If you’re a regular visitor to the Algarve, chances are that you will have bypassed Lagoa numerous times. Sitting just off the busy E125 road, it’s not somewhere that you would necessarily make a beeline for. So my husband looked at me askance when I asked if we might visit the town for Mercado de Culturas… A Luz das Velas – the ‘market of cultures… by candlelight’. I had never heard of the festival before, but it was apparently in its 4th year. This year’s theme, Rota de Seda -Silk Road, sounded inviting to me.
After a lazy beach day, we headed along on a sultry Sunday, for the last evening of this 4 day event, not entirely sure what to expect. Looking for parking, our first encounter was a bit of a surprise. Strong sunshine created deep shadows, even at 8 in the evening.
A small park with a war memorial leads to an imposing church. Few people are about and you begin to wonder if you are in the right place.
And then, turning a corner, the atmosphere changes discernibly and we have the first hint that something special might be about to happen. Rose coloured paving with white spots cannot disguise the fact that the area is shabby. On a raised platform there is a display of bonsai.
And, close by, the first of the unlit candle arrangements, laid out on boards on the floor, in a Chinese theme.
It wouldn’t start to get dark for another hour, so plenty of time to explore the narrow streets, and have a bite to eat. We wandered into the impressive Convento de São José, founded around 1710 by Carmelite nuns, who fostered and educated abandoned girls. There are beautiful cloisters and the surrounding rooms have been turned into a museum and exhibition space.
Street stalls offered an array of tempting food and artisans worked quietly beside their wares. A clattering of drums announced the arrival of two Chinese dragons, who cavorted and rolled winsomely at the feet of the laughing onlookers.
As dusk gathered there was a frisson of excitement. The first of the 12,000 candles were being lit. It would take quite some time, and a whole lot of effort, till all were burning brightly together.
Following the trail of candles, we come to a large square, with restaurants and a church whose interior glowed invitingly. Stepping inside to admire the white wood panelled ceiling and the medieval painting behind the altar, we are met with a ‘brother’. His face lights up as he tells us the history of his church, Igreja da Misericórdia, and the processions that celebrate Easter. We reassure him that we have a church of the same name in Tavira, and have enjoyed those same processions, and we part good friends.
The lights flicker on, ahead of us and behind. Watchful candle lighters step forward to replace guttered candles and the whole world glows.
Music ripples in the air and, as it grows darker, a Persian dancer twines her body in graceful poses and the night casts its spell. A small crowd are gathered in the doorway of a chapel, lit in a rosy hue. Serenely a lady plucks the strings of a lute.
I know that the merriment will continue till long after midnight on this warm evening, and find it hard to tear myself away. But we have a long journey home ahead, and I am thankful to have witnessed this wonderful celebration of light. I hope you enjoyed it too. Perhaps, if you should be in the Algarve next July, it’s one to look out for.
Thank you for your patience and support, especially those of you who have posted walks for me. I returned home late on Thursday and am still trying to find my UK groove. Time to put the kettle on and enjoy some great company. If you’d like to join me any time, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.
Are you a fan of trees? Let Geoff poetically show you one or two :
Canada Day was a big one this year. This is how Jackie (and the big duck) celebrated :
Miriam has enjoyed every step of her Aussie adventure :
Summer Solstice is always a bit special, isn’t it? Share a bonfire with Lady Lee :
I’m almost ashamed of myself not to have walked this. Debbie has (and Becky too!) :
Woolly continues his visits to the sadness of the war graves :
Lisa cheered me up with a return to her roots, and some cliff tops, not too very far from me :
And Jude’s usually cheerful (though occasionally grumpy). A bit more of Queen Mum’s old place?
It wouldn’t be a Monday walk without Drake, would it? Two more for you this week!
And speaking of architecture, look where Indra’s been!
While, even further away, my lovely Meg dabbles her toes :
And in the stunning scenery of the Banf National Park, there’s another adventure with Sheri :
Tobias always comes up with something a little different :
I thought Amanda was taking her dog for a walk. Wrong again!
And who better to give you a tip or two than our intrepid Sue?
Welcome back to Denzil, with some practical advice on walking in Belgium :
And to Susan, with her lyrical West Coast writing :
I know there are loads. That’s what happens when I take a break. Please find time to visit, especially anybody you don’t already know. I’m off to enjoy that rare commodity in the north east- a sunny day! Take care till next time.