The World’s Oldest Person

Lisbon in the 1930s

Mrs. Edna Parker, the 115 year-old American woman who was recognized as the world’s oldest person has died.  According to her family, the secret to her longevity was an active life free of alcohol and cigarettes.  I’d also add the very likely probability of some very good genes, although she did outlive her own two sons. Maybe the fresh air in the Indiana farm where she lived until she was 100 also had something to do with it. She was also a highly educated woman, working as a teacher until 1913 when she decided to dedicate her life to her farm.

But this leaves a Portuguese woman born in 1893 as the new oldest person in the world. Also 115 years young at the moment, she’s seen Portugal ruled by kings (until 1910 when the country went from monarchy to republic), by a dictator (for decades in the 20th century), and by prime-ministers democratically elected by the people in a country that’s also a member of the European Union. She was born at a time when locomotives competed with horse-drawn carriages as the most efficient means of transport, witnessed the first streetcars or trams arriving in Lisbon (pictuted above), the emergence of the automobile, the invention of the telephone, radio and television, and saw the first airplanes in the air. The world has suffered through world wars, man has landed on the moon, and the entire world is now connected through computers and wireless gadgets. Reviewing these women’s lives really makes you realize how much the world has evolved in just over a century, and makes you wonder what it will be like when a baby born today turns 115 years old…

For an overview of the history of Portugal click here.

Portugal’s Latest Michelin Stars

Lisbon's Eleven Restaurant

The influential Michelin Restaurants Guide has just announced its star awards for Portugal. Two new entries this year are for restaurants in Amarante (“Casa da Calçada”) and Madeira (“Il Gallo d’Oro” in the Cliff Bay Hotel), while a previously awarded restaurant, Porto de Santa Maria in Cascais has had its star taken away after 25 years. But that seaside town of Cascais just outside Lisbon still has a Michelin star shining at Fortaleza do Guincho.

Lisbon’s Eleven kept its star, while Portugal’s best restaurant according to that guide is Villa Joya in Algarve with two stars. In fact, Michelin’s favorite Portuguese restaurants are mostly found in that southern tip of the country, with other winners São Gabriel, Henrique Leis e Amadeus all located in Almacil. Also recognized was Coimbra’s “Arcadas da Capela” inside Quinta das Lagrimas Hotel with one star.

Trying hard to make it to this exclusive list next year: Lisbon’s Tavares.

5 Things to Thank Lisbon for

Loving Lisbon

Our American readers are celebrating their Thanksgiving holiday today, and if I was still living in the United States, I’d probably also be sitting at a table with a turkey in front of me for most of the day today. It wouldn’t matter that I don’t eat turkey — tradition is tradition. And because there’s no harm in following most traditions, I will now list the things for which I am thankful for here in Lisbon. Thank you Lisbon for:

Thank you for NOT being thankful
A thanksgiving holiday would never work here in Lisbon. Its people are never thankful for anything. Sure they live in a paradise of a city, where the sun shines for 300 days out of the year and thermometers rarely go below 10 degrees (50F) during the day, in a peaceful city under no terrorism threat, with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, providing a beautiful scenery to be admired over a drink at a café or restaurant, and where everything moves at a snail’s/human pace. But since nothing is perfect, the people of Lisbon live their lives complaining about everything. They’d complain about many of those same things in any other city, but good for you, Lisbon — there’s always room for improvement. And OK, the city does need a lot of improvement.  So Lisbon, you’re almost perfect but continue to demand more. Demand that people appreciate you more.

Thank you for simply being Lisbon
Lisbon is like an old lady who is proud of her wrinkles and refuses any cosmetic surgery or Botox. Lisbon looks old, but she knows she’s lived quite a long, spectacular life and nothing shows that better than those wrinkles. Lisbon is comfortable with who she is and she knows she’s beautiful no matter what, especially to those who get to know her and look beyond the surface. Lisbon looks like she’s falling apart, yet she keeps a dignified air. She’s got a fantastic life story to tell. Thank you for not being an excessively sanitized city sacrificing your soul for a façade or financial gain. Thank you for not being Singapore, Zurich, or Vienna. Thank you for the uneven cobblestone pavements, the dogs you allow to walk freely through the streets, the amusing graffiti you don’t remove from your walls, the cracked tile panels and peeling colors of your façades… It is easy to criticize you for that.  Those things could be improved or changed. But even if they’re not, it just makes you even more authentic, and whoever doesn’t appreciate that is not worthy of you. You’ve earned our respect no matter what you look like.

