Friday, January 18, 2013

The 12th Day of Christmas

I've always wanted to celebrate Epiphany in a country that actually celebrates Epiphany. This is the feast of the three kings, or the official last day of Christmas, and mostly ignored in the US.  When we arrived, many people had Santas climbing the balconies, which must be how he gains access, rather than down the chimney.

This Santa was on our next-door neighbor's balcony. 

But first we went to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, where there is evidence of the original settlement, dating back to 6,000 BC. Eventually the Moors built a castle on the site, which was captured by King Afonso when he took Portugal back from the Moors in 1147.

We walked there.  Here is a theme about Lisbon that you will probably see repeated in many of my entries:  it's hilly. You'll think you've reached the top of a hill, when you encounter a staircase, and when you've climbed that staircase, you find another one, and another.  And when you finally get to your destination, it has its own stairs--lots of them. I don't mean to brag, but I came home with less thigh than I arrived with.  If you want a vacation in which you can eat all you want and not gain weight, try Lisbon.

Here is some of what we saw on our walk to the castle.

Many buildings are covered with painted tiles. I liked this blue/yellow combo with the blue door.

We found the castle entrance at last, bought tickets and were free to wander.  Fantastic views, particularly down into the yards of the people who live right against the castle.  Everybody has orange and lemon trees growing in the back yard, and these are ripe now. 

All four kids together.

Can you spot them here?

That night, we turned our attention to the epiphany.  Ian and I went out in search of a bakery.  Even though it was a Sunday, the streets were packed with people and there was a holiday atmosphere.  Christmas lights were strung over the street and some of the buskers played Christmas carols. We bought roasted chestnuts from a guy on a street corner.

We studied the king cakes, which were displayed in all the bakery windows.  Many cakes were topped with what looked like candied peppers.  A few even had grated orange (cheddar?) cheese sprinkled on them.

We selected a plain cake. They give you a gold paper crown and a tiny ceramic ring, which you insert into the cake.  Whoever gets the ring in their slice is king for the evening.  Jon got the ring. The cake was delicious--layers of flaky pastry with a creamy, custardy center.

We went out after dinner to experience the scene.

This was our first, magical day in Lisbon.


  1. What an amazing day. And your photos are terrific. I love the first one of your kids, as I think it's the first one of all four I've seen in a while. The photo of you is terrific too.

  2. That tile! That door! That cake! Citrus trees everywhere! I've never wanted to visit before, but you've convinced me.

  3. That looks delightful.