Category Archives: Summer Solstice

The Longest Day. From Sunrise to Sunset. The Castle and its Kingdom.

If we live in beautiful places do we have to travel to find more. It seems we do and it can be so inspiring to see a different kind of landscape and for me it’s flora and fauna. We spent the summer solstice in the fortress town of Marvao in Portugal. Marvao welcomes visitors as there is little need to defend the kingdom by having an impenetrable castle these days. So for people there, their economy is supported by tourism and holiday homes. The only other reasons to go up the hill is for the sheer beauty of the views, sunsets and the quaint old streets. And maybe to see the aerial display of the many house martins, swifts and crag martins.

On the 21st of June we got up at 6 to see the sunrise. We were 5 minutes late and were the only ones about. Not quite like Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plains but the view across Extremadura, flat and with a few rocky outcrops and hills on the border with Portugal from the mountain of Marvao was indeed a sight to see.

Sunrise over extremadura Spain from the hilltop castle town of Marvao, Portugal.
Sunrise over extremadura Spain from the hilltop castle town of Marvao, Portugal.
The room for a sunrise view at the Dom Dinish hotel, Marvao.
The room for a sunrise view at the Dom Dinish hotel, Marvao.

After many shots capturing the rising sun we realised that there was still two hour before breakfast was served at the Dom Dinish hotel. This is an excellent and friendly place and rooms with views. Our room had a view of the south western side and the sunset if you leaned out rather precariously from the Juliet balcony. However it is not far from the castle and the town’s walls and these all provide amazing views, plentiful birds in swift flight, and vertigo inducing drops.

So with hours to kill and the sun so pleasant we didn’t retreat to the room but decided to meditate on a bench by the castle and gardens. And we did, only to find we had been sharing the bench with a giant grasshopper. As still as could be. Now nature can teach us a thing or two about stillness. The creature remained for a photography session and was there after our trip up to a castle arch to find the Crag Martin family.

Grasshopper stillness on meditating bench!
Grasshopper stillness on meditating bench!
Grasshopper meditating or Tai Chi position .
Grasshopper meditating or Tai Chi position .

After the encounter with the grasshopper we decided to see if we could photograph the Crag Martin nest we had seen under one of the first arches you go through into the castle. This is a busy spot for people but it seems not many noticed this little family. They also didn’t seem perturbed by us observing them. At first it was difficult to spot but as the beaks of the 3 youngsters opened wide in anticipation of a fist from a parent we realised that it was a very active nest! The parent bird returned a few seconds after the opening of the beaks so the little ones had sensed the nearness of the parent bird. It all seemed to happen quite quickly and photographing seemed impossible the evening before. However, on this summer solstice morning the birds obliged, a little. One was on the nest,one was on the nest resting and still. The other obliged by returning to feed the open mouths and not dashing off so rapidly.

Crag Martin under arch of Marvao castle
Crag Martin under arch of Marvao castle
Parent Crag Martin returning with food for hungry mouths.
Parent Crag Martin returning with food for hungry mouths.

After breakfast we had a good long walk around the Castle. There are many shots of that but not many of the swallowtail butterflies, both types and graylings. We even saw a Red Admiral on some rocks by the Convent. The heat was rising and there was a need to withdraw. The renovated Pousada was very cooling for a coffee with views over Spain and amazing coffee table books with beautiful photographs of horses around the world and some in very high places too.

View from the Pousada Santa Maria, Marvao
View from the Pousada Santa Maria, Marvao
Coffee and coffee table books
Coffee and coffee table books

The rest of the day was spent strolling around, touring in the valleys below, and finally another really red sunset. A real glory be to Nature and maybe final farewells to the history of war and now homes for Swifts, Martins and other critters! And for us, love conquering war with a second honeymoon!

Castle of Marvao
Castle of Marvao
Evening Primrose in castle gardens
Evening Primrose in castle gardens
Rooftops and views, Marvao, Alentejo, Portugal
Rooftops and views, Marvao, Alentejo, Portugal
Sunset from hotel room. Note weather vane is odd!
Sunset from hotel room. Note weather vane is odd!