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 PalÃ¡cio da Mitra and Quinta da Francelha doubled as other grand residences of the time. PalÃ¡cio Quintela in ChiadoÂ 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 BuÃ§aco 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:
J. Crew’s recent photo shoot in Portugal is not just featured on the company’s catalogue and website, it’s also an inspiration for its shops on New York’s Madison and 5th avenues (see photo below). And in May you can take a look at Portuguese design in New York, at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and buy it at the MoMA Store which will have a special display called “Destination: Portugal”. They’ll be pieces made of cork (very eco-friendly) such as umbrellas, purses, and watches. Portugal is the world’s biggest exporter of cork and these products are made by the Pelcor company which has a shop in Lisbon (Rua das Pedras Negras, 32)
It’s been a while since we brought you a Lisbon in the World post. Today we’re taking you once again to New York, pointing out the places where you can get to know a little of Portuguese culture across the Atlantic. In the previous Lisbon in New York post we highlighted the Big Apple’s Portuguese restaurants and the historical Portuguese Synagogue in the city, and had previously told you about how the borough of Queens is named after Portugal’s Catherine of BraganÃ§a.
Today we also remember Emma Lazarus (LÃ¡zaro), the poet of Portuguese Jewish background who’s best known for the sonnet “The New Colossus” engraved on the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”), and also tell you about the first non-native citizen of New York, Jan Rodrigues. His last name reveals his Portuguese background, and he was recently remembered in a New Yorker article about Governor’s Island south of Manhattan, where he arrived in 1613 on a Dutch expedition. Rodrigues lived in what was to become New York as a trader of Dutch weapons for the local Indian tribes, and later married an Indian girl.
Another historical personality of Portuguese background in New York was Benjamin Cardozo who was a famous lawyer who went on to become the Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 20th century.
Moving to the present day, a special taste of Portugal can currently be found in the SoHo neighborhood, at the Kiosk design shop. It sells products found during the owners’ travels, and until mid-February of next year Portugal will be the highlighted country. This is the second time Portugal is the featured country of a New York shop in the period of a year, as last year the popular “Whole Foods” showcased Portuguese cuisine in a special “Adventures in Portugal” month.
Other recent Portuguese-related news in Manhattan was the opening of Aldea Restaurant by Portuguese-American chef George Mendes. His specialty is Iberian cuisine, after having interned at one of Spain’s best restaurants, the three-Michelin-star Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian. The name of the restaurant means “village” in Spanish, perhaps chosen instead of the Portuguese “Aldeia” to look easier for American pronunciation. Although the dishes are Portuguese and Spanish, the wine list also includes labels from France and the United States.
The world’s most famous gem is probably the Hope Diamond due to the legend that says it is cursed. But the world’s biggest stone, the most valuable gem, with 127 carats is said to be the Portuguese Diamond. No one knows for sure where it originally came from, but it is thought to have once been part of the Portuguese crown jewels. It is currently in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, which acquired it in 1963 and has displayed it in the American capital’s Museum of Natural History.
With the wealthiest royal family in the world at one point, and with diamond-rich Angola and gold-filled Brazil as colonies, Portugal transported priceless treasures around the world, and many of them currently lay at the bottom of the oceans. Many shipwrecks traced back to Portugal’s voyages of discovery have been widely reported while many others have been kept largely in secret, but those interested in the subject will want to read an article in National Geographic magazine from a couple of weeks ago. It tells the story of a 16th century Portuguese ship carrying gold and diamonds to India that was blown off course by a storm and never reached its destination. It was only discovered in April of 2008 with thousands of priceless artifacts inside which is firing the imagination of the world’s archaeologists. You may read the entire article here: Diamond Shipwreck.
If you have the “treasure hunter” spirit, you should visit the Ajuda Palace when you’re in Lisbon. It’s the last royal palace built in Portugal, and the last official royal residence until the end of monarchy in 1910. It stands just as the royals left it, and shows off an opulent and extravagant collection of decorative arts. Other royal treasures are found in Mafra Palace and inside the “Disneyesque” Pena Palace in Sintra.
Famous names such as Nicholas Cage, Kate Moss, and Oprah Winfrey have been reported to be fans of one of Portugal’s most famous products. If you’ve guessed Port Wine, you’re wrong. They all love CLAUS PORTO soaps, a natural, creamy, luxury soap that’s been made in the city of Porto since 1887. They’re now sold at luxury shops around the world, in a colorful Art Deco-design packaging. In Lisbon you may get them at special gift shops such as Meio da PraÃ§a which we just told you about, as well as at a couple of museum shops such as that of the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. In Paris you may find them at the Galeries Lafayette department store, in London you may look for them at Harrods, and in New York you may see them available at Saks Fifth Avenue.
These soaps have become more popular than ever in the last couple of years since Oprah Winfrey named them one of her favorite things on her program. She was introduced to the Portuguese soaps by Lafco, a shop in New York that had been sending her products to try over time. She never really responded until one day when the shop got a call from one of her show’s producers requesting more samples of the Claus Porto soap. As soon as Oprah mentioned the product on her show, the shop’s phones started to ring off the hook, and even now, a couple of years later, they still get calls asking for “Oprah’s soap.”
In reality these soaps have been a favorite luxury item of European elites for some time, with fashion names such as Chanel having requested custom-crested versions.
The main quality of the soaps that make them so unique and special is that they’re all traditionally made, using manual milling and drying processes. They’re therefore much more expensive than the typical supermarket soap, going for as much as 15 euros.