CABEÇA ALDEIA NATAL 2022
Cabeça is one of my favourite local historical mountain schist villages in Serra da Estrela. At Christmas time the village residents transform their remote village into an authentic ecological rustic winter wonderland named “Aldeia Natal”. It is a natural Christmas extravaganza and idyllic little haven. It is a unique experience and completely different from the tacky theme parks we have already visited this year. It is just 45 min drive from our casa but it’s a challenging route up winding mountains with sheer drops off the edge! We are used to driving up and down mountains by now but the zig zag roads do make me feel quite nauseous at times. All the decorations are hand made and completely sustainable, crafted from recycled local natural foraged materials from the mountains. Forest materials such as tree limbs and mountain moss are used in the eco-decor. Unused wool products from the region’s textile factories are utilized and the street and building lights are all energy efficient LED’s. No plastic cheap looking tat in sight, what a delight! A village that cares about respecting the environment and biodiversity. The local residents go to great lengths to decorate their little houses and their enthusiasm is infectious for sure. This unique Christmas Festival runs from 17th December 2022 until 6th January 2023.
If you love nature and authentic lost in time mountain villages steeped in back-to-basics nostalgia, you will fall in love with this Christmas Festival. Although it was a glorious 17 degrees and sunny it was extremely windy to the point I nearly lost my Santa hat (ha ha). Hubby “accidentally on purpose” forgot his Santa hat so I had to wear mine alone, I still haven’t forgiven him (ha ha). My hat helped to tame my wild hair as the wind + Helena’s Hair = Worzel Gummidge, so I apologise profusely in advance for the state of my hair and my attire as I look like a deranged madwoman in almost all of my photos, it’s really difficult trying to multitask and hold a dress down and a hat on my head. Every time hubby tried to take a photo of me a huge gust of wind hit my face with the fury of a mini hurricane (ha ha). The Christmas tree photos are the funniest. A lovely man asked if we could take his photo next to the tree then he returned the favour. My dress literally blew right above my head at one point, I could not hold it down and hang onto my hat at the same time. Luckily for me and everyone else, I was wearing thick tights. I wish I wore pants now (ha ha).
The 2 chapels are beautiful and one has the most breathtaking stained glass window, I was mesmerised to the point where I fell down a step and went flying (ha ha). I always make a little visit to the churches and chapels, especially at this time of year to light a candle and say a prayer for my family, friends and those less fortunate than us. We had so much fun strolling around the narrow cobbled streets and stumbling across crazy Christmas decorations, displays and sculptures. There is a gigantic Christmas tree, Santa’s Workshop, Baloiço (Swing) and quaint Presépios (Nativity scenes). The food and drink are plentiful and there is an incredible pastelaria “Loripão” which sells delicious Bolo Rei (King Cake) and enchanting boutiques offering local artisan crafts and gifts. If you have a sweet tooth, you will be spoilt for choice with various waffles and crepes. I adore wandering around the charming streets under the gorgeous arches lovingly decorated with forest ferns, romantic hearts and berries, soaking up all the atmosphere and admiring the ancient schist houses adorned with rustic bracken and holly wreaths, pretty garlands with fruits, ribbons and woolen baubles made from the famous Serra da Estrela wool from bordaleira sheep. The traditional Portuguese table decorations are a sheer delight to view and there is even a scenic swing. We love sampling all the local regional foods including Serra da Estrela cheese, choriço sausage and aguardente liquors. The little taverns serve the tastiest piping hot caldo verde soup with warm bread. You will find the menus etched onto little chalk boards. Do you know what is refreshing? There are no crazy over-inflated Christmas market prices like the UK where one has to pay £25 for a beer and a bratwurst (German hotdog). Here is this awesome village, a bowl of delicious soup costs €1.50 and a cup of wine costs 80 Cents!
We didn’t stay too late as I had a really bad headache so if you want to view the night time glory please view my post from last year. I am not going to write an extensive story and rant on too much about this Christmas village as I already wrote a post last year and you can find it here: CABEÇA ALDEIA NATAL 2021 – Casa Valhal
I just wanted to share the magic and photo gallery because it is such a special place which I hold dear to my heart. Each year is unique and brings a different village vibe. Last year there were not many places open due to Covid but this year it was spectacular as all the tiny endearing boutiques and rustic stores offering handmade gifts, ornaments and souvenirs were open. We often had to duck our heads to fit through the tiny doorframes and we are short asses (ha ha). I loved exploring the shop which sells the cute hand carved wooden sculptures with wonky eyes and noses and also the shop with crochet crafts. I adore all the eco-friendly decor and this year was a surprise because I found a few scary sculptures which gave me the Jeepers Creepers! Worthy of a “Blair Witch” horror movie sequel. Even the Presépio with moss covered baby Jesus was a bit frightening and enough to give me nightmares (ha ha). There was a packed agenda and programme of events on the weekend that we visited including: Show cooking demonstrations, Community bread oven, Christmas table decoration workshops, Carol concert and an amazing live Saxophone concert so plenty of entertainment for all taste buds. The Sax guy, I called him “Mr Sex” was very talented and also very easy on the eye if you know what I mean, don’t tell hubby (ha ha). His actual name is Tiago Taborada if you’re interested.
