Yes, it’s currently one in the morning. But it’s okay, because I have the day off tomorrow and can sleep way in (like everyone else in my house will–I went home relatively early).

Tonight marks the highlight of the festas de lisboa–or the month long affair of neighborhood parties all over Lisbon. They are technically happening all over Lisbon all week, but tonight is the night that people party all night and sleep in crazy amounts tomorrow, since there’s a day off. There are other traditions, such as pots of basil and eating grilled sardines, neither of which I really partook in.

So I decided that it would be best to experience this festival with my housemates–some of whom are Portuguese–rather than with my fellow interns, because I hadn’t really hung out with my housemates and frankly they invited me out first ;P

We “planned” to leave the house at around 5:30pm so that we could get a table and relax and enjoy one another’s company while drinking and eating–but planned is really a very loose word. I was explained many times over that planning simply is not the Portuguese way and that improvisation is what the Portuguese do best (besides coming up with novel ways to cook fish). In reality, we left the house at around 8 pm and didn’t really leave the neighborhood (because someone wanted snails from our local restaurant) until perhaps 8:30.  It must have been nearly 10 before any of us got to eat anything–you can see from the photos that it was very crowded.

I ate some (not very good, I was told) chorico sausage that was grilled–it was the coarsest sausage I’ve ever eaten. the texture of the meat making up the sausage was preserved, so it was more like chunks of fatty meat bound together in a sausage skin and grilled. But it was an experience. After that, I ate a generous piece of chocolate covered carrot cake, which was excellent.

I saw lots of interesting food though–not just the full sardines. I saw pork slabs being grilled by what looked like the hundreds for the traditional Bifana sandwhich. I saw a whole pig roasting on a spit–though most of the pig was eaten, the pig-quality of the legs and head were remarkably well preserved and recognizable, and there were so many other stands for food, offering the same things for marginally different prices, that it was really overwhelming. I was extremely happy to be with my housemates, who knew their way around, knew Portuguese, and could take pretty good guesses at the things I didn’t understand that merited explaining: the vulgarity of the music we were listening to, what different menu items and drinks were, where in the city we were walking to, and many others. I am really very grateful to them and their expertise and hospitality.


The pictures really don’t do the absolute chaos that was Alfama during Santo Antonio justice. The smells alone–smoke from cigarettes and all of the grilled food, as well as other city smells and the smell of tourists–were overpowering, and the thick crowds flowed like a molasses river. I t took some effort to stick together. But the music was bouncy, there were live musicians on many streets, and everyone was a dancing and having generally a good time, pursuing the cheapest drinks and bifanas possible. It was great. It was spontaneous–we never knew where we were going, but as long as we were together (a group of 5+ people), we were exceptionally safe in the labyrinthine neighborhood Alfama.

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