Cobbled pavement with black stones depicting a castle
Friendly Friday,  Portugal,  Travel galleries

Gallery: underfoot in the Algarve

On our recent visit to Faro I found myself often looking down at my feet as I walked around. This was partly out of necessity; there were plenty of broken or uneven cobbles to trip me up! But it was also due to my fascination with the traditional patterns of the Portuguese pavements.

Two men working on a cobbled pavement
Mending pavements in Cascais, 2009

These characteristic black and white mosaic patterns, created through the use of small square cobbles, are known as Calçada Portuguesa. You find them everywhere in Portugal, from large cities to small towns. Walking on them here I was reminded of the time many years ago in Cascais when I watched some men repairing a pavement. They were using the techniques employed for generations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly there are concerns that this may be a dying craft.  It is hard to attract young people to work as calceteiros, as those who lay the stones are called; the work is laborious and not well-paid. Also, the stones can be slippery when wet (or even when dry, as I can testify) and are out of line with the modern emphasis on health and safety. I think it would be a real shame however if the craft of Calçada were to disappear; these distinctive pavements are one of the elements that set a Portuguese town apart from its counterparts in other Mediterranean countries.

So when I saw Amanda’s choice of theme for the Friendly Friday challenge I knew I had to feature those pavements as well as some of the other things I spotted beneath my feet in Faro and on a day trip to Tavira.

xx
Cobbled pavement with shield design in black

The pavement in front of the Igreja do Carmo in Faro.

My featured photo was taken in the same place; the two emblems sit next to each other within the pattern that fills the small square at the foot of the church steps.


Cobbled pavement with geometric pattern
Cobbled pavement with pattern of an anchor

These designs are on R. Conselheiro Bivar in the centre of Faro, a pedestrianised street lined with restaurants and bars.


Cobbled pavement with geometric pattern

This example is from Tavira, on the R. José Pires Padinha which borders the Gilão River. 


Curled shadows on a pavement

Still in Tavira, but moving away now from the theme of pavements, this is the shadow of the railings on the Ponte Romana. This was actually built not by the Romans but the Moors, although the railings are of course even less old!


Looking down a stone spiral staircase

This shot was taken as I descended the steep steps in the bell tower of the Igreja do Misericordia in Tavira. I certainly had to be careful here to look beneath my feet!


Purple flower on a pavement

One of the benefits of looking down is finding unexpected images, like this fallen bougainvillea on another of the streets in Tavira.


Rippling blue water with the reflection of a white building

Back in Faro this is the Hotel Eva reflected in the waters of the marina.


Small green chameleon on a leaf

I was amazed one morning to see this chameleon at my feet, perched on a palm leaf in the courtyard of Faro’s cathedral. And I wasn’t the only one; he had attracted a small group of admirers!


Small succulent plant by a plank of wood

A small succulent I spotted growing beneath the boardwalk at the Praia do Faro.


Shadows of two people on a sandy beach

And finally, a self-portrait with my husband; looking down from the bridge that connects the mainland to the Praia do Faro

I visited Faro and Tavira in April 2022

44 Comments

  • Sofia Alves

    This is so close to my heart! Calçada Portuguesa is one of the things I miss the most, it just makes streets look so much prettier and the skill is amazing. I remember watching the calceteiros repairing bits of my street when I was growing up. All streets are cobbled but not all have designs, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Just one small note, the stones aren’t polished when first laid down. They usually even leave a bit of dust covering after filling in the gaps between the different stones. They do get incredibly smooth quickly. Thank you for this post. Although I’ve just came back from Lisbon, I’m already feeling plenty of saudades.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Ah, thank you Sofia 😊 It’s interesting to know that they aren’t polished when laid. I’ve always assumed that they were but it makes sense that it’s the passing of so many feet that make them so shiny!

  • Alison

    Lovely photos Sarah, it’s not often we look down at our feet unless there is something particular to look at! Macau also has wonderful mosaic flooring along the streets.

