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Travelling to Lisbon

Portugal voted top destination once again


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





1. It basks in Europe's greatest climate


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


10 Hottest European Hotels

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10 Hottest European Hotels

While many travelers visit Europe for its centuries-old history, there are those who appreciate the Continent's au courant attractionscutting edge restaurants, sexy nightclubs and, of course, sleek hotels. One of the most exciting things about European hotels is that you can have the best of the past and present, sometimes in a single lodging. With that in mind, we have chosen these ten hotels. From a sophisticated Tuscan farmhouse to a stylish island hideaway, they offer a range of décor and architectural style. At the same time, one element remains constant: warm, traditional hospitality.

1. Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris, France

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Few hotels are as revered as the Hôtel Plaza Athenée Paris, where shades of gold, bronze and the property's signature red create an atmosphere of regal luxury. Located in one of Paris's most exclusive districts, the hotel opened in 1911 and has wisely chosen not to rest on its laurels. Guest rooms are over-the-top (in the best of ways), with Louis XVI, Art Deco and Regency furnishings — the most coveted have views onto the Eiffel Tower. Keeping the property at the forefront of the city's competitive culinary scene is Alain Ducasse's eponymous restaurant. Also of note is a 35,000-bottle wine cellar, which offers tastings led by the house sommelier. On-site bars include the outdoor La Terrasse Montaigne and La Galerie des Gobelins, where harp music and pastries draw chic shoppers throughout the day. Rounding out the hotel's attractions is Dior Institut, a decadent spa for those seeking the ultimate in indulgence.

2. Soho House Berlin, Germany

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This sexy hotel refutes the old Groucho Marx adage of not wanting to belong to any club that will have you as a member. Like all Soho House properties, this one is a private members' club — but one that offers hotel rooms to the general public. Located in the Mitte District in a restored, 1928 Bauhaus building, Soho House Berlin features all of the brand's usual goodies, including a Cowshed Spa, rooftop pool and 30-seat screening room. The 65 individually designed bedrooms range from Tiny to Extra Large and come with such unique amenities as vintage record players with curated vinyl collections. For dining, the Club Floor offers a bar and the House Kitchen, and for private events, the Red Room is a unique space adorned with original shelves from the London Library.

3. Hotel Amigo, Brussels, Belgium

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Refurbished by the Rocco Forte Hotel Group, Hotel Amigo is the epitome of Belgian chic. Housed in a classic Flemish-style building, it is just steps from Grand Place square in the heart of Brussels. While it's known as a destination for visiting dignitaries, don't let that dissuade you — this hotel is anything but staid. Flemish tapestries provide an interesting contrast with Surrealist paintings and such whimsical touches as characters from Belgium's famed Tintin storybooks. For those who want a full dose of art-meets-style (as well as lots of complimentary extras), the Presidential Suite Rene Magritte is a must. Fine dining is covered in a variety of ways, from creative Italian cuisine at Ristoranti Bocconi to Tea Time at The Bar Amigo, which looks out onto cobblestone streets and the picturesque town hall. At the Martini Club, guests can sample cocktails in an atmosphere that breathes new life into the "shaken, not stirred" scene.

4. Miura Hotel, Beskydy Mountains, Czech Republic

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While we love golf resorts, rarely do we choose them for their high style. But in this case, golf is just the bonus at a property worthy of its own museum. In a tranquil setting in the Beskydy Mountains flanking the 36-hole Čeladná Golf Course (home to the European PGA Tour Czech Open), Miura Hotelwows guests on arrival with its linear architecture featuring weathered steel sheets, purple glass, plenty of concrete and four attached stainless steel sculptures by David Černý. Inside this 44-room hotel, guests can learn about the house art collection from the dedicated Art Navigator, who will offer insight into works by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat and many other art world luminaries. This hotel is not all about appearances, though. It offers plenty of creature comforts, including a spa, on-site restaurant serving Czech and international cuisine and Bar Bar with its dramatic onyx bar and sweeping mountain views.

