Archive for February, 2009

The First Dog and the First Photographer: Obama’s Portuguese Connections

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Portuguese Water DogArriving at newsstands across the United States tomorrow will be this week’s edition of People magazine with a cover story about Michele Obama. In the article the American first lady states that if it’s up to her, the choice for First Dog will be a Portuguese Water Dog. The pooch would be rescued from a shelter, and the breed was chosen due to its medium size, low allergy risk, and reputation of a good temperament and high intelligence.

The Portuguese Water Dog got its name for having first been seen all over Portugal’s coast, and especially in the southern Algarve. The dog has always been a loyal companion of seafarers, helping them deliver messages between boats and retrieve nets. They are close relatives of the poodle, with wavy black, white, or black and white hair.

Apparently Michele Obama will not have the final word, as the first lady’s press secretary has announced that the entire family still has to make a decision together about the new addition to their home, something that will likely only happen in April.

But the dog will not be the only presence in the White House with origins in Portugal. The official White House photographer is the Portuguese-American Pete Souza, born in Massachusetts (home to a large Portuguese community) and previously also the official White House photographer for Ronald Reagan. He’s already published a best-selling photo book entitled “The Rise of Barack Obama,” and has also worked for National Geographic and Life magazines.

Other prominent Portuguese-Americans are found in GoLisbon’s Portuguese people page.

A Lisbon Trip Report in Budget Travel Magazine

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Budget Travel MagazineThe March 2009 issue of the American travel magazine Budget Travel features a 3-page article about Lisbon and other destinations around Portugal in its “Trip Coach” section. It’s a section where a reader previously asked the magazine’s editors for advice on an upcoming trip and then reports back with photos and reactions to the recommended experiences.

This month was a couple of friends who started their European trip in Paris and then moved on to Lisbon.
The magazine suggested a walking tour with a local guide, dinner at Flores Restaurant inside the Bairro Alto Hotel, a night out at Cabaret Maxime, Lux, and Clube de Fado, and visits to the Gulbenkian Museum and Jeronimos Monastery. For trips outside Lisbon, the recommended destinations were Sintra, Evora, and Coimbra.

The readers’ trip report included their personal photos, including that of another destination they decided to add to their itinerary — Cascais.  They noted the wave-like pavements in that seaside town, and the abundant use of tiles in the Portuguese capital which led them to buy one with an image of the city as a souvenir.

In Sintra they enjoyed the Moorish Castle and the Quinta da Regaleira estate, while the best meal was in fact at the magazine-recommended Flores Restaurant where one of them celebrated her 35th birthday with a special surprise dessert offered by the waiter.

Other memorable experiences were stopping for a drink at the Chapitô bar-restaurant and the peace and quiet they felt in the Santo Antonio Church in Estoril which they said they gladly found by accident.

For the entire article you’ll have to buy the magazine which is available on newsstands in the United States right now, and soon around the world wherever international publications are sold. Recommended by Lonely Planet’s latest Lisbon guidebook

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Lonely Planet's Lisbon Encounter guidebookLisbon’s latest guidebook is “Lisbon Encounter” published last January by Lonely Planet. It’s a pocket-sized book that should now be reaching most bookstores around the world, highlighting the city’s attractions by neighborhood, while telling you what to see, where to shop, eat, and play. It starts with a special top 10 section recommending that you get lost in Alfama, bar-crawl in Bairro Alto, see the city on tram 28, drink a Ginginha, visit the Oceanarium, admire Jeronimos Monastery, taste the special pastries, stop at the viewpoints, see the colonial treasures of the Orient Museum, and finally, head to Sintra’s palaces.

In between all of this it presents some suggested itineraries and speaks with locals who share their secrets. The final chapter is a Lisbon history lesson and practical city information, where is listed as a handy site for pre-trip planning: “(GoLisbon is) packed with up-to-date info on sightseeing, eating, nightlife and events.” If you’re reading this, you’ve already found GoLisbon, but although you can print out the site’s pages and take them with you as a guidebook substitute, if you still want a guidebook companion, the latest Lonely Planet publication is an equally good source.