  • Debbie

    I love your shots from under your feet Sarah, they are beautiful and tell a story of the rich history. I might even see what I have in my library to share for Friendly Friday

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    Didn’t know anything about those – although we did come across similar designs in Greece but at the minute I can’t remember what they were called there. Really haven’t done much of Portugal – and Michaela hasn’t been at all! So we must put that right…

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh yes, you should! It’s one of my favourite European countries, and Lisbon a favourite city of mine. But the Algarve too is beautiful, if you avoid the big resort hotels (as I’m sure you’ll want to do 🤣🤣) And if ever you decide to go to Faro I can certainly recommend the little studio apartment we rented, it was pretty much perfect!!

  • Marie

    I love cobbles and pavements. It’s impossible isn’t it – to slow down enough to look down – and up – and eye level – and inside – and down the alleyways – especially when its somewhere new…. all that sunshine Sarah – looks like you’d a lovely time.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Marie, you describe exactly what I’m like in a new place! That could be why I’m so prone to accidents 😂 We had a lovely time and lots of sunshine until the morning we came away, when we had a torrential downpour for our very short walk to the bus station. I was soaked!!

  • restlessjo

    So glad I caught this! I very nearly missed it. I hope you enjoyed your visit to my home town. This morning in Braga we climbed a hill where they were very busy relaying calcadas. Fortunately they had shade. I feel so sorry for them in full sun. This is such a beautiful place to spend Easter. I’m so glad we made it but sorry to have missed you. 🤗💟

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Jo 😀 Yes, we loved Tavira and had beautiful weather for our explorations (to be shared in more detail soon). But we were very sorry not to be able to see you. Such a shame that by the very next day you felt able to see people – we missed out by just one day! I’m not sure if we’ll be back in the region (we tend not to go back) but if we do we’ll be sure to try again. And if you’re ever in London … 🤗

      • restlessjo

        We were so wary of passing Covid on and ruining people’s plans. Our friends in Obidos are coming back to the UK for a 70th birthday celebration on 22nd so we were very careful to keep our distance with them. 🤔💟

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Oh, I understand that but I’m sure we could have kept our distance and of course stayed out of doors. You probably weren’t that infectious at that point – they say it’s most infectious during the first five days. I’d assumed you didn’t feel up to coming out or that Portuguese rules prevented you from doing so while still positive!

          • restlessjo

            James managed to catch it from us – well I assume so – but you’re right, that would have been within 5 days. Some people have been ultra cautious and we were only out to walk in the lanes around us, usually in the 1-3 lunch period. Maybe Porto or Lisbon? I very much doubt London is on the cards. 🤔💟

  • Annie Berger

    Sarah,

    Also a HUGE fan of Portuguese mosaic tilework although we first witnessed it in Brazil before being lucky enough to spend time in Lisbon – definitely a country we want to return to for the tiles underneath our feet as well as the stunning blue and white tiles on churches, etc that just captivated us. Loved the hotel reflection you caught in the rippling water.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Funnily enough Annie I think I saw these pavements first in Brazil too, at Copacabana! And you mention the blue tiles – I’ll have a post about them in due course, and all the other colours too 😀 Thanks for the feedback on the reflection photo – I love looking out for that sort of shot!

  • photobyjohnbo

    That cobblestone art would be considered a high-end skill here in the U.S. They could charge plenty for their work, but may not find enough people willing to pay the price. Sorry to see these historic skills disappear.

  • Forestwood

    I am surprised that the cobbled pavements are slippery when wet. I would have thought the slight unevenness and rough texture of the stones would afford some “tooth,” but clearly not. Do they polish the stones before laying them? I think it is a beautiful craft and all the more interesting as it is a traditional custom that identifies their cultural history! I hope I see more of these in future posts.
    Also, I especially liked the water reflection – marvellous capture there, Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, the stones are slightly polished and become more so with time as people walk on them. And they are flat, not like rounded cobbles – more like little blocks or thick tiles perhaps? And thanks for like the water reflection Amanda, I had fun with that one, trying to find the best angles 🙂

  • Yvonne+Dumsday

    I agree with you Sarah, it would be a real shame however if the craft of Calçada were to disappear and I really love your “self portrait”. Hope you both enjoyed your trip.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      We had a great time thanks Yvonne 🙂 And we even managed to get into that church with the ‘bones chapel’ that our group had found closed when we tried to visit (the one where we have a group photo on the steps)!

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