5. Belgraves, London, England

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To belong to the Thompson Hotels group is to be ensured a ranking on hot lists around the world. But we love this property despite that! We've dubbed its style contemporary-cozy, due to design details that remind us of a cross between a beloved ski cabin and a 1970s rec room. This description may seem to defy good taste, but the result is quite refined — sexy, even — thanks to designer Tara Bernerd, whose inventive hand can be seen from the energetic use of marble in the 85 guest rooms and suites to the bespoke furnishings in the bar. As for said bar, it features a humidor with vintage Cuban cigars, live jazz once a week and a terrace for al fresco drinks under the stars. Last but by no means least are a house restaurant that highlights artisan purveyors and an enviable location in the upscale Belgravia neighborhood.

6. Mystique, Santorini, Greece

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Dramatically built into a cliff face on the island of Santorini, Mystique is a quintessential Greek paradise. Each of the suites opens onto a sea-facing terrace with its own daybed, while exclusive villas feature private fitness areas, open-air dining rooms, outdoor Jacuzzis and more. Thoughtful details add to the elegant ambience, from limestone floors and antique textiles to a gorgeous infinity pool, spa treatments, 150-year-old wine cave and fine dining right on the edge of the caldera. This is exactly the sort of sanctuary that inspires one to hide away from the world, but if going out appeals, mountain bikes are available for exploring the island at your own unhurried pace.

7. La Bandita, Tuscany, Italy

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Created by a former music executive who quit the rat race to fulfill his dream of opening a small hotel in Italy, La Bandita does not offer a typical "Under the Tuscan Sun" experience. This former farm (surrounded by the Lucciola Bella Nature Reserve) may look from the outside like every other getaway in the region, but its interiors will make you feel as if you've drifted off to the Greek isles. An emphasis on white brings a sense of serenity, which is enhanced by 360-degree views of the Val d'Orcia. Guests can book individual rooms or, for groups, the entire property. Appealing extras include breakfast, an as-much-cappuccino-as-you-can-drink policy, an on-site hammam and personal recommendations for everything from local restaurants to little-known towns, abbeys and castles.

8. Aman Sveti Stefan, Sveti Stefan Island, Montenegro

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This hotel is not hot because everyone who's anyone is making a beeline for it. It's hot because it's an exclusive escape for those in the know. Naturally, as an Aman resort, it's luxurious, but this property is oh so beautiful as well. It is comprised of two parts — the fifteenth-century fortress of Sveti Stefan Island contains 50 guest rooms, suites and cottages, while the former seaside estate of Villa Miločer across the bay on the mainland offers just eight suites and a guest list that once included Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. Original stone walls, picturesque timber ceilings, leather chairs, silk accents, free-standing bathtubs and sea-view balconies are just some of the highlights, depending on your accommodation. Spa cottages are dotted around the island, while dining venues abound, from the Enoteca and Taverna in the island's Piazza to the mainland's Queen's Chair, featuring pan-Adriatic cuisine and sweeping bay views.

9. Areias do Seixo, Portugal

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Industrial meets Baroque meets farmhouse chic meets A Midsummer's Night Dream ... yes, this may sound chaotic, but in fact, this eclecticism is soothingly seductive at Areias do Seixo. Less than an hour from Lisbon, surrounded by pine trees and the sea, this eco-hotel offers the perfect blend of style and substance. There is an intimate spa, farm-fresh restaurant and gorgeously bohemian guest rooms that include private villas with their own plunge pools. But what gives this place the advantage is its attitude toward sustaining the environment and supporting the local community. Along with the usual recycling and low-impact programs, foundations at the hotel were made from the crushed ruins of an on-site aviary, and a house grocery store sells chemical-free veggies from local gardens.

10. B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa, Zurich, Switzerland

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We're fans of unique old structures being repurposed into hotels. Case in point: B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa. This lodging is housed in Zurich's old Hürlimann Brewery, which was founded in 1836, with its first building constructed in 1870. The property's original industrial bones have been preserved, much to the benefit of the accommodations and public spaces. The 51 guest rooms and one suite reside in the old mash house, while eight duplex suites can be found in the former cold storage space. The hotel's anchor and social hub is the library. It features more than 33,000 books, a wine bar and, naturally, plenty of Hürlimann beer. Of special note is the on-site Thermal Bath & Spa, with family friendly and adult only areas. Guests can indulge in the signature Irish-Roman ritual that includes ten different procedures over the course of two hours, or spend time in the breathtaking geometric rooftop pool, complete with city and mountain views.


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The Lisbon Charms


The Lisbon Charms

Lisboa's neighbourhoods of Belem, Alfama, Chiado and Baixa as well as the Paula Rego Museum in Cascais, are the five tourist attractions in the Portuguese capital recently elected by the Associated Press.

