Portugal Day was a month ago, but we were already in Cabo Verde when this post was originally published on June 10. Back at the beginning of May, Zara, the Portuguese half of Backpack Me, invited me to participate in a group post comprised of locals (Portuguese travel bloggers), expats (travel bloggers based in Portugal), and visitors (travel bloggers who’ve been to Portugal) in honour of Portugal Day. The aim of the article is to share a variety of perspectives that will inspire people to include Portugal in their bucket lists:
(In the internet era of lists, it’s nice to read a title that has no numbers!)
It’s always interesting to read collaborative articles because everyone has different ideas, backgrounds, reasons, and experiences. My contribution was one of the two expats in the group, and I’m reprising my text here, since I talk about the subject often:
Travellers going to Portugal for the first time will no doubt spend more time in the cities, but I urge everyone to visit the tiny villages in the mountains, where time seems to have stood still. I live in the north, where most of these villages can be reached within a few hours’ drive. For the ones still inhabited, they are now essentially living museums, but they won’t live forever — urbanization is shrinking the villages. Go before they completely disappear!
So what can you expect to find in rural Portuguese mountain villages?
Some are only ruins now, some accessible only by hiking, a few have been restored. You’ll find villages made entirely of schist, or whatever stones are local to the area. Along the mountain roads, chances are you’ll be passed by longhorn cattle making their trek to the upper pastures; be prepared to stop for sheep and goats. There probably won’t be enough room for the car so you’ll make your way up the steep stone path to the village on foot, outpaced by little grandmas with big smiles, no teeth, and layers of skirts — even in the hot sun — making their daily journey from the chapel on another mountain. Every village has at least one chapel, but you’ll also see them in unlikely places, like the middle of an orchard or vineyard.
If the village has only a couple of hundred regular residents, like my husband’s family village, you might notice the absence of a grocery or convenience store. On certain days, you’ll hear horns from the fish van or the bread van announcing their presence. Each horn is different; the locals know which is which. There are no banks. No shops. No corporate banners. No brands… oh, but wait: the Portuguese love coffee so if the village is larger there might be a “cafe” — I use the term loosely because it just looks like someone’s door is left open — marked by a coffee brand at the entrance. Nearby, possibly a burro or oxcart, but always a village dog or two lounging around in the sun.
If you can swing it, I highly recommend visiting a village during their patron saint’s festival: there’s often a parade, traditional clothing, music, food, and a festive atmosphere. You won’t find anything flashy, it’s not for tourists. But you’ll forget it’s 2014, if only for a day.
Now that you’ve read my #1 reason for travelling to Portugal now, go read the rest!