Archive for September, 2008

Lisbon Village Festival

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Lisbon Village Festival After MOTELx and the Queer Lisboa film festivals GoLisbon has already told you about, here comes another major festival that also covers cinema. This time it’s one showing only digital films, along with other activities throughout the month.

It’s the Lisbon Village Festival, a cultural event that combines film, exhibitions, and music. The first edition was in 2006 to provide greater visibility to artistic projects using telecommunications technologies and information. It has a cosmopolitan nature, showcasing talent from around the world.

This is the third year, and it has begun with an exhibition about the life and work of Charlie Chaplin, one of cinema’s pioneers. The artist’s daughter, actress Geraldine Chaplin has come to Lisbon to see it, and you’ll probably want to do the same before the 29th of September when the film festival starts.

It’s an international competition, with this year having seven all-digital features by directors who have been invited to be present at the event. Also shown will be a showcase of Spanish films, with several tributes to that country’s established actors. The screenings take place in Cinema City inside the Campo Pequeno arena.

The festival ends with a huge party where top national DJs provide the soundtrack during the meeting between the public and all of the festival’s artists on October 4th.
See the festival’s official website for more details about the entire event.

Queens, Lisbon

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Statue of Catherine of Braganza in Lisbon

Today being September 11, here’s something about New York, and Lisbon, of course.

The borough of Queens in New York City was named after Catherine of Bragança (often spelled “Braganza” in English), a Portuguese princess who became the Queen of England when she married Charles II.

Born in the city of Vila Viçosa in 1638, she was proposed as Charles’ bride by her father, the king of Portugal at the time, John IV. This solidified the old alliance between Portugal and England, and she moved to her new country in 1662. She took with her an old habit –- drinking tea at 5 o’clock, introducing that custom to English society.

But that wasn’t the only mark she left in the English world. Although it was an unhappy marriage, her husband dedicated the newly-taken-over land in the New World to her. New York was Dutch territory at the time, and was called New Amsterdam. Charles renamed it New York and a large piece of land within it was “the Queen’s borough.”

As a reminder of that, a 10m (33ft) statue was planned to stand by the Hudson in New York facing Queens, but protests from the local African-American community prevented that from ever happening. That’s because Catherine’s court had profited from the slave trade, and the local community was not comfortable honoring a person with such a past.

So a scale model (a quarter of the proposed size) used to build the final piece was instead shipped to Lisbon, where it stands today facing the Tagus River and the Atlantic towards Queens, New York. You will find it when you walk along the river in the Parque das Nações district in the direction of the Vasco da Gama Bridge.

For other historical personalities in Portuguese and world history, click here.

A Perfect Sunday Morning in Lisbon

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

The cafe at the Chiado Museum
If you decide to go out on a Saturday night in Lisbon it’s very likely that you won’t make it to bed until morning. You won’t then wake up in time for your hotels’ breakfast, so you’ll have to look for brunch elsewhere.

Everyone’s favorites are those served at Deli Delux, Pois Café, Royal Café, or Kaffeehaus, but there’s another perfect spot that even many locals don’t know about. That’s the café of the Chiado Museum, serving the city’s most original brunch. In addition to freshly squeezed and blended juice, there are scrambled eggs, toast, caviar, and mimosa. As soon as you read “caviar” you expect this to be a fancy place with high prices, but it has a casual ambience and everything is reasonably priced.

Have it all in the pleasant garden, decorated with statues that serve as a preview of what you’ll find inside the museum. Because Portugal’s national museums are free on Sunday mornings until 2PM, follow brunch with a visit to the country’s national contemporary art museum. Temporary exhibitions are usually displayed in a room next to the permanent collection consisting of paintings, sculpture, and installations by mostly Portuguese 19th and 20th century artists.

If you want to skip the museum and only try the brunch or have any other light meal at any time of the day, you can do that, as the café entrance is separate from that of the museum. If you’re alone, bring a book or a periodical, as you’ll likely be seduced by the garden setting into staying for some time.

