Archive for June, 2009

New Exhibition Shows How Lisbon Started Globalization

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Encompassing the Globe exhibition, LisbonTwo years ago, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC put together a special exhibition called “Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries.” It explained “how Portugal brought the world together” during the Age of Discovery and its pioneering role in global trade. The items displayed were loaned from museums around the world, and included maps, sculptures, and paintings. It then traveled to Brussels, and will now also be shown in Lisbon starting July 15th. It stays in the city until October 11th, and its home is the Ancient Art Museum, where you can also see some additional Portuguese treasures not shown in the previous exhibitions. It’s being called Lisbon’s most important exhibition in 2009, with a total of 180 pieces from 95 foreign collections, including those of the Louvre in Paris, Viena’s Albertina, Berlin’s Staatliche Museen, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Library. The additional Portuguese works are those that are not allowed to ever leave the country, including Japanese screens showing the Portuguese arriving in Japan, and the Monstrance of Belem adorned with priceless gems.
More than explaining Portugal’s role in the first global empire, this exhibition also shows the influences of European culture around the world and vice versa due to commercial, cultural, and scientific exchanges. Debates and special gastronomic events are also being planned, with everything costing around three million euros, a price worth paying for such a rich exhibition which will bring improvements to the Ancient Art Museum in the future.

Queluz Palace Opens Its Renovated Gardens

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Queluz Palace, Portugal

Closed for renovation for the past couple of years, the gardens of Queluz Palace have now reopened. The clean-up included new plants and the restoration of fountains, but the major works were on the many statues dotted around, including one that hasn’t been in public view since 1967 by the renowned British sculptor John Cheere.
The new plants were placed to recreate how the gardens looked when they opened centuries ago, and a tiled canal that extends for 110 meters was also given a shiny new look.
These historical formal gardens surround one of Portugal’s most beautiful palaces, a scaled-down Portuguese version of Versailles built in the 18th century. It’s located just outside Lisbon in the suburb of Queluz, and it’s easily visited by train on a daytrip. Over 610,000 visitors toured the palace last year, and the renovated gardens will surely attract more this year. That should be good news, considering the high cost of almost 4 million euros spent in this extensive renovation. It was partially financed by the World Monuments Fund, and additional works will continue on 18 ponds and fountains.

The 7 Portuguese Wonders of the World Have Been Announced

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

7 Portuguese Wonders of the WorldAs Go Lisbon previously reported, the New 7 Wonders Foundation has been conducting a survey to select the seven Portuguese wonders around the world. The results were revealed yesterday, on Portugal Day. The candidates were structures in all corners of the globe mostly built during the Age of Discovery, and ranged from forts to monasteries. In total there were 27 nominees in 16 countries, and voted the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Origin in the World were the Diu Fortress in India, the Mazagão Fortress in Morocco, the Bom Jesus Basilica in Goa (India), the Santiago Old Town in Cape Verde, Saint Paul Church in Macao (China), St. Francis Convent in Ouro Preto (Brazil), and another convent of the same name in Salvador da Baía also in Brazil.
These winners were chosen by close to a quarter million people who voted online, by phone, or text message, and were announced in a ceremony in the city of Portimão. Last night it was also revealed that there will be another Portugal-related vote next year, for the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, which will happen at the same time as the international 7 Wonders of Nature also by the New 7 Wonders Foundation.

Lisbon’s “Lust” Restaurant Review

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

UPDATE: New address: Largo Vitorino Damásio, 3 (1 Dto./second floor)

