We do not do an extensive amount of research regarding the places we visit. Lisbon, or Lisboa, was on our list of places to visit, so off we went, arriving June 13. As luck would have it, this was the second day of the biggest annual celebration in Lisbon, the Feast of St. Anthony, the patron saint of Lisbon, AKA The Sardine Festival. Our cab driver was very excited about the evening events and all the balconies were brightly decorated.
We have settled into a routine when we arrive at new places. Typical unpacking, learning how to operate the coffee pot, washer, microwave, set up the electronics charging station, stow the suitcases somewhere etc. With shopping bags in hand, we head out to locate a grocery store and do our initial shopping. This is seldom an easy process. So many times the grocery store is the size of a one car garage. Imagine our surprise when we turned the corner and see fifty brightly dressed dancing girls and a couple of red and blue sardines five feet tall.
Lisbon Dancing Delicacies – Sardines; Snails and Barnacles
This was no tourist destination as we think we were one of the few, if not the only, tourists at the top of this hill watching the local church patrons doing some unusual and entertaining traditional dances. The fact that Lisbon was known for sardines was news to us. Nor were we aware we were in the midst of an annual sardine festival. But when I saw those blackened, grimy grilled 10 inch fish I pointed to my dinner. Only days later did I realize I had eaten a sardine. A sardine in the states is about the length of a cigarette. Here they are as long as a hot-dog. Full of bones! That is not grease they are swimming in, rather olive oil. At one restaurant where we dined, a local at the next table leaned over and told me I was not putting enough olive oil on my fish. The owner then came over to help me de-bone it. I must have really looked like a fish out of water, so to speak.
I should get in the habit of doing more movies, but it was very clear a still photograph would not capture these activities. On top of all the girls’ heads is a black, plastic inflated cliff swallow. These birds are everywhere at sunrise and sunset, making the lives of photographers miserable. Without a lot of work, my photos look like they are full of dust spots.
If this dancing exhibition was put on solely for tourists and we had to pay for the event I would be appalled and not go. ‘Let’s dance for the tourists’ shows do not appeal to me in the slightest. And yes, that includes the Hawaiian luau with dancing hula girls. But these kids were doing it for joy and tradition sake. It does not hurt that St. Anthony is also the saint of matchmaking so weddings, engagements and much flirting is part of the celebrations and tradition.
Who can say “No” to more dancing girls?
There are rules at foreign festivals unfamiliar to me. In the states, one would expect to buy your food, wander around and find a table and sit. At the St. Anthony sardine festival apparently each vendor brings his or her own limited number of chairs, so you only sit in those chairs. This was made clear to me when I ordered my next delicacy, tiny snails. Thanks for your order, but you now have to move to my chairs….. Since none of the vendors spoke English, conveying this unexpected bit information took a while and a lot of gesturing.
These tiny snails are called Caracóis. For those of you interested, and who wouldn’t be, look for a small sign advertising CARACÓIS
HA CARACÓIS, or We Have Snails on the restaurant door. The tiny snails are eaten with a toothpick. In general, my feeling was both of these dishes were just too much trouble to eat. They tasted fine, but the sardines have many, many fine bones. The snails were eaten with your fingers and a toothpick so your hands are a mess afterwards. When sitting outside in a restaurant, we would get overwhelmed from the smoke pouring from the outdoor smelt grilling. Barnacles were also tried later in the trip and were better than either the sardines or snails, once I was taught not to eat the foot or the attached seaweed.
This was the best introduction to a new city we have ever had. Good thing, as we were now changing our one week stay and residing in our new rental for two weeks. Up six floors and no elevator. The stairs were not always the worst of it. Our place sat on top of a very large hill which gave us nice view, but we had to work for it.
Here is a view of yet another Moorish castle and fort from our balcony. Not to sound jaded, but we did not wish to tour this fortress. How many Moorish forts do I need to see? If you have been reading of our travels, you know we toured the famous Alhambra in Granada, Spain ( Alhambra & Granada ) and the Alcazar in Seville, Spain. ( Seville & Alcazar )
Here are the stairs we became all too familiar with, leading to our 6th floor rental.