Bestowed with "a special charm" that attracts "more and more visitors", Lisboa has been featured in the international agency's free weekly travel guide published in early 2013. In the guide, the Associated Press (AP) reports that the city has a good offer for hikers, a peaceful way of life, low crime and lots of history. The agency also stresses the "famous Portuguese hospitality" and "exceptional seafood in restaurants."

In Belem, the AP highlights Jeronimos Monastery, the gardens and the maps of sea voyages along the riverside promenade. "The Portuguese like to think (of Belem) as the starting point [ground zero] of globalization," the agency says, noting that the Discoveries Monument pays tribute to Portuguese heroes like Vasco da Gama. The guide also mentions the "famous and irresistible Belem pastries," the 25 de Abril Bridge, which says it is very similar to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, USA, and the "giant statue of Christ that stands watch over the city from the south bank of the river."

In Alfama, AP praises the neighbourhood's typical streets "that ascend towards the castle, where archaeologists have found traces of occupation from the 7th century BC."

Downtown Lisboa, or the Baixa as its is locally known, is another of the free destinations that AP recommends a visit, having been rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, in a "rare geometric pattern." In this area, the guide advises tourists to visit the antique shops and admire the black and white decorated cobblestone pavements.

In Chiado, described as a neighborhood of the 19th century Belle Époque, "when writers and artists gathered in cafés", highlights include the café "A Brasileira", with the statue of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.

Finally, the AP guide praises Paula Rego, described as one of the most famous modern artists, and recommends a visit to the museum with her name, in Cascais, in the Lisboa Region.



A Tour of St. Anthony's Lisbon


A Tour of St. Anthony's Lisbon



His life is celebrated every year on June 13th but the presence of St. Anthony is felt every day in Lisbon. Matchmaker and protector of the poor, he’s the most beloved saint of the city, although the patron saint is St. Vincent. St. Anthony died in Italy, in Padua, on June 13, and although many people outside Portugal think he was Italian he was in fact Portuguese. Born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in 1195 just a few feet from the cathedral he was later renamed Anthony. On the site where it’s said he was born is now a small church with his name, hiding a crypt which was the room of his birth, visited by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Next to the church is a small museum showing several images of the saint and in the cathedral behind it is the font where he was baptized.

He lived by the castle until the age of 15, when he moved to the Monastery of St. Vincent and later to the city of Coimbra before embarking on a voyage that led him to the north of Italy. Outside the castle walls is a street in his honor: Rua do Milagre de Santo António (Street of the Miracle of St. Anthony). On the façade of one of its buildings are tiled images of the saint and his miracles. As a city icon, you’ll find many more in craft and gift shops, as well as on a walk through Alfama.












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.


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.


Lisbon Deserves Its Title As European City Of The Year


Lisbon Deserves Its Title As European City Of The Year

By Barbara Barton Sloane

Climbing down a dark,narrow staircase, I entered a tiny room lit by countless candles. Flickering shadows danced languidly across the walls and, as my eyes adjusted to the murky atmosphere, I saw two men playing guitars and a heavy-set, 50-ish woman swaying to the rhythm. Her eyes were tightly closed as she swayed to the music. When she began her song, the sound was low, guttural almost, mournful and seductive. This was Fado, the traditional music of Portugal and high on my bucket list of things to experience.

I recently visited Lisbon, Portugal and this year a prestigious award has been conferred on the city. The Academy of Urbanism bestowed on Lisbon the award of The European City of the Year, 2012. The Academy is an autonomous, politically independent organization whose goals are the recognition, learning and promoting of the best practices in urbanism; its award is presented yearly following careful and detailed inspection of nominee cities.

The fabulous capital of Portugal has always enjoyed the superb combination of a vibrant downtown, historic quarters with parks and gardens and cool, contemporary development. It has successfully managed to sustain its classical and modern architecture and has carefully invested in worthy urban projects. This, in combination with Lisbon's recent project to develop the River Tagus waterfront in a sensitive and responsive manner, has garnered this singular award for Lisbon.


