Day 12 – Sunday, July 1, 2012
Lazy Sunday. We went for a big walk in the morning, had a nice fish lunch with tia Ana, then sat on a blanket out on the balcony enjoying the sunshine for a couple hours. We left around 3pm and drove over to cousin Natercia’s house for an afternoon visit and, of course, meal.
Natercia and Paul live in an ancient part of the island called Socas. Leading to their house is a twisty, single lane road flanked by ten to twenty foot rock walls. Their house is also old, but has been renovated and is very nice and roomy inside. Like everybody else, they have a huge backyard, which is home to egg laying hens, a big fat piggy and a wide array of fruit trees. After a tour of the house and property, we set up shop at the table under the covered patio and prepare to polish off yet more food and drinks.
People of the Iberian peninsula, namely Spain and Portugal, are the masters of the meat snack. On the table before us are at least half a dozen different types of meat treats. First, there’s a nice little bowl of blood sausage filling, called morcela, but without the casing, so perfect for wiping on crackers or bread. Next are four different types of meat based pastes, again used to lather on a suitable bread based host. There is a plate of sliced chorizo sausage, but there are much skinnier than normal, and have a flaky crust that almost looks like it’s been double fried. There is a tray of toothpick-lanced meat chunks, half of which are like sliced wieners, but not the junky kind we’re used to, these are a different colour and absolutely delicious. The other half are cubes of meat which look something like head cheese and are very tasty.
Besides the meat, there are fresh buns, corn bread, olives, peanuts, fava beans, pickled onions, several types of cheeses and a bowl of delicious, boiled quail eggs. The fridge is packed with beer, so we have everything we need to plant our butts on the chair and remain so for several hours.
Natercia then took us on a walk to see a nearby religious site called Santa da Lapinha. As we walked through the winding streets, some neighbours also joined in for the mini pilgrimage, so by the time we got there we were a formidable group. The path to the actual shrine led us through a thick forest, where one of the neighbours pointed out a tree, then pulled off a leaf and gave it to me to smell. It was a bay leaf!
The shrine itself consisted of one small chapel, which had some religious icons, plants and flowers inside, and a grotto built over top of a small cavern, inside which was a sultry looking statue of a young woman, in a somewhat suggestive pose, surrounded by flowers. We heard stories from two of the group as to the origins of this place, though the stories didn’t really jive, so this may be another Wikipedia project when I get home. In any case, Ana’s mom remembered coming here nearly every Sunday when she was a child, after first attending church then visiting a nearby orphanage. I suppose it could be quite a tranquil and holy place, but with well over a dozen crazy Portuguese people talking, waving their arms around, kicking soccer balls and laughing, it feels much more like a festival.
We enjoy a nice walk back to Natercia’s house, on the way getting pulled over by a different neighbour and forced to drink some delicious home made liqueur, then sit down to enjoy some more food and drinks, then head home and crash for the night.