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The Portuguese way

Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

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Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

In Lisbon, a new creative economy is emerging from Portugal’s economic disaster. Smart policy is partly to thank, but then again, Lisbon has few other options.

Lisbon’s Thriving Creative Economy

Will Dyer came to Portugal for the waves but ended up staying for the art. “I was expecting a poor country with a good surf scene, but Lisbon has blown my mind. There is so much cultural stuff happening here,” the 28-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, tells OZY.

He’s decided to stay a month to explore places like the LX Factory, the beating heart of Lisbon’s new creative scene. This once derelict industrial complex in Alcântara, near the port, now looks like a cross between a Western movie set and a trendy East London market, with long, dusty roads and warehouses buzzing with hip restaurants, shops, bookstores and galleries created by ingenious locals and frequented by design-savvy tourists. LX Factory is just one of the many artistic spaces popping up in Lisbon. Like the graffiti that grows on the city’s rundown buildings, a new creative industry is taking over Portugal’s capital.

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“I really do not know any other place with this atmosphere. It’s like a village, but our clients are from all over the world,” says Margarida Eusébio, owner of local interior design firm and concept store Wish.

This creative renaissance, it turns out, is not spontaneous, but rather the product of opportunistic public policy. In times of crisis, most governments take the knife to spending aimed at promoting art, design or publishing. But continental Europe’s westernmost capital decided instead to concentrate scarce resources on its “creative economy.”

There may not be much choice, given the sad state of Portugal’s economy. Still, investing in creativity seems to be paying off. “Lisbon is going through the same process that Barcelona or Berlin went through in the ’90s. It attracts creativity because it unites modernity to a rich cultural past and conveys a captivating liveliness”, says Bruno Gomes from the incubator Startup Lisboa. Creative types now account for some 20 percent of Berlin’s GDP.

And Lisbon’s has perks that established creative hubs just can’t touch. Unlike Barcelona, tourists haven’t completely overrun it. The cost of living is laughably cheap compared to London: $1800 for a small apartment and a $5 for beer, while in Lisbon it’s $470 and $1.50 respectively. And Berlin’s dreary skies can’t begin to compete with Lisbon’s 200 days of sunshine every year. Being a crisis-born agency allows us to adapt better to the market.

To be sure, Portugal’s economy is in the tank, and Lisbon’s creative scene is a lonely bright spot. Unemployment is still at 15.2 percent, GDP is expected to grow this year by just 1.4 percent, and the fragility of Portugal’s banks continues to scare markets and investors.

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The decline of local demand is also clipping the wings of these new companies. That’s why the majority of people roaming the dusty alleys of the LX Factory are foreigners, and many creative startups work mostly with clients from places like the U.K., France, Brazil and even Angola.

Still, creatives say the economic downturn has been good for them. “We wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for the crisis,” says Nuno Cruces, an energetic 30-year-old who last year co-founded BeeInsight, a software development agency. “When you don’t have anything to lose and no jobs to apply for, you get the courage to create your own thing.”

“Being a crisis-born agency allows us to adapt better to the market,” says Lisboner Pedro Lago de Freitas from branding agency Brandworkers, which has designed PR campaigns for small companies since 2011. “People have lower budgets, meaning they are less interested in working with big, expensive agencies. So we created a small company but packed with talent.”

There are 22,000 ‘creative companies,’ which can now access Lisbon’s more than 20 co-working spaces, four fab labs and 13 startup incubators.

Many young Portuguese are seeking work abroad, but Lisbon might soon attract talent. “It’s the best city in the world to be a creative,” says Natacha Duarte, a busy 34-year-old freelance textile designer who spent seven years working in Spain and creates patterns for labels like Zara. “Lisbon is a great place to live and is not yet saturated like London or Berlin are. New ideas and creative business are always welcome.”

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Lisbon’s City Council is going all out to support it. “The ultimate goal is to create jobs,” says Paulo Soeiro de Carvalho, general director for economy and innovation. “We hope new companies will generate employment, bring investment and help economic recovery.” The Lisbon region already generates about 30 percent of creative employment and almost half the industry’s gross value in the country.

With money short, government strategy is to bring creative players together and nurture a supporting infrastructure. There are 22,000 “creative companies” — from fashion to architecture — and all of them can now access Lisbon’s more than 20 co-working spaces, four fab labs and 13 startup incubators, paid for by funds from private companies, foundations and the City Council, whose flagship project, Startup Lisboa, is downtown.

The growing industry has helped to rehabilitate historic buildings, reuse obsolete infrastructure and turn abandoned areas into ‘creative districts.’

The efforts have earned the city the title of Entrepreneurial Region 2015 from the European Commission.

The council has also packed the city’s calendar with cultural events like the Lisbon Architecture TriennaleLisbon’s Fashion Weekand the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival. In August, Lisbon hosted the International Street Art Festival and will be home to the Global Shapers2015 in September, Coworking Europe Conference in November and European Creative Hubs Forum in January.

The growing industry has  helped to rehabilitate historic buildings, reuse obsolete infrastructure and turn abandoned areas into what the council calls “creative districts.”

Pensão Amor in Cais do Sodré is a renovated 18th-century house for prostitutes now with a bookstore and spaces for concerts and ateliers; the old Braço de Prata Factoryis now a legal artistic squat, in Poço do Bispo; the area of Santos is branding itself as Santos Design District; and even Intendente, a neighborhood notorious for drugs and prostitution, is getting a face-lift thanks to spaces like Casa Independente, a beautiful 19th-century palace.

The council is designing several microfinance projects to fund ventures and next year will launch the city’s own crowdfunding platform, in partnership with the philanthropic Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian, the bank Montepio and several universities.

Of course this creative renaissance could eventually boost prices, gentrify the city and price young creatives out of the market. That, however, looks like success and is unlikely to happen soon. Meanwhile, wake up, Barcelona. Watch out, Berlin. Lisbon’s comin’ at ya!

artigo de Laura Secorun Palet publicado no Fast Forward OZY

Source: A Cidade na Ponta dos Dedos

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Stunning village built into gigantic stone

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Stunning village built into gigantic stone

Living beneath a roof that weighs more than the average cruise ship may make some people a little nervous. 

But it is commonplace for the residents in the Portuguese village of Monsanto, who adapted their homes around the environment filled with gigantic granite stones.

In the mountaintop village, homes are sandwiched between, under and even in the 200-tonne rocks. 

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Watch your head! The enormous rocks have been utilised as walls, floors, and most astoundingly, as roofs for houses that date back to the 16th century.

In 1938, Monsanto was named 'the most Portuguese village in Portugal', though its jaw-dropping land forms make it anything but regular.

Located in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, in eastern Portugal near the Spanish border, Monsanto sits at 2,486 feet above sea level and has spectacular views.

Donkey is the preferred form of transport for Monsanto's 800 residents, who have managed to maintain the village's medieval character.

  The lush green land with homes built into the landscape looks like something out of Lord of the Rings

The lush green land with homes built into the landscape looks like something out of Lord of the Rings

  Villagers have formed their homes around the existing rocks, rather than attempt to move them

Villagers have formed their homes around the existing rocks, rather than attempt to move them

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  The cliffs surrounding the village are strewn with enormous rocks

The cliffs surrounding the village are strewn with enormous rocks

  Monsanto is perched at 2,486 feet above sea level

Monsanto is perched at 2,486 feet above sea level

Source: Dailymail

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Best European country to visit

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Best European country to visit

Portugal won first place at the USA Today “10Best Readers’ Choice” contest for ‘Best European Country” to travel.

According to the editors, “Portugal is less iconic than other well-known countries, but it offers a wealth of opportunities to travelers: charming villages, great food, fascinating regional music, cultural opportunities, a beautiful coastline and even world-class surfing.”

They also wrote, “Much underrated Portugal has all the trappings of a pretty European country: cobbled villages beneath the shadows of medieval castles, sun-kissed beaches, a delectable culinary tradition and plenty of history to explore. Whether swimming in the turquoise waters of the Algarve, sipping a glass of port at a Porto cafe or listening to the melancholy lament of a fadista in Lisbon, Portugal’s understated beauty becomes obvious.”

The other countries that made the top 10 list include Italy, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, France, Iceland and Switzerland. All nominees were chosen by experts in the Travel Industry.

The USA Today “10Best” provides its users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content on top attractions, things to do, and restaurants for top destinations in the US and around the world.

Source: Portuguese American Journal

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What do I love about Portugal?

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What do I love about Portugal?

By Nelson Carvalheiro

“What do I love about Portugal?” is a question that I get asked over and over again, and to which I give a different answer over and over again. As a Travel and Food Blogger, who spends his time visiting foreign countries, tasting all kinds of different cuisine and listening to people saying what makes their own country the greatest, I need to be very creative when it is my turn to say what I love about Portugal.  What I have written bellow is the answer I gave, when asked this very question at a recent Travel conference. 