See Lisbon for Free with the “Lisboa Card” Tourist Pass

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Lisboa CardAs if Lisbon wasn’t already Western Europe’s least expensive capital, now you can also see most of the city for free. With the Lisboa Card tourist pass, you get free admission to all of the main monuments and attractions, or discounts to museums and other sights. You also don’t have to worry about public transportation because you can ride the city’s buses, trams, and metro for free with the card. It is also a time-saver, since you don’t have to wait in lines in order to buy your transportation tickets.
It is therefore something every tourist should get, and you now can reserve it before you even arrive in the city. Click here for information on how to do that, and once it’s reserved, you can pick it up at the airport or the tourist office in Comercio Square.

A Visit to Lisbon’s Vieira da Silva Museum

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Vieira da Silva Museum, LisbonA few days ago we told you about Carmen Miranda’s 100th birthday, but there is another famous Portugal-born and internationally-recognized name that would also be 100 years old at the moment. That is Vieira da Silva (she’d turn 101 this June), an acclaimed modernist painter in the mid-20th century, considered one of the most important Post-War abstract painters.

She gained recognition in Paris where she met her Hungarian husband Arpad Szenes who was also an artist. Later she became the first woman to receive the French government’s Grand Prix National des Artes and died in the French capital in 1992.

Lisbon has a museum dedicated to the couple, found in a former silk factory facing a lovely neighborhood park in the Amoreiras district. You’ll see that you’re the only tourist there when you visit, as this is an off-the-beaten-tourist-path location. On display is a large collection of paintings by Vieira da Silva and her husband, together with temporary exhibitions by other artists influenced by them.

Vieira da Silva’s works are also on display in several museums around the world, including in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC.

The Eyeful Tower: Lisbon’s Santa Justa Elevator

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Santa Justa Elevator, LisbonIn some guidebooks, Lisbon’s Santa Justa Elevator is said to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, of the Eiffel Tower), but that is not exactly true. Mr. Eiffel had many disciples and one of them was Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a Portuguese architect born in Porto of French parents. Ponsard was the real creator of Santa Justa Elevator which several publications have listed as one of the world’s best examples of iron architecture during the Industrial Revolution.

This curious construction was a necessity in Lisbon in order to connect downtown to the hilly Bairro Alto and Chiado neighborhoods. It was the fastest way to reach the top of the hill, and while cars and the metro do that today, this dramatic structure still has people lining up to go for a ride. It’s mostly done for touristic purposes, as it provides a 360-degree view over the city. And you do get an eyeful — you overlook all of downtown, towards the castle and Alfama, to Edward VII Park and the uptown high-rises. There is a naturally overpriced café (which you can skip) on the top platform, and you can stand there to take photos of the views.

If you have the tourist card (recommended) you can ride for free, otherwise it will cost you 2,80 euros. But here’s a little secret only a local and will tell you: you can reach the top for free! Simply head to the Carmo Convent ruins in Chiado, and enter the gate to the right of it. You’ll find yourself almost at the very top, and you then take the spiraling stairs to the cafe at 45 meters (147ft) above the ground.

For complete information about this Lisbon landmark, see GoLisbon’s Santa Justa Elevator page.

Lisbon is Sunny Again! – 3 Places to Enjoy the Sun in the City

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Lisbon weatherThis past month, Lisbon was no longer Europe’s sunniest capital. That’s because there was no sun in Europe for weeks. Lisbon got the most rain in 30 years for the month of January, London was covered in snow, and the winter storm Klaus left millions of euros in damages across the continent.

But this will finally be a sunny (and warmer) weekend in Lisbon, so to celebrate the better weather, here are the three places for a drink (and a meal) in the sun in Lisbon:

Op Art Café
It’s most popular as a bar and club at night when it spins electronic beats until the sun rises, but Op Art is also one of the most pleasant riverfront cafes for a light meal in the afternoon. If you want to return at night you’ll find a menu of reasonably-priced fish, meat, and vegetarian dishes.

Deli Delux
For many people in Lisbon, Sunday is not complete without brunch at Deli Delux. It has tables in the interior which doubles as a gourmet shop, but the place everyone heads to is the outdoor patio by the river. If it’s past brunch hour you can also get a light meal, including some good pastas and drinks.

