Day 8 – Fiesta
Well dear reader I left you last night with some breaking news. When I was writing last night’s blog, the phone in the apartment went, which surprised us as we had forgotten that we had a phone. It was our host who informed us that tonight was Fiesta night in Machico. He suggested if we got a place outside Hotel Pedro for about 8:15 and “keep an eye out for 4 burley blokes carrying a great big Mary”. That shouldn’t be too hard to miss, we figured, so we headed out.
I do like a good Fiesta (see the Fiesta blog from 28/07/13 if you don’t believe me). I have only been to Spanish ones, but I guessed that they mustn’t be that different. They always start with something very catholicy and then when that bit is over and done with, they party hard. The one we went to in Spain a couple of years ago was great as instead of burley blokes carrying the effigy it was a hen party of girls, who every 100 yards (sorry, 100 metres) they popped her down and had a swig from a flagon of wine. This would probably by similar, I thought.
As we walked into Machico (yes walked!) we realised why our host had said don’t drive, as cars were abandoned all the way down the main road into the town. If we had driven we would have ended up parking the car about half a mile (sorry 1km) from where it is normally parked. It looked like it was going to be a good ‘un. I hear rumour they had heard it was Matthew Lee’s Birthday the next day and this was his party.
(OK, just so everyone is up to speed on this, this is a new feature of the blog. Matthew contacted me on Facebook this morning requesting a mention in tonight’s blog as it is his Birthday today. Now his mention wasn’t exactly weaved into the narrative in the most elegant way, but I gave it a go. I have been trying to find ways of moneterizing this blog for ages and I think this is the way forward. So for a nominal fee I can mention you in the blog, offer birthday greetings and even sell items. I have a readership in the dozens so it is a very effective way of getting your message out there. Contact me via FB if you are interested. I accept Paypal. Now where we? Oh yes….)
We got to the hotel about 20 minutes later (we stuck to the road. Karen didn’t have the correct shoes for scrabbling up drainage channels) and we sat down ready for the party to start. There were already scores of people along the roadside holding candles which also appeared to double as walking poles (quite apt around here). They were hoooge. Some had improvised a “wax catching mechanism” into the candle (a clear plastic cup with the candle shoved through it. Others, less prepared, improvised with a McDonalds milkshake cup). After a few minutes a procession of people started with the candles. This will be the warm up for the burley men and Mary (that sounds wrong the way I have written it. My apologies). The scores of people with candles went to several hundred, until by the end of the night it was in the thousands.
Now the atmosphere at this Fiesta was not like others I had been to. The people walked in silence and the observers watched silently. It was almost like a funeral. A very, very long funeral. I began taking photos; but after a while I stopped as I could feel people staring at me as if I was intruding on something very personal for the people involved (which I guess I was). I also think the Hawaiian shirt may have been a mistake. Yep, I definitely misjudged the mood at this Fiesta.
The other frankly disturbing thing about this parade was that people were carrying wax body parts. I guess they were after miracles for illness, but we saw wax legs, hands, heads (really spooky) and sometimes babies or dolls. How I missed the wine swigging girls of Santa Anna.
We sat patiently for the big Mary, but she was no where to be seen. By now it was gone 9:00 and my stomach was rumbling (cue more looks of disdain from those around me). I could smell the food from the stalls in the “fun” part of the Fiesta wafting over and it was all too much. Luckily Karen agreed it was time to move and get some food. We hadn’t seen the big Mary, but we had seen enough, so we quietly slipped off to get some food.
As well as smelling the food we see it from 100 yards (sorry 100 meters) away. Smoke was bellowing out from various grills and I could see BBQ’s lining the beach front. As we got closer we saw that there were effectively 2 types of stall.
1) The Maderian Nando’s: A huge grill piled high with whole chickens.
2) DIY Kebabs: Basically you got the bloke to cut you off some chunks meat from the dead cow hung behind the counter, his mate then sticks it on the 3 foot (sorry 1 metre) stick and you go and cook it on one of the numerous fire pits that had popped up on the beach (I’m sure one or two were being used as bins before tonight).
I really didn’t fancy the self catering option, so we opted for the chicken option (€7 for a whole cooked chicken. Yeah beat that Nando’s). Karen went and found us a table (which being a traditional Fiesta was a set of plastic garden furniture, not unlike the one that we are selling. 1 table, 4 chairs, slightly marked and one of the handles on the chairs is broken. Offers accepted. Buyer must collect. (Do you see how this is going to work now? Come on, get those items to me!)).
As we devoured our meal we could see that the procession was still going on (we are still not totally convinced that they weren’t just going around in a circle). Shortly afterwards though, hundreds of people began making their way towards us. It was over, let the fun begin. A couple of blokes nabbed the table and chairs next to us. One of them headed off to get some food, the other leant down into his bag, pulled out a wine glass (which I’m sure mum and dad have a set of. I think they got them with petrol in the 70’s) and a bottle of “Mula Velha” wine (on offer at €2.50 at the supermarket this week I noticed) and settled in for the night.
Ok, there wasn’t a group of wine swigging girls, but at last this Fiesta was starting to feel more like the ones I knew. Chicken leg anyone?
Tomorrow find out how a simple trip to an art gallery became a battle with the elements and the Madeiran road system
PS: tonights quiz is a dot to dot. Enjoy.