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So, I was asked to speak about “What do I love about Portugal ?” …Well…This is what I could come up with…

I love to dream that I was once a great Portuguese Discover and that the whole world was under my command, to think that my sail ship is still outside waiting for me, to know that Portugal is not Spain neither a province of Spain, to wake up to 300 days of bright sunlight and think that I will have an espresso and a Nata for breakfast, to come out of bed and put my comfy slippers on (the ones that my grandmother handmade for me), to come to the window and say hello to the baker who has just delivered a bag fresh bread to the neighbour, to play some Amália on the radio and sing out loud “É uma casa Portuguesa com certeza”, to look at an Azulejo panel and think that Fernão Mendes Pinto was the first European to make contact with the Japan, to read a poem of Pessoa and think that “normal” is such an overrated word, to walk down the wooden stairs of a XVIII century building in Lisbon knowing that once upon a time Marquis and Dukes made the same journey every morning, to admire the unique patterns of the Portuguese Calçada boardwalks, to meet the old-timers for a quick Ginginha, to read the football newspaper and argue with the old-timers over a couple more Ginginhas, to think which fish am I going to eat for lunch, to discard that thought and recon that I will have Bacalhau instead, to walk the streets of Alfama and realizing that this is where real Lisboners live, to think that it was the Portuguese who introduced chillies to India, thus enabling the Indians to invent curry, to look at the red corrugated roof tops of the inland Portuguese villages and think that they resemble the waves the Atlantic Ocean, to know that half of the Europeans wears shoes made in Portugal,  to say hello to the Mayor and tell him that the needs to fix the leaking fire hydrant in my street, to know that the Portuguese are known for being able to resolve any complicated situation using the simplest and cheapest of methods possible, to hear the sounds of the bell tools and the screeching yellow trams, to kiss the sunshine of the southern planes every time I drink red wine of the Alentejo, to know that we are the only country in the world that catches bulls by their face and by their horns, to remind myself how cheap and cheerful Green Wine (Vinho Verde) really is, to explain to a Englishman that it was a Portuguese Queen by the name of Catherine of Braganza that introduced the noble art of tea drinking to the British, to know that Portugal has more seashore then inland borders with Spain, to go for dinner at a Tasca and have a seafood dinner with wine for under 10 Euros, to speak Insha’Allah as did the Moorish or to use Latin just to make my case stronger, that onion, garlic and olive oil are present in almost every Portuguese dish, to cry when I hear the melancholic tunes of late night Fado and think that there is no translation for the word “Saudade”,   to open a bottle of the finest Irish or Scottish whiskeys and knowing that the cork on the cap is Portuguese, to know that in the summer I can eat street  in charcoal every day, to go to bed knowing that I can do all this tomorrow again…And again…

Source: nelsoncarvalheiro.com

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Cutting-edge Lisbon

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Cutting-edge Lisbon

New York, London, Paris, Milan? Move over funky fashion capitals of the world, Lisbon is the place to be. The city's cutting-edge fashion and design haunts are luring visitors who are after more than a souvenir magnet of a custard tart and a vintage tram.

While Lisbon has been known for its music (fado) and arts scene (think local artist Joana Vasconcelos, who has exhibited her quirky sculptures at the likes of France's Versailles), it's the city's fashion scene that's hitting more than local catwalks. Each year, as new designers enter the market, international fashion buyers come knocking on doors, while overseas visitors leave with suitcases stuffed with local purchases. Present up-and-coming designers include White Tent, Vitor, Ricardo Andrez and Marques Almeida.

  Lidja Kolovrat's boutique in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Lidja Kolovrat's boutique in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Why the upsurge in interest and creativity? Eduarda Abbondanza, Director of ModaLisboa (Lisbon Fashion Week) says, "Lisbon has the freshness and creative energy of a Mediterranean European capital, mixed with a very easy going and culturally solid ambiance. Nice weather, low prices (compared to other European capitals) and a friendly and safe environment attracts a lot of positive creativity."

To experience a contemporary take on the city you don't have to venture further than a tight two kilometre radius. The pretty, tree-lined or cobblestoned streets of Principe Real, Chiado, Bairro Alto and Baixa (literally, 'downtown') are home to fashion shops, contemporary galleries and design ateliers.  

Príncipe Real

Principe Real is Lisbon's current hip strip. It oozes a contemporary-Berlin-meets-Barcelona-in-the-nineties kind of cool. The area is jammed with interior design shops, concept stores, and fashion designers: Ricardo Preto's 21pr Concept.Store (www.facebook.com/21prConceptStore), Nuno Gama (facebook.com/GamaNuno), Alexandra Moura (www.alexandramoura.com), and Lidja Kolovrat (www.lidijakolovrat.org), originally from Bosnia, but now established in Lisbon. 

  Nuno Gama shop exterior in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet 

Nuno Gama shop exterior in Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet 

The new kid on the block here is Embaixada (Praça do Príncipe Real 26; www.facebook.com/Embaixada), surely the world’s most unusual and beautiful ‘shopping centre’. This extraordinary Moorish-style mansion has been restored and its grand entrance leads to a stunning courtyard. From here, shoppers enter unique shops that showcase Portuguese designers and local products, from shoes to babywear.

  Portuguese shoes in Shoe Closet at Embaixada, Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Portuguese shoes in Shoe Closet at Embaixada, Principe Real. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

According to Abbondanza, these individual brand names are contributing to Lisbon's current fashion landscape: "A few years ago Portuguese designers didn’t have their own stores, now the panorama is changing. In the last two years they have opened their own brand stores in Lisboa, many in Principe Real." 

Chiado and around

The elegant Rua do Carmo, in the heart of the trendy district of Chiado, has been the traditional home of Lisbon's wealthier patrons. These days, a more modern element prevails.

Clients yearning for exclusive garb can make appointments for bespoke day and evening fashions at Alves/Goncalves (Rua das Flores 105, 1st floor; www.alvesgoncalves.com) a prêt-à-porter studio. Elsewhere in the district, Filipe Faísca (Calçada do Combro 99; www.filipefaisca.com) woos buyers with demi-couture collections in beautiful fabrics, from leather and raffia to flowing silk. 

  The interior of Story Tailors, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

The interior of Story Tailors, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Meanwhile, the quirky collections from Story Tailors (Calçada do Ferragial 8; www.storytailors.pt) appeal to a youthful, adventurous crowd. The designer duo reinvents iconic pieces with quirky touches – skirts that button into themselves, reversible coats and, true to their name, fairytale dresses. Think Alice in Wonderland's Mad-Hatter (Johnny Depp) meets Les Miserables' Madame Thénardier (Helena Bonham-Carter).

  Nostalgic products at A Vida Portuguesa, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Nostalgic products at A Vida Portuguesa, Chiado. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

But Lisbon's creations extend way beyond garments. Enter proud Lisboeta, Catarina Portas. Determined to bring the country's past into the 21st century, Portas is reviving many of Lisbon's former traditional products and services with a funky retro take. Her high profile projects include A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11, Chiado and Pina Manique 23, Largo do Intendente; www.avidaportuguesa.com), beautiful shops offering a taste of nostalgia. Stock includes everyday items that were once household names: tins of Tricana sardines, Ach. Brito and Claus Porto soaps, Pinheiro ornamental swallows.

Portas, too, is responsible for rejuvenating Lisbon's Quiosques de Refresco (www.quiosquederefresco.pt). These beautiful refreshment kiosks are dotted around the city centre - at Largo Camoes, Jardim do Principe Real and Praça das Flores. During the 19th century, these were an important part of Lisbon but were gradually abandoned and had fallen into disrepair. That is, until Portas decided to revitalise them. These days, the spruced-up kiosks serve up old-time refreshments including leite perfumado (perfumed milk), iced tea, horchata (almond milk) and traditional lemonade.

Bairro Alto

The trendy district of Bairro Alto – wedged between Chiado and Principe Real– comprises a series of charming lanes and backstreets, formerly the city's poorer and least desirable area. These days it's another story– the area is crammed with alternative shops, hip hairdressers and boozy (if fashionably so) bars. By day, streets here have a slight grunge factor but in the afternoon, when party animals emerge from the night before and the shops and drinking dens open, it's the cool place to hang out. 

  DJ by night, hair-stylist by day, Antony at Facto Cabeleireiro. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

DJ by night, hair-stylist by day, Antony at Facto Cabeleireiro. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

For those after a fashionable 'do', not local brew, Bairro Alto is home to Facto Cabeleireiro (Rua do Norte 40-42; www.factohair.com), one of the country's most celebrated hair salons. Charismatic owner, Antony, who hails from Britain, is an occasional DJ by night and permanent hair-stylist by day and, according to coiffed locals and visitors, is the scissor-wielding stylist to head to. For alternative head treatments, A Fabrica dos Chapeus (Rua da Rosa 118;www.afabricadoschapeus.com) is the spot for hats – it sells everything from pork-pie designs to casual flat caps. The designer of choice here is Serbian-born Aleksandar Protic (Rua da Rosa 112; aleksandarprotic.eu).

