Our wonderful hosts at Varandas da Capela

August 10, 2015

“There are a number of people in the village in the summer when the emigrants return for a visit, but the winter population of that village is only four” explained our host.  “And how many people would have lived there 50 years ago?” I asked.  “About 100.”  This in a nutshell is the story of rural northeastern Portugal in the second half of the 20th century.  Our host was the coordinator of the local festival for the emigrants, who typically return to their villages each summer.  “We have a festival in their honour because we owe them so much.”  Indeed, we have been seeing posters for these festivals for a while.  Most of the emigrants that return seasonally now work in France.  The predominant second language in this region is consequently French, and as obvious foreigners we are generally addressed in that language.
Our hosts are one family that is trying to remain in their village, Tuizelo.  They operate a small cattle farm, and they have recently renovated the family home (constructed in 1671, and in the same family until the present) as a bed and breakfast.  We are among their first guests and they lavished the legendary hospitality of the region upon us.  The family also grows chestnut trees, seeing revenue from both the nuts and the wood.  Our host says the demand and hence the price of chestnuts has spiked in recent years.  They are the predominant crop in the area, and we have noticed many new orchards being planted.  In giving us a tour of the house our host’s mother points to the beams, railings and steps: practically all of the wood in the house is chestnut.  The house also has a unique feature: an attached chapel that was constructed at the same time as the original house.

Ruth: Gord and I don’t have many rules on our trip, but one that has served us very well is to never refuse an invitation. When dinner was offered at our Bed and Breakfast we enthusiastically accepted. 

It was a lovely meal and a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the region from our hosts.

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