November the 11th is St Martin’s Day in Portugal and heralds the start of the chestnut rush! In Portimão it is also the theme for ten days of festivities and fairground rides at the annual S. Martinho Fair, which this year runs until the 18th of November.
Not one to miss out on the bright lights and loud music which you can hear for miles we trundled off to see the sights and act like small children for a while (what’s new I hear you cry!)
(I was also looking forward to scoffing some hot chestnuts too!)
The fair is on an extensive plot beside the Portimão arena at the Parque de Feiras e Exposições, and this year the fair seems bigger than ever!
As well as an enormous fairground with rides to suit all ages – including dodgems and a towering big wheel; there is a huge market area with stalls selling all manner of clothes and shoes – in fact there are so many pairs of shoes I began to feel giddy before I even started to look at the rides!
Entrance is free this year but the rides are pay per ride – so I am sure if you had several children it could soon add up!
There are also lots of food stalls – which I was very pleased about as it takes very little persuasion for me to part with a euro coin in exchange for a Farturas:
If you have never tasted one of these naughty delights – then you must track one down next time you are in the Algarve – just follow your nose to a mobile van with the delicious smell of hot doughnuts frying – a Farturas is like a big long fat doughnut cut up into lengths and wrapped in a paper napkin – they are so yummy dipped in sugar and cinnamon and eaten hot! (It’s best not to try to work out the calories!)
We then wandered round enjoying the sights – it was pretty quiet (in terms of numbers) when we went (early evening) but quite deafening (in terms of sound!) as every fairground ride seems to play a different type of music – all at the same time!
There are some great colours and sights for photographs though:
There is even a large indoor car supermarket with loads of brand new vehicles and models on show – including the new VW Beetle (disappointing!) and a very smart Jaguar XK (only 148,000 Euros for a shiny new car – mmm now where’s my winning lottery ticket?)
It does seem rather incongruous, however, beside the market stalls with the travellers setting out their wares and trying to eke out a living by selling cheap shoes and baby clothes, and the fruit and veg sellers:
And not forgetting the chestnut stalls – which are set up at the entrance and almost seem a bit of an after-thought this year. 2 Euros will get you a paper bag with a dozen warm chestnuts, smoked and warmed to perfection:
They really are lovely and sweet, with a hint of salt – worth every cent!
St Martin’s Day is also traditionally the day that the new wine is first tasted – I have to say we saw very little evidence of this at the fair – it’s a shame in a way as the funfair and rides seem to have taken over the heart of this celebration, everything is very busy, and bright and loud.
But if you wander around, you can still find evidence of some of the old Portuguese traditions, and hear the call of the chestnut sellers enticing you over. And if that doesn’t pull you in, the dense smoke from their coals as they smoke the chestnuts should remind you!
And maybe amidst the bustle and noise you can take a moment to savour the thought that this fair has been celebrated in Portimão since 1662. This year is their 350 year anniversary – incredible!
If you would like to know more about the traditions of this festival, you can read our post from last November entitled Chestnuts, Peppers and Wellington Boots
And maybe you can visit the fair before it finishes this year – it’s quite a spectacle!