Village hospitality

Filipa’s village of Barriosa is in central Portugal, near the national park, Serra da Estrela and mainland Portugals’ highest mountain, Torre. Every year the village celebrates the summer holidays with a festival. This village, of about 500 people, knows how to party and for 4 nights they did. Every night there were different bands and a different styles and blends of music, either traditional Portuguese music, reggae or rock ‘n’ roll. Filipa and her cousin Sara manned the cocktail bar every night, making caipirinhas, mojitos and sangria for the masses. For 4 nights we got to sleep around 4 or 5 am and woke in the afternoon for a dip in the local river, in time to do it all over again. I’m sure the Portuguese are missing the ‘I’m sleepy’ gene as they never seem to want to call it quits. People of all ages know how to party. Within days of arriving in Portugal I had developed my addiction to the Portuguese bica – a strong short black coffee! Over the 4 days there are also activities and competitions between Barriosa and neighbouring villages in soccer, a card game played in pairs called sueca and a game similar to petanque or bocce called malha.

Barriosa village

We spent a very relaxing week in the village, swimming, sleeping, eating and drinking and it was also the perfect opportunity for me to meet Filipa’s entire family, as everyone was there for the summer break and the 4-day festival.

The first day I arrived it was one of Filipa’s cousins birthday, so we were off to a family dinner where I got to meet everyone in one go….roughly around 30 people – her mother, brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, cousins, and more cousins. This is just the immediate family. The number grows to around 100 for the extended family. My first Portuguese birthday party was quite a head spinning experience.

Names – how am I ever going to remember them all?

The language – will I ever be able to understand or even speak Portuguese? Everyone sounds like they are arguing passionately with each other (although they are not) and everyone is talking at once. At times, the tones and sounds of Portuguese can almost sound slightly Russian. I was also amazed that not as many people as I thought could speak English and those that could speak English, are quite shy about it, so they don’t.

The food and wines – will my body go in to shock after living in Indonesia for 18 months, with the copious amounts of amazing meats, cheeses, breads and wines?

Okay, I won’t go in to too much detail now about the food because I could write a whole post just about each dish….and I will….. but one word about the food….delicioso!

Towards the end of the evening, the accordion was out and there was traditional singing and there was dancing and much hand clapping. No Portuguese dinner party seems to be complete without a group of family members surrounding the TV and shouting at a soccer game.

During that first week in the village I tried so many traditional homemade dishes and wines. Unfortunately not a lot of photos to show you due to only just having met all these people and I was feeling a little shy to pull out the camera, but I promise to post some photos and go in to more detail in later posts.

Just to name a few and whet your appetite…..leitão (suckling pig), frango grelhado (grilled baby chicken), bacalhau a murro (salted cod fish with smashed potatoes), arroz de marisco (seafood rice), sopa de caldo verde (green cabbage soup), canja (chicken noodle soup), vinho verde (green wine) and cabrito assado (roasted goat)…..and I haven’t even touched on desserts yet or the amazing local cheeses that are so creamy and tasty or the chouriço, the spicy Portuguese smoked sausage.

Filipa’s uncle makes local organic products and has won awards around Portugal for his foods and wines. I tried one of the spirits he makes called Aguardente de frutos vermelhos. It’s about 45% in alcohol and contains small red fruits. Aguardente is like the Portuguese version of the Italian grappa and it sets your throat on fire and your legs weak.

All of the dishes were made by Filipa’s mum, aunties or grandmother and lots of home grown vegetables and organic meats. So organic, I saw the cute little goats being led in to the backyard which were to be roasted later that day. Filipa’s grandparents have a shop where they sell a lot of produce to the village with an adjoining traditional Portuguese café (the only one in the village).

I also witnessed the annual Procession of the Saints through the village, which coincides with the 4-day festa. The patron Saint of Barriosa is Santo António, Saint Anthony. After Sunday Mass, four statues of Saints were carried through the entire village on the shoulders of the villagers. Each Saint had been decorated with flowers and the village streets had been decorated by the children with paper flags. It was beautiful just following the procession through the streets amongst the grape vines and feeling the community spirit and local pride.

I was welcomed with open arms and warmth in to Portuguese village life and Filipa’s family. It was a wonderful introduction in to Portuguese culture and one I will always remember with fond memories.

We stopped for one final look back over the national park as we were leaving to head back to Lisbon.  Farewell for now, Barriosa. What a great week.

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