Archive for May, 2010

The New York Times Discovers the Old and New Portugal

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Portugal in the New York Times travel section

After Portugal’s Alentejo in its lifestyle magazine earlier this week, the New York Times now highlights the north of the country in this weekend’s travel section. Titled “Portugal Old, New and Undiscovered,” the article goes through the Douro region (the World Heritage wine country) after arriving in Porto, “a city of bold, sudden architectural contrasts.” The chosen hotel was the new Pousada which for the author was a surprise to find such affordable luxury. Dining was at two of the city’s newest “glossy design showcases,” although the favorite gastronomic experiences were at the more traditional restaurants. From the city the next destination was “Portugal’s Tuscany or Piedmont,” staying in the region’s newest accommodation and trying the “superb” food at two of its restaurants that pleased “immensely.” The rest of the trip was driving around this “majestic land.” Here are all the details in the full article: Portugal Old, New and Undiscovered

Take a Break in “Portugal’s Great Plains” Says The New York Times Style Magazine

Monday, May 24th, 2010

New York Times Style Magazine

It only takes a quick glance at the cover of the latest Summer Travel Issue of the New York Times Style Magazine to recognize that it’s highlighting Portugal. It’s the typical whitewashed architecture of the south of the country, and in this case it’s the province of Alentejo east of Lisbon. As is expected from the New York Times, it goes to still-undiscovered corners, places filled with character but not on the usual tourist path. In this issue it chose the upper Alentejo, recommending days traveling on “the slow lane,” enjoying “Portugal’s answer to America’s Great Plains.” That’s where you’ll find country inns and restaurants that are “highly personalized labors of love,” and the article recommends a few. You can read the entire article and current issue of the magazine here: New York Time Style Magazine

Lisbon is in a Special Summer Party Mood

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Festas de Lisboa

Lisbon’s biggest annual event used to happen only on and around June 12th, but it’s been expanding in the last few years. The “Festas de Lisboa” (the Lisbon Feasts) now take place from May to July with several events around the city, and they’ve just begun. June 12 is still the most important date, honoring St. Anthony who was born in the city, although this is not a religious festival. It’s a day to descend the steep streets at eat and drink around the city before or after attending special events around the corner. This year they include jazz, Fado, and several other special shows:

Five green spaces in the city will be hosting jazz concerts every Sunday at 5PM. In May the chosen site is Jardim da Estrela, the Campo Grande Garden (opposite from the City Museum) will be the stage in June, and in July it moves to Edward VII Park. In August it will be the lawns in front of Belém Tower.

From now until July 15, Cinema São Jorge on Avenida da Liberdade will host free concerts and DJ sets every afternoon at 3PM until 9PM from Sunday to Wednesday, and from 3PM to 1AM from Thursday to Saturday.

From June 1st to the 6th, the streets of the city’s Chiado district will be the stage for dance performances and fashion-related events.

Every Friday and Saturday at 10PM from June 4th to the 26th you can hear Lisbon’s music in the city’s most historical site, the Castle of St. George. While most activities related to the Lisbon Feasts are free, this one charges admission (€12.50).

From June 2nd to the 6th, then again from the 9th to the 11th, 13th, and once again from the 16th to the 20th, you can enjoy more than the ride and the sights from the city’s old trams. There will be live Fado performances on those days at 4PM and 7PM so catch a ride at those times if you can.

Join the entire country in crashing a mass wedding celebration on June 12th. Sixteen couples tie the knot in the city’s cathedral in a televised event sponsored by Lisbon’s city hall. The date is special because it celebrates St. Anthony who was known as a matchmaker.

The “Marchas Populares” (literally “Popular Marches”) is a parade of colorful costumes and cheerful songs marching down the city’s main avenue on the night of June 12th. Each group represents a Lisbon neighborhood and there is a winner for best song and costumes. Look out for Alfama‘s which seems to win at least every other year.

Lisbon’s LGBT Pride will be in a special celebratory mood this year now that Portugal has just become Europe’s 6th country to legalize gay marriage. The city’s 14th annual gay party will include activities entitled “queer games” and “Gay Village.” This year it all takes place in the renovated Comercio Square on June 26th.

Lady Gaga, Michael Bublé, Black Eyed Peas and More Upcoming Concerts in Lisbon

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Lady GagaMichael Bublé

GoLisbon’s Calendar of Events has just been updated, listing all the major concerts coming up soon and until the end of the year. Others will be scheduled throughout the coming weeks and months and they’ll be added to that list. You can now get ticket information and purchase them online if you wish, and as you’ll see, from now until December there will be several music festivals and performances by some of the biggest names of the rock and pop world, from the Black Eyed Peas to Lady Gaga. Get the full Lisbon concerts list here: Lisbon Concerts

The World’s Most Extraordinary Organ Concert to Be Played Again Two Centuries Later

