The umbrella festival of Agueda, Portugal was a destination for me ever since I saw a photo of these umbrella lined streets three years ago on the Internet. Marketed as a music and concert destination for younger kids, the town gets crowded with tourists during the month of July.
Train Ride to Agueda
We saw no concerts, heard no music. My goal was photography. Who could possibly take a poor photograph of thousands upon thousands of umbrellas in 100 degree heat? The umbrellas also had a side benefit, much-needed shade. This was the second day of the festival and already it was evident there was another benefit, being shielded from what flying birds do. Photographs later in the month will not look as pristine.
Trying to minimize risks where possible, the train to Agueda was chosen over a car rental. We later learned we took a $10 cab ride to a train station we did not need to go to and boarded a much more expensive train than necessary. While the reserved seats and A/C were appreciated, the cheap train nearer to our rental would have done just as good for a fraction of the cost.
Traveling on the local graffiti laden train from Aveiro to Agueda, we were sitting with Portuguese locals. Going to the sites we do, we never encounter the high-powered bankers and executives that certainly must exist somewhere in Europe. We only see the simple farmers with a plot the size of a house, restaurant owners or small vendors. Despite not being able to understand the conversation, it was clear these people frequently traveled together and knew one another well. There was plenty of time on the train ride to reflect on which of us had the better lifestyle. Their simple needs seem to be met, as long as that did not include dentistry and, from previous discussions with locals, I presume they received an adequate state pension. They were certainly a happy, close group of locals.
After disembarking, signs directing us to the popular umbrella festival from the Agueda train station were expected. There were none. Heading off in a more or less random direction we entered one of the first restaurants we found. As a bonus, it had pizza a welcome change from the normal Portuguese fare. My inquiry for directions to the umbrella festival got the entire staff involved. They all looked at the photo on my phone of last year’s umbrellas and none of them could direct me to the street. They held the iPhone, looked at the photo, passed the phone around, cocked their head and in the end, the one who could best speak English said they did not know where it was. Turns out it was no more than two blocks away. Here they are decorating their restaurant for the annual festival they seemingly knew nothing about…..
Umbrella Festival, 2016
Searching for a unique view, I scouted out a young girl employee who would hopefully take pity on an old tourist and speak English, a bonus. Explaining I wanted a different view, she led me to the second floor balcony with this view from above.
Someone not attending this umbrella festival may not initially see what is so odd about this photo. While the shade from the umbrellas helped with the heat, it was still unbearable. High ninety’s and humid. That did not stop this man from wearing a long sleeved shirt and winter sweater.
For me, it is interesting to think about the town hall meeting where the colorful umbrellas were first proposed four years ago. Somehow, the persuasive salesman made a successful pitch. So what does this town of Agueda look like with no umbrellas?