge, but it did not stop these intrepid fishermen who probably do this all the time.

After we finished our fortress and cliff exploration, we stopped for some lunch in Sagres, at a place called Retiro do Pescador Restaurante.  It seemed like a fantastic place to get a fresh fish meal if you knew how to order such a thing, and what you liked.  I, being new at ordering a meal based on the fish freshly caught and visible in the fridge by the door, didn’t do that.  I ordered the fish soup.  It was good, but I kind of wished I had been more brave and more prepared to spend the time and money for a fancier fish meal.  Maybe there will be a next time!

We then moved on to the other point at Cape St. Vincent, where the big lighthouse is.  Here it is up close:

We did ask if we could see inside, but that was a firm “No”. Would love to see it operating at night, and sit under the stars out here.

Resident Lighthouse Cat. Of course!

We had some delicious ice cream at the lighthouse area.  Be sure to have some if you go!

After we left the lighthouse, we decided to go up to a beach on the West coast, recommended in a guide book, called Castelejo.  The drive down to it was quite interesting – narrow winding hilly roads on which you didn’t really want to meet any other cars.  Turns out, this is a very popular beach with surfers – in fact I think we were almost the only non-surfers there.  I was unprepared for the scenery.  Very nice indeed – and I’m sure it would be even nicer in the summer!

Call me chicken, but it didn’t look like the safest place to surf!

CastelejoA different kind of beauty from the beaches of Albufeira.

After having a good look here, we started to head back toward Albufeira.  We drove down to Burgau, then along the coast to Luz, then to Lagos.  Spent a little while wandering around Lagos.

My favourite building in Lagos, covered in green ceramic tiles.

Then on to Guia (rumoured to be the origin of Piri Piri Chicken) for a wonderful supper at a place called Paladium.  Family owned and operated, all were extremely hospitable and the Piri Piri Chicken was great – SO much better than the first time I had it.  We really enjoyed ourselves.  I would like to take this opportunity thank Richard and Diane, my villa mates, for inviting me on this memorable day trip.

 

Praia dos Olhos de Água

Continuing with my painting holiday in the Algarve, Portugal:

After two full days in the jeep (see previous posts), I was ready for a day that involved walking.  So, I decided to check out another beach within walking distance, called Praia dos Olhos de Água. Olhos de Água literally means “eyes of the water” and refers to a spring there on the beach at low tide (see Wikipedia).

But, just in case you forget which beach you’re on, someone has kindly provided a painting of eyes so you know. 🙂

As you can see, it was a lovely day.  The walk took about half an hour, but I was carrying quite a few painting supplies so it wasn’t exactly an easy one.

Jorge, our jeep tour driver, had suggested a great spot to paint from, so I scoped that out first, but decided to take advantage of the great beach day and do a good amount of sunbathing before starting.

After that, I treated myself to a mango sorbet gelato cone on the patio of one of the little beach restaurants, while I enjoyed the view.  It was lovely!

I also took a few photos of the beach for future reference – one of them I used to begin a painting on a rainy ‘rest and laundry’ day.  I finished it later, when I got home to Canada.  Here it is:

Olhos d’Agua Beach, looking North. Watercolour on Paper. 14×20″. Artist Lianne Todd

I finally got around to plein air painting in the early afternoon, at this spot overlooking the beach, recommended by Jorge.  (A set of stairs leads up here from the beach).

Look for the final painting in another post – I didn’t get to finish it on this day.  When I literally started having to hang on to everything to keep it from blowing away, and noticed that the sun was getting quite low in the sky, I knew I had to call it quits.

On my walk home, I sort of made friends with some cats :).

Cats of Quinta da Balaia

Jeep Tours in the Algarve

The next day after my walk to Old Town Albufeira last November, was my first jeep tour.  I had booked two tours, one on the Monday and one on the Thursday of that week (telling them Tuesday would also be ok).  The first one I booked through Expedia, and the second one I found through My Guide Algarve, but both of them were run by Portitours, or MTS Globe.  I am not actually sure which is the owning company.  Anyway, as it turned out, since it was end of tour season, I had the second tour on Tuesday with the same driver!

The first tour was to the east of Albufeira.  Our driver, Jorge (I hope I am spelling his name right), picked me up at the end of the villa driveway in the morning – very convenient!  Then we proceeded to pick up the other 4 who were somewhere around Vilamoura, I think.  It was a very educational day, and I took tons of photos (259 on one camera).  I will include a few here but some are destined to be paintings.  In fact I have finished one!

Moorish Chimney #1. Watercolour on Paper. 22×30″. $950.00 Artist Lianne Todd

Portugal is full of these Moorish chimneys.  Some are very old, like this one, and others are very new.   Jorge pointed this one out to me for photographing first!  I find it really interesting the Moorish style of architecture has been embraced for so many centuries.  It gives a very harmonious feel to the country .  I’m sure these chimneys must be quite practical from the standpoint of preventing storks’ nests blocking them as well!

