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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chestnut Festival Curral das Freiras 1 November 2011

Caught the 1140hrs nr 81 bus from Funchal to Curral das Freiras, the Valley of the Nuns high  in a mountain valley to the northwest of Funchal.
Curral das Freiras gets its name from the story that in 1566, nuns fled to here from the Santa Clara Convent in Funchal to escape a pirate attack.
Although we were early at the bus stop, we were almost the last ones to get a seat - many were left behind. The reason for its popularity, the annual Chestnut Festival - an event which takes place here every year on 1st November.
The narrow winding mountain access road was full of traffic and as we got closer to the village we ended up in a very slow moving traffic jam. Progress was so slow that the driver gave everyone the option of getting out of the bus in the long tunnel. We did so and walked the 20 minutes or so into the village.

 mountain traffic jam
 On the way the road was lined with chestnut trees full of nuts
The village nestled between the mountains - the smoke, we found out as soon as we reached there, was from the many barbeque fires

 Chestnut float
 Folklore dancers in between performances

 One of the several groups of local musicians enjoying themselves
The streets were lined with stalls

 Chestnut roaster
Time for the first course - Chestnut soup - very tasty
Everywhere we came across people holding sticks loaded with big chunks of meat - the traditional Espetada Regional

 and wood charcoal fires in many places to grill them - hence the smog over the village
 The Espetada Regional forms a major part of any  festival around the island
 One of the many stalls hanging with huge cuts of beef where the butchers cut and skewer the chunks on Bay Tree branches - the Bay tree adds to the taste. On the right of this stall are sacks of Chestnuts
After a while our appetites were fully whetted with the delicious aroma of charcoal grilled espetada, so we handed over 10 euros and watched our's being prepared.
First, the end of a fresh Bay Tree branch was cut into a sharp point
 A big slice of meat was cut off the hanging carcass and chunks of it skewered 
then the meat was given a generous coating of sea salt with garlic

Jeannette with our Espetada
joining the do-it-yourself barbeque
About to enjoy it

With the meat we sampled freshly cooked delicious local bread - the Bolo do Caco
Wandered around the back streets

Marvelous views all around

Another local musical group - this time more formal
with the stage adorned with Strelitzia reginae (bird-of-paradise flower) and Chestnuts
Yet another local musical group 
more stalls

 and finally the desert - yes various forms of Chestnut Cake - we had to sample all of them, of course.
With all the crowds, we had expected to have a problem getting back to Funchal. However we were once more in luck - by the time we reached the 81 bus stop, a bus was loading and we once more managed to take some of the last places - several people were again left behind.
By 1630hrs we were back on Dutch Link after having had a very enjoyable day, Madeira festival style.

Another huge Cruise Ship was in port

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