Knowing that I am a big fan of fungus, I had been kindly invited to go along to the
Alcaide Mushroom Festival
…with my good friends Mike and Julie.
I say ‘good friends’, as the journey there was long and tortuous and I in the back spent the duration sinking hopelessly further and further into the jaw-clenching, watery-mouthed, yellow-green world of car sickness and not only did neither of them once mock me, but Julie gave up her front seat for the whole of the journey back.
Although I pride myself at not having vomited in the back of their car (as it is a really nice car), I’m not sure that Julie’s offer of one of Daisy Dog’s poo bags constituted a ‘mocking’ or not. Either way, it served only to act as an immediate stimulant to my gag reflex, to such a degree as was very nearly out of my control.
Anyway, by the time we arrived I felt sick as a parrot and was doubly determined to be sensible about sampling any indeterminate fungal street fare. Being a keen wild mushroom collector and identifier (and an ever-more cautious one at that, especially in Portugal), I stuck to commercial shop-bought ‘Miscaros’ only. We all did.
The festival was great fun – full of stalls, people, music and food and drink to sample, as any festival should be, with a good deal of zany humour as a welcome change to the traditionally religious festivals of Portugal.
It felt to me initially that a remote, dying village had been snatched up by some income-attracting initiative and made into a theme park.
But it was so well done!
Hilariously tongue-in-cheek; lots of young people and craziness; nearly all the houses’ cellars were opened up as bars, little restaurants or craft shops and decked out in a similar (OK, slightly contrived) ‘rustic’ style using raw or reclaimed materials, each with its own atmosphere and uniqueness and a few quirky little ‘mushroom’ works of art here and there.
The creativity of the set designers was truly ingenious.
I struggle to imagine what the village has to do with mushrooms traditionally, seeing as the Portuguese (as I know them) only pick two varieties – the Parasol and ‘Miscaros’ and draw a sharp intake of breath at the mere mention of any of the others but then what the heck? It was all good fun.
This is my favourite photo from the festival, taken randomly in some bar:
It was the second time Mike and Julie have been to it and they intend staying overnight next time to get the full night-time experience. This is Julie’s account of last year’s festival:
Inspired but maybe slightly disappointed at the lack of presence of much of a variety of genuine wild mushrooms at the festival apart from one educational display of specimens, this was the product of a half-hour woodland dog walk a couple of days later back at home, which just demonstrates the sheer variety and abundance of mushrooms in the woods here in central Portugal: