We arrived in Praia da Vitoria, Terceira just before the start of the annual ten day festivals held every August. There are two festivals held at the same time - a gastronomic festival, with top regional restaurants (and this year a Mexican one) serving their dishes in mini-restaurants under tents close to the marina, and the town’s festival. And this is a town that really knows how to put on a festival...
We became night owls for the duration. Every night (except one) there was a parade, starting with the first night’s bands and dancers and small but beautiful floats. Followed by parades of bands, folklore parades, a children’s parade, a parade of clowns,and finishing with an international folk dance parade with groups from countries like Ireland, Holland, Norway... And these parades were nothing like the parades we are accustomed to. True, the crowd lined the streets. They also walked through the streets in the interval between one group’s passing and the next or stood chatting on the parade route until the next group came along or followed along behind one of the bands or groups. In the square was one of the best places to be; the older folk sat along the parade route in chairs provided by the town council, and almost every band stopped to perform for them and the rest of the crowd gahered there. Because that was part of the parade too - instead of moving along the parade route, the dancers stopped to dance, the singers to sing, the clowns to make fun, the floats to be admired. If we were in a hurry or coming late to a parade we could start working our way up the route from the end toward the beginning and see all of it. The square was our favourite place to watch from for another reason too - there was a cafe selling very good ice cream there.
After the parades came music. In the square there was folk music and dancing - each island has its own dances, somewhat different from the others. Or there were band concerts, or youth groups performing. In the Club Navale, close to the marina, there were concerts by local groups. At the bandstand by the beach there was a mixture of local bands and others from “away” , doing everything from great sixties and seventies covers to jumping jazz to a heart-pounding combination of drums and bagpipes to a young local group doing Beach Boys and Elvis tunes. For the younger crowd there was a club/disco tent. And the music was topped off with a Blues Festival - we thoroughly enjoyed the two performances we went to, Cajun blues belted out by Lisa Haley and the Zydecats and stadium blues with John Lee Hooker Jr. And there was food everywhere.
The final day there was a bullfight, Terceira style, on the beach. No harm was done to the bulls, or to anyone competing. The bull was (somewhat) restrained by eight men, four each at the end of long ropes. Then it was a matter of seeing which of the many young men present would tease the bull into running after him. Many of them took to the water when the bull approached - but so did the bull from time to time. Traditionally teasing the bull seems to have been done with umbrellas - waving them around in front of a bull does get his attention, as two of the young men on the beach demonstrated. The bull moved quickly to drive away those annoying things waving around in front of him; the young men themselves managed to stay well clear of the bull’s horns, even if they did have to move very rapidly from time to time, and when they closed the umbrellas the bull quickly lost interest in them.
It seemed that every group found some way to take part in the festival. We saw divers bring up a sunken car - they had sunk it themselves after carefully removing all toxic or dangerous material. We saw demonstrations of rock climbing, table tennis, beach volleyball, and missed others - like skateboarding and the Portuguese Air Force helicopter demonstration. There was a regatta, with sailboats racing about twenty miles from Angra, one day, then racing in the harbour the next. The windsurfers did not seem to be officially a part of anything, but we certainly enjoyed seeing them flying by whenever the wind picked up.
We heard rather than saw firecrackers from time to time during the festival (and after). They went off with great bursts of noise during the day or early evening, and were used among other things to announce the beginning of the bull fight and the changing of the bulls. But on the last night, at midnight, there was a spectacular fire works display, and the night filled with noise and colour and music. It was a great way to end.
After that it took a little time to recover, but recover we have. We have enjoyed the beaches here and taken a little time to walk around and see more of Praia and to visit the other big city in Terceira, Angra do Heroismo. In Angra we discovered they have a wonderful museum, full of history and paintings and including a chapel full of religious art. We walked around it far too rapidly, and it is one of the reasons we have decided we have to come back here and spend more time. That and the friendliness we have found here and the fact that there is so much more to see and do, so many more places to go. We have barely scratched the surface. And it does not hurt that the harbour is sheltered and the marina protected and the cost of staying here very reasonable.
Tomorrow, the winds being right, we will set off for Sao Miguel. But we will be back.