Archive for August, 2011

5 Spots to Literally Spend the Night Out in Lisbon

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

When you say you’re going out at night, you often mean spend the night sitting in a movie theater or at a bar, or dancing at a club. “Out” simply means out of the house, but in such an outdoors city like Lisbon, “out” really means outside. Most people gather around the streets of Bairro Alto by the doors of the multitude of bars, but there are other spots for a relaxed evening in the open air. These are the five best choices:

Portas do Sol, Lisbon

In the city’s biggest and most beautiful terrace is this café-bar overlooking the river. It’s more of a café during the day, but at night it’s a cocktail bar that stays open until midnight on weekdays and 2AM on Fridays and Saturdays. The lively ambience is often enhanced by DJs.

This iconic viewpoint competes with Portas do Sol for the best views in town. It has two kiosks (one on each of the two levels), and on the lower terrace we can recommend a bowl of açaí that was introduced this summer for a healthy dessert before you go for the drinks as you look out to the moonlit city.

This riverfront café is a great spot to sunbathe during the day, but it’s also perfect at night for cocktails and upbeat sounds (this summer it also hosted live bands). On the warmer nights it has a certain beach bar vibe, especially with its palm trees and wooden decks.

Most bars and restaurants of the docks are a little touristy and lack any real personality, but one of the exceptions is this glass rectangle on the water’s edge. Throughout the week it’s open until 2AM (it closes on Mondays), and on weekends you’ll hear DJs spinning house and chill-out sounds until 6AM as you watch the sunrise.

It’s much smaller than Portas do Sol and São Pedro de Alcântara but this terrace-viewpoint is just as popular and attracts a variety of people of all ages. You can sit there drinking and chatting (often to the sound of music) until 3AM as you admire the castle and 25 de Abril Bridge in the distance.

September in Lisbon

Friday, August 26th, 2011

September is probably the best month to be in Lisbon. The big August tourist crowds are gone, the weather is still pleasant, and the prices for hotels and apartments go down. Locals also go back to work, meaning there’s much more going on. There are several annual events taking place, and below is what is happening this year:

MOTELx, Lisbon

Taking place in Avenida da Liberdade‘s Cinema São Jorge from the 7th to the 11th of the month, this horror film festival will screen features from the USA, Japan, UK, Belgium and Canada among other countries. There will also be international short films, including several from Portugal competing for the MOTELx Award.

There are several outdoor festivals and activities throughout the summer in Lisbon, and they don’t end in August. Until September 11 you’ll still find many outdoor activities throughout the city, from jazz concerts (on the 1st in Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcânatara or the 8th in Rossio Station) and other live performances (September 4th in Cais do Sodré and September 11 in Camões Square, both at 7PM).

Vogue magazine is organizing a special shopping event in the city. Stores (related to fashion, beauty and lifestyle) in the main shopping districts (Avenida da Liberdade, Chiado and Principe Real) will stay open from 7PM to 11PM, when it’s sort of after-hours happy hours. Some shops will have DJs and free drinks, inviting you to enter, browse, and perhaps buy something at special prices.

The 15th annual edition of the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival takes place between the 16th and 24th of the month. It continues to be one of the biggest gay film festivals in Europe, with dozens of films that were released within the last two years from all over the world. There are long and short features as well as documentaries, and the program includes other activities such as performing arts and installations.

This event happens every two years and is back in 2011. It’s the city’s design biennial, this year happening between September 28 and November 27. In addition to design, the special events also focus on architecture and “contemporary creativity.” For this edition there are 21 main events and around 50 related activities happening around the city. The headquarters will be a former courtroom building in Chiado (former Tribunal da Boa-Hora in Rua Nova do Almada).

5 Touristy Restaurants in Lisbon That Are Actually Good

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Cervejaria Trindade, Lisbon

Restaurants that mostly target tourists (with their multilingual menus and waiters outside persuading you to step inside) usually offer unexceptional food and no ambience, but there are always exceptions. Those are usually places that are equally popular with locals, and the reason they also get crowded with tourists is because guidebooks have pointed them in the right direction.
In Lisbon, Rua das Portas de Santo Antão is a pedestrian street almost completely taken over by touristy restaurants, with the annoying waiters and tourist-trap menus. But it also has what is recognized as one of the city’s best seafood restaurants (Gambrinus), and one of the most popular restaurants in town, Bonjardim, which we tell you below why it is indeed a place worth checking out together with other crowd-pleasing spots:

Completely relaxed, traditional and unpretentious place that seems to leave everyone satisfied. It’s inexpensive and the spicy chicken apparently makes many people return time and time again.

