I do like a laugh, don’t you? Even when it’s at my own expense. Last Sunday, with huge enthusiasm, I persuaded a small group of friends to join me at the Christmas market in Odeleite, a beautiful village in the Algarve hills. I had seen it advertised in the monthly programme of events and was keen to go. Two years previously I’d enjoyed a morning up there, amid market stalls, crafts, carollers and cake! Metal sculptures lined the steep road down into the valley, and music and laughter drifted up, along with some tempting aromas.
This year was to be a little different. We arrived in two cars, and surveyed the empty car park with disbelief. No jubilant sounds reached our ears. Instead, curious gazes followed us as we started our descent into the village. ‘Bom dia’, we politely greeted them. As we turned the corner, just for a moment, I anticipated a flurry of activity. But no! A sad sight met our eyes. Preparations had obviously been underway for the planned fair, but had been abandoned.
The bullock rusted quietly in the empty stable. Last time he had been accompanied by a live donkey and a small pony as well as the traditional crib scene. Sheep had bleated from the hillside. I felt as perplexed as the new reindeer. Fortunately my companions found it highly amusing that I had brought them to a non-existent fair. I had even remembered my purse- a most uncommon event! But, oh, they did bemoan the lack of pork bifanas and cake. We wandered the village, looking for signs of life and formulating a plan.
It’s an attractive village and we whiled away half an hour, admiring the artworks, before venturing further. I was, of course, shod for a shopping expedition rather than a hike on rough paths, but I gave it a go. Until destiny, in the form of 2 hunters with guns, persuaded us that a better option might be to return to the village cafe. Sundays and Thursdays are fair game for hunters and we had no desire to be quarry. There’s usually a bright side, if you look for it, and we shared a couple of sweet mince pastries along with our coffee.
He’s just rootling! You know how pigs are. We adjourned to the restaurant, where there’s a great view down over the village.
And the moral of the story? Make sure the event hasn’t been cancelled before you set off. Portugal has recently declared a State of Calamity, which sounds so much worse than it is, but it does mean that some events won’t take place. Happily, just a few days later, we passed through a village where Christmas celebrations were in full swing. More of that later.
You want to know about the dessert? A sticky almond and coconut confection. I couldn’t even finish it! No pastry next time!