Alternative creative concepts

In nearby Alcantara, and accessible by tram or on foot from the city centre, is the LX Factory (Rua Rodrigues Faria 103, Alcantara; www.lxfactory.com). It's a must-visit for any artistic guru – more for the design and concept than the shopping; there are no shops, but a couple of atmospheric eateries serve up excellent meals. This former factory is pumping with hundreds of advertising companies, communications teams, artists, and temporary exhibitors who've pushed the creative boundaries – they designed their own innovative offices.

  An exhibit at MUDE, Baixa. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

An exhibit at MUDE, Baixa. Image by Kate Armstrong / Lonely Planet

Baixa gallery

Whatever you do, don't miss MUDE – Museu do Design e Da Moda (Rua Augusta; www.mude.pt), a great last stop back in Baixa (downtown). This magnificent colonial building, a former bank, has been converted into an extraordinary space that's an encyclopaedia of high end fashion and interior design. It exhibits everything from Christian Dior's 1940s New Look Collection to a 1970s wiggle chair by Frank Gehry. The museum's interiors – including wires and concrete – remain exposed to reflect its role as, in the words of the gallery's director Ms Coutinho, a 'living organism'. True to its name (mude means change), the exhibition changes every three months or so.

That's not Lisbon's only revelation. Despite Portugal's much-publicised economic woes, the country's creative culture is stronger than ever. "Lisbon is becoming a hub of Mediterranean creativity, spreading Portuguese and Lisbon's soul – and easygoing way of life – all over the fashion world," says Abbondanza.

Source: Lonely Planet by Kate Armstrong 

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Portugal voted top destination once again

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Portugal voted top destination once again

For the second consecutive year Portugal has been chosen as the best country in the world to visit by one of the world’s most prestigious travel magazines, Condé Nast Traveller. 

Online voters of the luxury travel publication chose Portugal for its winning combination of culture, gastronomy, excellent wines, beaches, history, golf courses, and for its friendly, open and very sincere people. Readers also described Portugal as having an impressive variety of landscapes.

This distinction comes a month after Portugal’s capital city scooped another accolade when the Post Office City Costs Barometer 2014 revealed a trip to Lisbon is the best for value in the Eurozone, being half the price of a visit to Paris, Amsterdam or Rome.

While a three-course evening meal for two with a bottle of wine in Lisbon would set visitors back £34.48, a similar meal would cost twice the price in Paris, at £68.97, £89.35 in Stockholm (Sweden), or £99.06 in Copenhagen, Denmark, it said.

Thirsty travellers can expect to pay an average of £1.12 for a bottle of beer in Lisbon, with the same costing £3.80 in Belfast, £4.31 in Dublin, and £6.73 in Moscow, Russia.

These latest reports and awards serve to substantiate Portugal’s excellent showing at the most recent World Travel Awards. The Algarve was chosen as Europe’s best beach destination and also scooped the top prize for best boutique resort (Vila Joya, Albufeira), best luxury resort (Conrad Hotel), best golf resort (Hotel Quinta do Lago), and best villa resort (Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, Sagres).

On a national level, a further six awards were given to the Algarve. The Ria Park Hotel & Spa took the title of Portugal’s best business hotel and best hotel for conferences; the Martinhal was voted Portugal’s best family resort, while the best golf resort in the country went to the Hilton Vilamoura.

Hotel Quinta do Lago emerged as Portugal’s best overall resort, while the Blue&Green Vilalara Thalassa Resort took best spa resort.

The rest of the country also made a good impression, with Lisbon taking the title of Europe’s Leading City Break Destination and Madeira taking the title of Europe’s Leading Island Destination.

The Vine Hotel, also in Madeira, was voted Europe’s Leading Design Hotel, while the country as a whole was chosen as Europe’s leading golf destination.

Source: The Portugal News

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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

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Lisbon: top of your Euro-bucket list

With it’s sexy slow-paced rhythm, winding white-and-black tiled streets, gentle sea breezes, and unbelievably sunny afternoons, how could a girl not fall in love?!

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I went to Portugal with no expectations. Of course I assumed I would like it, but I hadn’t done much research so I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find.

To summarize: Lisbon is a laid-back city with an extremely rich history, it has great food for very low prices, world-renown hostels, and a strong music culture. 

I kept finding myself comparing it to Madrid (where I’ve been living for the past 6th months), and I found it to be cheaper, have better food, and to be a much more beautiful city in general. I might be biased since I love cities that are close to water, but there was something so charming about Lisbon.

Also, nearly everyone I met spoke or understood English, much more-so than in Madrid or Paris. It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic sentences to be polite, but don’t think for a second that you’ll have a difficult time in Portugal if you don’t speak Portuguese!

WHAT TO DO

FREE WALKING TOUR

I highly recommend starting off your stay in Lisbon with a free walking tour from Wild Walkers. It’s about 2 hours long, so bring your walking shoes and a camera because there will be tons of great photo ops. Lucky for you, Lisbon is a very photogenic city!

The tour guide was probably the best I’ve ever had due to his honest, quirky & interesting presentation of Lisbon. He was so good that we decided to also take his fado Tour…

The tours are offered every day, and assuming you enjoy it, it is customary to pay a small donation/tip at the end.

FADO TOUR

If you do a Google search on Portugal, the musical genre of fado is sure to come up.

Fado generally has a melancholic tone, and was traditionally sung by the poor & the outlaws to express their sorrows, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I don’t want to give away too many details about the history of it, because it’s much more fun to learn from the local tour guide, but I can promise that it is fascinating.

Of course you could find an expensive touristy dinner & fado show package on your own, or even dig up a few free fado bars to check out, but chances are you won’t know what you’re listening to, you won’t understand the lyrics, and you’ll end up with a very superficial appreciation for the music.

The fado tour from Wild Walkers costs 15 euros & includes: a local guide who is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about fado & its history, free local ginjinha cherry liquor in a traditional chocolate cup, tapas & wine at a fado restaurant during the show, translations from the guide and discussions about the meaning of each song, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of the restaurant. We even got to meet and talk with the performers!

I was so thrilled by this tour, I would do it again in a heartbeat. To be honest, I looked up a fado video on Youtube before my trip, and wasn’t blown away. This tour completely changed my perception of the music, and was the most memorable part of my time in Lisbon.

As you might know, I obsessively seek out live music when I’m travelling, but I truly believe this is an activity that everyone would enjoy.

The fado tours are not offered every day, so contact the company beforehand to find out when they are.

PEOPLE WATCH IN PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO

People watching is a great activity that can be done in any cafe or plaza anywhere in the world. But doing it in Praça do Comércio, despite its popularity with the tourists, is definitely worthy of a few hours in your schedule.

I recommend going in the mid-afternoon to soak up the last of the sun and relax with a cup of coffee or wine. Make sure to grab a seat at one of the restaurants on the left, then turning your chair outward to face the center of the square.

The food served at the restaurants here is good but definitely on the pricey side, so it’s best to plan on just having a drink and grabbing lunch/dinner elsewhere.

BUDGET SAVING TIP: If you’re trying to save money, grab some snacks from a market and head across the street from the Praça do Comércio. You can sit right by the water for as long as you want, & take in the river and the plaza at the same time. You might even catch some free live music…

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CATCH A SUNSET FROM ZAMBEZE ROOFTOP RESTAURANT

You’ll be taken to the ZamBeZe rooftop during the day on the free walking tour for the great views of the city, but it’s definitely worth going back in the evening to catch a sunset.

If you’re on a budget, you can order just a glass of water or wine while taking in the scenery. I even saw some people sitting on the edge of the rooftop who did not appear to be paying customers, so you could make this a free activity.

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EXPERIENCE LISBON NIGHTLIFE

Lisbon is known around Europe for its amazing nightlife. Having spent the past 6 months in Madrid where the nightlife doesn’t end until 9am (or later), I wasn’t totally blown away by the nightlife, but found it to be pretty on-par with Madrid.Americans read: you will most likely be blown away. 

If you’re staying at Home Lisbon Hostel, and  feeling like a big night out, just hop on the Pub Crawl that stops by the hostel every night.

The best neighborhood for a mix of eclectic bars with something for everyone is the Bairro Alto area that I mentioned earlier. The bars here close at 2 or 3am, so if you’re in the mood to dance or keep drinking, you’ll probably want to head to a club.

There are no clubs in Bairro Alto, but a local recommended Lux Club for a good time. There’s also a popular club called Lust in the Praça do Comércio.

TAKE A DAY TRIP TO SINTRA

Sintra is sometimes described as “the most romantic place on Earth“, and I couldn’t agree more. There is so much to do and see that I would recommend not trying to fit it all into one afternoon; it’s best to spend an entire day there.

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Source: www.fleetinglife.com

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31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

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31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

1. It basks in Europe's greatest climate

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More sunshine than Madrid, Rome or Athens — yet while they all sweat through the Mediterranean summer, there's usually a breeze blowing off the Atlantic to give Lisbon natural air-conditioning.

