I’m a longtime fan of Mardi Gras, so I took to Carnaval in Portugal quite naturally. Though grand displays of drunkenness (or nakedness) aren’t my style, the act of dressing up outrageously and wandering though the streets with a open cup of libation holds a lot of appeal.
My first Carnaval two years ago included an invitation to a friend’s school party—her daughter would be there in full Snow White regalia (a favorite among 7 year-olds the world over), and we’d have salty snacks, soup, and sangria to benefit the school’s recreation league. Though my Portuguese sucked (and still needs a lot of work), we got on and even danced a little.
Next year I knew to come in costume—but we ended up at a local parade in Malveira da Serra at the last minute. We took pictures and laughed and sang (and drank Sagres) and fluttered around the confetti on the street.
This year, we got smart. Planning ahead, we made it up to Torres Vedras on Sunday for their afternoon parade. They close off a large swath of the town center and cheer on elaborate floats (some poking great fun at our collective leaders) with a glass of local wine from Adega Mãe.
For the main event, Mardi Gras, we dressed up like tarts and made our way back to Malveira da Serra. Though the cold front approached, in between shots of beer served to me by a giant lobster, we thought this was the one we liked best: no entrance fee, homemade costumes, and lots of kids throwing streamers. Guys pulling floats using their farm tractors, drinking beer out of commemorative, reusable plastic cups. Bom Carnaval!