Getting “Hammered” at Porto’s Festival of Saint John

Porto’s Festival of Saint John

Perhaps you recall my recent mentioning of fish heads? Or of fish-head hats? Of smoking sardines or curly green wigs? Of jubilant crowds to parades floating past while the beats and their throats formed the songs that were sung on the streets with some lyrics I could not work out but so ever enjoyed? 

Does any of this ring a bell?

Ding ding?

Lisbon’s Feast of Saint Anthony

Quite serendipitously, I stumbled upon Lisbon’s Feast of Saint Anthony in late Spring of this year, to be precise. It was my first dabble into the Portuguese festival experience. And it was pretty bomb.

So when I learned — mid-way through our Rick Steves’ Heart of Portugal tour — that we’d be arriving in Porto the night of its patron-saint’s festivities, I could hardly believe my luck.

“You mean I get to partake in more merrymaking, à la portugais?” Sweet! But I didn’t believe Porto’s fête de Saint John could ever quite top Lisbon’s festal homage to its holiest Tony.

But then, it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong.

Continue reading “Getting “Hammered” at Porto’s Festival of Saint John”

Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition

After fourteen days of intense travels through Portugal, I’ve decided to give an overview of the spots I enjoyed most, aka “Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition!” If you’re planning your itinerary or just want to learn more about what Portugal has to offer, then this is for you! So let’s take a look at the very Best of the West — of the Iberian Peninsula, that is!

First, let me plot the course of our expedition.

Where I Laid My Head

My most-recent Europe trip started in mid-June with five nights in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. The first two nights I spent on my own doing pre-tour independent explorationsThat was followed by three additional nights in Lisbon as part of a 12-day Rick Steves’ Heart of Portugal tour. Spoiler alert — Lisbon was a fave. More on that in a bit.

After those beautifully busy five days, it was time to say adeus to Lisbon. Our route continued on with a night’s stay in a town the Romans had occupied millennia before us:

Évora!

Praça do Sertório square in Évora
Praça do Sertório square in the heart of Évora

Évora is cute! It’s a whitewashed UNESCO-World-Heritage town with Roman-aqueduct remains.

Évora's old Roman acqueducts
Here I am, single-handedly holding up Évora’s old Roman acqueducts.
You’re welcome, Évora. You’re welcome.

But the spot that gets the most visitors is Évora’s Capela dos Ossos: a Franciscan bone chapel that’s on the macabre end of the spectrum, but fascinating!

In a morbid kind of way.

Capela dos Ossos, Evora
Those Franciscan monks of Capela dos Ossos had a real sense of esprit de corpse.

Continue reading “Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition”

Lisbon Travel Packs the Unexpected

What do green wigs, sardine hats, music, beer, and Saint Anthony have in common?

Not much!

That’s what I thought anyway — at least until recently, when Lisbon reminded me that travel is full of surprises.

I arrived June 12th, on a slightly delayed flight from London, super excited to be back in Portugal after a five-year hiatus. It turned out to be anything but your usual Monday night.

The first hint something special might be underfoot was a message my Airbnb host had sent the day before my arrival, which I only noticed as my plane was taxiing to the gate at Lisbon Portela Airport: Continue reading “Lisbon Travel Packs the Unexpected”