Sao Bras



Sao Bras ~ Sao Bras de Alportel

More simply known as São(sow) .  São Brás is an unpretentious small town in the hills, to the north and slightly east of Faro. The old town, centred around the church and Episcopal Palace,  perches on an escarpment looking down towards the coast. The town’s main square is an entertainment in itself – a cross-roads between Faro to the south, Loulé to the west, Tavira to the east and the old road to Lisbon to the north. The new town is rapidly growing northwards and eastwards from here. São Brás has open air and indoor swimming pools, a good cinema and a pousada on a hill overlooking the town. It has a daily fresh food market which expands into the surrounding streets each Saturday. Drive out north through the village of Alportel on the old Lisbon road, and you enter the beautiful and empty forested hills of the Serra do Caldeirão, which stretch all around for miles. It is from here that São Brás’s wealth has traditionally been drawn, the town being a major centre for the cork industry, a role you can see celebrated in the museum, in a town roundabout and in the cork factories and piles of drying cork still to be seen about the town. The museum is in the house built for Miguel Dias Andrade, a 19th Century cork baron, and is worth a look for the house itself.

São Brás is at its best on Easter Sunday, when the Festa das Tochas (Torch Procession) celebrates the resurrection of Christ. The streets are paved with patterns of flowers; fresh wild flowers. A procession of the town’s men starts from the Igreja de Matriz, following the flower-strewn streets, each carrying a tocha –  a ‘torch’ – also made of flowers. The leader cries “Christ is risen” and the processions responds with three cries of “Hallelujah”. Similar festivals were celebrated in many Algarvian towns in the 18th and 19th centuries, but now, the tradition only survives in São Brás.