2. Cervejaria Ramiro is so, so, so good

Lisbon is full of great places to eat super-fresh seafood.

3. The beach is 20 minutes from downtown

The soft sandy beaches of Oeiras and Cascais are a short hop along a coast-hugging suburban rail line. There are countless other choices too. In less than an hour's drive you can plunge into bracing surf at Guincho, or chill in a sheltered bay fringed with white sand beneath the green hills of Arrabida.

4. Tram 28 exists and makes everyone happy

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Every tourist knows about the little yellow street cars that ply this line, but the five-mile ride is still the coolest (and cheapest) way to see the city. The trams rattle through a succession of historic neighborhoods carrying locals and sightseers squeezed in sardine-style, while cheeky urchins cling perilously to the running boards for a free ride.

5. It's got a river that feels like the sea

The Tagus at its widest is over 10 miles across, forming western Europe's largest estuary. It's a haven for wildlife — including pink flamingos that flock to the far bank. The river water's reflected sunshine gives "the white city" its unique milky light.

6. It is mainland Europe's closest capital to Africa and Latin America — in all sorts of ways

It's not just the weather. Lisbon's public gardens are filled with lush tropical foliage. Countless Lisboetas have roots in Brazil or Portuguese-speaking Africa. There are bars playings bossa nova and serving caipirinhas; nightclubs where you can sway all night to the rhythms of Cape Verdean coladeiras or Angolan kizomba; restaurants dishing up Brazilian feijoada or the sophisticated, coconut-infused cuisine of Mozambique.

7. Rome can't match the views from Lisbon's seven hills

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Like the Italian capital, Lisbon is supposed to have been built on seven hills. Almost every one offers a fabulous view, from across the rooftops of the old city to the shimmering waters of the Tagus beyond. For the full panoramic experience head for the terrace bars at the view points of Portas do Sol, Sao Pedro de Alcantara, Graça or Santa Catarina.

8. The LX Factory has brought life back to a forgotten corner of the city

Take a rundown industrial site, fill the factories and warehouses with funky stores, restaurants and galleries, bring life to a forgotten corner of the city.

9. Getting lost here is a delight

Lisbon is reckoned to be Europe's second oldest capital (after Athens). It was ruled by Romans, Germans and Arabs before Portuguese crusaders conquered it in 1147. Wandering aimlessly through the souk-like streets of ancient neighborhoods like Alfama, Mouraria, Bica or Madragoa is one of the city's greatest pleasures.

10. Football is a religion

Some cities are divided by language, faith or politics. Lisbon is split down the middle by citizens' unbreakable devotion to either the eagles of red-shirted Benfica, or Sporting's lions in green. Few sports events unleash more passion than a game between them.

11. The coffee is better here than there

In its empire building days, Portugal managed to colonize Brazil, Angola and East Timor — producers of some of the world's finest coffee. Lisbon today runs on superpowered espresso served in tiny shots known as bicas.

12. There's loads of culture

You can overdose on the arts — from the gilded interior of the Sao Carlos opera house, to the fabulous art in the Gulbenkian Museum and Berardo Collection, to endless open-air music festivals through the summer.

13. You can drink ginjinha in gardens all over the city

Portugal is famed for Port wine, but Lisbon's favorite sweet tipple is this rich, red cherry liqueur. Best sipped at one of the old hole-in-the-wall bars around Rossio square or the many kiosk terraces in gardens and squares around the city.

14. They don't kill the bull

Unlike in Spain, the bulls walk away from a Portuguese corrida de touros. Instead, they are poked and prodded by a spear-wielding horseman (or woman) dressed in aristocratic 18th-Century garb before being wrestled to a standstill by a team of seemingly suicidal commoners. Lisbon's Campo Pequeno bullring is a neo-Moorish architectural oddity.

15. You can chill in cool modernist neighborhoods

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A few metro stops from the old city's mazes of medieval streets, the broad modernist avenues of Alvalade are lined with cool stores and tempting sidewalk cafes.

16. You can eat really, really well for practically nothing

Despite recent sales tax hikes, it's easy to eat a hearty traditional meal (let's say duck baked with rice, eggs scrambled with salt-cod and olives, or grilled fresh sardines) for about $7 in neighborhood eateries known as tascas. Food is taken very seriously here and even fancy restaurants are much cheaper than in most European capitals.

17. Lisbon's version of the blues is on the world's protected heritage list

Fado songs should form the soundtrack of any trip to Lisbon. The bluesy, guitar-backed laments can be an acquired taste, but a new generation of singers like Ana Moura, Gisela Joao or Cristina Branco are making fado sexy, accessible and successful.

18. It has what might be the greatest aquarium in the world

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The Oceanario is Lisbon's biggest attraction. An aquarium like no other, its 180,000 cubic feet main tank holds more than 100 species of big fish, including tuna, rays and sharks. Located in the ultra-modern Parque das Nacoes district, the landmark building's myriad displays also include penguins living in a re-created Antarctic icescape, sea turtles gliding through the water and darkened tanks lit by fluorescent jellyfish.

19. Even the cakes are historic

Pasteis de nata are Lisbon's greatest gift to confectionary. The Antiga Confeitaria de Belem has been selling the little custard-filled tarts since 1837, but if you want to avoid the queues, aficionados say the nearby Chique de Belem cafe does them even better.

20. The houses have more colors than a box of Legos

Lisbon's "white city" nickname is something of a misnomer. Houses and apartment blocks come brightly painted in yellow, pink, sky blue and just about every shade in between.

21. Johnny Depp speaks English here

Unlike in most European countries, Portuguese theaters play movies in their original language, with subtitles. Monoglot anglophones can happily catch up on the latest Hollywood releases, or enjoy an art house classic at the Cinemateca — preferably combined with a drink in its rooftop bar.

22. Shopping can take you back in time

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While much of Europe has succumbed to out-of-town megastores, Lisbon is filled with specialist shops where a friendly face will be waiting behind a wooden counter to help you find dried Algarve figs, bathroom appliances, coat buttons, vintage port or whatever it is you're searching for.

23. It smells really good (except sometimes when it smells bad)

A favorite song here claims "it smells good, it smells of Lisbon." If you're lucky, you'll catch whiffs of orange blossom, freshly hung laundry or cinnamon sprinkled on cakes hot from the oven. You might also be confronted by salt cod on the grill, blocked drains or trash piled up on strike days. All part of the olfactory experience.

24. There are great bars everywhere

Pensao Amor is an erotically charged former bordello; the Pavilhao Chines resembles a giant Edwardian curiosity cabinet; Botequim da Graça is an intimate intellectual hangout; Povo showcases up-and-coming fado stars. In a city that lives late into the night, there are bars on the roof of car parks, in gardens and museums; quayside nightclubs where you can dance until dawn breaks over the Tagus; whole neighborhoods of bars in Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre.

25. The Chiado is like the legend of the phoenix

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Devastated by a 1988 fire, this grand old district of Belle Époque stores, theaters and literary cafes rose from the ashes as the restored heart of the city. You can spend your days browsing the world's oldest bookshop (Livraria Bertrand, est. 1732) and drinking bicas at the counter of the Brasileira cafe founded in 1905.

26. Where else (outside of Goa) can you sample wonderful Goan food?

Portugal's former colony on the west coast of India makes some of south Asia's finest cuisine. Can't get to Goa? Lisbon's Goan restaurants like Jesus e Goes and Cantinho de Paz serve sublime shrimp curry, kid with roasted coconut or crab-stuffed samosas.

27. There's a fairy-tale fortress up in the hills

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Commuter trains take less than 40 minutes to climb to the magical hill town of Sintra. A plethora of palaces were erected there amid the thick woodland so Lisbon's aristocracy could escape the city heat. Looming above them all is the Palacio da Pena, a romantic bolthole built by a German prince who married into Portugal's royal family. The whole place is a UNESCO heritage site.

28. Neighborhood markets are a feast for foodies

Fancy tripe, baby squid, or a plate of freshly picked loquats? Lisbon's neighborhood markets will have them all (in season). The best known is the 132-year-old Mercado da Ribeira, poised for a major facelift.

29. It's full of leafy havens

From tree-shaded public gardens where aging card sharks while away endless afternoons to the 2,500 acre Monsanto in the western suburbs, Lisbon is full of green getaways. A favorite is Jardim do Principe Real a verdant oasis surrounded by chic shops and bars.

30. They've got fabulous gelato

Attilio Santini moved from Italy in 1949. His family still serves world beating ice-cream from their stores in the Chiado and in the western beach suburbs. There's usually a line, but with flavors ranging from baked apple to Azores pineapple, the gelato is always worth the wait.

31. You can get a shoe-shine for less than $3

Shoe-shiners may have disappeared from much of Europe, but professionals armed with brushes, rags and pots of polish are stationed around downtown to give new life to your footwear — and fill you in on the latest gossip. Some operate inside cafes, like the splendid 1940s Pastelaria Mexicana, so you can get a shine while enjoying your morning coffee.

