Portugal and Semana Santa!

Last Friday we put Stella in the Dog Spa, rented a car and then drove to Lisbon for some sightseeing and sardines.

Well, we hadn’t planned on the sardines, but the sardine stores were everywhere, so how could we resist?   What we HAD planned to do was meet Russ from Rye, but his stopover was scrapped thanks to snowstorms and flight delays in New York.  No Russ!  More fish for the rest of us!  [So if Russ is reading this he is super-bummed now.] We stopped at “The Fantastic World of the Portugese Sardine” and bought tins stamped with the year of our birth.  Not tinned that year, the sales clerks were quick to point out.  That wouldn’t be fun.

Lisbon seems, in some respects, like San Francisco minus money.  Lots of steep hills, trolley cars and funiculars, views of water, and beautiful old buildings.  A relaxed vibe and flowers growing along the streets.  But the buildings are decaying, there’s a notable lack of Patagonia and North Face vests, nobody is talking about blockchain and the steep hills have castles and monasteries on top of them.

We took a trolley up to St. George’s Castle, which overlooks the city and the Tagus River.  The main part of the castle was built in the 11th century by Berber Muslims, but of course it had been the site of fortifications for centuries before that, since at least 48 BC when the city was classified as a Roman municipality.

After two nights in Lisbon we made our way through the Lisbon aquarium and science center and then down to the Algarve, the region along the southern coast of Portugal.  It is on the Atlantic Ocean, but thinks of itself as having a  Mediterranean climate.  Some parts have long sandy beaches, and other parts — such as the little town we stayed in, west of Albufeira — have low sandstone and limestone cliffs above sandy coves and small beaches.   The water is clear and greenish-blue and very cold.   We did some hiking and exploring along the cliffs, but our swimming was restricted to the pool.

And then, on Monday, we made the two and a half hour drive back to Sevilla for Semana Santa.  Each day of the week there are numerous processions, with the various cofradias or hermandades carting floats with Jesus on the cross or the Virgin Mary, penitents marching in hooded gowns, and brass bands playing solemn music (if they are with Jesus) or more determined and almost-upbeat music (if they are with Mary).  We went to see a few of these, including Los Negritos, a brotherhood that was supposedly founded in the 1400s and that (according to Wikipedia) accepted only black people as full members until the mid-19th century.  Now the hermandad seems to be 100% white.

The Negritos are headquartered on Calle Recoredo, just a block from our apartment.  We walked down just as the procession was emerging from the church, and there was already a huge crowd assembled along the route, with children sitting on folding chairs closest to the procession and adults drinking and eating tapas in the bars that line the street.  The crowd quieted when Jesus passed, and then fell to chatting while hundreds of penitents — this brotherhood has more than 900 — slowly filed by.  But after a while people started shushing each other again until finally there was near silence, and then a huge gasp and cheer went up as the float with the Virgin emerged from the church, and confetti was thrown from rooftops, and the brass band started to play.

We also went to a procession near Jardin del Valle, where we walk Stella, to see the “Romans” who marched into one side of the church and out the other.  But these Romans had . . . pink tights?  My explanation (and I will accept no other) is that once upon a time some Centurion put his red robe and white tights together in the laundry and then, on pulling out his newly colored leggings, issued a proclamation that all other marchers must thereafter be clad only in pink tights.

And in more marmalade news: Brook made a second batch of marmalade, with oranges that we harvested from the Real Alcazar gardens.  Mermelada de Ladrones.  She even made labels this time.  It is delicious.

3 thoughts on “Portugal and Semana Santa!

  1. Thank you for the. Travel story and the religious festival comments. This is a very different culture. Love, Papa.

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. Hola! Bridget here, from NYU days in Salamanca. Glad to see you are enjoying the Peninsula with the family. I am based in Madrid. Suzanne has shared with me your blog–que lo disfrutes!

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