The city has still another reason to kvell. A few years ago, the Portuguese Parliament started an initiative to promote Fado as UNESCO's World's Heritage Cultural Patrimony and former Lisbon mayor Pedro Santana Lopes came up with the idea that Fado should be considered as a cultural heritage. The result: this year the UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity award has been conferred on Lisbon for its Portuguese Fado music. According to UNESCO, intangible heritage includes traditions and skills passed on within cultures. The UNESCO's committee of experts unanimously praised Fado as an example of good practices that should be followed by other countries.

This traditional art form, Fado, is music and poetry representing a multicultural synthesis of Afro-Brazilian song from rural areas of the country. It is performed professionally on the concert circuit and in small 'Fado houses in numerous grass-root associations located throughout older neighborhoods of Lisbon.

After my scintillating Fado experience in that tiny neighborhood boite, the next day I visited the

Museu e Casa do Fado located on Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 1, directly opposite the entrance to the Alfama. It's a small museum with a packed collection that includes many interactive exhibits. The permanent collection is a wondrous journey through the history of Fado -- the music, the singers, the musicians and instruments. I loved the room displaying hundreds of photos of famous singers as well as old posters and advertisements, each wall crammed with information on how Fado developed as a musical genre. My favorite room had an installation that recreated a Fado bar. I found myself alone in this room, dark and loaded with atmosphere. Lining the walls, original costumes worn by some of the great Fadistas like Lidia Riberiro, Maria da Fe and Amalia. As music played softly, I had the overpowering sensation of being an integral part of this scene. Leaving the museum and entering the bright, relentless sunlight of Lisbon was jarring, disconcerting. The cure: another visit to a Fado club that evening.

Mariza, a leading contemporary performer, multiple award winner and the ambassador for Fado's UNESCO candidacy said that, because Fado has been so honored, "perhaps we Portuguese will now take greater pride in who we are, especially in the so very grey times we currently live in."

2012 European City of the Year coupled with the luscious music of Fado - persuasive, inviting reasons to visit. But do one really need a reason? Lisbon, Portugal: reason enough!

Source: The Huffington Post

*Barbara Barton Sloane is the Travel Writer for The Westchester Guardian, The Westchester Herald and The Yonkers Tribune; a contributing Travel Writer for Bay Area Family Travel, Travel Savvy News, CEO Traveler, Travel World International Magazine, GlobalWrites and many other publications. She is a former Assistant Beauty & Fashion Editor for Ladies’ Home Journal, Associate Editor for McCall’s, and is presently the Beauty and Fashion Editor of Elegant Accents Magazine. In addition to travel writing, Barbara’s interests include running marathons, hiking and cycling. She is a volunteer for The Westchester Bereavement Center, The Lighthouse for the Blind and a member of North American Travel Journalists Association, International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, Pacific Asia Travel Association, Cosmetic Executive Women and Fashion Group International. Favorite destinations are those that include family travel, light adventure, luxury/spas/resorts, incentive/business travel, wedding/honeymoon destinations and sites of historic and cultural importance both here and abroad. Barbara has a BA in Journalism from Ohio State University.


Lisbon, the 10th favourite city


Lisbon, the 10th favourite city

The latest survey conducted to tourists in Lisbon concludes that the Portuguese capital is a favorite destination. Close to 80% place it within the top 10 places to visit, and 91% say they wish to return. The city exceeded the expectations of those surveyed and the overall satisfaction rate is close to 90%.


The lure of Lisbon


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.


The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World


The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World

by Martin Page

the firts global village.jpg

When a book arrives on one’s doorstep as a gift, it has not only come from the sender, but it’s also arrived from the universe as a token of change and an opportunity for expansive knowledge. This is what The First Global Village by Martin Page became for me.

Before it arrived, my understanding of Portugal was extremely minimal; having never been there, nor ever having studied Portugal’s past or present, in my life time. I grew up in Lewiston, Maine. Southeast of that city is Lisbon and then Lisbon Falls – a place where the Androscoggin River rages during the spring, and a rock formation caused a natural waterfall. Once I realized that Lisbon was the capital of Portugal, it had a very quiet, subliminal influence on my life, but nothing that drove to me to get to the depths of the small western European country.)

Once in the wine business, I found myself researching Port for the obvious reasons. Beyond that reason, I had a completely empty slate. So, it is with great gratitude that I mention Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines for sending Martin Page’s book to me, which has allowed me to expand my world view a bit more. Delfim is Portuguese, and we met at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008.