The magic begins at dusk when the Portuguese hilltop village lights up like a magical fairytale. It was breathtaking and actually brought a tear to my eye the first time I viewed this village by night. Cabeça was the first LED village in the country, a real contribution to energy efficiency and promotion of low carbon economy. It’s truly wonderful and it’s such a pleasure to meet and greet with all the locals who all have a story to tell. The residents of this tiny village are so friendly and proud of their culture and heritage. I love visiting this place as it takes me back to my childhood memories of good old fashioned simple Christmases. If you have experienced all the tacky tinsel and fake plastic expensive theme parks and want a step back to basics and nostalgia from a little mountain village then this is definitely the Christmas Festival for you. There is nothing fake about this village, not even the snow. If you want to dance and prance around under the snowflakes then Serra da Estrela is the mountain where you will often find real snow at this time of year. Not an artificial snowflake in sight, just the real deal. I always leave feeling a sense of Christmas community spirit with my heart and soul full of joy.
The Windy Tree Fails
I have 2 words: WINDY MOUNTAIN! Actually I have 1 word: HILARIOUS! May God bless the Portuguese male stranger for trying (ha ha).
Windy Tree Take 2 – “I’ll Stay Until the Wind Changes”
Hubby tried his best but it just wasn’t happening. Nature was against us and the wind was fierce. I literally nearly got blown off my feet. My dress blew right above my head at one point, as I said previously, it’s a bloody good job I was wearing tights (ha ha). To most human beings, wind is an irritation. To most trees, wind is a song! I might have shit photos but I’m still smiling and living the dream (ha ha).
Feliz Natal Feliz Ano Novo (Merry Christmas & Happy New Year)
On the way home, our route takes us directly through the heart of a little village named Avô. It is just a few minutes from our home and where my favourite local river beach is located. It has a captivating castle (ruins). From a distance I could see the area all lit up and sparkling with a “Feliz Natal Feliz Ano Novo” (Merry Christmas/Happy New Year” sign so hubby made a pit stop so I could view the Presépio and castle ruins. It was a lovely little walk up more cobbled streets with plenty of cute festive Christmas decorations to view. I love the simple homemade Portuguese doorstop decorations especially the bale of hay reindeer but I’m not sure what the arrangement of hanging ties are all about (ha ha).
All the shimmering lights in the trees against the dark dramatic sky gave the area a dark and sinister ambiance. It reminded me of a time about 5 years ago when my daughter was studying GCSE Photography at school and had to participate in a project which involved flinging around a string of fairy lights at night time and trying to capture the different photography techniques. As I didn’t want her heading out to the woods in the dark we accompanied her to Durdham Downs. If you are not familiar with this area, it is a scenic, tranquil haven and green spot in a posh part of Bristol, UK and overlooks the famous Clifton suspension bridge. It is a perfect picturesque spot for a day time picnic but it has limited street lights and is deathly dark at night. We set the tripod up in the middle of the forest and Teanna was mid way through swinging lights frantically in the air when there was a rustle in the bushes. Nature loving me is thinking it might possibly be a stray dog or a hoard of crazy squirrels, if only! A large group of angry Doggers came out of nowhere and started to get really aggressive with us. They thought we were filming them! We packed up as quickly as possible and ran as fast as our little legs could take us whilst trying to jump over the used condoms. I had previously heard rumours about “Dogging on the Downs” but assumed it was a myth, apparently not (ha ha).
Once a group of Firefighters drove past in their fire truck and squirted the folk having sexual relations al fresco and they got reprimanded! I’m no prude but there is a time and place for sex and at my ripe old age that’s in a comfy bed. I don’t have anything against anyone’s sexual preference, men and women, men and men, women and women, love is love but don’t put on a nasty public show. Please keep it behind closed doors or as the saying goes “Get a room”. Hubby and I once jogged around The Downs in the dark and I was surprised at the amount of cars that slowed right down and started flashing their head lights at us like some kind of Morse code. We just wanted to get in some much needed exercise and fancied a jog not an evening orgy, you live and learn my friends, sometimes the hard way (ha ha).
My Favourite Decoration – Bale of Hay Reindeer
We already have Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen so I named this one “Bales”.
Christmas Tie Decoration
I will leave you with a funny photo because life is way too short not to have fun and a little giggle. I think some poor ladies hubby is trying to subtly tell her he doesn’t want any more ridiculous comedy ties as a Christmas gift this year. Nothing screams “No more ties Brenda” than a huge door step Christmas festive tie decoration, I LOVE it (ha ha).