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The Grand Festival Invades the Alfama

Updated: Apr 2

Party Goers at St. Anthony’s Festival in Lisbon’s Alfama Neighborhood

June brought the first day of the month-long celebration of Lisbon’s patron Saint Anthony. Luckily for me, he was born in my neighborhood, the Alfama, where the biggest celebrations occur for dear old Anthony. The Alfama is still full of folks who are holding fast to the festival traditions and they have spent the last month preparing the neighborhood for the grandest of parties.

The Big Day Arrives

On the day of the festival, I returned after a day avoiding the neighborhood. I walked into the Alfama with the caution of a soldier entering a war zone. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The festival atmosphere was quite tame, with some lively music and a moderate crowd. So far so good!

My friend Robert was seated at a table outside our local spot with two of his friends. I ordered a beer and joined them. We discussed the festival, which Robert and I have not lived through but his friends have. One lives up the street, close to the action. When I asked him how he feels about the festival, he looked a bit defeated and said, “If you like that kind of music, I guess it’s okay. After a while it seems you just get used to it.” 

Oh lord. That can’t be good.

Living in the Heart of the Party

After having a couple beers with Robert and his friends, I headed up the street to face the music…literally. It got progressively livelier and louder, but still within reason. I had been warned that being Thursday, the reality of work in the morning would keep the celebrations more muted. However, the weekend was still to come.

And come it did! The bands played, vendors filled large cups of beer, and people danced and sang in the main square. The celebrations have kicked into a higher gear. With no work facing them in the morning, the revelers party until late in the evening/early morning. 

The Urinal of the Festival

Fortunately, for me, I get the full festival experience. As the city does not provide portable toilets, after consuming the large beers, a partygoer needs a place to relieve himself. Since my beco is at the top of the first quiet little street off the main square, it is an obvious draw for cross-legged partiers looking for a solution to their problem. Despite passing an empty lot on the way to my beco, the party goers continue on, turning right onto our little slice of no longer quiet Lisbon heaven. And urinate. 

Yes, our little beco is now serving as the unofficial “Urinal of the Festival”! I am so proud we can provide this valuable service to the drunks invading the Alfama.

The BYOB Beco Bar

Another service our beco provides is a BYOB bar. As there is very little seating offered at the festival, party goers need a place to relax while they binge drink. Luckily, our beco has such a spot…our beloved green bench! Weary from too much drink but not smart enough to go home, the hard-core partiers bring their alcohol up and take over our bench. They take turns sitting while the rest stand around in what is likely someone’s urine. 

Every night, I check out the bench to see what is on tap at the BYOB Beco Bar. Sometimes it’s a ton of Super Bocks (local beer), sometimes they kick it up a notch with some Johnny Walker black and sometimes it’s a veritable smorgasbord of beverages. If I forget to check the activity at the BYOB Beco Bar one night, I can always look at the empty bottles scattered about the next morning to see what was on tap.

The Crescendo

The crescendo of this festival was June 8-13th with the most serious celebrations happening then. Luckily, I left town early June 8th, and will not return until the end of the month. I will be praying the city is grateful for our beco’s contribution to the festival and power-washes it before my arrival.  

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