It is festa time in Santa Luzia. I have learned to savor the calm before the village becomes a full-on carnival.
Sometimes I feel like I am living in the establishing shot of a movie. The fishing boats are in and one has music playing—it drifts up to my balcony where I sit with my morning coffee. The fishermen are checking, then restowing their nets. From time to time, they shout out a greeting or request. When they have finished with the nets, they will go home for the day and head back out to the fishing grounds tonight.
The bakery below is closed today which—I swear to you—knocks back at least 80% of the traffic and bustle on the main street. This week, there is more traffic than usual. This weekend is Santa Luzia’s biggest event of the year, the Festa dos Pescadores. The barriers are already blocking off parking and rows of white-tented kiosks are popping up.
Yesterday was absolutely bonkers. I got to the bakery late, at 9:00 am and every table was filled, with a line out the door. I waited patiently behind the tourists who didn’t know what they wanted to order (the menu isn’t THAT extensive) and as I got closer to the counter I noted with increasing concern that there didn’t seem to be any croissants. This constitutes a tragedy in my world. Iago, one of the workers, looks up and sees me and starts shaking his head sorrowfully.
“You didn’t save one for me?” I ask, only half kidding.
“I am so sorry. I forgot.”
I didn’t expect him to remember. They had been slammed since they had opened the doors at 7:30 that morning. I teased him:
“You sold my croissant?” and then I mouthed the words, “to a f*cking tourista?”
He started laughing and looked towards the side door that leads to the bakers’ kitchen. They have just set a bin of fresh croissants down. He goes and gets the bin, bags up my croissant.
“You’re my hero,” I said.
“Saved my ass.”
I scurry back up to my apartment and he takes care of yet another stranger with a smile that’s only a little forced.
For about two or three weeks in August, the village is filled with strangers. For some reason, there are a lot of morning runners this year, passing me on my daily walk. When the festa officially opens on Friday, the main street, directly below my windows, will be filled with over a thousand people every night for four nights. There is constant music and crowd noise, people greeting friends they haven’t seen for a while. There are booths with everything from cotton candy and waffles to shoes and hats. People wander the street, eating, drinking, soaking it all in. At 10:00 or 11:00, the live music cranks up and people, young and old, party literally all night; the music doesn’t stop until 5:00 am.
But today is the calm before the storm. I can close my eyes and hear the music, the sound of the Atlantic surf hitting the shore on the other side of the island, the gulls calling to one another, the old men on the benches carrying on their daily conversation. Today, the early morning time at least, is a slice of old Portugal. And I drink it in, along with my morning coffee and the sun’s warmth.