Carnaval in Lisbon

Tile plaque at the Cais do Sodre train station in Lisbon.

In the US, we have Mardi Gras, at least in New Orleans, in Portugal there is Carnaval.

The largest celebration is seen in the town of Torres Verdes where people join in with costumes, large masks, floats, music and general revelry.

This year, many people believed it was time to have a carnaval parade in Lisbon, a city where such parades have been verboten. I came across the event on Facebook where people where ready to defy authority to have a parade. Because, as my friends will tell you, I’m always up for a little civil disobedience and a lot of fun, I decided to join in or at least be a supporter of such an effort standing on the sidelines.

At the last minute, a permit for the parade was approved so the party began in earnest and I was ready to view if not participate.

But first, I’ll start with the beginning of my day which included a cafe at the Mercado in Cascais with a side of a little chocolate.


We are beginning to experience the first bloom of spring in Portugal and the flowers of the season were shown in their finest glory at the Mercado.



Even first thing in the morning, the Mercado is busy with shoppers.


Then it was onwards to the train station for a ride along the water to Lisbon anticipating a long uphill walk to the Alfama, which is the oldest part of the city, and the National Pantheon where the parade was to begin.

Just by happenstance, I came across an escalator which took me halfway up the hill to the National Pantheon, the Panteao Nacional, which sits atop the Alfama.


Here I am looking down, halfway up the escalator.


The escalator got me only part of the way to the top of the hill but that was OK because there were interesting streets and alleyways to discover along the way.





When I saw the tower below, I thought I had arrived but no, I had another hill to go. The tower is part of the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora which I will visit another day.

Just a little more ways to go.

After a fair amount of walking and practicing my stairmaster exercises, I made it to the Pantheon.

Panteão_Nacional_Mosteiro_de_Sao_Vicente_de_Fora_zoom (1)
The National Pantheon, Photo not by me.

There was a small crowd of revelers on the steps of the Pantheon, so knowing I had some time to spare, I decided to explore the interior of the building and I’m glad I did.



There are several people buried within the Pantheon and Vasco da Gama is memorialized here.

Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His voyage to India was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route.

Da Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India was significant and opened the way for a global reach and for the Portuguese to establish a colonial empire in Asia.

The Portuguese are known for their navigation skills and Vasco da Gama cemented that reputation.


There was an opportunity to make my way to the top of the dome and feeling I needed a little more stairmaster time, I decided to continue upward.

Along the way were rooms at different levels with displays providing additional information on the history of Portugal and the building itself.

This part is for design geeks like me so please bear with me for a few moments here.

Below is a cast of one of the supports of the cupola topping the dome. These are perfect proportions.


Another decorative detail.





A view from the top of the Pantheon along an interior balcony.


When I arrived at the base of the cupola, I was afforded a 360 degree view of Lisbon and the Tagus River. It was well worth the climb up to the top of the Alfama and then to the top of the Pantheon.


When I got back to the base of the Pantheon, more people were beginning to arrive and quickly, the street was filled with people ready for a parade and a party.

Fortunately, the revelers were very kind in allowing me to photograph them.





It seemed that after taking some photos of those early in arriving, I looked up and the street was filling with people!

By the way, unlike the US, people were drinking beer and other libations in the open. It seemed appropriate and perfectly normal on a warm and sunny day in Lisbon.


First, some music and dancing.


And then the parade began!


By the way, everyone was to dress in pink, purple and yellow. I don’t know if there is a significance in wearing these colors but it made for some great images.






Beautiful people on a beautiful day.

After leaving the Alfama and making my way back to the train station, I saw that everyone was enjoying the day, simply being outside and enjoying the sun.

Many at the sidewalk cafes…


Many along the waterfront…


Many along stretches of grass…


And some enjoying live music in a small park across from the train station.

Beer and other refreshments were served.


Gin and tonic anyone?


And you wonder why I love Portugal?

-Dora Taylor








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