A unique town: Pontedeume serves as the gateway to the Fragas do Eume Natural Park, one of the last Atlantic forests remaining in Europe, whose origins lie in the Tertiary Age, with a dense covering of oaks, chestnut, laurel, strawberry trees and firs. It is also the home to an extensive range of fauna. The Romanesque-Baroque Monastery of Caaveiro in the heart of the forest offers excellent views over the area, giving visitors an idea of its grandiose nature.
The park area and the vicinity of Pontedeume play host to the pioneering project known as the Eume Cantina Network, with a series of typical restaurants offering local and regional dishes based on the strictest quality criteria, to the delight of visitors to the area.
Don’t miss: The feirón, an attractive weekly market held every Saturday where it is possible to buy nearly everything, although the emphasis is on small stands selling local foodstuffs, and it is the ideal location to buy the local specialities known as costradas (pies made using puff pastry), or local pastries such as the proia mantecada (a flat, sweet butter cake), fritters, almond cakes or sponge cakes.
The Festa das Peras (Pear Festival) is held on the first Sunday in September in honour of the Virgin of As Virtudes and San Nicolás de Tolentino, where it is possible to enjoy the fruit prepared in a multitude of different ways. The festival is accompanied by the sound of bagpipes and drums, as well as sporting events that include climbing a greased pole over the water, fireworks and a large barbeque.
“I fell for her in summer, my lovely summer girl,
From summer she is made, my lovely summer girl,
I’d love to spend a winter with my lovely summer girl,
But I’m never warm enough for my lovely summer girl,
It’s summer when she smiles, I’m laughing like a child,
It’s the summer of our lives; we’ll contain it for a while
She holds the heat, the breeze of summer in the circle of her hand
I’d be happy with this summer if it’s all we ever had.”
“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” (Henry James)
After a year and half of living in super inaka (countryside) I feel so alive. Connectivity is vital to life. For as long as I can remember, I have always liked markets and festivals and large crowds. I think this is because positive energy is so contagious and so nice! Though often, in such scenarios, I’d look around and concentrate on what I was not. I’d see boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives and large groups of girls giggling about and I’d see tall women with athletic figures and lush hair and fashionable clothes and bemoan my own life. Tonight, as I walked around completely alone, I didn’t do that for once. I saw the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in yukata (traditional Japanese summer ware) and I saw charming husbands carrying the handbags of their wives and young fathers piggy backing their little ones. I saw couples feeding each other yakitori and groups of young girls holding hands and fans and candied apples and their heads upright to protect their beautiful hairstyles, and I smiled. I rejoiced in their happiness and thanked God I was alive. Alive to share in their transmittable joy and alive to live their spreadable love. What do you think? Is that me growing up?
The first food is a mochi (sticky rice) sweet. Inside is anko (sweet red bean paste) covered with plain sticky rice and lastly coated in kinako (roasted soybean powder). The second is karaage chicken. As you may or may not know, I am a wannabe vegetarian. However; I had to, I just had to try this. Not only did it smell insane, there was a 10 meter line for it and we all know lines mean business. It was amazing. So much so, that I remixed Katy Perry’s infamous song for it in my head: “I ate chicken and I liked it…the taste of it’s…” Okay…so as you can see, it’s a work in process.
From top to bottom: a walk in the village with mom, snaps from a small Japanese matsuri (festival) in the old street of my village (the food is shiitake mushroom tempura, onigiri and tempura onigiri!), lunch with Lifa, Akiko and Oz at mine where my father gifted Oz a Kinder Surprise (a surprise-toy containing chocolate egg), a gluten and dairy-free black sugar and raspberry cake, and last but oh my goodness never least, an incredible make-your-own sushi dinner at Kaori and Taka’s with BROWN RICE, avocado and all things nice. It is an understatement to say that my heart is bursting with 愛 (love).
Last night, there was an event in Nishiawakura (the village up from mine) to fly 300+ lanterns. Unfortunately, or fortunately (we never know the hidden wisdom behind such things) it started snowing so that part of the event was cancelled. Last weekend however, the one where I made home-made pizza with Akiko, Lifa and Oz, we also had a practise run for said event where the weather was perfect and the lanterns flew. Here are the adorable (if I can say so myself) pictorials:
Yesterday, I went to the Miyamoto Musashi festival where I tried fresh mochi for the first time. Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape.
Traditionally, mochi is made from whole rice, in a labor-intensive process.
Polished glutinous rice is soaked overnight and cooked.
The cooked rice is pounded with wooden mallets (kine) in a traditional mortar (usu). Two people will alternate the work, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi. They must keep a steady rhythm or they may accidentally injure one another with the heavy kine!
The sticky mass is then formed into various shapes (usually a sphere or cube).
Here’s a picture of the professionals smashing mochi:
Note: the lady in white is in charge of turning and wetting the mochi (at the same time as protecting her hands from being mince meat).
Here’s a picture of me smashing mochi:
Note: the weight of the kine is in my facials. Here’s a picture of me about to smah some anko (read bean) and kinako (soy bean flour) mochi in a whole other sense: The verdict? Delicious! And tiring to swallow – much chewing is needed! Although an unfamiliar texture, fresh mochi is seriously tasty and nothing compared to regular mochi. If you get the chance, you should seriously try it. Kinako (soybean flour) was my favorite. Ahh if only I could eat fresh mochi more often!
Fun fact (actually, come to think of it, it’s more a depressing fact):
Suffocation deaths caused by mochi are surprisingly common in Japan and in particular; among the elderly citizens. According to the Tokyo Fire Department which responds to choking cases, mochi sends more than 100 people to the hospital in TOKYO ALONE per annum. Between 2006 and 2009, 18 people died from choking on mochi in Tokyo and in just 2011, there were 8 mochi-related deaths in the Japanese capital. Most likely, other localities suffered also.
For this reason, every year, Japanese authorities warn people to cut mochi into small pieces before eating it. The Tokyo Fire Department even has a website offering tips on how to help someone choking on mochi! Who would have known!