Source: Global post

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Portugal’s love affair with canned fish

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Portugal’s love affair with canned fish

Canned fish: poor people’s food, gourmet cuisine, souvenir or just healthy fast food?

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It was late when I arrived home, tired and starving. I opened the kitchen cupboard looking for some late-night lazy-man food, and there, they were: my friendly and colorful fish cans.

My oldest memory of canned fish brings me back to primary school when both children and teachers were asked to bring basic food that could be packed in boxes to send to starving people in the south of Nigeria during the Biafra war in the late sixties. I had not seen that many cans of fish together in my life since that day, until I visited a factory.

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Canned fish was always a part of my family picnics along the Tagus river or on the seacoast beaches. I also discovered them later on, included in my army survival kit. It was like a piece of home amid that hostile environment.

In Portugal, fish (canned or otherwise) are as popular as burgers in the U.S. or bratwursts in Germany.

Regina Ferreira says canned fish is one of the oldest and healthiest fast foods in the world. She runs an 83-year-old family business selling canned fish in downtown Lisbon, one that is recommended by most tourist guide books. The Conserveira of Lisbon is one of the few shops in Lisbon preserved in its original form and fashion and where grandmother, mom, son and grandsons work together.

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Nearby, at the Comercio square a new restaurant and bar, Can & Can, recently opened serving canned “gourmet” fish in a modern design atmosphere. Ferreira hates the word “gourmet”, saying canned fish is just simple, basic and cheap food for everyone.

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Fernando Machado agrees. He is the director of Ramirez canned fish factory in Leca da Palmeira in Northern Portugal. Ramirez was created in 1853 and is one of 20 factories. The industry has more than 3,500 workers and produces more than 250 million cans of fish, of which 70 percent are exported to 70 countries around the world.

Only half of the factories survived the crisis in the seventies and eighties. The harbor of the fishing city of Setubal has no factory today. The only remnants of those cans are those painted on the doors of homes in the old downtown area.

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More demanding labor laws after the Portuguese 1974 revolution made the industry less profitable and many factories shut down. But the use of tinplate, often plagued by corrosion, has since been abolished and the belief that canned fish raises cholesterol levels is an idea left in the past.

Today, we know that fish and olive oil lowers cholesterol, cans are made in varnished aluminum and, with the help of industrial fridges, factories can work on a regular basis and not depend on how lucky fishermen are with their catch. The declining industry of the past has found success.

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The old can designs are displayed together with new ones in groceries and souvenir shops. Tourists buy cans almost as they buy postcards, taking with them not only the image but also a bit of the Portuguese flavor.

Grocery shop Loja Portugueza in Lisbon is an example of such a store. Half the costumers are foreigners, absorbing the diversity of canned fish and taking them with them as souvenirs. The cans include sardine, tuna, squid, mackerel, eel, clam, fish eggs, horse mackerel, codfish, anchovy, in salty water, olive oil, tomato, lemon, hot spicy, garlic or onion sauces.

Source: blogs reuters by Jose Manuel Ribeiro

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48 Hours In: Lisbon

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48 Hours In: Lisbon

This charming capital, which combines sea views, steep hills and old-world manners with a vibrant nightlife, is a joy to visit, says Mary Lussiana.

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Lisbon's Portela Airport (ana.pt) is an easy 7km journey to the capital. TAP Portugal (0845 601 0932; flytap.com) flies from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester; easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) from Gatwick, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol and Luton; Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted and Manchester; and BA (0844 493 0787;ba.com) from Heathrow.

Metro trains (www.metrolisboa.pt) run from the airport to Saldanha station (2), 6.30am-1am (€1.40). Aerobus (carris.pt) shuttles to Cais do Sodre station (3) every 20 minutes, with stops at the city's train and bus stations, including central Avenida da Liberdade (4). Buses run 7am-11pm; tickets (€3.50) are valid for 24 hours. TAP Portugal air passengers travel free with a boarding pass.

Taxis take around 15 minutes to the city and cost around €10.

Get your bearings

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After the 1755 earthquake, Lisbon was rebuilt by the Marques de Pombal, on a grid of parallel streets linking Rossio Square (5) to the Tagus river. A triumphal arch stands on Praca do Comercio (6), near the Tourist Office (7) at Rua do Arsenal 15 (9am-8pm;askmelisboa.com). You can buy a Lisbon Card here for 24 (€18.50), 48 (€31.50) or 72 hours (€39). It entitles you to limitless free rides on city transport (including the city lifts such as the Santa Justa) and free or discounted admission to many cultural attractions.

The city centre, known as Baixa, remains elegantly 18th-century. Rising into the hills to the east is the original Moorish quarter of Alfama, where the fortified Sao Jorge Castle (8) stands above narrow streets (castelodesaojorge.pt); further afield, near the mouth of the Tagus, is Belem, from where explorers set sail in Portugal's golden age.

DAY ONE

Take a hike

Start in the Praca do Comercio (6), for the first view of the city that 16th-century visiting dignitaries would have had as they alighted from their boats on the Tagus and walked up the marble steps to the Royal Palace, which was destroyed in the earthquake. With your back to the river, Lisbon's oldest café, the Martinho da Arcada (12), which dates to 1782, is on the square's right-hand side and is the place to stop for a bica (the local version of an espresso), under the arcades which became the new Royal Palace in the 18th century.

Walk under the triumphal arch into Rua Augusta (13) – a pedestrianised street lined with mosaic pavements and bordered by boutiques – and continue until you meet Rua de Santa Justa. Here, turn left to the Santa Justa lift (14) (7am-9pm; €5 return), which was built in 1902 and is still used. Made of iron and embellished with filigree, it raises you 13 metres to Largo do Carmo and the elegant Chiado district.

Lunch on the run

Head left down Rua do Carmo and into Rua Garrett, where Café a Brasileira (15) offers the perfect pause. Enjoy the pasteis de bacalhau, delicious cod fish cakes with a local wine or a Portuguese beer for under €10. Inside the 1920s café, a favourite haunt of Fernando Pessoa, all is gilded mirrors; outside is a bronze statue of the nation's famous poet.

Window shopping

Across the road is Paris em Lisboa (16) at Rua Garrett 77 (parisemlisboa.pt) a 19th-century family-owned store, which sells attractive tablecloths and napkins.

For the artisanal crafts Portugal excels in, head down Rua Anchieta to A Vida Portuguesa (17) at Rua Anchieta 11 (avidaportuguesa.com) with its Claus Porto soaps, olive oils and hand-woven rugs from the Alentejo.

Loop back to Largo do Chiado for a dip into Vista Alegre (18) at Largo do Chiado 20-23 (myvistaalegre.com), which makes Portugal's most beautiful porcelain and where you can also find striking Atlantis glassware.

An aperitif

To learn more about premium Portuguese wines and enjoy the patio designed by Portugal's greatest architect, Alvaro Siza Vieira, head to the new Wine Spot Chiado (19) at Rua Garrett 19 (00 351 213 460 032; winespotchiado.pt) to explore the different regions with wines by the glass accompanied by plates of cured ham and cheese for around €15 for two people.

Dining with the locals

Traditional flavours with oriental influences is how chef Joao Rodrigues describes his style of cuisine at the riverside restaurant, Feitoria (20) at Doca do Bom Sucesso (00 351 210 400 200;restaurantefeitoria.com), which delivers superb dishes such as lobster and wild seabass with Alcacer do Sal rice, lime and coriander (€37).

The service, setting and sensational tastes make this a favourite with Lisbon's in-crowd, so book early.

DAY TWO

Sunday morning: go to church

The Church of Sao Roque (21) on Largo Trindade Coelho (00 351 213 235 824; open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-6pm) has a plain exterior that belies an opulent interior with ornate hand-painted tiles and beautiful side chapels, particularly that of St John the Baptist, wrought with gold and silver, ivory and lapis lazuli. Sunday mass is held at 11.30am.

In Belem, don't miss the opportunity of mass – or a wander around – in the magnificent Monastery of Jeronimos (22) on Praca do Imperio (open daily 10am-6pm; Sunday mass at 9am, 10.30am and 12pm; otherwise tickets €7; mosteirojeronimos.pt). Built in the 16th century, on wealth from the spices, precious stones and gold that explorer, Vasco da Gama, had returned with, it is a fitting tribute to Portugal's era of discovery. Appropriately, Vasco da Gama is buried here.

Walk in the park

Just across the road from the monastery lies the little-known Jardim Botanico Tropical (23) on Largo dos Jeronimos (00 351 213 921 800; weekends 11am-6pm, Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; tickets €2). It is a haven of peace with peacocks and ponds among the rich collection of trees from the old Portuguese colonies such as Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.

Out to brunch

At the Varanda Restaurant in the elegant Four Seasons Hotel Ritz (24), Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca 88 (00 351 213 811 400;fourseasons.com/lisbon), the brunch is legendary. From the sweetest of oysters from nearby Setubal to octopus ceviche, huge joints of beef to tiny lemon tarts and runny cheese from the Serra da Estrela, it is a feast fit for the gods; €59pp.

