For almost a week, we had been wondering why all these tables were set. Were they expecting a wedding or some other big party? And now we know: they were preparing for the local village dance.
While exploring the area near the campsite around the town of Silves where we stayed, we came across this restaurant and hotel: a huge, desolate and cold place. Sometimes, when the football is on, you’ll see regulars standing at the bar, drinking beer and maybe having a meal. And probably during the day there are several customers that come and eat the ‘prato de dia’ – dish of the day.
After our first visit, we noticed a small poster advertising live music: a picture of a young man, with a faded time and date: 15-1-2017, 19H00. It seemed as if it had been there for years, even though it was an event still to come. And I was immediately intrigued: Who would come? How many people would be there? What would the music be like?
From the outside the restaurant, looks quite run down, almost abandoned, something with a glorious past, or maybe a place where people come in the summer months, for lunch or a drink on the terrace with a view of the river. But definitely not a place to spend a Sunday night and sit inside the dark and dingy hall.
It’s a striking contrast to the surrounding area that is full of pretty orange and lemon groves, grown by mostly small-scale farmers. An irrigation canal brings water to all these orchards, and it’s perfect to run alongside that canal as it’s flat in otherwise pretty hilly surroundings. As I ran that Sunday morning, I passed the restaurant and smelled food cooking – unusual for that time of day. And I saw that the windows were opened, to chase away the staleness of the previous quiet week.
Not expecting too much, we set off for a walk later that afternoon, as we usually do, and were planning to go for a drink, to see for ourselves what the party would be like.
We were early, but the party committee was already there, welcoming everyone and charging a small entry fee. We looked around and saw that most of the tables in the first two rows were already reserved. Nobody was there yet, but after we settled down with a drink at one of the tables off to the side, the room started filling up.
It wasn’t sold out, but it was a very good turn out. And while everyone was dining, the music started. And right at the sound of the first tune, some people stood up and started dance, as if there was not a moment to be missed. And it was ‘proper’ dancing – one arm stretched, the other gently placed behind your partner’s back. And almost everyone got on that dance floor, young and old, in between courses, and after the meal.
It was clear, we were under-dressed for the event. But that didn’t seem to bother the people too much, and after we had eaten, and were watching others waltz around, we were signaled to come and join.
And there we were, trying to fit in, stepping on each other’s feet, struggling to keep the rhythm and trying hard not to bump into everyone else. It must have been obvious that I never had any dancing lessons at school and don’t even know the basics, but nobody really cared.
And all in all, it turned out to be a great night. Even though the hall nor the music were very special, the atmosphere was lively, and like everyone else, we danced to almost every tune, till late that night and had a great time.