this is the archive for the ‘algarving’ category:

analogue wednesday #198

everywhere we look, there’s tall, dry grass that rustles in the wind. it’s beautiful, especially as the evening light shines through its empty shells.

rota do petisco

for a few years now, a local association has been organizing the rota do petisco, a food festival in which you can taste small dishes from 300 or so restaurants. instead of putting them together in a single location though, the event takes place over a month in the restaurants themselves, all over algarve. this year we finally gave it a go, and i was a bit surprised to discover how much i enjoyed it! :D here’s five things i like about it.

1. the passport! you need a passport to have access to the food, and though it’s just a little book, it’s actually kind of fun to collect the stamps and see where you’ve been. there’s also a picture/description of the dish, and useful information about where the restaurant is or when it is open (something we always forget to check). at the end of the rota, you can use it to vote for the best dish of the year.

2. every dish costs €3 (for a main course) or €2 (for sweets or desserts) and includes a drink, no matter how fancy the place is. i really like this simplicity, as it removes all the guesswork and uncertainty out of the equation and makes it really easy to give new restaurants a try.

3. the dishes are small, usually focused on local stuff, but very tasty! one probably won’t fill you up, but if you have 2, or 2 + 1 dessert, you should be good for that meal. this gives people the incentive to try different nearby things, in a more informal setting that doesn’t require sitting down for a long time, like a proper meal. i’ve seen groups of friends hopping from one restaurant to the next, in a sort of happy “rally da tascas” (but with less drinking).

4. while you wait for the food, you’re encouraged to draw! the restaurants have paper placemats that double as drawing paper, and this year they requested fishes. our talents are a bit questionable… but it’s a fun way to spend the time while we wait for the food. the restaurant owners will collect these at the end of the meal and send them to the organization, who will exhibit some.

5. and finally, the timing! i like that it happens in the shoulder season, just before the heat and the wave of tourists come. it would be impossible to pull this off in the summer, when restaurants are full to the brim, and stress is high for the chefs and waiters. as it is, it feels like a very relaxed event, something that happens at algarve’s own pace.

so that’s it! it’s been a brilliant month, we’ve tried quite a few new restaurants, and found some that we shall be returning to. see you again next year, rota do petisco! :)

the fruit tree collection

so tavira has an “experimental agrarian center” (CEAT), which is a very low-key place with an important mission: it helps local farmers get started and learn more about all kinds of things related with agriculture. like many places in algarve, tavira is a town that lives mostly off tourism, but the more you move away from the coast and into hills, the more you see a kind of dryland subsistence farming that is hard but so important to people’s lives in these villages.

so as part of its mission, the center started a gigantic project to research and collect specimens from the local varieties of fruit trees, which they maintain in a specific area — a seed bank of sorts, but with actual living trees. in the last decade, they have collected hundreds of cultivars of citrus trees (the main crop around here), as well as carob, almond or figs, but also things that you might not expect like specific southern portuguese grapevines, loquats, pomegranate or “pêro de monchique”. researching these species in the region involved talking to a lot of farmers and then doing genetic analysis to identify the differences between certain plants, to make sure they are actually unique cultivars (and not just the same tree with a different name).

so after specimens are collected, they’re brought to tavira where they are further studied and serve as a reference for the future, in case something happens or someone is interested in the local species of these trees. want to know which plants are best for your land, or how much production you can expect from a certain cultivar? they can tell you! want to produce a special wine that is labeled as being from algarve’s region? you’ll need to make sure you’re using the right grapes… guess who you can ask about that?

walking the grounds and looking at all these trees in their neat rows, you get the sense that this is not only an invaluable genetic repository for the future, but also a huge work of love, spread out over many square meters. unlike a static museum collection, this one is alive and needs constant care and attention if it is to fulfill its purpose, and i’m really glad for the humans doing this work.

running the eurovelo

i mentioned on the last couple of monthly videos that the boy has been running the whole algarve coast on the weekends — an epic adventure split into 10 half-marathons. today was the last one, so he finally ran the whole region: from the margins of the guadiana river in vila real de santo antónio all the way to the lighthouse in sagres! hurray!

the eurovelo 1 (aka the atlantic coast route) is the bike path that he used to map his races since it stretches the whole algarve, but this turned out to be a poorly marked and maintained route, with many stretches coinciding with the N125 which is one of the most dangerous roads in the country. most of the time, the boy was looking at his watch and hoping that he was still on the right track. i wonder how the tourists (likely more used to the well-paved, well-marked paths of northern europe) fare on these southern paths.

despite that, it was a such a treat — what a way to get to know the region! my participation in this whole endeavor was limited to driving around and supplying water at regular intervals, but even so, it was great to have an excuse to go and see all these places we hadn’t yet visited. i’ve bookmarked many beautiful stretches in my head, and noticed that we definitely love the corners of the country the most: both our own east side with the lagoon sceneries, as well as the soft rolling hills of the west, cut short by their massive cliffs. we shall return soon, to properly explore them.

more than the running itself though, this was a feat of the boy’s tenacity. he never does a 101 list — he just sets up one big goal at a time and works consistently on it, preparing and getting it done without even bragging about it on social media. i can’t wait to see what the next adventure will bring! :)

a sound postcard from portugal

a couple of weeks ago, a postcrosser sent bbc radio4 a really nice sound piece about her favorite sound, which was the sound of postcards being dropped through her mail slot. in the conversation we had with her afterwards, i discovered marg had been collecting sounds for quite some time, all around the world. including this one, made not even 20kms from here:

every one of these sounds is part of living here. the birds and the songs, the waves and the planes — they’re all algarve. i find this so magical, that it makes me wish i had the forethought of recording much longer pieces from the places we’ve lived in, instead of just seconds.

marg has lots of field recordings like this from her trips to tokyo, santorini or the black forest. i am enthralled, listening to all these little bits of saudade.