Cultural afternoon

Download the Four Seasons Hotel's free Art Collection app (bit.ly/LisbonAC) to use as your guide to the eclectic mix of contemporary Portuguese artwork found there. Then walk to the Gulbenkian Museum (25) at Avenida de Berna 45 (00 351 217 823 000; gulbenkian.pt; open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5.45pm; €5, free on Sundays). Inaugurated in 1969, this important museum contains collections that span 4,000 years, from ancient Egyptian figurines to Lalique's Art Nouveau jewellery.

Icing on the cake The Hills Tramcar Tour lasts 80 minutes and departs from Praca do Comercio (6) every 20 minutes from 9.20am to 7pm (€8) and follows a similar route to the famous yellow No 28 tram around the old quarter of Lisbon, but with less risk of pickpockets and the inclusion of an audio guide.

Source: www.independent.co.uk

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Five Essential Portuguese Words and Phrases

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Five Essential Portuguese Words and Phrases

English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in the tourist mecca of the Algarve. However, it’s always respected and appreciated if you at least have a go at speaking the native language.

A surprising number of expats make no attempt at all to speak Portuguese, so by learning the following simple phrases you can stand out from the crowd—and will probably find you get more friendly and helpful service as a result.

1. Obrigada / Obrigado

“Obrigado” and “obrigada” both mean “thank you” in Portuguese, and the rule is that men should always say “obrigado,” while women should always say “obrigada.”

Which word you use has nothing to do with the gender of the person you are addressing, despite what some people may tell you! If you want to go a little more advanced, you can say “obrigadinha,” which is a friendly “little thanks” that you would usually address to children. Beware of saying this to another adult, as it can come across as flirtatious!

2. Posso…?

“Posso?” (pronounced “possoo”) is a really handy little word that essentially means “may I?” You can use it to confirm you can taste a sample at a food festival, pick something up from a display, or take a vacant chair from a neighbouring table.

3. Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite

Portugal is a friendly country, and it’s not unusual for complete strangers to greet passers by with a polite “good morning” or “good afternoon.”

There are no firm boundaries regarding when one greeting starts and another begins each day, but the general rule is “bom dia” in the morning, “boa tarde” after lunch, and “boa noite” after darkness falls.

4. Queria isto

“Queria isto…” means “I would like this.” This simple phrase makes trips to shops and markets a whole lot easier. All you need is the phrase, and a point of the finger to make it clear what you want to buy or order.

5. A conta, se faz favor…

This means, “can I have the bill please?” and allows you to demonstrate that you know enough Portuguese to avoid the universal “writing on the palm” hand gesture when you conclude your meal!

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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

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Falling in love, and longing, in Lisbon

The tram twists and turns up and down the hills of Lisbon. Views open up in all directions — the Tagus River sparkling below, the tumbledown facades of once-grand townhouses, laundry-laden balconies and wrinkle-faced women gazing wistfully out their windows.

My Angolan-Portuguese husband is snapping photos. I have my headphones on, tuning out the forgettable narration and tuning in when a fado comes on. The melancholy trademark music of Portugal helps me in my quest, propels me toward an understanding of what I’ve come here to seek.

We are on tram 28, a rickety vintage car that has been winding its way through Lisbon’s streets since 1928. Only, this isn’t the real deal; it’s an ersatz version that travels a slightly more scenic route and comes complete with an audio guide, so that tourists can understand the sights they’re passing.

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The starting point is Praça do Comércio, an expansive waterfront square on the Tagus, also known as Terreiro do Paço. Recently restored, it now showcases sidewalk cafes, restaurants and museums and, on sunny days, crowds of camera-toting visitors and a few Lisboetas passing through.

Then it’s off to the hills of Lisbon, with their aging beauty concealed in the steep maze of alleyways, and back to the mosaic-paved streets and neoclassical architecture of Pombaline Baixa, the city’s elegant downtown district, built in the 18th century after the devastating 1755 earthquake.

I stopped counting my visits to Lisbon years ago; there were too many to keep track of. It’s become one of “my” cities. For my husband, who spent 14 years in Portugal, it’s a second home. So what are we doing on a tourist tram?

I’ve come on a curious mission: to find a key to a sentiment that’s been haunting me since I discovered the country in 2005. That first time I laid eyes on Lisbon, I felt a peculiar kind of wistfulness. I’d never before set foot in Portugal, so there was nothing to be wistful about. But the feeling was present, it was potent, and I found it quite odd. En route from the airport, I remember seeing shabby porticos, a palm tree here and there poking out of spaces between abandoned buildings.

On that first trip, I came with a boyfriend. As we explored Lisbon, we fought. A lot. Instead of setting out to unlock the secrets of this striking city, I spent almost the entire trip feeling sad. Yet the sadness was tinged with strangely sweet undertones.

A couple of months after our return to New York, that relationship ended. Our parting had nothing to do with Portugal itself. But the end of that romance meant a beginning of another. Only now I was in love with a city, my blossoming affair with Lisbon infused with bittersweet emotions.

Portugal’s loss

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A couple of years later, I landed in Lisbon at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Everything was still half-dark, slow, still. Fado was playing on the taxi radio. And there it was again, that same wistfulness. I could recognize it so clearly as the car glided through the empty streets.

Only by then, I knew its name. I was feeling saudade, the famed Portuguese word that has no apt translation. You could describe it as a profound state of longing for someone or something you love, while knowing deep inside that he, she or it may never return. It’s the love that lingers after someone is gone. It’s a mix of emotions — happiness because you once had this person by your side, and sadness because you don’t anymore — and it triggers the senses in poignant ways.

Although the word first appeared even earlier, it’s often said that this yearning stems from the 15th-century age of discoveries. This was the golden era when Portuguese explorers set sail for far-flung seas, many disappearing in storms, others dying in battle or starting new lives elsewhere. Those left behind suffered from saudade, the nagging sense of absence, the wishful longing for what is gone. Saudade became a thread that runs through all aspects of Portuguese society, the foundation of its mentality, a tune that always plays subtly in the background. It has become a Portuguese way of life.

The former colonial powerhouse ruled a number of countries and imposed its culture on lands as far away as India (Goa was a Portuguese enclave), China (Macau belonged to Portugal until 1999), Brazil, Angola (and a string of ex-colonies across Africa) and Uruguay (Colonia del Sacramento in the country’s southwest is a replica of a small Portuguese town). After this period of power and wealth, Portugal was hit by the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, which lasted from 1926 to 1974. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese citizens left the country during this time. There was that longing again, for the motherland, as emigrants set up new lives elsewhere.

Then the dictatorship fell and the former colonies got their independence, after nearly six centuries of Portuguese rule. Decades later, Portugal is one of the poorest members of the European Union. The country once had it all, then lost most of what it was proud of. No surprise, then, that saudade is omnipresent, shadowing every step.

An air of nostalgia

I’ve always loved wistfulness. I have a soft spot for nostalgia, the bittersweet remembrance of things past. Perhaps it was the saudade that seduced me to Lisbon in the first place. I love walking through the city’s half-empty streets on a quiet Sunday afternoon, past yellow funiculars and wobbly trams, the peeling walls filled with street art that makes you stop and think, the light reflecting off pastel-colored rooftops.

I love hearing fado from the bars of Alfama, the city’s oldest hilltop quarter. I love the laundry lines zigzagging across slim alleyways and staircases that seemingly lead to nowhere. I love the unexpected squares filled with palm trees and colorfully dressed African vendors. I love nibbling on pastéis de Belém custard tarts in the namesake district overlooking the Atlantic.

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I’d been hooked by saudade so strongly that a couple of years after that first visit in 2005, I returned to Lisbon to spend a summer month by the Tagus. I didn’t know that fate had something else in store. I met that something else outside a corner bar in the form of the man who’s now my husband.

While our relationship was still a transatlantic venture with an uncertain future, I decided to spend a few months in Lisbon. I left New York and found a pied-à-terre on the top floor of a ramshackle building in Bairro Alto, a quarter known for its languid days and raucous nights. From one side of my living room I could see São Jorge castle atop Alfama and, if I leaned out the window, the Tagus on the other side.

A lot happened during those four months. Most memorable was my fall down a flight of stairs, on my behind the entire way, which led to a fractured bone and painful bed rest for weeks afterward. It wasn’t the tumble per se, but at some point during those four months it dawned on me that, although I’ll always love Lisbon, it wasn’t going to make the cut as my primary home.

But the relationship continued. Hoji, my new boyfriend, eventually moved across the Atlantic, then became my husband. My love of Lisbon remained. And my obsession with saudade never faded. So, nine years after my first visit, I returned for a couple of days and set out to seek saudade. It felt like a mystery that I simply had to solve.

Seeking saudade

So there we were, on tram 28. The idea was that if only I looked at Lisbon with fresh eyes, I’d finally “get” saudade, put my finger on where it comes from and what it means.

