Christmas Eve and a very Happy Christmas to everyone. There’s a party going on in the building and we can’t tell if it’s above us or below us. It’s a party now because in Portugal they open their presents at midnight. I guess there aren’t the limitations on getting together like there are in England and I see in America there are no limitations either as people travel en masse to celebrate Christmas with their families. For us, Christmas is odd because Olivia is German and opens prezzies this evening after dinner, I am English and open prezzies tomorrow in the morning and we are in Portugal where they open prezzies at midnight – so we’re going Portuguese, the perfect compromise.
When we awoke today we went for a final walk into the city just to see what was open, see what the atmosphere was, and to get out of the house before everything closes down for a couple of days. We took a pic of me standing by some graffiti of a Portuguese guitar with the words – “Arte Sem Dono” – Art Without Ownership. People were out, some shops were open, some were closed. We shopped, we browsed, we purchased, we wondered about how the Portuguese keep the kids awake for midnight presents but I suppose it’s for the double-treat of being allowed to stay up and getting prezzies too. We got some extra shopping for the fridge, we bought a heater and I found a man that was willing to sell me 12 packets (a box) of Nag Champa incense at a reduced price.
It was quite warm, 53°F/12°C and the sky was blue, rain is forecast for the coming days but that’s ok, the break and the variety is the thing, months of sun or months of cold are equally painful. Outside one of the shops, a young guy was smoking a cigarette whilst he was waiting for someone. On the bench next to him was some kind of cake that we’ve seen in the supermarkets over the last few days. It seems to be Portuguese Christmas food. So I stopped and asked him what it was. He called it Molotof. Which might not actually be what it was, Molotof is the same shape but on the box, it said Pão de Ló which is very popular Portuguese sponge cake. Seems he was confused about what Mama had bought.
Dotted along the main street that leads up to where we live are lots of tourist shops that sell postcards, tiles, little cockerels, keyrings, Portuguese mugs that come with a spoon, and anything that can be seen as a souvenir of your trip to this place. The cockerel is an interesting one. In Portuguese, it is known as “Galo de Barcelos” (The Rooster Of Barcelos). If the story of a dead cockerel coming back to life to crow resulting in saving an innocent man from hanging appeals to you, then click on the link and read the story, when you come here, your little souvenir is waiting for you.
They’re getting a little rowdy downstairs, chanting, singing, screaming, I guess the wine is kicking in. I wanted noise and now I have it. But it’s Christmas and it would be more disconcerting if the silence continued through the festive days. Still, this Christmas is not like any we have seen before and not just for us discovering a new country but the morning will certainly see Christmas Day come and it will be the first time I’ve woken up at home for a very long time.
On an equally sad note on this unfortunate Christmas, music today has been Mountain’s Nantucket Sleighride (1971) in memory of the death of guitarist Leslie West on Monday. After the shooting of bassist Felix Pappalardi by his wife Gail Collins, co-writer of Cream’s Strange Brew and illustrator of the Mountain album covers, and after the death of keyboardist Steve Knight, only drummer Corky Laing is still alive – another band with three or more members gone.