Festas do Emigrante, 2011

on 7:52 pm

As it was written a few post ago on this blog, the current month here in Portugal - which we are now seeing come to a close - is synonymous with the homecoming of Portuguese emigrants. From all over the world they fly in and from European countries they drive as well. The month of August, as many emigrants will tell you, is the month of complete and utter happiness, when the yearning to return, if only for a few weeks, is finally realised; when family and old friends are again seen; when senses, smells and visions of other times are re-encountered; and when spirits are renewed. Many are the songs written about Portuguese emigration, but arguably non capture this sentiment (as simple as it may be stated) as that of the song Voltei, Voltei by Dino Meira. If you don't know it, it goes like this: "Voltei voltei, voltei de lá; Ainda ontem estava em França e agora já estou cá. ... Vale mais um mês aqui do que um ano inteiro lá", or in other words: "I came I came, I came back from their; I was in France yesterday and now I'm here. ... One month here is more valuable then an entire year there".

And so every year during the month of August, villages, towns, municipalities through parties, or festas, if you will to commemorate the homecoming of its son and daughters. The Festa do Emigrante serves up food, drink, live music, folklore, games, fireworks, dancing, and many other things. In some towns they are the biggest parties of the year, prepared for ahead of time and in some cases even payed for by the emigrants abroad.

With this post we pay homage to this tradition by showing posters from some of this years Festas do Emigrante from different parts of Portugal. At the same time we take this opportunity to wish all emigrants who have been here during this month of August safe journeys "home". Hang in there during the Fall, Winter and Spring as next year there'll be more. Here are some posters from this years festas.

Praias Fluviais: the other beaches of Portugal

on 5:40 pm

Portugal's know for it's beaches. No surprise there. Up and down the coast, or across in the case of the Algarve, or around in the case of Madeira and the Azores, many kilometres of sandy beaches, possessing all kinds of characteristics, can be founds. We also know that the majority of the Portuguese population live along the coastal regions so beach access is by no means difficult to come by for many. Now for those who live in inland communities, where ocean beach access is not so easy to come by, the alternatives are either water parks, river beaches or dammed-up swimming holes. In all cases, in Portugal these bathing locations are better known as praias fluviais.

Now in the Portuguese interior, the water park phenomenon has particularly taken off in the last few years, many of them extravegant in nature, going as far as to imitate tropical island settings as is the case with Praia Fluvial das Rocas in Castanheira da Pera:

And yet others go as far as shipping in sand in order to provide that ocean beach feel, as is the case with the recently inaugurated Live Beach Praia Fluvial in Mangualde:

Many of these beach complexes, in fact, are created to become much more then just a place where you can go for a soak, often becoming mini-entertainment complexes. The two projects shown below - Mangualde's Live Beach (on the left) and Praia Fluvial de Valhelhas (on the right) - show exactly this. Mangualde's Live Beach comes with a stage and holds concerts by big name Portuguese acts through out the Summer. Equally Valhelhas host a rock festival towards the end of August.

So although these somewhat 'mega-projects' have been carried out to bring the coastal beach-like atmosphere into the interior, let it be said that the traditional praia fluvial of the Portuguese interior are actually historic in nature, or should I say as historic as the villages or aldeias many can be found in or close to. A simple visit to the site http://www.praiasfluviais.com/ will provide you with all sorts of information and here you will see exactly what I speak of. For a true bathing experience in history ... pick anyone of the 21 praias fluviais located in the shale villages (aldeias de xisto) of Central Portugal, for example. From the praias fluviais of Benfeita and Piodão in the Açor mountain range near Arganil, to Aldeia Ruiva, Mealhada and Fróia (pictured below) around Proença-a-Nova, all are beautiful man-made bathing locations in the midst of history and rural tranquility, worthy of being experienced.

As also mentioned, another praia fluvial option is that of beach areas created by river reservoirs. Although various can be found through out Portugal, again in Central Portugal the River Zêzere and the Castelo de Bode reservoir provides some of the best praias fluviais in Portugal. The aldeia of Dornes near Ferreira do Zêzere is one such example, providing the beauty of a small mountain village with two very relaxing beaches along the Zêzere (see below).

So if you're still thinking of putting in some beach time this Summer here in Portugal, your encouraged to consider the praias fluvias Portugal has to offer. It's most definitely a soak worth taking.

The Portuguese mercearias of yesterday and today; but tomorrow?

on 9:29 pm

In a country with more square metres (or should we say kilometres) dedicated to commercial shopping space then any other in Europe, which is that of Portugal today (with much of that space quickly becoming empty - crisis anyone!), if we were to go back to 1970's Portugal, surely the country would be at the bottom of such a ranking. Back in the day, grocery shopping didn't mean a trip to the Continent or the Pingo Doce or the Modelo or the Lidl or whatever you may have in the vacinity of your home. Grocery shopping, and basically any sort of shopping of household items, meant a stroll to the local mercearia (cornershop/cornerstore, you pick). Here's what they looked like (and some still do).

Now in a country that has been conquered by shopping malls, unsurprisingly the need for the local mercearia has dwindled. Dwindled yes ... but not yet outright disappeared. In the cities of Lisbon and Porto, a walkabout in many of the historic neighbourhoods will lead you to a number of historic mercearias, often still operated by the same individuals who were there before the coming of the boxstore and the shopping mall. For example:

The city of Porto has what are perhaps two of the most well know historic mercearias of Portugal: Casa Oriental and A Pérola do Bolhão (both below). Having opened its doors 101 years ago, Casa Oriental is particularly well known for its bacalhau (salted cod), also used to decorate the entire store front. Founded in 1917, A Pérola de Bolhão has become a symbol of the city due to its artistic, painted tile storefront.

In both cases, these mercearias have extended their history beyond their sales means - they are now historic symbols of the city. But what about those that don't earn that status? Are these bound to become a footnote in time? Most likely. Most recently, however, an attempt at a new generation of mercearia was started up in Lisbon. With the goal of bringing back the old neighbourhood mercearia feel, the Mercearia Creativa attempts to do just that, bringing with it certain touches of modernity as well (in this day-and-age of modern technology the internet helps http://www.merceariacreativa.com/).

Surely, the concept may be somewhat utopian trying to beat out the big boys behind the box stores and the supermarket chains. Still, to put it simply, it's worth a try. After all what you see below looks pretty impersonal doesn't it?