In Santos, the waterside quarter with 19th-century warehouses and wrought-iron balconies, Hoji showed me the spot where he’d performed stand-up comedy for a while. I spotted A Barraca, a 1930s cinema refashioned into a cultural space, where I’d once gone to dance the tango.

We passed Estrela Hall, built in 1906 adjoining the British church and cemetery and converted in 1947 into a theater housing the Lisbon Players, an English-language amateur drama group. Hoji had performed here once, and I’d gone to the premiere with my broken sacrum, sporting a donut-shaped orthopedic pillow to sit on.

The tram zipped past Bairro Alto Hotel, where we were now staying, a boutique hideaway nestled between the chic neighborhood of Chiado and the boho Bairro Alto. Our second-floor room with plush touches overlooked Praça Camões, a square dedicated to the Portuguese prince of poetry.

Just down the hill was Cais do Sodré, the train station serving westbound suburban routes. For years, the riverside district around the train station had been a seedy spot with lackluster back streets haunted by sailors and ladies of the night. A couple of years ago, it turned into boho-chic central, playing rival to Bairro Alto up the hill.

The tourists on the tram looked bored and sleepy as the two of us rode up and down memory lane. The sun was bright. In Alfama, with its crooked streets and gabled houses, I recalled that first visit with my ex, when we’d seen the tail end of our relationship at Palácio Belmonte, an exclusive 10-suite hideaway in a 1449 palace atop ancient Roman and Moorish walls. Then we zipped past the walk-up apartment that Hoji and I rented for 10 days after our Cape Verde adventure last winter, when my mother came to visit, fulfilling a long-held dream of hers. “The city looks ghostly and sad, yet so pretty,” she kept saying, in different ways. To our right, we passed the Santa Luzia Belvedere, a lookout with a view toward the Alfama rooftops, the river, the dome of the National Pantheon, all framed by grapevine-draped lattices and tall palm trees.

As the tram moved, our stories — my own, my husband’s and those we shared — intersected. It felt as though the history of Lisbon was being woven through the experiences we’d once lived in the city.

In the formerly working-class Graça quarter, the tram rode past a pink building where we’d once spent Christmas with Hoji’s friends. Azulejos, the painted tin-glazed tiles that are the emblem of Portugal, reflected the sunlight beautifully. We hopped off at Largo Martim Moniz, a once-sketchy square where up-to-no-goods gathered and the two of us used to meet by Hotel Mundial, on the southern end. Now with Lisbon at its most multi-culti, the recently revamped square has gotten a new lease on life: It hosts pretty fountains, a fusion market with kiosks hawking global fare and Chinese groceries, Turkish kebab houses, Indian restaurants and African stores around the edges.

A mood of melancholy

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The next day, we rose to rain clouds that hung heavy over the hilltops. The weather suited my saudade-seeking mission. We strolled to the Fado Museum, housed in a pink building near the waterfront. Fado, which in Portuguese means fate, was born from the songs of saudade. The Portuguese sailors who crossed the globe in the past brought back tales of unknown cultures. Out of these tales rose songs that spoke of danger-filled voyages, homesickness, loneliness and the volatility of nature and fate. So where else if not in this museum would I find the key to saudade?

We found listening stations, an old gramophone, dusty records, video clips of fado performances, a 19th-century square piano and a vintage Portuguese guitar. A wall inscription read: “Fado is a poem that can be heard and seen.”

But nowhere could I find a mention of saudade. There was only one painting that spoke of the sentiment, a 1913 triptych called “O Marinheiro,” an oil canvas by Constantino Fernandes, depicting the life of a sailor. The central panel shows an arrival, or perhaps a goodbye, and it’s steeped in saudade.

Leaving the museum in an irritating drizzle, we walked back toward Bairro Alto in a mood of melancholy. A crowd of tourists was crammed inside Conserveira de Lisboa, an old-school canned foods store from the 1930s known for its colorful hand-wrapped cans of seafood based on the shop’s own recipes. We popped in to see the cobblestone interior and the wooden cash register and to grab some lime-marinated sardines and cod in olive oil and onions. Despite the tourist jam, there was still a whiff of saudade inside

Outside, the drizzle dragged on. The next day, it was time to move on. The saudade mystery lingered, and part of me felt that my pursuit had failed. I was no closer to “getting” saudade. I knew that the moment I left Lisbon, I’d feel that yearning again.

But then a new understanding emerged. Had I unraveled the puzzle, saudade would be gone. And the very point of saudade is that it stays on, lingering until the moment I’m back in Lisbon, and beyond.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com by Anja Mutic

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Living With a Portuguese Women

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Living With a Portuguese Women

I am your average Canadian young adult spending a year abroad living with two Portuguese women in Iceland. I can say I’ve learned a few things from my faithful Portuguese at some point or another.

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1. Every recipe should contain onions at some point

Making rice? Fry some onions first. Pasta? Same deal. If you want to eat it for dinner, you better throw in some onions.

2. Your shoes are ugly and cost less in Portugal

Seriously. Your shoes probably smell like rubber. That means they are bad quality. Your shoes aren’t sexy with that outfit. Don’t wear those. They don’t make your calves look nice. I could buy those for 5 euros in Portugal.

3. They actually conquered lots of shit or something like that

Portugal was an empire! A big one. We discovered more than Brazil – we promise! Those British just stole our glory from us.

4. If you want to go to the beach, go to Portugal

We have 3 of the best beaches in the world. In the world. Why don’t they teach you these things in school.

5. Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world

We understand Italian, French, and Spanish. It is just because they are all like Portuguese. Brazilians – they speak cute Portuguese. It is only funny if you speak Portuguese.

6. Walking too fast is rude

You are walking too fast. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Slow down. It is rude to walk in front of me, walk beside me.

7. The play-by-play is required

Where are you going? What are you doing? Who are you texting? What are you cooking?

8. Hair Conditioner and Air Conditioner are pronounced the same

We just don’t pronounce the “H”. The author would here like to point out that if you say you bought “air” conditioner and you mean hair conditioner, English native speakers will be very very confused.

9. It’s Lisboa

Not Lisbon. Lish-bow-ah. Say the city properly.

10. Pastries are better and more proliferous in Portugal

You will walk into a shop and the walls will be lined with pastries and they all cost like 50 cents. O you get a coffee with this too and not like this North American watered down thing, real coffee.

Author:  Kayla Baretta

Published on Oct. 8, 2013 on "Thought Catalog" blog

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SON ET LUMIERE EN PROVENCE

If there is something that only the French can do, then it is Son et Lumiere.  And if they want to do it really well, they pick their spot.  And if they have the choice, then it is in the sun, and in the south!  And since they have all that, then why not choose the ultimate venue.  One that the Romans would choose for a spectacle.  Indeed, why don't they just use one that the Romans left behind.  And so they did.  The amphitheatre in Arles.
 
On a wonderful August evening, what better way to celebrate art.  During August, part of Provence's cultural programme, focussed on evening entertainment, during which the four famous academies of Equestrian Art in Europe, displayed their knowledge.
 
Some schools are older than others, but the pursuit of excellence drives all four.  The Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre, from Lisbon, is Portugal's stamp, and during the week of August 16th, they made their mark.
 
King John V, in 1748, formed the school, and horses still are sought from his Royal Stud, at Alter, to perform the movements.  The tradition of horsemanship practised in Portugal, has been maintained in the bullfight, which differs from that of the Spanish, and focusses mainly on the ability of the horse.  It is derived from the fighting movements, which were a necessary part of the battlefield.  After a degree of peace, then the sons of the nobility still maintained the tradition, and with the bullfighting tradition, it has not been lost in the modern world.
 
Culture has prevailed, and the old ways are now being celebrated.  In true style, with pomp and circumstance, at which the French excel!
 
So, if you were thinking of popping a few serious dressage lessons into your holiday in Lisbon, don't.  At least, not in August.  Most of MORGADO LUSITANO'S  teaching staff will be in Arles!!!
 
To find out more about Morgado Lusitano, and how every- day riders can access this knowledge, with embarrassment,  please visit Quinta do Morgado

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ONLY IN PORTUGAL

Once again, I had been absent for a bit.  Rushing, full of excitement to ride my horse for the first time in several months, I stopped at the motorway service station to fill up, and pick up a couple of bottles of water.  It was very hot.
 
At the moment in Portugal, there is a system on the motorways of paying for fuel in the shop, then returning to the pump to fill up the allotted amount. I paid, picked up my bottles and got back in the car.
 
I had a wonderful time with my horse, lunched and watched some training sessions, before leaving to return by the country route.  I was surprised to see the fuel-empty sign light up.  Had I not been at such a nice establishment, I might have thought that my tank had been drained!  Or that I had put the nozzle in the car, but not noticed that the fuel had not been delivered.
 
It was none of those things.  I had simply been too preoccupied and had got back in the car without filling up!
 
In true UK fashion, I immediately started reckoning on my chances of ever seeing my fuel/money again.  I had paid in cash!  At the next filling station, I put a small amount of fuel in the tank, enough to get me back home, and to the service station on the motorway the next day.
 
