It is the end of February, and we have been enjoying some wonderfully warm sunny days. Butterflies are now to be seen flitting among the flowers, and we have spotted the first lizards of the year, emerging to bask in the sunshine. The trees are a treat now that everything is starting to burst into bloom– the acacia is in full golden spate on the hillsides, and is being joined by delicate pink and white almond and peach blossom in the fields and gardens. We are spending most of our time in our new office at the moment, consolidating and preparing our properties for display. But it is good for the spirit to take a few minutes out occasionally, to slip down to the riverside and enjoy the abundance of the spring flowers, in all their beauty.
This weekend sees the start of ‘Carnaval’ – a celebration sadly lacking in the UK, but a hugely important holiday for much of Europe. Whereas in Britain we are excited merely at the prospect of eating a pancake or two on Shrove Tuesday, here in Portugal this time of year, before the start of Lent, is an opportunity to dress up and party. Traditionally in times past every village would have its own customs that were enjoyed annually, often involving cross-dressing, and also the anonymous giving of a commentary on all the deeds and misdeeds of the village’s inhabitants during the past year – the ‘Cantar as Pulhas’. (For more information, read through our descriptions of the villages of the region.) What such traditions have to do with Lent is anyone’s guess – though my thoughts are that their roots go much deeper than Christianity in Europe.
These days every town has its Carnaval parade, where the children, and some brave adults, dress up in fancy dress to parade through the town, throwing confetti to the crowds as they pass. This year in Góis the day dawned with a brilliantly blue sky, and warm sunshine beamed down upon the parade as it wound slowly round the town, to the delight of the onlookers. The costumes of the children were charming of course, (why is it that children always look so delightful in fancy-dress?) and the adults managed to carry it off with varying degrees of conviction! The Carnaval holiday atmosphere was certainly in the air of Góis for a couple of happy hours – thank you to all the participants who went to such a lot of effort to create it for us all.
Today is Valentine's Day, and it feels like the first proper day of spring. The sun has at last been shining fully, with the temperature climbing well into the teens, and people and animals alike have been basking in the sunshine, happily soaking up the warmth. In response to the sun, the trees and flowers are also coming to life, and everywhere is turning yellow - with daffodils and mimosa and a few shy primroses. The acacia trees put on a truly wonderful show last spring, and we are waiting to see if this year can equal it - the first blossoms are coming out in the sheltered south-facing spots, and we know that soon the air will smell of marzipan as the scent of the flowers is wafted on the breeze. I will not be repeating last year's mistake of bringing armfuls of it into the house however - in such close proximity it had some of us in fits of sneezing, so I think we will just enjoy it on the trees!
The last two weeks have seen almost torrential rain, with the result that the rivers and streams of the region have turned from gently tripping to fiercely raging. We were most impressed to see the Ceira today as we had never seen her before - no longer 'crystal-clear' but boiling and muddy, racing and eddying and spilling over the banks as she washed away the swimming beaches of summer. I tried to fix the image in my mind to recall next August, when we are once again idly splashing in the river on a hot summer's day - how very different the river's mood can be when the rain has been falling heavily on the mountains...respect to the Ceira!