As if the huge bi-monthly market wasn’t enough, Ponte de Lima offers several other major festivities throughout the year. The market itself goes into overdrive for four days over the second weekend in September with the Feiras Novas, or New Fairs, celebrated since 1826 – as much festival as market, with fireworks, fairground rides, folk music and gigantones (enormous carnival-like statues). There’s a similarly traditional slant to June’s Feira do Cavalo (Horse Fair), while on the day before Corpus Christi (usually early June) Ponte de Lima comes over positively pagan with its annual ritual of the Vaca das Cordas (literally, “Cow of the Ropes”), which involves an enraged and defiant bull being chased through town. This is one of many traditions with its origins in the ancient fertility cults brought to the Iberian peninsula by the Phoenicians – the bull is tied by its horns, led three times around the main church, and then jabbed with goads, after which the unfortunate animal charges through the town’s streets before finishing up at the river. It is then led off to the abattoir, as the good people of Ponte de Lima prepare for the more sedate procession of Corpo do Deus the following day, which sees the streets covered with ornately patterned flowers. For more cultured pursuits, the annual two-week Festival Percursos da Música is held each July, a renowned arts festival presenting recitals, chamber music and opera as well as literature and philosophy events. The town’s Teatro Diogo Bernardes is the main venue, hosting a range of shows from dance to fado, with other performances also taking place in local manor houses and on the riverside itself.

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