The dirt roads all over the countryside are private roads, but we were told anyone is allowed to use them if they want, for jeep travel, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and I think dirt biking.  They hold famous car rallies on some of these roads as well.  Jorge was very charming and entertaining, and so knowledgeable about all of the plant life, the animal life, the farming, the natural resources, and more! (Please click on photos if you would like to see a larger version of any of them).

One of the many dirt roads we traveled!

Thistles are used in the making of fresh goat cheese.

This Olive tree is 1500 years old!

We stopped for coffee at this little place.  They serve an excellent and inexpensive espresso, and the room has a lovely cork ceiling.

We were taken to a local distillery where Jorge gave us a great education about the production of Medronho brandy (firewater) and honey.  The firewater has a very distinctive flavour, and we were taught the particulars of how to first taste it.

These are medronho berries, which they make the spirits with.  They are edible, with a mild sweet flavour, though we were advised not to eat too many at once.  The plant is nicknamed a strawberry tree, but they don’t taste like strawberries.

Here is where we ate lunch. Delicious!

Complete with elusive garden cat.

Later we stopped in this little town for another break.  I bought some fresh local goat cheese, which I had to hunt for a little in a tiny market.

And at the end of the day, a rainbow.

Rainbow over the Algarve

The following day, the jeep tour went west, towards Portimão and Monchique.  On this day, there were 3 other tourists, a French couple and a lady who spoke many languages including French, Portuguese and English.  Jorge gave this tour in French (He asked me first if this was ok – I said yes.  I used to speak French fairly well, a long time ago.  A little rusty!  But I was able to understand most.) Again, I took many photos – 277 this time.  Obviously I am only selecting a few.

We started with a boat tour of the river at Portimão.  We didn’t travel up the river as far as I would have maybe liked, but it was a good tour.  Lots of birds!

View from the boat before we left the dock. Stork’s nest, baskets for harvesting shellfish (can’t remember, were they oysters?) – see next photo!

The shellfish (oysters?), attached to one of the pillars below the baskets.

Ponte Dona Maria, built by Gustave Eiffel, before he built the tower!

Bonelli’s Eagle. I know, it’s blurry. They’re fast, ok? And it’s hard to hold a zoom lens steady when you’re in a boat.

Cormorants and a stork.

I was told these people were digging for bait.

And this cool castle someone built to live in.

Then we stopped at Ferragudo (that’s a fun name to learn how to pronounce properly 🙂 for a break.  (Photo shoot for me – working now on one of the many scenes as a painting, which is how most of the photos will end up).

The walkway out to the harbour from Ferragudo.

Then we were off into the Monchique mountains and to a restaurant for lunch.

A grove of cork trees. Learned so much about cork! But I will let you learn about that on your own jeep tour 😉

wild cotton

And later, more education on medronho and honey!

Medronho berries in large tubs.

Honeycombs, centrifuge.

We saw some of the damage that had occurred because of recent forest fires too.

Guardrails are not a thing on these mountain roads!

 

A brief look at Silves (I came back here another day).

All in all, another good day, and a fine ending to it.

Obrigada Portitours!

 

Aside

My next outing in the Algarve, after the coastline tour and the walk to Praia da Oura, was a walk to Old Town Albufeira from the villa.  I won’t dwell too long on that as I didn’t take too many photos and didn’t paint.  It was a good outing though, so I’ll say a few things before moving on to the jeep tours on the following two days.

It took about an hour to walk to the old town square, and on the way I noticed another woman seeming like a tourist.  I saw her more than once on the way there, in various places.  When I finally got almost all the way there, and was wandering through a sort of maze of walkways, we bumped into each other again and both burst out laughing.  A fun few moments as we joked about meeting again, and we parted ways.  I thought later I should have asked her to join me for lunch.  Oh well, an opportunity lost, I guess!

The Bull Ring, not far from the villa. It was the off season – I was told later that all the fighters and the bulls go to Brazil for the winter!

A typical street in Albufeira. Quite lovely! I especially liked the green fencing.

For some reason, the map app (you all know which one) sent me walking up a large hill and back down the other side, when there was a perfectly good walkway along the seaside. Thanks a lot! Nice statue at the top though. And I guess I needed the exercise.

A view of Old Town in the distance, from along my walking route.

Old Town turned out to be not quite what I expected.  I was under the impression, from what I had read, that this area was a more authentic representation of how Albufeira used to be before it became a huge tourist magnet.  While that may have been true in respect to the architecture, street layout, etc., it really seemed to be more of a tourist destination than any of the rest of the city!   Full of souvenir shops and pubs, a tunnel to the beach, cobblestone streets on many levels, and live music playing in the square.