The title really tells it like it is, because of Portugal’s multicultural contributions to the world, much of it includes a food and wine lifestyle. According to Martin Page, the following are examples of Portuguese influences around the globe:

  • Portuguese Jesuits lived in Japan for generations before our ancestors knew of this, introducing words into the Japanese language; e.g., “orrigato,” which means “thank you.” They brought the recipe for tempura. They introduced the technique for gun manufacturing. The Portuguese also taught the Japanese how to construct buildings that would withstand artillery attack and earthquakes.
  • The chili plant was brought to India, allowing “curry” to be invented.
  • Portuguese is the third most spoken language in Europe (English, Spanish, then Portuguese), even before French and German. It’s the language of cattle ranchers in northern California and fishing communities on the New England coast line…. Both of which I have personal experiences.
  • The Portuguese own and operate over 400 restaurants in Paris as Italian trattorias.
  • Sintra, Portugal, has been an attraction for writers’ inspiration for generations; e.g.,  Henry Fielding, Robert Southey, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Christoper Isherwood, W. H. Auden.
  • When the Arabs arrived, they brought with them bananas, coconuts, sugar cane, oil palms, maize and rice, lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, apples, pears, wine grapes, and figs… All part of a Mediterranean diet.

Their foods and irrigation system for watering is still studied to day by northern European medical researchers for clues to what makes their heart-healthy such a study lot.

Irrigation, which was driven by water wheels, was brought to Portugal from Alexandria. This act created a technological revolution, the likes of which had never been seen in Europe prior to the Arabs arriving.  This allowed for the crops mentioned above to be farmed and successfully introduced.

In a historical time-line, Portugal has had pivotal dates and people, which have affected their country; and, in a trickle-down effect, world civilization. This book’s chapters outline the dates and people who migrated to Portugal, giving it such a varied culture. Each transformation, as adapted, has added rich fibers to the tapestry threads of these fascinating people of today.


On New Year’s Day, my resolution was to learn the Portuguese culture, which was inspired by this book. The titles of the chapters indicate each invasion and the ethnic traditions left behind as a result. To read these titles puts into perspective how the last (nearly) 3,000 years, Portugal became a nation set apart from all others, and yet has so many links to the past that many people can identify with the Portuguese of today.

  •     From Jonah to Julius Caesar (700 BC )
  •     Rome on the Atlantic (55 BC)
  •     Rise & Fall of Christianity (212 AD)
  •     Arabs Bring Civilization to Europe (712)
  •     The Christian Reconquest (1126)
  •     The Cistercian Peace
  •     Prince Henry the Misadventure
  •     King João and the Great Adventure
  •     Pêro da Covilhã: Master Spy
  •     Vasco da Gama and the Lord of the Oceans
  •     India and Beyond
  •     The Golden Age of Lisbon; Disaster Abroad
  •     The Coming of the Inquisition; The Departure of the Jews
  •     Freedom Regained
  •     Pombal and the King: A duet in Megalomania
  •     Playground of the great Powers
  •     The fall of the House of Braganca
  •     The Slide to Dictatorship
  •     World War II: Betrayal and hte Fight for Freedom
  •     Freedom at Dawn

“Why were there so many invaders?” you might ask. The answer is quite simple. The first invaders discovered that this is a country rich in minerals, most especially gold and silver. the lure of gold has always set men into a frenzy of need to own.

It all begins in the Bible with a story we’ve all heard. When Jonah was sent to Nineveh to tell the sinners that God was angry, he didn’t want to go, and bought a ticket – supposedly – beyond God’s reach. Soon after the ship sailed, a violent storm erupted, and the captain and crew threw Jonah overboard. He was swallowed by a whale, and then spit out onto land. It was Portugal where he landed. Jonah traveled on to Tarshish, which today survives as a name of a small town in Spain, which is only 3 miles and 1281.6 yards from the border of Portugal.

By 230 BC, Hamilcar (father) was exiled to Tarshish. He took his son Hannibal (who was eight years old at the time, and wanted to go with his father). This was a costly mistake, as Hannibal would avenge his father by crossing the Apennines Mountains, win a major battle, and march toward Rome…

And so, their history begins, changing the pastoral landscape of a quiet people, who have managed to remain peaceful through all time, regardless of whom was the next to invade their homeland. The Portuguese were open to the civilization refinements that were delivered to them during each invasion. Along the way, they created the Institution of Good Men (in the 700s), which still exists today. A social consciousness was created whereby widows and orphans are cared for, social welfare for all was created and has been maintained, all duties of the town are seen as everyone’s responsibility – including fire fighting – and are as independent and self sufficient as some parts of the United State might be. It is a daily way of life, however, in Portugal throughout the country, not just pockets of social consciousness that we might find in successful regions of rural America today. Imagine – for instance – if this were our complete and utter culture during Hurricane Katrina. One neighboring town would not have closed out its neighbor in need. Our country would not have wondered what to do for a week, all the wheels would have begun turning without regard for anything else.

