Olhão ao ritmo das estações, na Jamie Magazine!


Jamie Oliver não precisa de apresentações, ou não fosse um dos mestres gastronómicos mais badalados por algumas latitudes de conceito e prazeres gourmet.

Jamie publica uma revista, a Jamie Magazine, que nos proporciona viagens por sítios e sabores, que vão para além do simples prazer da boa mesa,  numa era em que as Low Cost, nos transportam a quase todos os recantos do planeta, na oportunidade de à tarde já estarmos ali, no final de uma rota aérea, a desfrutar de alguma das suas preciosas informações.

Na última edição a Jamie Magazine publica um artigo assinado por Kevin Gould, sobre Olhão no Algarve, descrevendo a cidade e a região, de forma absolutamente apreciativa, o que nos devia fazer pensar seriamente, que é tempo de aprendermos a saber valorizar, o que cá temos.

O autor do artigo, começa por considerar Olhão um primor do desalinho arquitetónico, “com os mercados de alimentos adoravelmente animados”, numa cidade de pescadores que vive da terra e do mar, mas que na sua essência, faz lembrar uma velha medina árabe, pela caraterística das casas, pelas vistas, pelo labirinto urbano, pelo branco e azul das fachadas, uma cidade que grelha peixe na calçada.

A cidade, as gentes, a Ria Formosa, a Culatra, os mariscadores, os bancos de areia, os bares, os restaurantes, a história e o presente, os mercados e os produtos, numa cidade que conforme o próprio autor afirma, tem uma vitalidade própria, porque vive ao ritmo das estações e da subida ou baixa das marés, onde estão algumas das melhores praias da Europa, apenas à distância de um pequena viagem de barco.

O que escreve Kevin Gould sobre Olhão e que vale a pena ler:

By: Kevin Gould


Only 15 minutes from Faro airport and there’s not a pink-skinned tourist, stripy sunbed or Irish pub in sight. Instead, we’ve discovered a gorgeously scruffy, properly authentic fishing town and its adorably lively food markets. Olhão is a working town that makes its living from the sea and the land. At its heart is the old Arab medina, where the houses have tall lookout towers with views as good as any you’d get in Marrakech. There’s a dizzy maze of white cobbled alleys too narrow for anything wider than a mule, along which are thick-walled, crumbling houses just begging to be loved and restored. These are painted flaky white or a washed-out morning blue; some are dressed with bright Moorish-patterned tiles and others have elegantly collapsing roofs. Some are storerooms for fishermen’s nets or used to dry catfish or squid. Many homes have squat barbecues outside; in Olhão you grill your fish on the pavement.

As we discover more of the town, Olhão’s architecture also reveals its history as a once-important fish-canning town. In the 1850s this place hummed with people and businesses making their fortunes from the sea and, as the roads got wider and the cobbles chunkier, well-to-do Olhãnense built elegant townhouses and clubs for themselves. These have grand, hand-carved stone window frames, filigree door shutters and ornate balconies. They’re glamorously dilapidated now, home mostly to memories and cats. The twin markets – one for fish, the other for fruit and veg, meat and cheese – have been sympathetically restored, and clinging to their red brick walls are bars and cafés where clam diggers, fishermen and market folk share drinks and jovial insults all day long.

Along the front there are green parks full of starlings, a zoo with terrapins and ducks, any number of affordable fish restaurants and spick-and-span counters where you can buy clams, crabs and cooked prawns. Olhão is where most of Portugal’s clams are dug: at low tide, the seabed reveals tidy fields carefully marked out in stones, each one belonging to a different family.
Papa Leite is Olhão’s clam whisperer. Among the other clam diggers his name evokes both respect and admiration because, if there are clams to be found, Papa will wrangle them from the sand.
We meet him before sun-up on a quay that is already bustling with clam diggers and fishermen, all to-ing and fro-ing between the fish market and the small dock. Papa is not a tall man, and 35 years of clamming have left him slightly stooped, so he doesn’t so much walk as scuttle and skip along the jetty. Then suddenly – whoosh – we’re aboard his mate Fernando’s boat making our way out to Papa’s clam garden. Five minutes from land, the channel we’re in is so shallow we have to be hauled to shore by wader-wearing Fernando.

