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I love to ask fellow travelers what they miss most about home. The answer often seems to be some type of food. For us, the answer is always Lou Malnati’s Chicago deep dish pizza. My in-laws came to visit us this past week and brought with them 4 frozen Lou Malnati’s pizzas. If you’re a Chicagoan, you’ll understand the feeling we had when we saw our surprise. So as we enjoy wonderful Portuguese foods, we keep thinking about those four pizzas in our freezer just waiting for the perfect night to enjoy them. It’s funny the things we miss when we’re away from home. We suddenly remember a favorite shop, a brand of yogurt, a walk in our neighborhood. We appreciate friends and family that much more when we’re away.

So having my in-laws here this week was like having a little bit of home here in Portugal, and we enjoyed spending time together and exploring Lisbon.

We rode the Sintra tram built in 1904, we explored the beautiful beaches, we visited the westernmost point of continental Europe, we saw 110-million-year-old dinosaur footprints (well worth the 350 steps we had to climb to see them) and we saw Lisbon by sailboat (a first for all of us)!

These past couple of days have been spent preparing for Carnival. We learned all about the biggest festival of the year here in Portugal. Carnival started in Italy almost 1000 years ago and spread from there. Apparently, during Lent, parties weren’t allowed, nor was eating foods like meat and sugar, so people would have a huge party and feasted before Lent. Carnival actually comes from the Latin words ‘carne’ and ‘vale’ meaning farewell to meat!

When we told the kids that we’d be celebrating Carnival here, our two youngest immediately got to work on their masks. Mirabel, our 10 year old, had a vision in her head what she wanted to make and after getting the materials she needed (egg carton, string and markers) she set to work. She made masks for her younger sister and herself while our 13 year old decided that a wig and some face paint would do.

We chose Torres Vedras as the town where we’d spend Carnival, about 45 minutes north of Lisbon, because it’s said to have the most traditional celebration in the country. We certainly weren’t disappointed.

Carnival is truly for everyone – for the young and old. Once we got to town, we walked through the streets to get to the parade. The bakeries and cafes were full with people wearing every imaginable costume stopping to get their tiny shots of espresso and sweet treat before heading over to the parade. We grabbed our churros and enjoyed the show.

The drummers and music had everyone on their feet, and sometimes it was hard to tell the parade from the spectators. The floats, the costumes and the atmosphere were like nothing I have ever before seen.

It was a day of pure fun and celebration – and I think that’s something everyone can use once in a while. On the way home our 7 year old said, “I liked this day.”

Me too, Lacey. Me too.