Lust Restaurant, Lisbon

Last week I tried a new restaurant in the Principe Real Santos district. It’s called “Lust” and was opened by an Argentinean who has attempted to create a space where you can enjoy more than just a good meal. So at the entrance is a tiny gourmet shop that’s reportedly waiting to be expanded, there’s a separate bar area serving drinks until about 2AM on weekends, and the dining room also hosts occasional live music and dancing. On the night I showed up it was a special Argentinean night so the spacious dining area had been given extra space in the middle for some tango dancing later in the evening. There was also a special Argentinean menu with the obligatory steak, although we opted instead for dishes from the regular menu which can best be described as international with strong Portuguese influences. The dishes ordered were a goat cheese ravioli, cod loin with chestnut purée, and pork cheeks with Azeitão cheese sauce. They all had interesting and original mixes of ingredients, and were very well presented, not to mention well served. It all tasted great, which combined with the attractive concept would make this a great new addition to the Lisbon restaurant scene. Too bad the service does not match the quality and refinement of the food. We were greeted by a waitress who acted like we were invading her space, seemingly reluctant to direct us to a table, eventually sending us to one in a corner saying everything else was reserved (we left past midnight and they were never taken). We asked another waiter to change tables anyway, and sat somewhere else. This same waitress also seemed more concerned about the upcoming tango dancing and everything else than serving her customers, passing by our table a couple of times to grab our empty dishes and glasses, but turning away immediately before we had a chance for ask for another drink, or didn’t hear us when we did. This was all compensated by a more attentive waitress from time to time, who did try to do her best, although the entire staff seemed way too involved in the preparation of the tango to care about their customers.
If “lust”is synonymous with craving, enthusiasm, desire, and appetite, it rather failed to live up to its name when it comes to service. If that night is typical of the regular attitude, customers don’t exactly feel welcome by the staff, but rather like crashers at a private party. The good news is that the food is quite good, and the prices are quite reasonable. In addition to the three dishes mentioned above we also ordered a plate of cheeses with bread and a lemon soufflé for dessert, which together with drinks came to a total of 72 euros for three people (and no, that did not include a very large tip). So it wasn’t love or lust at first bite at this restaurant, but if you don’t mind the lackluster service, I’ll still recommend it for the food and theme nights.

Jimmy Portuguese Styleshop – The Place for New and Fun Gifts from Lisbon

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Jimmy Portuguese Styleshop, Lisbon

When you pass by traditional souvenir shops in Lisbon or crafts fairs around Portugal you’ll likely always see the same images — the Barcelos roosters, Our Lady of Fatima, Saint Anthony holding baby Jesus, all surrounded by colorful ceramics… At the newer shops you’ll also find all of that, but with updated designs to meet modern tastes. One of those in Lisbon is Jimmy Portuguese Styleshop, a recently opened space found around the corner from the Bairro Alto Hotel in Chiado. Everything is 100% Portuguese but nothing like you’ve ever seen before. The usual icons are given several different colors and shapes using minimal and pop designs, and are placed next to fragrances, fashion accessories, and contemporary versions of Portuguese delicacies.
Other items stand out for their peculiar details, such as colorful handbags completely made of computer keyboard keys designed by a Portuguese artist and that’s already been featured in the American edition of Elle magazine. That is just an example of a fun gift to take for yourself or someone else, but there are other curious pieces in a wide range of prices. All Portuguese, but completely international and a lot of fun.

Address: Rua das Flores, 100
Open 10:30AM-7:30PM (closed Sundays)

560 Restaurant: Traditional Meets Contemporary Lisbon in Bairro Alto

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Restaurante 560, Bairro Alto, Lisbon

The number 560 on a bar code lets customers know they’re buying a Portuguese product, and that has inspired a new restaurant in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto which serves contemporary Portuguese dishes made with traditional flavors. Restaurant 560 offers a variety of appetizers before an even number of meat and fish choices, as well as a vegetarian option. Only the dessert choices disappoint, with less than a handful to choose from, but if you want to skip that you also have the option of a selection of cheeses or cold cuts to finish your meal.

There are two entrances, one for each dining room. They both look very much the same, with large windows and covered in wood. That wood is on the floor, walls, and even the ceiling, only interrupted by square holes used for the lighting. The wall behind which stands the kitchen is covered in black tiles, again showing a modern or unconventional twist to a Portuguese tradition.

This is the work of Lisbon-based architects, transforming what used to be an internet cafe. It is now one of the most inspired and stylish restaurants in the neighborhood, and an excellent choice for those looking for a perfect balance between traditional and contemporary Lisbon in both flavor and atmosphere.