Thank you for the Tagus
The Seine, the Thames, or any other European city’s river can not compete with the Tagus. The Tagus is often confused for the Atlantic by many tourists. Their ignorance is completely understandble since it can look more like the ocean than a river when observed from the top of one of Lisbon’s hills. And even those who know that it is a river, also know that the Atlantic is in fact just around the corner, as are the sandy beaches that stand next to it. Then there are the waterfront cafes and restaurants where you sit and begin to understand why this river inspired the 15th century explorers to go on exploring the then-unknown seas.

Thank you for your characters
You ride the subway a couple of times and you begin to anticipate the moment when the blind beggar walks through asking/yelling for some change with every breath out of his lungs. You walk down Rua Augusta and you feel an absence when the gypsy boy is not sitting there with his accordion and the tiny Chihuahua on his shoulder holding a tiny bucket in its mouth. You’ve seen him a million times before, but you can’t help it but look again at the tumor-filled man standing in Rossio as if out of a freak show. You love it when the old man who stands almost every night in Saldanha waving at everyone passing by, also waves at you. You’re very open-minded, but you can’t help it but wonder how in hell did that goth, that punk, that freak or fashion victim of a kid thought s/he looked good wearing that when s/he looked at him/herself in the mirror, as s/he walks past you in Bairro Alto or Chiado. You walk up to Bairro Alto at night to take part in its weekend night street invasion, and can hear the short man singing Fado and playing a guitar almost as big as he is in Rua Garrett from miles away. Then there are the old ladies challenging their legs up the city’s hills, the old men who all look the same arguing about soccer and politics they can barely understand but always have an opinion about, the gypsies who approch you for “chocolate” as code for hashish when in reality it’s not even drugs at all… Thank you Lisbon for allowing these people to be part of our everyday lives. They add nothing to our lives, but this way we’re reassured that you’re never boring.

Thank you for not being touristy
Thank you for not being a tourists’ theme park like Prague or Venice. Thank you for not having an entire street or square bought by capitalism à la New York’s/Disney’s Times Square, or London’s Picadilly Circus, or all of Las Vegas. Thank you for limiting neon signs to Cais do Sodré’s whore houses. Thank you for not having a cheesy souvenir shop at every turn. Thank you for not having “Murder Mystery Dinners” or a “serial killer tour.” Thank you for making visitors come to see you and nothing else.

Been There? Eaten That? – Reviews of Lisbon Restaurants

Lisbon RestaurantGoLisbon has for last few years followed the openings and closings of new and old restaurants in Lisbon. We’ve told you about the most outstanding ones and offer you an extensive list with those you should consider trying during your visit to the city. Those lists are divided by cuisine, so whether you’re in the mood for some Italian pastas or pizzas, wish to sample the local gastronomy at a Portuguese restaurant, feel like experiencing some creative international fusion cuisine, or are looking for vegetarian restaurants for some meat-free dishes, we tell you where to go.

GoLisbon will continue to tell you about all the places worth considering in Lisbon, but we now also want to hear from you. Have you had a memorable experience at a restaurant in Lisbon? How about such a bad time that others need to be warned about? Visit GoLisbon’s restaurants guide and click on the name of the restaurant you’d like to comment on. A box has been placed at the bottom of each restaurant’s page just for you to contribute to our mission of providing the most complete information about Lisbon. Help us help those visiting Lisbon by clicking here.

Moor Than Meets the Eye: Lisbon’s “Casa do Alentejo”

Casa do Alentejo, LisbonRua das Portas de Santo Antão is a pedestrian street usually filled with tourists. It’s home to two famous restaurants listed in almost every guidebook (Gambrinus for seafood; Bonjardim for spicy chicken), and it’s parallel to Restauradores Square which everyone passes by at least once during their Lisbon visit. There are so many distractions on that street (particularly waiters standing outside their restaurants approaching you to convince you to sit and have a meal), that you completely overlook the building at number 58. That’s quite understandable, though. There’s no way of knowing what’s behind that door unless someone tells you about it in advance.

Once you enter and go up the steps you’ll find a peculiar Moorish courtyard as if transplanted from Morocco or Spain’s Andalusia.  Go up another flight of steps and you arrive in a hallway completely covered in tiles and antique furnishings. It originally was the 17th century residence of an aristocratic family, and in the early 20th century was turned into a casino. In 1932 it became a club for those from the province of Alentejo to meet, as it continues to be today.  A restaurant has been added and is open to everyone.

Casa do Alentejo Restaurant occupies two beautiful rooms decorated with tile panels and serves regional specialties. The atmosphere is quite informal but also romantic due to the setting, and is a good choice for families. You can also rent a big hall for private events, which includes a stage and beautiful Louis XVI-style mirrors and ornaments.

Back by the Moorish courtyard is a shop selling Alentejo specialties, including its famous wines and olive oil.