It has been a long dry summer this year, although the temperatures have never been exceptionally high. Where we are, it has mostly been around the lower to mid 30’s. We have been waiting for a promised thunderstorm for the last couple of days, but it has failed to materialise. Last summer, and the summer before, we had some pretty spectacular storms, that brought welcome watering for the gardens and generally freshened up everything. This year, with the notable exception of the Saturday of the Motorbike Festival (sod’s law!) we have seen barely any rain at all since May. Sunshine and warmth are of course, two of the main reasons that people choose to come and live in Portugal, and it is wonderful to wake up to morning after morning of blue skies, or mist that is quickly burnt away by the sun. But there is, as to every benefit, another side – in this case the fire risk. The fire-risk indicators have been sitting in the medium-risk zone for a while, and there are continual reminders that we all have a responsibility to guard against fire. Nevertheless, fires do occasionally break out, and last Sunday tea-time we became aware of the repeated sound of sirens (very unusual here) as vehicles raced through Góis, and soon after we saw the ‘fire-bomber’ planes go overhead. It was not until later that we learnt where the fire was, about 20km up the valley, and next morning we heard that it had taken several hours and over 200 firefighters to get it under control. There was no loss of life, and no damage to any villages. That fact, as you can imagine, evokes tremendous feelings of gratitude and appreciation towards the people that go to fight such fires – the ‘Bombeiros’, many of whom are volunteers. I would like to take the opportunity on this page to acknowledge their courage and commitment, that we all depend on. Last night, at the river bar in Góis, a ‘Sardinhada’ (sardine party) and dance was held to benefit the local bombeiros – a festive occasion under the fairy-lights. In some of the villages in the mountains they are also holding their festas this weekend – that may never have taken place were it not for the bombeiros.
On a lighter note – we would like to share with you our amazement at our tomato harvest this summer! The hot dry weather (along with plenty of hand-watering) certainly seems to have suited them. In fact we have had such an abundance, that we are experimenting with our own sun-drying technique, that so far seems to be working. Now, what to do with all those extra peppers, chillies and aubergines….?
Yesterday we had the very great pleasure of joining Professor Simões’ family and friends for an ‘almoço do convívio’ (communal lunch) in his home village of Ponte do Sótão. We gathered outside the ‘Casa do Povo’ (People’s House) for a delicious feast of sardines and grilled squid provided by the ‘King of Sardines’ from Porto. (Apparently Mick Jagger once ate at the ‘King of Sardines’ restaurant, and liked it so much that he flew up another time from Lisbon specifically to dine there. Unfortunately it was a Monday, and the restaurant was closed, so he was disappointed!) It was a great honour to be invited to participate in what is a very important Portuguese custom – to join together to eat out of doors, drink wine, and enjoy each other’s company. ‘Conviviality’ seems to be a very important quality that binds communities together here – maybe the generous climate makes it easier to achieve than in more northerly regions – and these occasions bring together people of all ages and occupations, and as we have experienced, different backgrounds. We thoroughly enjoyed the food, the sun and the easy Portuguese hospitality that gave us a little holiday for the afternoon!
Góis is in recovery today from the weekend’s huge excitement of the annual motorbike festival. I feel about the festival a bit like I do about Christmas – I await its coming for several weeks beforehand with anticipation and a certain amount of apprehension, enjoy the fun of the event itself, then feel great relief when it is all over and I know it will be another whole year before it happens again! For two and a half days the town is invaded by motorbikes and bikers of all shapes, sizes and ages, who come to meet up, admire each other’s machines, and party. The stage is set (literally) for three nights of entertainment, and attendant stalls of merchandise and tattooing services line the riverside, along with doughnut and hot-dog vendors and plentiful ‘Sagres’ bars. The atmosphere is laid-back and very good-natured – I spent most of the weekend at the festival, going round with Richard in his capacity as press photographer, and in the streets, the campsite and the festival site itself we witnessed not one act or even exchanged look of conflict. Whole families come along to join in the fun, and for this one weekend the normal rules are relaxed – motorcyclists are free to ride within the town without helmets, with children sandwiched between their parents, and to do wheelies down the street. A high-profile police presence keeps a watchful but benign eye on the proceedings. If you are brave enough to venture out of your village or quinta and into Góis on this weekend you are certainly in for a big surprise. The usually quiet and dreamy little town is transformed as the battery of motorbikes assault all the senses – the tang of petrol fumes hangs in the air and the noise of revving engines can be deafening. But it’s fun, it’s good business, and as we all reassure each other – it’s only once a year! Today is Monday, the café owners are counting their profits, the mini-market is re-stocking its shelves, and the cash machines have money in them again. Thank goodness, it’s all back to normality.
To see more photos of the motorbike festival click here.