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Palacio-Convento de Mafra

It took eleven years and a one-million-euro restoration but this weekend Mafra Palace will once again have its basilica’s organs playing. They’re no ordinary organs, but a total of six which are unique in the world. While most churches, cathedrals, or basilicas have one or two organs (in some very rare cases, four), none in the world have six, and it’s not just the number that makes Mafra’s unique, but what they were intended to do. These six organs were strategically placed in a way to create a never-before-heard “surround sound” and had music written for them to be played simultaneously, meaning that those musical sheets can only be used here. When the Portuguese royal family moved to Brazil to escape Napoleon’s invasion in the early 19th century, the palace and consequently the organs suffered a period of decadence, with the instruments becoming inoperable. Only recently has there been an effort to bring them back to life, and 203 years after they last played together, this weekend there will be concerts that were never able to be performed since then. Because all six organs are necessary to hear the musical compositions, no one alive has heard the effect created by this unique assemblage but from now on all 12,000 tubes that make up the organs can emit the sounds King João V imagined would be a grandiose affirmation of his power in the 18th century.
The palace was built at a time when fortunes were pouring into Portugal thanks to the discovery of gold in Brazil, a precious metal that here transformed into a colossal monument of record-breaking proportions that has just been announced is a candidate to the World Heritage list by UNESCO.
This weekend’s concerts are at 9PM on Saturday and 6PM on Sunday, and are free. The palace is open every day except Tuesday for tourist visits. More info: Mafra Palace

Lisbon’s Newest Hostel Offers the “Royal” Treatment

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Royak Lisbon Hostel

It’s been widely reported that Lisbon has the world’s best hostels and just a couple of days ago a new one opened as a strong contender to one of the top spots in the “world’s best” list. It has the rather pompous name of “Royal Lisbon Hostel” and it does automatically score points for its location on Largo do Camões, one of the city’s most central squares connecting its two most popular neighborhoods, Chiado and Bairro Alto.
Inside you’ll find everything you expect from a modern hostel, from spacious lockers for your belongings to comfortable beds. As at most other hostels, the bathrooms are shared but divided by gender. Prices are of course quite affordable, and it also allows you to save further by letting you prepare your own meals in the kitchen. You can enjoy them in the dining room before moving to the lounge area with views over the square, watching over the cafés and busy life of the surroundings. That’s also where you can access the wireless internet before stepping right into Lisbon’s vibrant street life.
This is no 5-star accommodation, but its privileged location, brand-new facilities, relaxed ambience, and affordability make it a luxury option for budget travelers.
Complete details and booking information here: Royal Lisbon Hostel

A Lisbon Wonderland

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

One of Lisbon’s least-known but most fascinating museums is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary and has added a new attraction. That’s the Museu da Cidade (City Museum) which is completely dedicated to the history and culture of Lisbon, and the new attraction is a “ceramic zoo” in its garden. The museum actually has a vast garden space behind the palace that holds its collection, filled with statues and live peacocks, but new animals were just added, this time made of clay. They were created by one of Portugal’s all-time best ceramicists, Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro who brought these creatures to life in the late 19th century. At this new garden is a total of 1205 pieces, some tiny, others gigantic, from turtles to crabs, lobsters, toads, serpents, snails, wild mushrooms, and lizards. They were placed on fountains, around the greenery, or climbing walls. Together they form a wonderland showing the creative mind of one of Lisbon’s most popular artists, and is free to visit although you’ll still have to pass by the museum’s ticket office to be allowed in. It closes on Mondays, but is a great outdoors attraction for kids and adults on any other day.

Museu da Cidade, Lisbon

Jardim Bordallo Pinheiro, Museu da Cidade, Lisboa

Museu da Cidade, Lisbon

Museu da Cidade, Lisbon

Museu da Cidade, Lisbon

Museu da Cidade, Lisbon

Portugal’s Top Fashion Designer Opens a Restaurant in Lisbon: “Unique”

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Fatima Lopes' Unique Chiado Bar-Restaurant, Lisbon

UPDATE: This restaurant has closed.

She’s opened boutiques in Paris and Los Angeles in addition to her shop in Lisbon, but Fátima Lopes is now also entering the restaurant business. Widely considered to be Portugal’s most international fashion designer, Lopes is essentially a business woman, and her new restaurant that opened this weekend will have her seal of approval on everything from the staff’s uniforms to the plates and silverware. It’s a place designed to be luxurious, but reportedly with “prices for everyone.” It’s actually more than a restaurant, it’s also a bar and the large pavement outside by the entrance will have tables when weather allows it. The cuisine will be contemporary Portuguese, created by João Simões, a rising star in Lisbon’s gastronomy who’s won the Junior Chef distinction at the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS). He’s previously worked at Lisbon’s Bica do Sapato, Hotel Four Seasons Provence (France), and until recently was at one of the restaurants of Altis Belém Hotel.
In addition to the food you can expect good background music and drinks served until 2AM at the bar. Judging by the list of local celebrities who showed up for the inauguration, this is clearly also a place to see and be seen, but word is that it’s not necessarily a pretentious place.
You can find the restaurant in Chiado, on Rua Paiva de Andrade, right across from São Carlos Theatre (no website yet).