City slicker: Lisbon

June is the month to visit the Portuguese capital as the residents take to the streets of Lisbon in honour of St Anthony
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June is the month to visit the Portuguese capital as the residents take to the streets of Lisbon in honour of St Anthony

Clothing: For June, think fustian. Black not only allows you to strike a suitably ecclesiastical note, blending with the elderly women and priests in the religious processions, but also ensures you won't clash with the pastel bunting and the mauve jacaranda blossom filling the city this month.

Song: You can play it gloomy, the quintessential Lisbon way, or merry. For the former, the plaintive minor-key fado genre is still flourishing in clubs all over town. Also interesting new groups, led by the famous Mabredeus, provider of music for Wim Wenders's film The Lisbon Story are producing exquisitely mournful distillations of saudade, the nostalgic spirit of Portugal. But the big June carnival processions also feature popular marchas, mass rallying songs in praise of the singers' districts.

Shopping: An acrid plank of bacalao (salt cod) from one of the specialist stores which stock it in doormat-like piles, beige to snowy white in colour, is a must. In your cabin luggage it'll instantly clear the seat next to you, allowing plenty of room to stretch out and sleep off your hangover on the flight home. Gift-wrapped in gay St Anthony's colours, it makes a disturbingly ambiguous gift for the mother-in-law. Cooked Gomes de Sa style, with potatoes, garlic, parsley, and eggs it'll be delicious, but don't forget to soak it overnight or you run the risk of your dinner party guests petrifying into a collection of Lot's wives around the table before you can get to dessert.

Sport: While football is the real national sport, bullfights (touradas) still appeal to traditional Lisboans. The city's red brick moorish bullring is gloomily elegant, but the fight itself, in which the bull is not killed publicly but afterwards, is ridiculous, like a cross between a Morris dance and a rodeo.

Cheap presents: Some attractive pieces of linen and lace or fascinating exotic underwear may be nicked from the washing lines outside the windows in the Alfama and Barrio Alto districts. Take a good long umbrella for hire items. If accosted, repeat the phrase "Textiles expert from the Antiques Roadshow - that could be worth a bomb" and stride briskly away down nearest alley.

Food: Forget restaurants in June - eat on the street at the trestle- tabled cookshops in the popular arreais - the gaily decorated eating, drinking and dancing areas in squares and on street corners. Hamburgers, stewed snails, and above all, sardines slapped on half oil drum barbecues.

Places to be at 6am: Down by the wholesale flower market on the Cais do Sodre, having a cup of hot chocolate and a brandy with nightclubbers and florists from the suburbs.

On the top-floor of an old apartment block in the Rua do Poco dos Negroes, eating a plate of catchoupa, a Cape Verdean pigs foot and bean stew prepared by the housewife's husband, a ship's cook.

Securing a pitch at the Feira da Ladra (thieves market, actually a flea market) behind St Vincent's Church to sell off cloth souvenirs acquired in the manner described above.

Alternative Sunday outing: Join a mass drive-slow blocking the 25th April Bridge in protest at the imposition of higher toll fees to pay for the building of a second bridge. Hire a car, stick a Nao Pago Mais! (I'm not paying any more) sign in the back window and some balloons on the aerial and crawl towards the bridge, refusing to stop at the toll booth. You may even be pulled over and fined three thousand escudos, making the whole episode into a colourful anecdote with which to entertain dinner party guests rendered speechless by your bacalao Gomes de Sa.

PHILIP SWEENEY

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