Armed with my receipt, I hoped to meet the same young man who had served me and spoke perfect English.  I thought I would need to do a lot of explaining.
 
Not so!  The older lady at the till looked at me with humour as I started to make my case in my long-winded fashion.  "How much was it?" she simply asked.  When I told her, she quietly slipped the exact amount of money across the counter, clipped by a paperclip to the shop copy of my receipt!
 
As I said, only in Portugal!!

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Sometimes friends drop in . . .

In Portugal, family ties run deep, and family traditions deeper still.  When both of these join together a deeper passion, then the result is a heady cocktail.
 
There is, in Portugal,  a policy between family and close friends of Porta Aberta.  Open door hospitality, when within reason, visits are made spontaneously, and without invitation.  Usually the "payment" for this "intrusion" is food, or more often wine.  But sometimes the callers bring the gift of talent.  Fado itself, as a genre, was based on spontaneity, so it is no surprise to find that a spontaneous visit, ends in an evening of Fado.  For when D. Francisco's cousin, D. Manuel da Camara comes calling with friends, that is usually what happens!
 
Fado is the Portuguese way of expressing, in song, how people feel about their lot in life, good or bad.  It has, many forms, but Fado is particular in that it is geared in its form to the situation or surroundings in which it finds itself.  It is no surprise, therefore, to learn, that when the Fado Marialva sing, it is particularly suited to the rural lifestyle.  The Marialvas have been together for around eight years, but have known each other always.  D. Manuel da Camara, Rodrigo Pereira and Francisco Martins were good friends,  "but needed to do something different".  So when three friends get together to sing, about those things in this life, about which they care passionately, then the result is almost always guaranteed to please.  There are things other, in this life, than an early morning crossing of the Tagus, to give one that certain "frisson".
 
They sing about "the countryside, horses, bulls and bullfights, love, women", and D. Manuel, like D. Francisco, can look to father and grandfather when it comes to being in the family tradition.  D. Manuel's grandfather was a professional opera singer, and his father, D. Vincente is a famous Fado singer, and can remember his younger days in the company of Amália.
 
But the real heady mix of passion shared by the cousins, is the love of the Lusitano horse.  Listen now to a solo by D. Manuel, Meu cavalo Lusitano........

 An evening in the country with friends is always a pleasurable thing.  An evening in the country with the Marialvas as your hosts would be even better.
 
To find out more please visit D. Francisco de Bragança website or get in touch through email: info@franciscobraganca.com.  Groups can be catered for Friday and Saturday evenings with the Marialvas at Archino.

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Lunch under a cork tree

It is very difficult, to concentrate on one's horse, when riding, when one's attention is being 'competed' for, by three things at the same time.  I am well used to the first two things:  namely, the horse's idea of what is correct, because, being well schooled, he knows more than I do, and my Instructor's idea of what is correct, because, being the product of centuries worth of knowledge, therefore, not to put too fine a point on it, also knows more than I do!  The third factor, is a first.  Probably, for all of us!  The smell of sardines, being grilled!

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The Aladdin's Cave

When a friend offered to show me the famous Chiado district in Lisbon, I had no idea what to expect.  As we wandered down the steep streets and up again, looking in shop windows as we passed, I halted in my tracks.  Peering through the glazed entrance doors to the shop, I realised that I had stumbled upon a veritable Aladdin's cave, and in more ways than one! 

We went in, down a shallow step, into a showroom cum shop, of not very large proportions.  Hanging from every available place on the ceiling, like stalactites, were lanterns, for that is what they really are.  Every available section on the walls also was decorated with the most exquisitely beautiful lamps that I have ever seen together in one place.

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I experienced, in that moment, a feeling, which now I am becoming accustomed to when in Portugal:  Some things never change . . .

The older gentleman, quietly sitting at his desk reading a newspaper, was 21st Century.  Put him in the garb of any of the previous centuries, then the scene would remain unchanged, except for he.  His vivacious daughter burst in on the scene, and I could see from her face that she was taking in my dumbfoundment with amusement.  With her perfect English, she allowed me to stammer out my wonder at what I was looking at.  Sensing my interest, she started talking, and what she had to say was truly amazing.

I left with a lamp, (one of several, the balance made to order), as security against never returning!  I have bought various of their lanterns for my house, and each one has a story.

I visited the shop very recently, (for another lamp!).  Obviously the younger generation are at the helm, but things are pretty much unchanged for that.  I asked the lady if she would be prepared to lay aside a little time to tell me about her business, and how the family have been making these lanterns, by hand, in the same premises, since 1810.  I felt it was a story that needed to be told, but where to start, I wondered.  When she told me that every lantern has a name, that being given to it according to the King or Queen, here in Portugal, or around the world, for whom it was commissioned, I knew I had my answer.

I shall go back to the shop, and let her tell the story, lantern by lantern.....

Store: Casa Maciel, 63, r. da Misericordia, 65, Lisbon.

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An evening in the country

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An evening in the country

An evening in the country is always pleasurable.  And an evening in the country around the supper table with friends, even more so.  But when you find yourself in company where one member has a birthday, and your hostess has arranged a surprise treat, then an evening in the country can turn into something quite special.

And so it was, that I found myself being entertained by the Fado Marialva.

 

Rural areas in Portugal came very late to electricity.  Traditional homesteads, such as the one at which I was a guest, have not abandoned time-served means of cooking, heating and lighting, for who knows when 21st Century power may fail, and necessitate a return to the old ways.

In the failing light, the paraffin lamps were brought out, and the doors and windows flung wide open to receive the cooling breezes, for there were many flushed cheeks that required to be cooled!  The wine was taking effect, and the blurred edges around everything may not have been entirely attributable to the flicker of the lamps!

The evening was gathering momentum, and the once reserved trio were starting to get into their stride.  Their audience was starting to recover from the initial surprise.

To those of us who were familiar with Fado, and especially those songs which form part of the Marialva's repertoire, no sooner was one finished, than another request was shouted out.  With traditional country fare on the table, and a seemingly never ending supply of local wine, short breaks for the singers to step outside for a smoke, and to rest the vocal chords, did not prevent time passing at a gallop.  We cannot remember how many songs we got through, many favourites, or especially stirring ones, being sung more than once.  And we prefer NOT to remember how many times certain of those among us couldn't resist the urge to get up and do a jig!  To think that Fado is funereal, is to do it a great disservice, since while some lovely slow ones were sung, and some which were religious, that evening called for something different.

As I looked at the faces of those men that night, I started to wonder if perhaps I might be able to understand some day, what it is about Fado that means so much to them and indeed all Portuguese.  They were singing about their way of life, and the things which mattered most to them, and about which they cared passionately.  Gone were the cares of the day, the worries about the economy and all those external factors that knaw away at our wellbeing.  The more they sang, the more expressive they became, none more so than the guitarist, who had to be reined in on occasion, and reminded that this was not a solo performance!

And eventually, it was, with great regret, that we had to call it a day.  The food was exhausted, the wine was exhausted and so were the people.

People who started out being strangers, and parted, the greatest of friends.

This most enjoyable of evenings was spent at Quinta do Archino.

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The lure of Lisbon

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The lure of Lisbon

There has always been something about Lisbon, which gives me a certain "frisson".  Whenever I find myself driving across the Ponte Vasco da Gama, I feel it.  It is as if the previous centuries of this river's life, hang over it like a spectre, never to be banished.  Even as I write, I find the feeling difficult to articulate.  All cities are special, some more than others, and every city is special in its own way, by being different.  But the specialness that is Lisbon's, comes not from its uniqueness, but from its own experience, and how it arrived at that point of development.

Its history is almost palpable.  It takes very little suspension of disbelief, on an early morning crossing of the Tagus, to look towards Belem, and imagine a ship setting sail, on a route never before put to the test.

I put this flight of the imagination down to fancy, until I found myself reading an excellent book by Martin Page called, 'The first global village  How Portugal changed the world'.  In its pages, I found that I had not been wrong to attribute to this city,  the ability to transmit its history in the here and now.  It is all around, in the people, the culture, the traditions.  Today we feel ourselves liberally-minded to talk about racial integration and tolerance of other nationalities, cultures and religions.  For a large number of Lisbonites, they are the result of this excercise.  And unlike those people I have seen in the West Indies for example, do not feel their mix to be denigrating to their origins in any way, since the Portuguese, when they colonised, did so with a free and open spirit, and, quite literally, took their hosts into their hearts!

So what is it about the wide mouth of this river, that conveys an eerie spell over me when I get close to it. The bridge Ponte Vasco da Gama is the longest one in Europe, and seems to go on for ever when one drives it.  It has a serene quietness about it, and one can almost feel not on land but at sea.  The lure of this vast expanse with a glimpse of distant shore tempts the voyager nearer and onwards.  You know that there is something out there, but you just can't see it YET.  Was that what inspired them to do it?  Go on a journey, when they did not know what lay at the end of it, or what would happen on the way.

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