It’s Chestnut Time again! The annual St Martin’s Fair has arrived at the Parque de Feiras e Exposições in Portimão and runs every day until the 15th November.
The 11th of November in Portugal is the Dia da São Martinho – the day of St Martin – which is celebrated with roast chestnuts and traditionally the opening and tasting of the new wine of the year. This fair has been celebrated in Portimão since 1662 which is an incredible thought.
É dia de São Martinho;
comem-se castanhas, prova-se o vinho.
(It is St. Martin’s Day,
we’ll eat chestnuts, we’ll taste the wine.)
There’s another St Martin’s day tradition – the belief that the day heralds a period of warm weather called Verão de São Martinho (St. Martin’s Summer) – and that it will be nice and sunny all the way to Christmas – now that sounds like a good tradition to celebrate!
As you enter the fairground you are greeted with the sight of lots of stalls selling steaming hot chestnuts – a dozen for 2 euros in a paper bag. There’s quite an art to steaming them over hot coals and the smell and the smoke are quite enticing.
Tradition holds that the festival is also a time of ancient sacrifice to honour the dead and a time to prepare a table at midnight with chestnuts for your deceased family members to eat. I’m not sure we could wait that long, they don’t tend to last very long in the packet once we have bought them!
The main area is devoted to the fairground with the big wheel dominating the skyline:
The one thing that never fails to fascinate us about these type of events is that virtually every stall sells the same thing .. there are rows of food stalls and they all sell … farturas and churros!
It’s not a huge complaint though – as they are delicious!
They certainly start them young cooking them for you!
You can also get waffles .. and candy floss … and there are some catering stands at the rear of the fair selling hot food with seating areas.
It’s a child’s delight here – there are so many stalls and stands to stop and stare at:
And fairground rides for all ages! Rides cost 2 euros each, except for the 12th and 15th which have special priced tickets for children and families respectively.
The poster this year advertises that the fair opens each day from 10am until 11pm, midnight, or 1am (see the poster at the top of this post for full times) – although it has to be said if you try to go there at 10am – you are really not going to find very much open or running. We have no idea why they have opened it this early each day – it really doesn’t get going until about 4pm … and boy does it get busy in the evening – especially at the weekend! Entrance is free however which is a nice touch.
Another warning – the car park for the venue is very small and soon fills up – which leaves you fighting for a parking space anywhere you can find along the roads around the venue .. you’ll either have to drop off children and friends and find somewhere to park – or walk anything up to half a mile along the road to get to the entrance once you have parked. Not easy if you have a child in a pushchair!
Some of the rides are quite spectacular – especially once it gets dark – and make for some great photographs – yes this one is the ‘right way up’ – they really were dangling at that angle!
It’s a very and noisy busy event – there is music playing at full volume from all angles – not to mention the screams of excitement (and fear?!) from the rides!
The rides are really elaborate and brilliantly presented – children of all ages will find something to enjoy here:
The characters are quite impressive:
And a little scary too!
We loved the art work on some of the rides – very impressive!
It’s not all rides though – there are a range of market stalls and things to buy and browse through – from the arts and crafts:
To ‘knock-off’ sunglasses – “Kay-Ban” sunglasses anyone?!
And a ridiculously large number of stalls again all selling the same thing .. like shoes!
and clothing … toys and gimmicks …
and the biggest wooden spoons we have ever seen!
Walking past a van with its washing hung outside brings home the reality for many people that have stalls at fairs like this – they are living a transient and difficult lifestyle that is hardly very romantic:
It sits rather strangely alongside the main indoor arena of the venue which hosts an exhibition of new and used cars by the FIAAL Group, which represents nine car brands in the Algarve – to be honest we have no idea why they are there .. it doesn’t seem to ‘fit’ at all, although we suppose it gives the adults something different to look at while the children are busy on the funfair!
There’s just time for another bag of chestnuts before we leave:
And a last look around the fairground with its bright lights, and bustling atmosphere – there’s something that seems to draw you back for ‘one more round’ before you leave … and that long walk back to your car!
We thought you might enjoy some more photographs of this year’s fair to enjoy – click any image to start the slideshow – and if you go to the fair this year, do let us know what you thought of it in a comment below!
and save a chestnut and a glass of wine for us!
You might also enjoy our previous posts about the Fair: