9 Jun,2016 By Jagabond
I recently attended the annual Festa celebration in San Diego, run by the United Portuguese Sociedade do Espirito Santo. I don’t like parades, so I’m not sure why I had this on my list of European festivals. I lived in New Orleans, the parade capital of the world, and I left liking parades even less! I consider them to be a bit mind-numbing…but instead of going totally numb my mind drifts and wanders in many directions simultaneously. For the next hour I toggled back and forth between watching the floats go by and thinking about Portugal…home to my favorite city in Europe.
Thought #1 – ‘Next time I’m going to Belem.’
Don’t get me wrong, I feel I totally picked the right day trips from Lisbon…opting for the sandy beaches of Cascais and the majesty of Sintra. However, Belem sounds like an interesting place, and technically it doesn’t count as a day trip, since it’s on the outskirts of the Lisbon city limits. Derived from the Portuguese word for ‘Bethlehem’, it has three can’t miss attractions – a tower, a monastery, and a coach museum – that I somehow managed to miss!
My thoughts were interrupted by the fisherman’s float…
Thought #2 – ‘Speaking of fish, I’m NOT missing the Lisbon aquarium again.’
I was outside the aquarium in Lisbon…regarded as one of the best aquariums in the world. I would’ve gone in, but a person I met at my hostel contacted me and talked me into hanging out with her instead. Not just that, but during our evening conversation, she started to say some pretty bad things about the Jewish people, and openly questioned the credibility of Auschwitz and other atrocities. It soon became apparent…I skipped the aquarium to hang out with a Nazi…my bad, won’t happen again.
The sound of a high school marching band quickly snapped me back to reality…
Thought #3 – ‘How did I not visit Algarve?’
I heard all the stories from a work colleague who regularly visited Algarve for the golfing. You fly into the main city of Faro, rent a car, and drive the coastline for amazing views. The region is littered with fishing villages, so the seafood is obviously one of the main attractions. This was on my short list of places to go during my final months in Europe, but having already visited two cities in Portugal I opted to prioritize other countries.
Then came the royal families…
Thought #4 – ‘What did I not get about Porto?’
Which is better, Porto or Lisbon? I definitely side with the latter, though based on people I’ve spoken with the debate seems to be a 50-50 split. Although Portugal in general is known to be hilly, walking around Porto seemed like constantly trekking up one giant slope. I think the mistake I made was staying in the city, and not venturing out to see some landscapes around the Douro river. I also didn’t fall in love with the port wine…just thought it was okay.
A show of solidarity – flags of the U.S., Portugal and Azores!
Thought #5 – ‘Azores, that’s right…I’m going there in August!’
My friends and I just wrapped up all the planning…and we’re set to visit 4 of the 9 volcanic islands. I’m so excited for this trip, because I have no idea what to expect. Doing research was challenging, as there isn’t a great deal written on this location, though Anthony Bourdain did an episode there that I still need to watch. I’m already looking forward to the hot springs, views of the caldera, and swimming with the dolphins!
Whoa…what the heck is a ‘weekly queen’?
Thought #6 – ‘Why do European festivals sometimes bum me out?’
I get bummed because I imagine what these festivals are like in their home countries. Due to a variety of rules and regulations, the U.S. can’t get as wild as places like Portugal. For example, the ‘alcohol areas’ in the US need to be isolated and guarded by armed security, whereas drinking is a bit more free in Europe. It didn’t help that this Festa parade was widely regarded as the worst one in years…a friend who helped arrange it promised that next year’s would be a lot better.
Every parade has to have a last float…