Fado in the Afternoon

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Fado in ChiadoWhen you want to check what Lisbon’s Fado music is all about, you either go to the Fado Museum during the day, or have to wait until the evening to head to one of the many Fado restaurants. But not anymore. Now you can also hear some Fado in the afternoon, and right in the center of the city. Every day at 7PM except on Sundays, young Fado singers perform at Cine Theatro Gymnásio, an old theater in the Chiado district. “Fado in Chiado” started last March and its success appears to be here to stay. The shows last for about a half hour and the songs chosen are some of the genre’s biggest hits (many of them made famous by Amalia Rodrigues, the genre’s biggest diva). Although Fado is usually taken very seriously, often sung in darkness and over dinner, here you can experience the soul of Lisbon’s music in a more laid-back ambience and without having to pay for a meal or dedicate an entire night to the experience. Tourists are the target audience, but obviously even locals can show up for a pre-dinner dose of their Lisbon sounds.

More info:

Hollywood Moving to Portugal

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Algarve beach

It was announced last week that the south of Portugal (Algarve) is the likely home of a future Hollywood studio and theme park created by Universal Studios and CBS Paramount. It would be located in the city of Portimão, with the park costing 550 million euros and the studios around 200 million. The theme park would be about the history of cinema, and would be Universal’s first park in Europe, after the ones it has in Hollywood, Orlando, and Japan. The studios would be run by CBS Paramount, with a projected starting date of 2010, and would include post-production facilities and a “watertank” for the filming of underwater scenes. Portugal is an attractive country for such a project in part because of its near-perfect weather and competitive prices, as well as varied scenery.
Apparently also moving to Portugal is actress Angelina Jolie which the gossip columns have reported this week is also looking for a home in Algarve. Her chosen location seems to be Lagos, with the local media reporting a 10-million euro mansion in that seaside town as the possible future home of the actress.

Lisbon In The Future: The Third Tagus Bridge

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

New Lisbon Bridge

In 2017, Lisbon will have a new airport across the river in the town of Alcochete (pronounced “Alcoo-shit” so hopefully the airport will be baptized with a different name…)  At the moment there are two bridges linking both sides of the Tagus, but a third one will be necessary for travelers to reach the airport, especially those using the future high-speed train that is also being planned.

Right now the bridge still has no name (it’s simply being called “the third bridge over the Tagus”) and an official design is still being decided. However, it apparently will be something like the one seen on the virtual image above, and that will be the future view from the castle. As is the case with any new major construction, many people are protesting the idea (even sending around a petition against it), claiming that it ruins a classic view of the city. Some have even suggested that the third Tagus crossing should be underwater, while others prefer another location for the bridge. What is known for sure is that it will in fact be a bridge estimated to cost 1.7 billion euros and that it will have 3 or 4 lanes for automobiles with the rest of the space given to high-speed and regular train services.

(See more Lisbon in the Future posts)

Lisbon’s Zoo Is Celebrating 125 Years

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Lisbon ZooLisbon’s Zoo just had its 125th birthday this past week, and the celebrations will continue throughout the month of June. There will be special events every weekend of the month, and the National Geographic Channel has just produced a documentary about it. This is the oldest zoo in the Iberian Peninsula, and although it won’t differ much from the one you may have in your hometown, you get to see a large number of exotic animals, including a special elephant known to ring a bell with his trunk if you throw him a coin. Lisbon’s zoo also stands out for the diversity of its animals, thanks to the “universal” climate of the city, allowing every animal from all corners of the globe to feel at home. That means you’ll be able to see everything from a Persian Leopard to a Siberian Tiger, this last one born from the first successful artificial insemination of the species in Europe.
This zoo also contributes to international efforts in the preservation of endangered species, and has participated in different international projects such as the exploration of Madagascar forest. It has also exported animals to other parts of the world, including a highly successful case of a female black rhinoceros that was sent to South Africa in 1990 and has had several offspring since then.
If you want to visit the zoo, it is surprisingly found in the center of the city, easily reached by metro using the blue line and getting off at the Jardim Zoologico station.