Friday, June 29, 2018

Sardines and St. Anthony: #ThatLisbonLife

In Lisbon during the St. Anthony festival, partygoers ride giant sardines to the land of cheap beer.

Every June, Portugal parties with a vengeance in the name of God. Because June is the feast day month for three prominent saints of the Catholic Church: Anthony of Padua, John the Baptist, and Peter the Apostle (Simon Peter). Lisbon, especially, goes all out for St. Anthony, their hometown guy, who was born in the city in 1195. Though his feast day is June 13, Lisbon sets aside both the 12th and 13th for celebrations. Officially, at least. In truth, from what I learned while visiting the city from June 3-12, the party for St. Anthony starts winding up the minute May turns the summer fun over to June.

St. Anthony dedication made of wristwatch bands in Lisbon shop window.

Family decorating front of their house for St. Anthony festival.

So how does Lisbon celebrate a saint? Must be pretty dull and pious, this party, like with ashes and lots of kneeling and eyes tearing up with all the Catholic guilt and incense flying around. Yeah, not quite. Instead, it's more like parades and fado music and sardines on the grill and shots of cherry liquor and cups of sangria drunk in the street, and pots of basil and marriage matches and colorful streamers making zig zag lightning bolts from rooftop to rooftop and window to window over the narrow cobblestone lanes of Lisbon's beautiful smelly old up-and-down Alfama and Mouraria neighborhoods.

Street party setting up in Alfama neighborhood for St. Anthony fest.
Laneway in the Alfama.

Statue of St. Anthony with his church in background.

Church dedicated to St. Anthony in Lisbon -- the church was built on the site where he was born.

Tiny altar in a basement room of St. Anthony's church in Lisbon, marking the room where he was born.

When I first decided on going to Portugal and booked my flight dates, I didn't know about the St. Anthony festival, or I might have made sure to book my return date for the 14th so I wouldn't miss the two biggest festival days. While I did miss the parades and mass weddings and marches, the good news is I still got a taste of all the pagan-tinted saintly fun. I arrived to find parts of Lisbon, including Alfama, the neighborhood I was staying in, getting decked out, setting up party booths and tables in the streets, grilling sardines, stacking their steps and windowsills with little shrines and altars dedicated to St. Anthony, loading up on the basil and ginja -- in general, having fun, getting down, living the life.

Grilling sardines and selling ginjinha (cherry liquor) in Alfama.

Grilled sardines with potatoes, peppers, and "salad."

Pots of basil for sale, with love notes for potential mates. Lisbon men give basil as tokens of affection to their love interests during the St. Anthony celebrations.

Having been raised Catholic, even if the festival for St. Anthony wasn't previously known to me, Anthony was. For St. Anthony is the patron saint of all things lost -- objects, people, souls, limbs, dreams. Misplace your keys? Pray to St. Anthony, he'll help you recover them. GPS let you down and left you driving around in circles? Send the address you're looking for up to St. Anthony, he'll show you the way. Losing heart, losing hope? Maybe St. Anthony can help recover that sort of thing too,  restore your faith in humanity, lead you back to your belief there's something better or more to life than just going along blandly, forever and endlessly and desperately trying to match up keys to houses and owners and cars or addresses to red and blue targets on a Google or GPS map or dreams and aspirations to everyday challenges and average Joe/Jane circumstances. If not, there's always Lisbon in June to distract you from your lingering life doubts.

Statue of St. Anthony and wall of flowers by his church.
Altar to St. Anthony set up outside his church.
Beautiful giant wall of flowers beside St. Anthony's church.
Are you looking for grilled sardines?

Yes, we have sardines.
As do we.

We not only have sardines, we have Shakira and Sly Stallone at our party.
Another St. Anthony altar.
And another!
And another!
This ones comes with a lifesize Anthony.

This one has a name, Lucinda, the object of the altarmaker's affection. They will be getting married on the 12th, during the mass marriage ceremonies across the city.

This altar features Anthony, Our Lady of Fatima, and booze.

Bleachers set up on the Avenida da Liberdade for the big parades on the 12/13th.
Celebrating a few days ahead of the feast day in Mouraria.
This is just outside one of the fado clubs in the Mouraria -- everyone was singing, eating, drinking...
Keep the sardines coming. In the Alfama.

Pots of basil, pots of love for sale in the Mouraria.
Window altars in the Alcantara neighborhood.
Getting ready in the Alcantara.

St. Anthony altar made of stones, by the riverside in Lisbon.
Stumble down fun in the Alfama.

Sardines and silhouettes on the wall in the Alfama.
St. Anthony watching from a window.

Ginja, chocolates, sangria, "wisky," vodka, red bull -- St. Anthony, please help me find my sobriety!

St. Anthony taking young Jesus out for a spin. When you see this on the streets of Lisbon, you know you need to scale back on the ginja.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Portuguese Graffiti

A couple weeks ago I went to Portugal with the notion to check out the beginning of the Portuguese Camino route as a possible future adventure. I mainly visited Lisbon, Sintra, and Evora and I took lots of pictures. What struck me most about Portugal, especially Lisbon, was how much street art and graffiti you find there. Everywhere. Not just in the places you usually find graffiti, like the backs of factories along train routes or in tunnels and bathrooms or "derelict" neighborhoods and other under-the-radar places. But even in tourist areas, on church walls and restaurant exteriors, on almost any surface you can imagine. And as varied in form and style and purpose as you've ever seen, from straightforward tagging, scrawled jokes, and clever little pop-up puns to elaborate designs, hundred-foot tall murals with 3-D effects, and bold political statements.