There is a lot to be learned from The First Global Village. Martin Page moved to Portugal for a reason, and I can only image as his eyesight failed during his last years, this culture would have made his disability more manageable, with a tolerant people, great food, and excellent wine.

My life is enriched by this Portuguese culture, which I plan to continue studying through Delfim’s eye. The universe has delivered an amazingly adventurous opportunity to my life.



World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage –  Fado


World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage – Fado



Last week Portugal was graced with the recognition of its most traditional music genre as one of World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. This Lisbon mournful song, Fado, is in the hearts of every Portuguese around the world and brings the suffer and nostalgy to a poetic song  


The old Lisbon neighborhoods . . .


The old Lisbon neighborhoods . . .

Stroll through the narrow alleys of Lisbon is visiting a city of another time, where commercial space projects of our time appear between Windows of drying rope and flowerpots here and there.

Founded in the Muslim period, the popular districts of Alfama and Mouraria keep the structure of its labyrinthine streets and its memory of the past.

The real charm of these neighborhoods is in its narrow streets connected to small squares from where staircases climbe the narrow streets and colourful alleys.


Traditional stores, groceries, drugstores etc can still be found in these neighborhoods, they are the resistance against the hyper and supermarkets.

This streets are the privileged stage of the celebrations of Saint Anthony, the popular culture festival arising out of the city in June. Nevertheless these neighborhoods are increasingly animated throughout the remaining years, with the arrival of younger people to their homes and remodeled stores, restaurants and night spots of a more alternative nature.


Like Mouraria, Alfama is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon, founded by the Arabs who gave the name "Al-hama" (the fountains). At every turn you will find alleys, squares and courtyards, some of them very beautiful as "Calçadinha de Santo Estêvão" and also the oldest fountain in town, such as Chafariz Real and Chafariz de Dentro.

These narrow and disordered streets of Alfama  were not made for the enjoyment of visitors or to make courageous drivers despair, but rather to better defend and ventilate their homes.

Its more and more commum to see these beautiful streets populated with young people that by mixing the modern with the traditional  they give a new life to the neighborhood. look for Portas do Sol in you would like to be a meal in a cool portuguese restaurant, or for just a simple coffe with a view.

Mouraria (Moorish quarter)

Mouraria  is one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Lisbon. Its name was born after the conquest of Lisbon by D. Afonso Henriques, where the king confined all Muslims to this neighborhood.


It was in these neighborhoods that originated the first productions of  Portuguese Mudejar art who later would open the way to the emergence of the Manueline style, as exemplified by the iconic Jeronimos Monastery in the suburb of Belém castle tower.

Mouraria has also been home to some of the most famous Portuguese fado singers. Maria Severa, the first fado singer and an icon ever since, was born in Capelão street. Fernando Mauricio, another of the great icons of Fado, and further up in the Lane  Lagares, Mariza  one of todays  geat singers grew up.

Mouraria is still full of contrasts. There is strong presence of the Portuguese culture in these streets  loaded with popular traditions that goes hand in hand with other cultural worlds from China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, ... and where the smells, noise and colors cross our senses.


In recent years, Mouraria has been the subject of intensive restoration work of its buildings and streets, as a consequence of the higher demand for pituresque and charming homes in the heart of Lisbon.

One of the great attractions of Mouraria, in addition to wander through its beautiful streets are the Indian and Chinese restaurants, some of them illegal, but a great opportunity to taste some authentic cousine with flavours quite different from most traditional restaurants.



A little further up, mingling with the upper part of the Alfama, you will reach Graça neighborhood, where you can still see some of the houses from the early industruial area of the 19 century.

The great attraction of this district is the viewpoint that offers spectacular views of the city, seized by terraces and good restaurants in the area. You can also go to the square of ossa Senhora da Graça. 

Source: adapted


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