I was fresh off the plane in Faro, Portugal.
Excitement level on high, a new city to discover. I navigated my way from the airport terminal onto a bus headed for the city center. Although my iphone 6 was in airplane mode I kept my gps open and a pin on my hostel location, and got off on the bus stop that seemed closest to my dropped pin. This was before I knew about the beauty of the app Maps.me. It is the ultimate offline navigating tool.
After a long flight day I find myself on the cobblestone streets, which reminded me of Rio’s ciclovia (the bike path) with my backpack on my back and my gps out, ready to find my bed.
I zig zagged through streets and alleys trying to determine if i was in a safe area or not. The sun was already setting but I wasn’t far away. Turned out my bus dropped me off less than half a mile to my hostel. Weaving around corners and projecting my tourist tendencies of scratching my head while checking my map, I found the hostel entrance. I rang the doorbell and walked up the stairs.
I checked in and ran through my normal routine of questions with the girl at the front desk. Whats there to do around here, wheres the good food, is there Uber etc. She directed me to the Festival do Marisco/Festa da Ria Formosa (seafood festival) just around the corner near the water. I invited her to go with, she said she couldn’t (because she was working, right?) I took my dorm room key, dropped my bag in the locker and started my on foot exploration in Faro.
The annual seafood festival in Faro happens every first week of August and gathers a few thousand locals. Live music, super cheap seafood and caipirinhas, and perfect evening weather.
I ordered a massive pile of arroz de marisco, which is rice and seafood, for 8 euros. Apparently in Europe, and so I learned almost everywhere besides USA, they eat the whole shrimp (minus head) tail and legs. I tried it, but in the future I will continue to separate them from my shrimp. Tasted about how you’d expect. Crunchy and leggy. Yet the meal as a whole, was fantastic. The rice soaked up the shrimp and crab juices and made for a flavor packed pile of seafood.
I sat at a table solo but with an older group nearby with a big smile across my face, happy to be back in one of my favorite countries. I was super excited to dust off my Portuguese accent and get some more practice in.
Little food trucks surrounded this waterfront festival, stringed lanterns and christmas lights overhead to set off the kicking back mood. The half domed stage faced straight out to us; the audience, scattered about with hundreds of picnic tables with nothing to cover the tops of them. Some tables had a covering of mussel shells and shrimp parts sprinkled across the tabletop, remnants of some people who chowed down just minutes before.
One side of the festival was a wall of food stands churning up massive cauldrons of seafood boiled up in some richly spiced broth. The other side was lined with little food trucks, some mixing caipirinhas and others twirling cotton candy and scooping ice cream. Other vendors had clowns blowing up balloon animals, and some selling those one-time light up colorful night sticks.
The sun was setting to the far right behind the stage. I leaned back in the chair, scooped the first spoonful of food and watched the stage in the background. I sat there content, excited about the next few days to come.
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