Houses built: 0. Life Satisfaction Index: After opening at a record low following yesterday’s disastrous downturn, the index continued to lose points throughout morning trading. The market bottomed-out after midday and was then driven by a big-pharma, coffee, and sugar-fueled rally, settling again at the close of trading, in bed with the pets, a cup of tea and four pastries, at a comfortable 70.78%.
I had a migraine yesterday so I was very dubious about today to start with. Needing to get to the vege market by midday, I was up earlier than usual and trying to remove a motherload of firewood from the car, when it became bogged – for the second day in a row. And for the second day in a row I had to beg for help from the neighbour’s tractor. Just as well I’ve been helping with the olive picking, so I am up on favour credits; but is there any capable person out there who likes asking for help? It’s tough-chick torture, I tell you.
And I hate being treated like an idiot. They just assume I’m a shit driver when they see the tragic position of the car. But these roads are not roads! Maybe you could persuade a donkey to walk them if you beat it enough, but the fact is, they are not meant for driving cars on.
For several moments this morning I was really hating my life and hating this Cu de Judas village. Very unhealthy, violent thoughts. Not good.
So meanwhile I’m back to olive picking to pass the time and rack up more credits until the tractor is available, but without food or drink, the migraine is back with a vengeance. By the time we get the car out (and the market is closed) I’m so ill that I can’t bear being spoken to. I ignore being shouted at to come for lunch (they are one of these families where everyone shouts. I swear they are all deaf) and throw the dog in the car and get the hell out of there.
I’m already feeling better after the first coffee. Café Pingo Doce is filled with the smell of merendeiras (broa doce): small fruit buns like hot cross buns but heavier. They are traditional for All Saints Day (Nov 1) and apparently the porties take their All Saints seriously because there are boxed orders stacked up on every table. The merendeiras are coming straight out of the oven so I order three to take away… and they give me four… not sure if it’s because they know I love them, or because I look like I’m dying, or just because they’re nice people, but the random act of kindness was very welcome. Thanks Lucia & Fatima.
Thus energised, I decide to visit the annual Feira Docaria Conventual in Figueiró dos Vinhos. There’s not really a huge doce tradition in this area, but they do have a convent which is only open for the Feira. Figueiró has adopted pão de ló (a light, vanilla, donut shaped cake) as their flagship doce conventual. Almonds, chila (from pumpkin) and doce de ovos are also very typical ingredients for the patisserie of this area.
The stands are very impressive this year, gorgeously arranged and full of hard-to-resist sweet things. They come from all around Central Portugal; from Tentúgal, Óbidos, Aveiro, Alcobaça, Felgueiras, Nelas and a local confeitaria that I’ve never noticed before. Happy about that. Must add to emergency contact list.
I bought a Papo D’Anjos (a small spongey blob made only of egg yolks, served in a sugar syrup sauce) and a slice of Bolo de Noz de Merengado. So now I have three boxes of goodies in my bag. Feeling good now.
And now for the convent. You just never know what’s behind these perfectly boringly rendered stone walls that you drive past every day. What a sublime little treasure the Convento de Nossa Senhora do Carmo is. Built in 1601, it has a feminine, delicately decorated chapel with half a cloister. Very charming, especially the blue timber pulpit and the azulejos in the church gallery.
The convent was built on private property by a local noble. It was at certain times used as a hospital, a college of arts, the poor house and even a tiny branch of the philosphy school of the University of Coimbra. The ‘barefoot carmelite’ nuns were turfed out in 1834 when all the religious orders in Portugal were abolished, and the final tenants left in 1956. It may have been at this time that the property was divided and a high wall was built diagonally across the cloister. Nice bit of planning regulation, not. The convent and church were restored in 2000 and the building listed.