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.
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.
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.
These designs are on R. Conselheiro Bivar in the centre of Faro, a pedestrianised street lined with restaurants and bars.
This example is from Tavira, on the R. José Pires Padinha which borders the Gilão River.
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!
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!
One of the benefits of looking down is finding unexpected images, like this fallen bougainvillea on another of the streets in Tavira.
Back in Faro this is the Hotel Eva reflected in the waters of the marina.
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!
A small succulent I spotted growing beneath the boardwalk at the Praia do Faro.
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
Just read your walk at Praia de Faro but struggling to comment on my phone. Catch up soon. Thanks 🤗💟
No problem, I know you’re away right now. Enjoy what’s left of your break!
Sitting beside the cathedral in Viseu. One more day to go 🤣💗
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.
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!
Love that chameleon, Sarah! I also am impressed by the intricacy of the cobble work pieces.
The chameleon was a real bit of serendipity 😀 Thank you Siobhan!
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.
Thank you Alison 🙂 I guess Portugal exported these pavements along with other elements of its culture to everywhere they colonised!
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
Thanks Debbie 🙂 I do hope you find some to share too, it would be lovely to see what you come up with!
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…
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!!
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.
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!!
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. 🤗💟
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 … 🤗
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. 🤔💟
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!
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. 🤔💟
Porto’s on our wish-list so yes, maybe there one day!
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.
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!
I. J. Khanewala
I had the same reaction to Lisbon’s pavements. Wonderful to look at, but hard to hurry down them. Great photo
Thanks, yes, Lisbon pavements are beautiful but not to be rushed 😀
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.
Hopefully this one will survive but I think there’s a risk it may not
philosophy through photography
Beautiful design and eye pleasing!
Thanks, glad you liked it!
Looks like a lovely trip! I also love the pavement patterns in Portugal…really, I love everything about Portugal. lol
Yes, it’s a lovely country and Lisbon one of my favourite European capitals 🙂
I visited Faro and Tavira looong ago.
Hi Maurizio, good to hear from you 🙂
the eternal traveller
The chameleon is so cute.
Isn’t he?! And quite a ‘fan club’ of admirers had gathered around him, yet he wasn’t at all bothered by our presence 🙂
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!
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 🙂
Fun post Sarah – loved the little chameleon and the fallen flower. Lovely.
Thank you Tina – you’ve picked out my own two favourites 😀
Ooo, much fun was had, I can tell. It would be a real shame if these disappeared.
Much fun indeed, it was a lovely weekend break!
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.
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)!