Sunday, August 24, 2014

In celebration of the festa

As France empties for the month of August, Central Portugal swells with the amount of visitors coming home for a month in the ‘mother land’.   (I read that there are more Portuguese in France then there is in Portugal….is this possible?).  The squares are full of French cars, the main language heard in the cafés is French and a cheery ‘Bonjour’ instead of ‘Bon Dia’ will see you right in the morning.    

With all these extra people to entertain, we enter party season – or festa season.   Portuguese festas are a funny thing, speakers go up in the villages and the quiet is ruined with pimba music being piped through the speakers from 10am (hear the horror of this below).

The  lights go up on the church.  

 The stage goes up ready for someone to come and sing along to a backing track and the huts go up to serve the beers and pork rolls.    

It’s pretty much the same all over Central Portugal.  At 10pm the main act comes on, there seems to be a competition to be the loudest it can possibly be without ears actually bleeding.

In August there are three festas in two weekends, in villages within 1 mile of each other.    Pera (our village) mixed it up with a night of rock music, which involved some very heavy rock covers with occasional lighter moments as they belted out Lenny Kravitz and Guns and Roses then this Portuguese number…. least is was different from the normal pimba and that’s all I am saying on the subject.

The Coentral festa stuck to the plan with the Folklore Group the Neveiros do Coentral, a dance group based on the traditions of mountain life….who are brilliant until the singing begins…… 

The following week was Senhora de Guia festa, it is one of the best ones because everyone goes along.  The format is the same, lights, music, food and drink.  Pimba music, vaguely good singer singing along to a backing track. 

But truly, it is  great fun and everyone goes along and has a good time.  And at the end of the day,  that's what's important.

It’s a formula that works here, so much so that throughout the summer you can watch local festas on national TV with Total Verao…where you have the horror of watching over enthusiastic hosts interview a wide variety of local people and listen to aging performers miming along to the latest hit with the added bonus (sometimes) of scantily clad dancers faking it for the camera…..!

Well, as August comes to an end, the French cars are leaving ready to join the queue of traffic to get back into France, the ‘Bon Dia’ returns in place of the ‘Bonjour’ and things return to a normal peaceful way of life....... until there is a break from the norm….an artisan beer festival no less and a break from this formulaic approach to festas.  

In a country where SuperBoc and Sarges rule, it is great to see some artisan beers, in fact, beer is becoming quite the thing in some parts of Portugal.  Peter and his friend Ferrie took a hit for the team and went to try out this new festa in celebration of hops.   

35 beers later, I think it was a success!

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