It’s not as reasonably-priced as it once was, but it’s still a landmark place, found in one of Lisbon’s most surprising interiors. Once past an attractive Moorish courtyard, up a flight of stairs, is a tiled dining room serving traditional Portuguese cuisine. The staff may sometimes seem to be indifferent to welcoming or attentive service, but they’re usually so busy that it can be understood and overlooked once your plate arrives at the table.

Beautifully tiled rooms are the main attractions that have always drawn locals and tourists here. But the reason there are always long lines at the door is that the food is also worth waiting for. There are no fancy Michelin-star-looking dishes here, but the food is tasty and portions are satisfying.

If you can’t get a table at the famous Bonjardim mentioned above, this is a great alternative just a few feet away at number 83 of Rua das Portas de Santo Antão. Some say the specialty barbecue chicken is even better here, but there are plenty of other options on the menu, from traditional grilled meat dishes, to plenty of fish and seafood.

With tables outside facing one of the city’s main central squares (Restauradores) by so many hotels, it’s only natural that this restaurant attracts so many tourists. But you’ll also see that there are just as many locals enjoying the traditional Portuguese cuisine, with the most famous dishes being the clams and the steaks.

Now Playing at a Theater Near You: “The Mysteries of Lisbon”

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Mysteries of Lisbon
Now playing at theaters around the world: “The Mysteries of Lisbon.” In the United States it’s already playing in New York and will reach other cities soon (such as San Francisco on September 23rd at the Embarcadero Center Cinema). Apparently it’s already a box office success in Paris which has led to the novel of the same name to become a best seller at the FNAC store in the French capital.
This is a 19th century epic drama written by one of Portugal’s greatest authors, Camilo Castelo Branco, and takes place mostly in Lisbon. There are a few other scenes set in other European capitals such as Paris and Rome, but they were mostly filmed in Lisbon.
Directed by Raul Ruiz, this is a multiple-award winner at film festivals and awards shows, and has received only positive reviews by most critics, including those of The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.

Filming locations in Lisbon included Foz Palace in Restauradores Square, used for ballroom dancing scenes. Other formerly grand spaces that are now mostly forgotten such as Palácio da Mitra and Quinta da Francelha doubled as other grand residences of the time. Palácio Quintela in Chiado is supposed to be a palatial home in Rome, and Quinta da Ribafria in Sintra served as a home in Portugal when filmed from the front, while the back was supposed to be a house in France. The scene of a duel supposedly set in Portugal’s Buçaco forest, was actually filmed in Lisbon’s own forest-park Monsanto.

You can admire these locations together with the acclaimed cinematography of the entire feature in theaters now (or soon, depending on where you are), and for a preview, here’s the trailer:

Pirates in 1924 Lisbon by Author Laurie R. King

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 21 crime novels, including a historical series featuring young Mary Russell and her somewhat more famous husband, Sherlock Holmes.  King lives in California, but her upcoming novel Pirate King is set partly in Lisbon.

It is the unfortunate habit of crime writers to stumble across dead bodies wherever they go.

It began when my daughter’s husband arranged to spend his sabbatical year with Lisbon’s Instituto Superior Técnico, and I thought, Why can’t I go, too? Not to the Technical Institute — I’m a novelist, not a robotics engineer — but to Lisbon. After all, writing equipment is portable, basically a laptop and a chair.

The laptop I could bring with me. The chair was in a short-hire apartment two floors up from theirs, on Rua Santo António da Glória, a brief climb away from the São Pedro de Alcântara mirador. In the mornings, I would write; in the afternoons, I would explore the city with my daughter.

And since the series I was working on takes place in the 1920s all over the world, there was no reason why my fictional companions couldn’t join me.

In the story, my character, Mary Russell, gets dragged into a motion picture production about pirates — hence the name Pirate King — which for various reasons (this is not a solemn book, by the way) heads off to Lisbon and later, Morocco. Which meant that as I was shopping for fruit at Pingo Doce, riding the #28 tram, buying a printer at FNAC, having a bica and pastel de nata at Café A Brasileira, I was also seeing potential settings for action.