Off the boat, Papa leaps ahead, leading the way to his natural habitat. On dry land he looks awkward and shy, but here Papa Leite appears to be in his element. Like an arc light on a Hollywood set, the sun suddenly blazes over the horizon. The ground beneath our feet is still sea-squishy. Where we are is not quite land and not quite sea. It’s not yet fully light and neither is it dark. In this half-day, half-night light are revealed the figures of dozens of clam diggers. Through the still, shimmery atmosphere, with legs straight and backs bent double, they look like inverted Vs against the shiny, oozing seabed. The diggers here have been working like this – harvesting their sea gardens, seeding their beds, shoring up their fields – for 5,000 years, at least.

Papa has a short, hoe-like tool that he skims through the sand towards him quickly, deftly, in short strokes. He works from left to right, making fan-shaped patterns in the sea-dark sand. “Listen,” he says, and every time his hoe hits a clam there’s a scratchy, metallic ping. Quietly, he scans the ground. Index finger extended, he bends and hooks a clam with it. Plop, into his muddy bucket. Then another and, quickly, another. In minutes he’s found about half a kilo. It’s as if he can sense where the ‘ameijoas’ are hiding. He shows us the pin-tiny blowholes that reveal where a clam is dug in but, try as we might, we can’t hook even one. Back on the quay, we look at the flush-faced, leather-skinned, weather-worn clam diggers with new-found respect.

One reason why Olhão has retained its authentic, very local atmosphere is that there’s no beach here – but some of Europe’s best beaches are only a boat ride away. We’re in part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, whose coastline is UNESCO protected because of its importance for migrating birds and spawning fish. Where the Formosa River reaches the sea it becomes a huge lagoon dotted with islands and shifting sandbars. Culatra is one of these islands, home to a village of the same name. You get here either by slow, dreamy ferry or in 10 minutes by zippy water taxi.
Many fishing families live on the island and you’ll find a handful of bars (any of which will feed you the grilled fish and chips of your dreams), plus a couple of mini-markets where picnic provisions can be acquired. Culatra’s brightly painted shacks soon peter out to become a boardwalk that delivers you over the sea-fragrant dunes to a stunning wide, wave-washed golden beach. There’s nobody here to sell you a choc-ice or a deckchair. Many days, there’s hardly anyone here at all, just miles of clean sand, clear winds, vivid blue water and the feeling that you could swim all the way to Brazil, given the time. Back on the mainland, the markets have a timeless feel. They live their life to the rhythm of the seasons and to the rise and fall of the tides. Almost none of the produce has travelled more than seven miles, and all the fish and seafood has been landed or dug only a few hours ago. On Saturdays, the quay in front of the markets is crammed with stalls as old dears and young guns come into town to sell the produce they’ve grown that week.

Muddy farm pickups, ancient 2CVs and overloaded three-wheelers arrive here before dawn. By 7am the cafés are full of folk filling up on cheese and ham ‘tosts’, tiny ‘cafezinhos’ and snifters of fig firewater, and the market is in full sunny swing by 9am. There are stalls groaning with oranges and juicy clementines the size of large marbles; faded fringed umbrellas shade mounds of sandy potatoes, nubby-ridged cucumbers and firm, glossy tomatoes. Men in trilbies, bleached by 30 summers under the Algarvian sun, sell you bags of snails and herby, grass-coloured olives measured in pewter pint pots. There are suave ladies with neatly coiffed hairdos and stout ladies in frayed aprons wearing crusted country shoes. In the titanium morning light the air smells of cinnamon sugar and frying churros – they’re called ‘farturas’ here. Kids munch on chewy dried figs and man their cute cake stalls. You can buy a live rabbit, or a duck, or a collared dove; jars of honey, glowing like precious amber, are labelled orange blossom, rosemary, thyme and carob. Dogs roam; neighbours gossip; farmers with faces contoured like the mountainsides they farm grin shyly and sell you posies of wild flowers. Olhão’s market shouts with life. We buy far, far more than we can carry.

Kevin Gould
In: Jamie Magazine / Travel

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