Last night, while Góis became transformed into a humming hive of two-wheeled activity as the motorbikes came to town, the girls and I slipped away to a much more peaceful event that was taking place in Vila Nova do Ceira – the procession of Nossa Senhora da Candosa. Every year, the little statuette of the Saint comes down from her chapel at Candosa to spend some time in the church at Varzea Grande. Then, at the weekend of the Festa in her honour, she is carried up the hill in a candlelit procession back to her usual residence. Last night we were blessed with a nearly full moon and a star-filled sky as we followed the procession out of the town and up through the trees to the high crags of Candosa. The litter bearing the Saint, who rested on a bed of white roses, was borne on the shoulders of four women, and illuminated by four tall lanterns held aloft at each corner. As we processed, residents of the town watched from their windows, some with their own candles lit in honour of the Saint. A strong woman’s voice sang out hymns and prayers, to which the congregation responded softly. The mood was peaceful, but not solemn – the repeated ‘Ave Maria’ sounding uplifting and celebratory as we walked along at the back of the procession. I myself am not Catholic, and so my understanding of the significance of an event such as this must always be limited. I could see that for many of the women present this was a deeply moving occasion, and several completed the procession in their stockinged feet. For me, the experience of quietly processing through the night in communal celebration and homage felt profoundly reassuring and on some level familiar. Even though I do not share the same faith, I did not feel out of place.
As we climbed the hill to Candosa we could see the area brilliantly illuminated by coloured fairy lights and festa decorations, and our final approach to the chapel was gloriously lit as the Saint was greeted by the waiting crowd. Then as the procession reached its final destination, our hymn was joined by a swell of voices through the open door of the chapel, in breath-taking synchronicity. The little saint was returned to her familiar plinth within the chapel, and the procession fell away to join the festa. Then the waiting band struck up, and the three-day celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Candosa opened with music and dance.
We have been extremely busy over the last few days recording stories from the freguesia of Alvares, photographing the villages and people of the region. Yesterday I was a little closer to home, attending the folkloric dancing display at FACIG, which is a local festival held annually in the town of Góis. I hope the following photos give some flavour of the event.
This weekend sees the Feira Agrícola, Comercial e Industrial de Góis – an event somewhat comparable to a County Show in the UK (without the livestock). The event is spread out over five days, with music, dance and partying in addition to the stands and stalls. On Friday night we went down to the Parque do Baião in Góis where the stage was all set up and lit for the splendid Brazilian “Banda Éxito”, who entertained us with highly energetic and colourful Brazilian music and dance until well after midnight. But we still managed to be up early on Saturday morning to enjoy the ‘Dia da Juventude’ - “a day when we are all young”. The day kicked off with aquarobics in the river Ceira, and dance and ‘Body Combat’ workshops in the park. Meanwhile there were opportunities to try out archery, the climbing wall, and the breath-taking zip wire over the river, that had kids and adults queuing up eagerly for a turn. However, it was the evening’s ‘Foam Party’ that our family was most excited about– at midnight in the Parque do Cerejal, the football court was transformed by foam cannon into a sea of bubbles, as Góis went Ibiza under strobes and disco lighting! Small children disappeared rather alarmingly into the surf but bobbed up again quite happily, and some adults were even seen to get stuck in with gusto… We emerged somewhat cleaner and damper some time around 1am – no doubt the party went on long after that, but our energy had finally given up. It’s quite exhausting being young for a day!
For the last few weeks there have been strange goings-on in our village – men and boys have been gathering in the basement of the Casa do Convivio after dark and hammering and banging away until the early hours. As we have lain in bed drifting off to sleep at night, we have been startled awake by a sound like an approaching storm getting louder and louder until it reaches a clattering crescendo outside our window before dying away. A few minutes later it would happen again – and by the end of last week it was still happening at 2 a.m.! But yesterday, the reason for these midnight shenanigans was finally revealed, in the shape of the first-ever Liboreiro to Manjão Go-Kart Race, dreamt-up and organised by Manjão’s very own Rui Ramos. As mentioned before, weeks of preparation had gone into this event, and the day turned out to be enormous fun from beginning to end. Although the temperatures were in the upper 30’s, about five hundred spectators turned out to line the road and cheer on the 53 contestants, who rattled down the course on an assortment of home-made vehicles, some of which attained astonishingly high speeds. Despite a couple of minor mishaps there were no serious injuries, and the bombeiros were not called upon to administer any emergency services. From the verandah of our house I enjoyed a grandstand view of proceedings, and left the running around in the sun to Richard, as he took over 600 photos from start to finish (a sample of which can be seen on the Events webpage.) By the time the sun was going down I found the energy to go down to the prize-giving, as medals and trophies were handed out to a range of contestants – including some very junior members who made it down the course. After that it was just a matter of chilling out for the evening with a couple of cold beers – or so we thought. Little did we know what treat was lined up for us – a thrilling ‘rickshaw’ ride down the hill on the wonderful 3-person ‘sofa’ go-kart, piloted by Rui, and lit by the stars. I am thankful that the photo taken of me as we rocketed through the village will NOT be displayed on this website. But I can’t remember when I last laughed as much!
STOP PRESS !!
We are delighted to announce that both Anna and Patricia were successful in the InCI Real Estate exam, and this means that we are now well on our way to becoming the first legal and licensed property company in the Góis region.
It has been an interesting and sometimes frustrating process to get this far, since the red tape can be rather thick and sticky at times, and there is still a fair quantity to wade through. But we know it will be worth it! We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has been supporting us, both here in Góis and in the UK. Some of you we have never even met, but your messages of encouragement have kept us going, and are very much appreciated. Now we are looking forward to the day when we can finally fill the property pages on the website, and that day is getting ever closer.
Our accompanying pictures today are of some of the shimmering dragonflies, ‘libélulas’, that dart around here in the summer sunshine. The dragonfly has a personal significance for us in connection with this company and the work that we have put into creating it, so now feels the right time to put them on display.