À Margem
Huge salads and a wonderful riverfront setting are the main reasons to visit this café-restaurant found between the landmark Discoveries Monument and Belem Tower. When the sun is shining the outdoor tables facing the river are the favorites, but even if you can only get a seat indoors it will still feel like you’re outside due to the glassed walls allowing you to admire the clear blue sky, the river, and the sunlight.

See GoLisbon’s Lisbon cafes guide for more eating and drinking options in the afternoon.

From the Financial Times: Lisbon for a “Long Luxurious Weekend”

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Lisbon on the Financial Times
The Financial Times’ monthly “How To Spend It” magazine highlights the most luxurious shopping and places to see in the world, and in its current February issue the city for the “The Long Luxurious Weekend” is Lisbon.

It notes that “Portugal’s capital city is fiercely protective of its heritage and traditions,” but “also embraces glamorous modern, high-concept developments.” The main photo is part of the Parque das Nações skyline, showing the distinctive São Gabriel and São Rafael Towers next to the Atlantic Pavilion.

The recommended places to stay were all boutique hotels (As Janelas Verdes, Bairro Alto Hotel, Solar do Castelo, and York House), in addition to one design hotel (Fontana Park) and one luxury hotel (Lapa Palace).

Eating and drinking suggestions were the Café A Brasileira, Bica do Sapato, Eleven, Tavares, and Terreiro do Paço, together with a night of Fado at Parreirinha de Alfama.

For shopping, two of the highlights were the Fabrico Infinito shop for home accessories and Sant’Anna for quality ceramics.

As sightseeing choices, it points to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the Ancient Art Museum, the Santa Justa Elevator, and the Fado Museum, along with two off-the-beaten path addresses, the Medeiros e Almeida Museum and the Mãe D’Água Reservoir that’s part of the landmark aqueduct.

It ends with a “Pessoa tour,” following the footsteps of famous 20th century poet Fernando Pessoa, with a visit to his house-museum and with the help of his guidebook “Lisbon: What the Tourist Should See” which the article found to be “an excellent guidebook – despite having been written in 1925.”

You can read the entire article here where you can click on the February 2009 issue.


Porto – “A Gem of a Portuguese City”

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Conde Nast Traveler - Oporto articleThe February issue of the American magazine Conde Nast Traveler features a cover story called “Europe’s New Deal – Four Rising Destinations, Low on Crowds and Cost.” One of those four destinations is “a gem of a Portuguese city” – Porto.

Naturally, the author highlights the port wine and the wine region nearby, but also notes the contemporary and traditional cuisine. You can read the entire article here, and those interested in visiting Portugal’s second city can get complete information on GoLisbon’s sister site – Oporto Tourist and Hotels Guide.

From Portugal to Brazil to Hollywood: Remembering the 100th Birthday of Carmen Miranda

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Carmen MirandaIf she were still alive, Carmen Miranda would be 100 years old today. If you’re questioning why she’s being mentioned in a blog about Lisbon and Portugal when she was Brazilian, you’re wrong. Carmen Miranda was born in Portugal. She moved to Brazil when she was still a baby when her parents decided to immigrate to Portugal’s former colony.

She grew up in Rio de Janeiro where she sang at parties and festivals, despite the disapproval of her parents. She was later given a record contract with RCA Records and eventually taken to New York to perform on a Broadway show. From there, Carmen went on to become a popular Hollywood actress in the 1940s and 50s, and became America’s highest-paid entertainer and reportedly the highest-earning female in the country.

Known as “the Brazilian Bombshell,” she was mostly cast in musicals as a Latin-American beauty wearing colorful hats made of fruit. Her management gave her a flamboyantly cliché image of Latin America with little distinctions between Brazil, Argentina, or Cuba, samba, tango, or habanera. As a result she was criticized in Brazil for projecting a false image of the country and giving in to American commercialism.

Her last few years were spent in states of depression, and she died of a heart attack at the age of 46 in Beverly Hills. She remains today not only an icon of Brazil but also of old Hollywood. She is also still the most successful Portuguese person to have ever been in the spotlight in Hollywood.

In Portugal you can visit a small museum dedicated to Carmen in her birth city of Marco de Canaveses. It features one of her famous hats along with several photos, while her statue stands outside.

For more famous Portuguese faces, see GoLisbon’s Portuguese people page.