I brought with me a 1923 guide to Portugal, so that I would know what was around for my characters to see. I also brought a Lisbon guidebook by a gentleman named Fernando Pessoa.

Now, I like to use real characters in my novels—Lawrence of Arabia and General Allenby appear in O Jerusalem, Locked Rooms has Dashiell Hammett, and The Game is built around Kipling’s Kim. (Well, more or less real characters.) So I thought, why not a poet?

This being a post about Lisbon rather than Fernando Pessoa, all I will say is, if you haven’t been to the Casa Fernando Pessoa, put it at the top of your list. Only two or three of Pessoa’s 72 “heteronyms” — poetical multiple personalities — appear in the novel, but it was a battle to keep him from taking it over entirely.

Fortunately, as I said, this particular book would be a comic novel. (Thus, the riots and military coups taking place throughout Portugal during that time receive little place in the story.) But it was also a book about the silent film industry, and my crew needed a place to rehearse, so I borrowed the Teatro Maria Vitória. In 1924, the theater was new and dignified, although now it has a rather different personality.

When the picture crew later decides to practice some scenes out of doors, Sr. Pessoa suggests that they move to the adjacent Botanical Gardens, where a certain amount of blood is shed.

But things don’t really heat up until thirteen blond actresses, the makeup woman, the cameraman, and the male lead pile onto a charabanc (there’s too much equipment for the train) and head to Sintra.

In Sintra, I found an embarrassment of choices when it came to setting scenes in a novel (or a silent film, for that matter.) In the end, because the book is also about pirates (whom Sr. Pessoa adored) I decided that the Castelo de Mouros would do best for the purpose. As I left the top of the hill where that Moorish Castle broods, I saw a thing that confirmed that I was indeed making the right choices: a stone in which is carved a skull and crossbones.

So as you walk through the streets of Lisbon, as you survey the harbor and glance at the castle and think about hopping on the train for a day in Sintra, remember: You are walking in the footsteps of Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes, and the cast of that great film of the silent era, Pirate King.

Pirate King by Laurie R. King

The Pirate King book page includes an excerpt concerning Fernando Pessoa:

The 3 Best Daytrips from Lisbon for this August and September

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Chalet Condessa d'Edla, Sintra

Summer has barely begun in Lisbon, so whether you’re looking to combine sun and culture in the city with other attractions and activities elsewhere in Portugal, here are the three destinations to consider right now:

It takes less than 90 minutes to reach Evora, but many prefer to visit it on an overnight stay as part of a longer trip through Portugal. Still, those with only a few days in the country should consider this historic city as a daytrip from the capital. This year there are two big news. Staring this summer, trains depart from Lisbon’s Sete Rios station and now take only 1 hour and 21 minutes to reach Evora. Once there, you’ll be able to visit the landmark Roman Temple and the famous Chapel of Bones among many other attractions, but also see an Andy Warhol exhibition until November. There will be 41 works by the American artist from several collections, including the famous Marilyn portrait, the Campbell’s soup cans and the Coca Cola bottle. All of this iconic pop art can be seen in the Fundação Eugenio de Almeida, right in the center of the old city. Admission is just 1 euro (!) and can be seen every day from 9:30AM to 7PM.

Any tourist who does good research about Lisbon knows that a visit to the city is not complete without a daytrip to Sintra. This fairytale land of castles and royal palaces is perfect in the summer, as all the greenery cools down the temperatures. New this year is the reopening of a romantic building within Pena Park, right below the famous Pena Palace. That building is Chalet Condessa d’Edla, a cottage built for a countess (who later married the king) in the 19th century. After its recent restoration, it was open to the public last week, and will now be the occasional stage for concerts and other events (the first one was opera on the 29th).

With a location by the sea, Cascais is always a popular destination from Lisbon, but obviously more so in the summer. This year’s news is Blue Bar Baia, a bar inside Hotel Baia facing the beach. It’s one of the best spots to be at night, sipping a cocktail as you gaze out to the Atlantic. Nearby is the new Paradigma restaurant, open throughout the day for lunch, afternoon drinks, and dinner.