Lisbon, Portugal - Day 2
Trip to Portugal and France
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Tags: Travel, Lisbon, Portugal, Castelo de São Jorge, Alfama, Feast of Saint Anthony
Today, I went to the Alfama district and toured the Castelo de São Jorge. Then, in the evening, I went out with some people from the hostel to the streets where there were celebrations for the Feast of Saint Anthony which is the largest festival in Lisbon.
After a small breakfast at the hostel, I started walking over towards the Castelo de São Jorge in the Alfama district which is the old quarter of Lisbon. My goal was to eventually get to the castle, but I wanted to enjoy walking through the old quarter on my way, so I went at a very leisurely pace. The streets were beautiful, and in some areas, people were already setting up decorations for the celebration that night.
Colorful decorations attached to a tree in Alfama
The streets were decorated throughout the day.
A narrow street in the Alfama district
The streets were very picturesque and I took my time enjoying the beauty.
The Castelo de São Jorge is situated on the top of a hill that has great views of the city. Because of this, it has been a strategic stronghold for every civilization that lived in the area. The area of the castle has Roman ruins and evidence has been found of settlements as far back as the 8th century B.C. The main castle on the site was built by the Moors during the Arab occupation Additional structures were built after the Christian reconquest of the area when the castle became a royal residence.
The castle grounds are home to a museum which contains many artefacts from the various periods of settlement in the area.
After spending a couple hours at museum and the castle, I wandered back through Alfama towards the Se de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral). When I arrived, there was a televised wedding going on. I looked it up, and apparently it is the Wedding of Saint Anthony a collective wedding for a set of 16 couples that happens every June 12th. In the past, poor couples were chosen for the wedding. Although, today I am not sure if being low-income is one of the qualifying factors.
As I continued walking through Alfama, the streets were a bustle of activity as people set up make-shift stands for selling beer, shots, and bar foods.
I went back to the hostel for dinner. After dinner is when all of the Feast of Saint Anthony festivities were supposed to begin. The first thing was a parade that we heard was going to happen that came right down the street in front of the hostel. The parade was quite lame. Even more lame than the one that mom and I watched in Bermuda! In the almost hour we watched from the balconies of the hostel, maybe four or five “floats” came by. Most of them looked like childrens’ bands from local schools. We kept thinking there’d be something more interesting, but nothing came.
At that point, a large group of around twenty people from the hostel headed out to the actual celebrations on the streets. There was one guy who anointed himself leader of the pack and was like “I’m going to the big party” so we all followed. But he led us to Barrio Alto, which was overcrowded, and wasn’t a very fun atmosphere. The group got split up pretty quickly. I ended up with a group of around six people who wanted to go over to Alfama, the old quarter which I’d walked around in the morning. By the time we walked the half hour over to Alfama, we’d lost a few more people who wanted go see other festivities and it was just a guy named Ben and myself.
The Alfama district was alive with live bands playing music, people in the narrow streets partying, and makeshift beer stands and food vendors lining the streets. We wandered about letting the crowds dictate the direction we went. The atmosphere was amazing and it was super fun to be in the middle of the biggest festival of the year in Lisbon.
Each street had a few stands set up selling food or beer (or both). There are two main beer companies in Portugal: Sagres and Super Bock, and it seemed like they were having a competition of who could sell the most beer :) They tasted fairly similar to me.
After partying early into the morning, we headed back to the hostel for much needed sleep.