June in Lisbon is a month-long party. Starting in mid-May and lasting til mid-July, there are nonstop street festas almost every night, along with bigger events throughout. This weekend is the biggest of all, St. Antonio’s Day, when couples from all around the city gather to get married in a free civil ceremony, and then parade around the city that evening. The parade itself is supposed to be Portugal’s version of Carnival, and all week we’ve been seeing people setting up bleachers, lights, and sound systems along the Avenida da Liberdade. Should be an epic party.

Til that day though, Lisbon contents itself with holding more “minor” nightly street parties. Throughout the month of June, every neighborhood has its own, so we’ve been seeing the tell-tale signs of these parties all week: brightly colored streamers strung between buildings, big red Super Bock beer stalls, and barbeques on every street corner. We haven’t been out to actually witness one yet, but last night we decided to remedy that oversight.

We started our evening with a sunset fado concert at the Museu do Fado. The music started at 7 PM, which was described on their website as the “late afternoon.” You really gotta love the Portuguese sense of time.

Ditto the eternal Portuguese civility, as the crazy drunk that we passed on the way from the metro station stopped yelling to himself long enough to bid us a good afternoon (again, at nearly 7 PM,) and then continued ranting as soon as we’d passed on. That’s what I love about this place — even the crazy drunks are courteous.

We arrived at the Museu too late to get a ticketed seat, but since the musicians were setting up outside anyway, we were just as happy to stand out on the street for free, along with the large crowd that had already gathered. There we stood for about 40 minutes, listening to the mournful songs of this typical Portuguese music, some with a singer, most with just the two guitarists. Even when it started to rain lightly, the crowd remained undeterred, as did the singer. What’s a few drops of rain when you have saudade pouring out into the pink sunset, with the party gearing up behind and a night of beer, fried churros, barbecued sardines, and dancing ahead of you?

Soon the music ended, and we met up with our Italian friends from Gabe’s university as well as J, he of the idyllic barbecue and patio. We all walked around the streets of the Alfama for a while, watching as the neighborhood geared up for that evening’s festivities. People had created food and alcohol stands out of just about anything: a board nailed to some scaffolding, an empty clothing store, even two desks held together by a clamp and fortified on one end to compensate for the steep angle of the street. Barbecues and temporary seating areas had erupted like weeds in the cracks between buildings, and it seemed like every little nook and cranny was filled with tables, grilling sardines, beer stalls, or those with signs promising that they had snails (another delicacy here, one we’ve never been tempted to try.)

Gabe & co did try some churros, however, which were subtly different from the fried, sugary dough sticks we would get at the Boardwalk at home. The Portuguese churros were fried dough sticks, true, but the similarities stopped there. These were fatter, and not dipped in sugar, but instead hollowed out and then filled with a goopy liquid of your choice, all of them incredibly toxic looking. J chose the kiwi flavor, which looked like nothing more than the radioactive brick Homer Simpson juggles during the intro to the Simpsons. When a drip of it ended up on his beard, it truly looked like he was eating something that would give him a second head, or at least an extra eye or two. I was quick to turn down both his offer of a taste as well as Gabe’s, whose dulce de leche flavoring looked slightly less radioactive but still noxious.

As they were making plans for the rest of the evening, I decided that I’d seen enough and would rather remember it empty than get overwhelmed by it being full — which even at that early hour (9 PM), I could tell that it was going to be. So I went home to my book (The Passage, a brand new postapocalyptic vampire novel that I’m totally obsessed with, and have to persuade myself to do anything other than sit and read it for hours on end, including sleeping and working) while Gabe stayed out to see what the night held.

His sleepy report this morning revealed that it did get very crowded, but the crowd had a good energy, and he very much enjoyed himself, sitting at a restaurant with a view out over the crowd, eating sardines and drinking wine with our friends. They also ran into just about everyone we know in this city, including our landlord’s son (whom we see everywhere), some other guys from the uni, and some Italians that our friends knew. How is it that with these block parties going on every night all over the city, still everyone we know ends up at the same one? It is a frighteningly small town.

Fado at sunset, toxic churros, sardines, and dancing in the streets — definitely a Lisbon-only kind of experience.

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