More Than Just Clove and Cinnamon: The Right Fusion in Bairro Alto

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Cravo e Canela restaurant, Lisbon

After being closed for a few months, restaurant Cravo e Canela (“Clove and Cinnamon”) in Bairro Alto has reopened, refreshed with a new menu. The dishes have changed, but the fusion of Portuguese and international flavors remains the same, as does the intimate ambience. The décor is made up of candelabra, oriental sculptures, and mirrors surrounding the dark furnishings, where you sit as you listen to a soundtrack of chill-out, jazz, or fado tunes. That’s the perfect setting for a long, relaxed dinner that’s guaranteed to be one of the most memorable among Bairro Alto restaurant experiences. 

Start with the octopus carpaccio as an appetizer as I did, and let the knowledgeable staff suggest the perfect wine to go along with your meal. I was recommended a Callabriga Douro, a red wine from the north of Portugal. It went well with the main entrées that later arrived at my table, a vegetable risotto and a shrimp açorda (the traditional Portuguese bread stew).

The menu had other tempting options, under meat, fish, and risotto listings, and for lovers of the more exotic (and spicier) flavors, the Thai curry shrimps will sound tempting and is perhaps my likely choice on a return visit. But next time we’ll have to repeat one of the desserts that completed our meal, the chocolate chiffon. That generous slice of cake was shared at the table, but I was also curious about the rice pudding and ice cream combination, and ordered that. The pudding comes in a thin cup, with strips of lemon providing a little extra flavor mixed in. The ball of ice cream that stands next to it on a plate is usually vanilla, but I requested it be lemon-flavor instead. It was a wise choice, and one that matched the chocolate chiffon in satisfying the taste buds. The apple lasagne also sounded interesting, but that was also left for next time.

The owners seem to have made comfort and customer satisfaction a top priority, and those who don’t want to leave after dinner may choose to move on to the bar. They may stand or sit there with a drink, as they watch the streets of Bairro Alto become filled for the usual bar hop through the night.

The bar, the inviting and comfortable ambience, the inventive flavors on the menu, and the attentive service is just the right fusion to make Cravo e Canela one of the sure bets for a night in Bairro Alto.

Tourists Love Lisbon: The City Exceeds Visitors’ Expectations

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Looking out over Lisbon's Alfama district
This year’s annual survey conducted by the Lisbon Tourism Board showed that 92% of foreign tourists who visited the city say they’d like to return.

Their experience in Lisbon was better than they thought it would be for 28% of them, 40% said the city was just as they imagined it, while 32% claimed their expectations were more than met. Diversity of attractions, public transport system, climate, and value for money were seen as the city’s positives, which is why 92% said they’ll likely return and 99% said they’ll recommend the city to others, with the words “pretty”, “historic”, “friendly”, “calm” and “cultural” as the most used to describe Lisbon.

A surprising 75% of visitors had been to Lisbon before and decided to return. Of those, 20% had visited once before, 25% had been twice, and for 8% this was their fourth visit.

The average time spent in Lisbon was 6.3 nights, with 90% choosing to stay in a hotel. The most visited sights were those linked to the city’s “Golden Age of Discovery” in the Belem district, and the Castle of St. George, with 80% of them choosing walking as their preferred way to get around. 75% visited museums, 71% did some shopping, 70% went out for dinner, and 56% headed to the beach.

In fact, many chose to see Lisbon’s surroundings, with 99% of those surveyed saying that Sintra, Cascais, Estoril, and Obidos exceeded their expectations.

Lisbon’s Aristocratic Life

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Decorative Arts Museum, Lisbon
Before Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807, Portugal’s royalty and aristocrats lived in sumptuous palaces enriched by the gold of Brazil and the spice money from India and other parts of the Portuguese empire. Napoleon took many of those riches to France when Portugal’s royal family fled to Brazil, but he could not take everything. 

So the country’s royal palaces stand today as museums decorated with some fantastic furnishings and pieces of art, and there are also a number of noble residences standing just as their owners left them. They give visitors a picture of upper-class life through the centuries, and the one that does it best in Lisbon is that of Ricardo Espirito Santo, a Portuguese philanthropist.

His former residence is found by the Portas do Sol Viewpoint in Alfama and is now called the Decorative Arts Museum. It dates from the 17th century and displays his stunning collection of furniture, tapestries, and ceramics in a period setting.

While you’ll be able to see very similar objects in other Portuguese palaces and throughout Europe, this palace is different in one aspect — it’s also a center of restoration of antiques. If you’re curious about seeing the decorative arts collection, be sure to also call ahead to schedule a visit to the workshops where you’ll be able to watch people practice traditional skills like woodcarving and bookbinding.

