It’s the biggest party of the year. Pagan and religious celebrations mark the merry months of May and June with street parties, musical concerts and cultural events. But the best happened on June 12 and 13 when most streets in Lisbon were clogged with Lisboa folks watching the Marchas Populares parade.
Such colorful costumes! And so much music, dancing, food and drinks on the eve of the festival when we arrived. San Antonio de Padua is a native of Lisboa, having been born here in 1195 to a rich noble family. Though universally known as “the patron saint of lost things”, he is actually known in Lisbon as the patron saint of marriages. Every June 13, mass weddings are held here with hopes that the city’s patron saint will bless their marriages.
We didn’t bargain for this. Hopped on a bus to Lisboa with plans to visit Fatima and Sintra the next day before catching the night train bound for Madrid. But here we are, right smack in the middle of merriment! The hotel front desk kept saying how lucky we were. And we even got luckier next day. 😄
How lucky? We found Norberto. This Lisboan is the best deal we had throughout this trip. Norberto’s van was perfect for the 7 of us. Norberto deposited us in Fatima the next day in time for the Marian procession and breezed us through Sintra’s highlights. (More details and photos in separate blogs — Watch this page!) He also gave us our best bacalhau meal! (Read this food blog) With time to spare, Norberto proudly toured us around his city. Most major attractions covered. No time wasted. And we didn’t even feel rushed!
The mandatory visits of Tower of Belem and the Monument to the Discoverers (led by Henry, the Navigator). Done. And how can one visit Lisbon without paying respects to the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama? This first European ever to reach India made it possible for Portugal to amass so much wealth from the trading of exotic spices like cinnamon and pepper. He now rests inside the Jeronimos Monastery across the Portuguese poet Luis de Camōes. The same Monastery claims to be the perfect example of the Manueline style of architecture. Designed with Moorish, Gothic and early Renaissance influences, it bears maritime motifs so prevalent in the Manueline architectural style.
And just prior to finally leaving us in Santa Apolonia Station to board our red-eye train for Madrid, Norberto suggested we buy some pastries like Pastel de Nata from the famous Pasteis de Belem. But the long line discouraged us. Too many eager to have a taste of those egg tarts! Our frustration only wore off when Norberto made a final drive-through with 3-minute photo stops in the Alfama district. So pretty, but so little time!
The Alfama is Lisbon’s old town. You need strong legs to navigate its winding, sloping streets and alleys. Thank God we had Norberto. We couldn’t have managed without him. He’s very knowledgeable, a good driver, and hilarious too! He would happily sing out a tune, a line from an old song, and get us all singing the next few lines. I’m actually not sure if he made us happy or if we made him that happy. If you guys ever visit Lisbon, give Norberto a call and do give my regards. If you please, make him happy and belt out a few lines of “Yo no soy Marinero… Es Capitan, Es Capitan”……
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