Generally speaking around this time of year, chocolate is one of the first things people give up for Lent. In the small walled town of Óbidos, that’s not the case.In Óbidos it’s time to celebrate chocolate in all its gooey, sweet, versatile glory.
For one month, the walled town and castle are taken over by stalls selling anything and everything related to chocolate. Along the main street, Rua Direita, even the local drink, Ginja (or Ginjinha) comes in shot sized cups made of chocolate.
This year’s festival was zoo themed with a tie-up with the zoo in Lisbon (Jardim Zoológico) so a team of chocolatiers created works of chocolate animal art, ranging from lions, reindeer and sea lions to flamingoes, giraffes and even an elephant. The exhibition tent was one of the best areas of the festival and one I’d head back to.
Stalls at the festival include hot chocolate, marshmallows, fruit bathed in chocolate, cake decorating materials and cakes galores, but the cherry on the top of the celebrations has to be the fashion show that took place on Saturday night. With an oriental theme, three countries – India, China and Japan, were fashioned in chocolate accessories and sashayed down the catwalk. From belly dancers to Harijuku girls, the crowd had the challenge of determining exactly which part of the outfit was made from chocolate and which wasn’t. Sounds easy? Trust me, it wasn’t! The chocolate accessories were made on the day and it was no mean feat deciding what was likely to melt under the lights!
The castle walls are in fantastic condition in Óbidos and as a result, should you need to walk off some of those newly added calories, there are steps dotted around to climb up to the walls for a view of the festival and the impressive landscapes which surround the castle. Two bookshops are also worth a mention. Both are located on Rua Direita – one, the Mercado Biológico de Óbidos stores its books, mainly second hand, in over one thousand old wooden fruit crates and is also an organic fruit and vegetable shop. The second, the Livraria de Santiago, is located in the Igreja São Tiago, a converted church along the castle ramparts. An altar remains, surrounded by books. Óbidos is an excellent place for a day out, or for a break from the nearby surfing beaches of Nazaré and Peniche, or even en route to Lisbon, as a minor detour.
We stayed at the Casa do Fontanario, a restored former plumber’s home just outside the city walls. The rooms were a good size, spotlessly clean with a good breakfast and even a small bottle of wine on the house waiting for us on arrival.