Back inside the house pay attention to the original 17th century wooden floors and painted ceilings. Also interesting is noting the tiny size of the four-poster beds in the bedrooms, indicating that the palace’s former residents many have been big on money but not on height.

As the autumn and winter months approach so do the colder and rainy days, meaning that if you happen to be in Lisbon under that kind of weather, you’ll be spending fewer hours outside. Visits to museums sounds much more appealing at that time, and after visiting the city’s major art collections, be sure to also consider seeing the Decorative Arts Museum. For more information about it click here.

Throw Your Kids in the Ocean and Enjoy a Night Out in Lisbon

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Inside Lisbon's Oceanarium
Are you coming to Lisbon on a family holiday? That doesn’t mean you have to go to bed as early as your kids, preventing you from enjoying a long, relaxed dinner and a night out in the city! Simply throw your kids in the ocean and have a great evening alone with your spouse!  

The Lisbon Oceanarium has a program where children are left sleeping with sharks as parents do whatever they want elsewhere. Kids are first introduced to the deep end of the ocean and its creatures, learning about underwater life and sharks. During this experience they even have the opportunity to touch samples of sharp teeth and shark skin, and understand why it’s important to preserve these animals and sea life.

After that it’s time for them to get inside their sleeping bags and sleep in the company of the creatures they just learned about, only to get up early in the morning for a tour of the entire Oceanarium.

In the meantime you’ll be checking out the restaurants in Bairro Alto, going to a concert at the Gulbenkian or CCB, perhaps to the opera in São Carlos Theater, or even go for a night of cocktails at Cinco Lounge. You may even choose not to sleep that night, but by 10AM you should be at the Oceanarium to pick up your child, who will have lots of stories to tell you about.

For details about the “Sleeping with the Sharks” workshop click here (then click on the British flag for the English version), and for information about the aquarium, see GoLisbon’s Oceanarium page.

10 Reasons to Go to the New Cool and Sophisticated Algarve in September

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Memmo Baleeira Hotel, Algarve
Portugal’s Algarve has gone from being a cheap holiday destination for British tourists, to an attractive European family getaway, to an increasingly upmarket resort area. We just told you about Europe’s first 6-star hotel opening up in the region soon, and a growing number of luxurious and more sophisticated design hotels are popping up like mushrooms along the coast.

The rich and the famous have taken notice, and this year saw familiar faces like Hollywood actor Tim Robbins and French actress Catherine Deneuve descending towards the southern Portuguese shores. Joining the crowds then came Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, who flew straight from Beijing to Algarve for a few days of rest by the beach after his record-breaking performance in this year’s Olympics. It was reported that he spent €5,000 in drinks in just one night, but you don’t have to spend that much or be a celebrity to enjoy the best of Algarve. There are many reasons why you should go there this month, and these are the top 10:

1. The August crowds are gone, prices have gone slightly down, and the weather is still great! Summer goes on in September in Algarve, and in fact, lasts through October. These are the most enjoyable weeks in the region.

2. I stayed at the Memmo Baleeira Hotel last year and will return again next time I’m in Sagres. The rooms look out over the pool standing on top of a cliff which also offers a view to the coast that was known as “the end of the world” to the ancient Europeans before Prince Henry the Navigators’ exploration of the oceans. Even cooler is the modern design all throughout the hotel, including in the wellness center and spa.

3. An alternative to Memmo Baleeira is Pousada de Sagres, just a few steps away. It does not have the all-modern design but offers the elegance and top-notch service that the Pousadas de Portugal chain is known for. Look from your window or stand by the pool and you’ll see Prince Henry the Navigator’s fortress in the distance, which you may visit later in the day. Even better news is that in September there are good deals you can’t get during the traditional summer months.

4. I have stayed in six Pousadas de Portugal so far and the Pousada de Tavira was one of my favorites (which I wrote about here). Being housed in a former 16th century convent, it has the historical feel of other pousadas, but the contemporary décor gives it a light and fresh atmosphere which is just what you want when you’re so close to the beach. And speaking of the beach, the little island of Tavira just outside the town of Tavira is perfect under the still-warm September sun, minus the summer overcrowding!

