A few days ago a fellow blogger Casa da Armanda recommended we drove today – May Day – along the main road between Olhão and Fuseta, and what an amazing recommendation it turned out to be. Thanks again Jeronimo for telling us about this local tradition.
The N125 is the main road in the East algarve and is a road we potter along most weeks and only occasionally see things that are worth stopping for. Today though there is something extraordinary happening alongside the road as today is May Day, and on May Day rag dolls take to the streets. You can see them elsewhere in the Algarve, but on this short stretch between Olhão and Fuseta you will find yourself in a convoy of cars, bikes and even walkers as everyone keeps stopping to take a photograph of the dolls. Nearly all of the ones we saw today were working people (Father Christmas I’ve yet to work out!), and some of them were almost a ‘tableau’ telling a story of Algarvian working life. As well as the dolls there were stalls selling local produce, and everyone was in holiday mood. Good job given the approach many were taking to crossing the road or stopping their cars!
We had great fun stopping and starting as we pootled along the N125, and as were the many locals who were fortunate enough not to be working or at school today. In fact on our return to Olhão we discovered that one of the owners of the amazing Vai e Volta was also taking a holiday so she could join in the celebrations by going to her village picnic, another traditional May Day event. Fortunately however for us Vai e Volta was open, and so we were able to enjoy their delicious lunch with friends who are also here this week. But I’m getting sidetracked again by the delicious Algarvian food when I am meant to be sharing our May Day experience.
If you are reading this today – 1st May – and are near Olhão then do jump in a car, on a bike or on a bus since it really is worth seeing these rag dolls close up. Some of them are works of art. And if not, but think you might be nearby next year then make a note in your diary now!
May Day still seems to be something special in this part of the Algarve, and it was lovely to join in the fun this morning. We understand from Jeronimo that there is a prize for the best rag doll, and most of the dolls we saw had been entered into the competition. I think my favourite was the washerwoman, although the florist and shepherd came close. There was also an explanation of the ‘tableau’ as well as the name of the amazing person who had created it, and I’ve included a couple of those explanations below.