I decided to sit in the outdoor patio of one of the pubs facing out to the square to have my lunch.  Having not sampled too much of the cuisine yet (the restaurant/bar in the same neighbourhood as my villa was closed for the season), I ordered the piri piri chicken.  I also treated myself to a mojito.  The wait staff were quite nice – I was given two toonies when they asked about my accent and found out I was Canadian!  And the view was great, I had a lovely, people watching rest.  Except for the chicken.  It was full of all ‘them little bones’ and I felt in great danger of choking.  I ate that chicken slow.

On my way home – looking back at Old Town.

I would return to Old Town later in the month, to enjoy some live music in the evening with my villa mates, and again after an excursion to paint an old windmill.

My next post will be about the jeep tours!

 

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

I thought this painting I just finished the other day was a pretty good one for today.  I took the reference photo during one of the jeep tours I am going to tell you about very soon.  I’ve been writing the post but haven’t added the photos yet!

As you can see, these nesting storks have found “Their Own Little Paradise” in the heart of a citrus grove in the Algarve.

I hope you find your own little paradise somewhere, sometime too, if you haven’t already.

With much gratitude for your amiable appreciation of my art – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Their Own Little Paradise. Watercolour on Yupo. 13×20″. Artist Lianne Todd

 

Algarve Coastline

On my third full day in Albufeira, Portugal, I took a coastal cave and dolphin-watching tour, which I had booked before arriving.  This involved me finding my way to the marina on my own, as my villa-mates were still in Lisbon.  I could have taken a cab, but I wanted to try out the buses, as they were much cheaper!  I had already scoped out which bus routes I needed to take, but it remained to be seen how long it would take to get there. I was using Albufeira’s Giro bus system, which doesn’t exactly have a set schedule.  As my tour time was noon, I felt confident I could make it on time!  And I did, although it wasn’t without a few glitches.  For instance, I hadn’t taken into account the elevation change from one street to another on the map, and for a few moments wondered “how do I get down there?”  All became clear eventually, and I arrived a solid half hour before the tour.

(All images copyrighted as usual.  To see them larger, just click on them 🙂 )

I took a lot of photos that day, but this captures the essence of the tour quite well.
This one is very representative too.
Here is a cave, which appeared quite small from the boat. The ocean swells were quite large and it seemed like we might crash into the rocks at any moment…. but…
The expert boat drivers took us right inside the cave! I couldn’t believe it.

We spent the first hour going west along the coastline from Albufeira.  Then we went out to sea to find dolphins.  Alas!  None made themselves visible that day.  Pretty disappointing, BUT I had seen what must have been at least a hundred of them from the airplane as we came in for a landing at Faro airport.  It was amazing!

Also, as you come in to Faro, you can see some great examples of fractals (not sure what fractals are? see my fractal art here)  If you go to a satellite view of Faro and look just south of it – zoom in to that marshy area between Faro and the open ocean – you’ll see what I mean.  Self similar on smaller and smaller scales!

After about an hour of speeding around on the open ocean, we headed back to the marina.  During this entire tour I was keeping very close tabs on my new sunglasses – they were the kind that came with my prescription glasses and attached via magnets.  It was windy out there.  Well, in spite of my attention I got back to the marina, sat down to enjoy a cappuccino, and discovered they were gone!  I retraced my steps, and the tour hosts were very nice about letting me get back on the boat to look there, but they were nowhere to be found.  So, I was a little sad at the end, but it was a very enjoyable tour.  Thanks Dream Wave!

Arriving back at the marina, a.k.a. ‘Legoland’
Later the same day, a better sunset – a sky quite worthy of painting, but I didn’t. Maybe another day I will incorporate it into one!

The next day, I decided to walk to another one of the Albufeira beaches, also about a half hour away.  This was Praia Da Oura.  Another lovely walk!  Here are a few photos from there:

There is a large hotel you can see there which looks a bit like a cruise ship.

As you can see, it wasn’t exactly the best beach weather but it was nice enough.  You could hike up to the top of the cliffs, too, if you wanted.  I imagine there is a fair bit of erosion each year due to this.

There were some interesting arches and caves to explore…

And the sun did come out for about 15 minutes.  I took full advantage and did a little sunbathing!

The colours are so much nicer when the sun shines.

When the sun went under again, I went further down the beach and found some interesting rock textures and little tide pools.

Then, I settled myself down in a nice dry sheltered spot and began to paint.  Here is what I ended up with that day:

Praia Da Oura. Watercolour on Paper. 8×10″. Artist Lianne Todd

Oh, and guess what?  I am getting new matching sunglasses soon – the company who makes them is being very kind to me.  🙂