3-D mural (the eyes project from the wall) in Lisbon, near the river. Pretty sure this piece is by the artist Bordalo II. 

It really surprised me. I can't recall another city or country I've visited where graffiti and street art are so prevalent, including NYC. My hometown, Chicago, has a rich graffiti tradition and lots of great artists, but the city's official approach (law enforcement and City Hall) has largely been to punish street artists and erase their work. There are exceptions of course, specific neighborhoods where murals abound and space is set aside from time to time for sanctioned projects -- Pilsen is an example. But at the same time (at least, since 1992), the sale of spray cans/paint is illegal in Chicago, and a bid to overturn the ban (which doesn't stop graffiti, but only results in "accomplishments" like driving sales tax revenue from the city to suburban paint sellers) a couple years ago failed. Most cities actually take a similar approach to Chicago -- allowing sanctioned street art projects in designated areas while punishing rogue artists with high fines or even jail time and banning the sale of graffiti materials to minors or to anyone altogether.

In Lisbon.

In Sintra. "Anyone can make you smile. But not everyone can make you happy."

Lisbon is different. Although I don't know what the city's laws are regarding graffiti, its focus as a graffiti hub is evident just by a quick glance around. Other Portuguese cities also have thriving street art scenes, so the internet tells me. So along with taking an excess of snaps of historic monuments like castles and of all the wine and port I drank in Portugal, I took pics of some of the art I encountered while wandering around. I admit I found some of the excessive graffiti ugly or distracting -- sometimes it just looked dirty to me. Then again I often find people ugly or distracting in my wandering, but nobody ever talks about banning people from public spaces. (There's my dose of misanthropy for the day. I hope you enjoyed it, reader. I sure did.) Other times I'd look up or to my left or right and spot something that made me smile or even laugh out loud with delight. I was on my own in Portugal (a post about that to come soon) and surrounded by lots of coupled and group travelers, as opposed to very few other solo travelers, and occasionally I felt rather out of place and lonely -- and one thing that helped ease my loneliness among the crowds was the engaging street art.

Edith Piaf stencil in Lisbon, near the Chapito restaurant.

Look down. On the ground near Praca Rossio in Lisbon.

In Evora.

The pictures in this post are just a few of the pieces I saw and delighted in. Included are not just graffiti and street art, but also a few other wall adornments and street decoration -- human-generated or otherwise.

In Lisbon in Principe Real neighborhood.

Marking the entrance to the Chafariz do Vinho in the Principe Real neighborhood.
Entrance to the Chafariz do Vinho, a wine bar in an old water reservoir -- easy to miss with the graffiti overtaking the sign.

Stairwell outside the Chafariz do Vinho.

In Principe Real, Lisbon.

In the Alfama district in Lisbon.

This was by a tunnel with the history of Lisbon told in graffiti comics (see below) near the Alfama.

Portions of a series of graffiti comics telling the history of Lisbon.

Giant photo on the wall in Lisbon, somewhere close to the river between the Santos and Alcantara metro stations.

Fun people riding a sardine in the Alfama district. This was no doubt for the St. Anthony celebrations during June in Lisbon.

In the Alfama district. There's the silhouette on the right bordered by birds, and there's the the cut out sardines on the left above the steps.

Walking along the river.

In the Alfama.

Super Like Me! Note in the bottom pic that this piece is unfinished (edging or outline of the letters only on the first two letters).

In the Alcantara-Mar subway station in Lisbon.

Going up the steps of the Alcantara-Mar subway.

This is a piece by the artist Vhils in Alcantara. Rather than paint or cover the wall with material, Vhils scrapes or chips away at the material itself to make an image emerge from the wall or structure.

:-) This outfit is made entirely from wristwatch bands. In a store window on Rua da Madalena in Lisbon.

In the Mouraria neighborhood in Lisbon. The women in the forefront are selling pots of basil (which men give to the objects of their affection on St. Anthony's feast day in June) for the St. Anthony celebrations.

This was near the Edith Piaf stencil (above).

Hippie Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon.

'Tis art! "Original painting" of Pope Frank made from coffee liquid in Lisbon.

Mural with tagging outside the Teatro Romano in Lisbon.

In Evora.

Also in Evora.

Evora again! I thought this stain looked like a dog.

Oh, Evora you are full of surprises.


In Evora, near Igreja de Sao Vicente.

Sunday morning in Lisbon. This car covered with kisses has some stories to tell about last night...

Graffiti with your tapas, in Lisbon.

I stumbled into a lane in the Mouraria district that had all these beautiful photos of its elderly residents on the walls, a project by Camilla Watson.

Something to see on the way down. Lisbon.

These are the nights that never die...written on temporary scaffolding by the Praca do Comercio in Lisbon.

Me and the bubble letters and the light beyond in Lisbon.