Portugal Local Custom Tips by Bwana_Brown Top 5 Page for this destination
Portugal Local Customs: 175 reviews and 233 photos
A 'Meia-Lua' Receives its Load
During our stay in the western Atlantic coastal town of 'Praia de Mira', we were very fortunate to stumble upon an in-shore fishing operation in the midst of hauling in their catch of sardines.
This is an age-old custom in this part of Portugal, and used to be centered around Aveiro until a huge storm in 1575 raised a sandbar all along that part of the coast. Since that time, the fishers have gradually drifted to other nearby locations along the coast to pursue their trade.
Here you see a mix of the old and the new. This traditional 10-metre 'meia-lua' (half-moon) boat, powered by midship oars is receiving a load of nets from a 4-wheel-drive Valmat tractor. It was great fun watching the technique used today to bring in the haul. Basically, it involves the boat taking the net out from shore and laying it in an arc, with each end anchored on-shore by a 4WD tractor. Once that is done, the tractors begin pulling the net toward shore with their rear-end winches, until finally the looped net is hauled ashore with it's catch.
In the old days, teams of oxen used to haul these boats into and out of the water.
A Typical Breakfast Setup
One of the dining customs that we had not experienced before dealt with small tidbits placed on your table to tide you over while awaiting the serious eating. These usually consisted of a plate of black olives, some buns and a few rounds of different kinds of cheese. Even though you had not ordered these items, the custom is that, if you partake of them while sipping your drinks as you wait for the arrival of the main courses, a small fee will be added to your bill depending on which of the items you decided to enjoy. It usually was only a nominal fee of a few Euros, well worth it for the option to snack or not depending on how hungry you were at the time!
This scene is of a typical breakfast set-up at a Residencial in Peniche, where we had spent the night after our 'Ilha da Berlenga' adventures!
Colourful Houses & Ornate Chimney
This scene shows a hilly sidewalk in 'Obidos', illustrating some of the features common to the houses of this part of Portugal. The whitewash on their walls performs a number of functions, including protecting the walls from pests and deflecting the heat of the summer sun. It is also the custom in the Alentejo region to decorate the buildings with either blue or yellow highlight paint.
A carryover from the years of Moorish occupation can just barely be seen in the chimney of this house. It's decorative construction is common in these southern parts of Portugal, all the way to the Algarve, because this is where the hundreds of years of Moorish occupation lasted the longest.
Azulejo Scene at Pinhao's Train Station
The idea of using decorative hand-painted ceramic tiles was introduced to Portugal during the many centuries of their Moorish conquest over 1000-years ago. During the following centuries, their use for floor, wall and ceiling decorations became even more prevalent, with widespread use throughout the country by 1500 AD onward.
The tiles depict many different scenes and come in a variety of styles. Those on the 'Pinhao' train station, voted the most picturesque station in Portugal, were created in 1937 using the traditional blue, white and yellow pattern. Here, Sue is standing by one of the 24 different scenes depicting various stages of the work involved in the production of Port wine from this area of Portugal.
I may not know much about Art, but I know that azulejo scenes similar to this that we observed all over the country lend great atmosphere to wherever they are located!
Haystacks in a Field
On our way south from Cabeceiras de Basto, still in the 'Geraz do Minho' area, I was intrigued to see these tall Portugese-style haystacks outside of the village of Canedo de Basto! I don't know how they put them together or why in this particular shape, but it looks like a lot of work to me! A few vines growing in the foreground are probably used to help make some of the local wines!
A Roadside Vinyard
The 'Geraz do Minho' region of northern Portugal is noted for producing Portugal's famous carbonated 'vinho verde' or green wines. Everywhere that we drove in this area, we saw vinyards growing in backyards, beside the highway and on hillsides. Here, we came across a typical arrangement at Moreira do Rei, just east of the town of Fafe, showing how the vines are supported off the ground by a lattice affair. On our travels through Portugal, we found a cold glass of vinho verde to be a refreshing drink after climbing around various mountaintop fortresses! Cheers to this Custom!
Nesting White Storks
Portugal is home to many White Storks, a large bird standing 1 m (3.3 ft.) tall and with a wingspan of 2 m. They like to nest near wetlands, marshes and fields where they have a better chance of catching their preferred prey of large insects, eels, fish, small mammals and even other birds.
As we drove around Portugal, we saw Storks in many areas, with this one enjoying its nest atop a chimney as we passed by Portalegre (near the Spanish border almost due east of Lisbon). They prefer to nest on high, isolated perches, adapting from the use of trees to church steeples, chimneys and especially high-voltage transmission towers.
It was nice to see so many of these large birds because, not too long ago, they had to be placed on the protected species list in order to survive the many dangers of their annual migration to sub-Sahara Africa.
OK, let's face it - I love Bougainvillea wherever I see them. It must be a throwback to my Zambian and Papua New Guinea days where these things grew like crazy! When I now see the colourful blossoms of this plant, I know that I have once again reached somewhere on this planet that is beyond the reach of Canadian blizzards!
These woody and thorn-armoured evergreen vines (native to South America) are named after a Frenchman, Louis Antoine de Bougainville who spotted them while sailing around the world in 1767. They typically grow by sprawling across any surface that will support them, usually adorning walls with a magnificent display of leaves and beautiful blossoms. However, they can also grow by themselves as very colourful stand-alone bushes, with their blossoms coming in many different hues.
This particular vine was growing along the inner walls of the Jardim do Paco restaurant as we sat there in the shade, enjoying our cold drinks on a hot afternoon in 'Evora'. The great thing about Portugal is that almost every city, town and village has these plants growing in various decorative ways!
Cliff-fishers at Cabo de Sao Vicente
While visiting the southwestern corner of Portugal, at Cape St. Vincent in the Algarve, we noticed some fishermen standing on the edge of the 60-m (200-ft.) cliffs, with their lines cast way down into the ocean. The wind was very gusty and I was careful not to get too close to the edge - I have since heard reports that a few of these guys are lost each year! In fact, there was a plaque at the lighthouse dedicated to the memory of a young German man who had died there not long ago, presumably due to a fall (since I can't read German). The ground leading out to these cliffs was very rough, with small sharp rocky ledges.
Enticing the Crowd
While dining in downtown Lisbon on our first night in Portugal, we noticed that the Baixa district restaurants near the Praca dos Restauradores (Square of the Restoration) had 'hawkers' out on the pedestrian street trying to convince passers-by that they should sit down and enjoy a good meal.
Well, we did not need much convincing, especially once we saw their very pleasant outdoor seating area on a warm evening in mid-May! Once we were seated at our table, we noticed that our 'hawker' seemed to be a real character. He was funny with everyone, including his competition at the adjoining restaurants. It was a fun experience to sit there in the night airs of Lisbon enjoying our first evening meal experience of the trip!
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