Anyone for sardines?

Sardinha#001Portimão is known locally as the ‘Sardine Capital’ and each year the Sardine Festival is one of the highlights on the local calendar. This year it is entering its 19th year and we wandered over to the Portimão riverside area on the first night of the event to see what was happening. 

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

The riverside has many fish restaurants, all jostling for customers – but this year the atmosphere felt a bit less jolly and a lot more strained. At the first restaurant we stopped by, where we know the waiters well, they were very friendly and chatty – until they realised we were only looking and not planning to eat – then one of the waiters literally pushed us away and walked off!

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

At another restaurant we witnessed a waiter loudly barking orders angrily at a junior waiter in Portuguese; then when a couple walked past he turned to them with a big false smile and said ‘Hello’ in the most hilariously ‘posh’ English accent imaginable.

I have to say we had walked past the same restaurants the night before – and apart from the fact they are now displaying the event posters – none of them had anything different on offer on their boards – or a special price on sardines – in fact most of them weren’t even advertising sardines!

Round the corner under the road bridge they have set up a small stage and some seating – I love the sprayed on fishes and sign on the back wall:

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

It is spoilt a little bit though by the burger vans!

Reports suggest that the town council have decided to save money this year and have turned the Festival into more of a street party feel – there will be live music every evening at 9pm which is good. It does feel a little tame though and the traditional theme of ‘sardines’ really seems to have been lost somewhere in the disco lights and fast food stalls.

Under the bridge in the restaurant quarter, all seemed to be business as normal – restaurants were busy and fish being eaten a-plenty – although it is like that most nights at this time of year to be fair to them:

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

I did manage to spot some sardines though!

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

Back to the fair area – and one of the old buildings has been opened up for a small craft market which is nice

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

And then we went for a walk along the riverfront as we often do in the evening – there has been a small funfair and lots of ‘market stalls’ (all selling the same stuff!) for about a week now, so you can’t really say that they are part of the ‘Sardine Fair’

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

If you want to experience the real ‘Sardine’ story then I can recommend visiting the Portimão museum – I have blogged about that before – you can read about it here via this link:

Afternoon at the Museum

The museum gives a detailed and fascinating insight into the history of this fishing community:

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013We also missed the procession which happened last year – lots of local people walking along the riverfront waving silver cardboard fishes in the air and singing – all accompanied by local music. It gave the festival a more traditional feel – and was a great start to the event.

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

Sadly for me, this year’s event is summed up by the sign on the riverfront above – and we were left feeling quite saddened that such a traditional event had been overtaken by funfair rides and burger vans.

Let’s hope next year it returns in its former glory – and we can again enjoy a plate of delicious hot sardines whilst marvelling at the proud and simple fishing history of this area.

Portimao Sardine Fair 2013

The fair runs from the 1st to 11th August.

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16 Responses to Anyone for sardines?

  1. Marianne says:

    Love fresh sardines! Great photos, as always 🙂

    I know what you mean about the burger vans – I HATE to see McDonald’s restaurants in Spain. What could be quicker than tapas?

  2. Valentina says:

    This is my kind of fair, I love sardines ay time. Lucky you get to participate to this fun event.

  3. Great blog! Really wish I could like sardines, have tried, but they just don’t do it for me. Seems so sad that the fair seems to have lost it’s direction this year. The museum sounds interesting though. I don’t know if this is true or not but Cecil’s relatives from Faro say, the best time to eat sardines is when there isn’t an ‘R’ in the month. So May to August they are fresh, the other months they are frozen????

    • Admin says:

      that sounds about right re the ‘r’ in the month! I have to confess that I prefer carapau or bigger fish – not a big fan of little bones – and certainly can’t manage sardines via the ‘eat it whole between chunks of bread’ option!!
      see what you are missing though – not being over here!!
      thanks for comments – and shares – much appreciated! have a lovely weekend

  4. sami veloso says:

    We just had sardines last night with 3 other Portuguese couples (in Perth, Australia). They were nice and fatty, served with a wonderful green and red peppers salad (or capsicum as they are called in Australia).

  5. Sounds as if they are trying to attract a more diverse audience and thus losing the feel for the festival. Sad.

  6. Gallivanta says:

    I haven’t eaten fresh sardines. They always look so delicious but I think I would struggle with the little bones.

  7. Admini says:

    LOVE TIME anytime of the week morning/ lunch evening. just put them on a dish sprinkle a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of rosemary. bake for 20 minutes.covered with aluminum sheet. after 20 minutes remove the alum floil and now broil for 10 minutes to brown them! superb we love it here in philadelphia. enjoy your dinner

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