Welcome to Alte!

Kevin and I have been here in Portugal for awhile, so it’s about time that I let y’all know about exactly where it is we’re staying.

Both of Kevin’s grandmothers live in the Algarve (southern region of Portugal), which is where they retired after years of working in Canada. I’ll write separate posts about each of them later, but suffice to say that they are two rather feisty, independent women. Kevin’s entire bloodline (pre-parents) come from the Algarve, all within a 30km radius. So the Algarve really is special to him and to his family.

While one of his grandmothers lives in a mid-sized city, the one that we’re living with, Avo Olimpia, lives in a small town of about 1100 people. When Kevin was growing up, his grandmother would spend 6 months of the year living with his family in Toronto, and the other 6 months would be spent in Alte. As such, Kevin and his brother grew up spending every summer visiting his grandmother here. As much as Kevin is from Toronto, he’s also very much from this small Portuguese village. And it’s obvious every time that we go out, because he knows every. single. person. here.

But let’s get back to Alte itself. This tiny little village is rather famous, so much so that it has its own Wikipedia article. It’s also extremely popular as a tourist destination, and I found the best Alte description on a website about tourist destinations in the Algarve:

Considered by many as the most typical algarvean village, Alte is a small village of white-washed houses nestling amidst trees and mountains, the image of old Algarve. Situated in central Algarve, the village dates from Roman times and has a Moorish past that can be observed in the detail filigree chimneys that adorn the houses.

In the centre of the village you will find the Church dating from the 13th century, the chapel houses some very special hand painted pieces dating from the 16th century. There is also an old water mill which also dates from the 13th century.

The focal point of Alte are the two springs. Fonte Pequena and Fonte Grande (Small Spring and Big Spring). In the olden days the women of the village gathered at the springs to fill their pitchers and wash the laundry. Now, the springs are the ideal place to enjoy a relaxing picnic in the calm tranquillity of this village.

My friend Anne recently visited us here, and she describes this place as a fairytale. It really does have everything: beautiful water features, a waterfall, super old/beautiful churches, cobblestone streets, the view of a town built into a hillside, and the most relaxing sounds. There’s hardly any traffic, so most of day all you hear are the stream flowing and the birds chirping. There’s an interesting array of stray cats (all fed by grandmothers) and other wildlife. In the stream behind the house you can see ducks, geese, fish, and turtles. And in a tree beside the Fonte Pecana you’ll find a couple of chickens and a rooster. There are also horses. Sometimes you see people riding them through the streets!

Aside from the natural beauty of Alte, there’s the beauty of the community itself. When you go out here, it’s important to always says “good morning” (bom dia), “good afternoon” (boa tarde), or “good evening” (boa noite) to each person you encounter. Basic manners in a small town, I guess. And half the time, that person knows Kevin and/or his family, and will stop to chat. Kevin’s family is rather well-known here, and having spent his summers here, Kevin himself is rather well known. He actually has life-long friends here, which is pretty cool. You’re hard pressed to find someone who won’t describe knowing Kevin when he was just small child.

I thought that growing up in Grimsby gave me a small town experience? Kevin’s life in Alte is actually as small town as it gets. And not in an unpleasant way. Yes, when you go for coffee or go to the pharmacy, everyone asks about Kevin or his teeth or his grandmother. Yes, people know things about you and talk about what you’re up to. But it’s because the people here are pleasant and nice. Because they’re invested in knowing each other. The people are relaxed and they’re interested in having a good time.

Case in point? There are SO many events that happen in this small town, all of which involve lots of eating and drinking. In fact, the last festival I went to, we ran into some old family friends. What started as a lively conversation ended with shots of medronho (local fancy moonshine).

Here’s a quick rundown of the some of the events we’ve been to here (pictures included below):

– Festa do Chourica (Festival of Chorizo, a version of Portuguese sausage): This was a lively festival held beside the older, smaller church in Alte. We had bread, chourica, and beer. (Of course, we got less bread than the others, because the lady giving out he bread knows that Kevin and I aren’t big bread-eaters, because his grandmother told her). There was also an auction, where we ‘won’ a jar of honey.

– Alte BTT: this is a bike race that kicks off the cultural week in Alte. It’s organized by a local bike club, and the starting line is right in front of Kevin’s grandmother’s house. We were able to get a great view from the balcony.

– Semana Cultural – the cultural week included live music, a comedy night, public art, dancing, and an artisanal marketplace (with great desserts)

– Folk Festival – This took place on the ending weekend of the cultural week. It was a huge event that began on the Friday, which was a holiday. The Fonte Grande was packed with tables and people who were enjoying food and beer while watching a typical folk dancing competition. The weather was beautiful, so we were able to get lots of great photos.

Lots of photos below, enjoy!

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