5. Another sign of Algarve moving towards satisfying the more refined tastes of the modern traveler is Monte D’Oiro Refugio Design Hotel. It’s located just outside Lagos, arguably Algarve’s most beautiful town and with the best beaches. Every detail from the breakfast room to the outdoor swimming pool combines characteristics of the Algarve with stylish modern furnishings. A hotel of this calibre would cost you about 5 times more anywhere else, so the time to book it is now.

6. You no longer have to go to Miami or St. Tropez to experience the ultra-cool Nikki Beach. Now open in Algarve’s Vilamoura, this beach club and lounge is the place to see and be seen. Surrounded by the famous marina, you can relax in luxury at the lakeside restaurant and then stay all night long for drinks. It’s only open until October, so if you don’t want to have to wait until next year, go now.

7. Once you’ve been-there-done-that at Nikki Beach, head to Amo-te Pine Cliffs. Located in the Sheraton Pine Cliffs Resort, this 2-year-old space is one of the new places to be at night. The ambience may feel slightly formal when you look at some of the people but overall it manages to maintain a casual attitude in service. Have a caipirinha or a sangria as you listen to house music, or move to the more chilled-out zone in the open air.

8. From Septemer 26 to the 28th, the Grand Prix of Portugal Powerboat P1 World Championship will take place in Praia da Rocha, the postcard beach by the city of Portimão. As if there weren’t enough reasons to come to this big and beautiful beach, now you can watch the powerful boats cutting through the waves at speeds of over 160 kph in an exciting and spectacular contest.

9. Also in Portimão, the Formula Windsurfing World Championships will take place from September 9th to 14th. It’s the world’s largest annual windsurfing event, for which only the finest international windsurfers quality. Watch the thrilling competition from the beach, and work on your late-summer tan while you’re at it.

10. What would Algarve be like without golf? The two words are almost synonymous, as this is one of the top golfing destinations not just in Europe, but of the entire world. Check out the deals for this month at the Dona Maria San Lorenzo Resort, where you can golf in the stunning 18-hole course, or if you’re not into that, simply stay in the hotel with its breathtaking views of the Atlantic and world-class facilities at incredibly affordable prices. You have no excuse for not taking advantage of it.

See GoLisbon’s complete Algarve guide for all the information you’ll need about visiting Portugal’s southernmost province where it’s summer almost all year long.

Lisbon is Gay in September

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Gay party in Lisbon
A few days ago GoLisbon told you about an upcoming lesbian party in the Portuguese capital. Today we present something for gay travelers of both sexes.
It’s now September, which is always the gayest month in the city. The annual Pride celebrations are in June, but it’s in September that Lisbon’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival takes place. Called “Queer Lisboa,” this festival is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and this year will be the 12th edition. 

But that festival is not the only reason why this will be a gay September in Lisbon. It will be the city’s gayest month ever because there will be a number of major gay events happening almost back to back.

The first gay invasion will be on September 4th, when the Celebrity Constellation gay cruise stops in the city. It departed from London on August 30th and arrives at its final destination, Barcelona, on September 9th. The stop in Lisbon will take about 24 hours, during which the passengers descend (or ascend) the city’s streets and enjoy an evening out in the city’s restaurants, bars, and clubs. The cruise covers nine cities, but only makes an overnight stop in Lisbon and Ibiza.

Then on September 13th the first annual “Sparkling Party” will be held at Bela Vista Beach (next to the famous gay Beach 19) south of the city. DJ sounds mix with sand and the sea, for all-night partying before the Madonna concert on the 14th. The Queen of Pop will be in Lisbon for her “Sticky & Sweet” show, and as is always the case, a large percentage of the crowd will be her gay fans.

As for the Queer Lisboa Film Festival, its opening night is on the 19th and will screen the best of international gay cinema until the 27th. Dozens of films from several countries will be competing for “Best Feature,” “Best Documentary,” and “Best Short Film,” as well as for the “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” awards. This year the festival is held in São Jorge Cinema in Avenida da Liberdade, and in addition to the screenings there will be associated parties and debates about GLBT cinema.

If these events sound good to you, come to Lisbon in September. Other places to go are found in GoLisbon’s Gay and Lesbian page, which also lists the city’s gay and gay-friendly hotels.