Posts About 'Portugal'

5 Infamous Portuguese Royal Weddings

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Queen Catherine of Bragança, Lisbon

As the world’s eyes are turned to London’s Westminster Abbey for the most famous wedding of the new millennium, we remember some notorious unions involving the Portuguese royal families. Of course Portugal is no longer ruled by kings and queens, as the country stopped being a monarchy exactly 100 years ago, but there are still many fairytale stories to tell that happened once upon a time, although the main characters didn’t always live happily ever after.

King Afonso V and Queen Isabel
He was only six years old when he was declared king and it was only some time later that that he was forced to marry his first cousin Isabel. They did so in Obidos‘ Santa Maria Church in a scene that most likely looked more like a First Holy Communion than a holy matrimony.

Catherine of Braganza and King Charles II
A Portuguese princess was sent to England to marry Charles II and solidify the political relationship between Portugal and England, at the time the two major superpowers of the world. Part of her dowry were the cities of Bombay (now Mumbai) and Tangier which had been under Portuguese control and then became part of the British empire.
Poor Catherine had a very unhappy marriage, as she spoke no English and was of the Catholic faith in a Protestant country. Nonetheless, she had a major cultural impact in her new land by introducing the tradition of the 5 o’clock tea. Her husband was also nice enough to dedicate part of his new territory in the New World to her. That’s Queens, New York.

King João I and Philippa of Lancaster
This political marriage of convenience was the result of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance. Their wedding took place in Porto’s cathedral, also the site of the baptism of their most famous son — Prince Henry the Navigator.

King Pedro I and Inês de Castro
Even more tragic than the story of Romeo and Juliet is the story of Pedro and Inês, especially because this one actually happened. Prince Pedro and Inês fell in love, but this was a forbidden love, as Inês was Spanish and there was no way Portugal was going to have a Spanish queen. So they eloped at a time when there was no such thing, especially among members of a royal family. Pedro’s father, King Afonso IV heard the rumors of the secret marriage, and decided to have Inês murdered. Years later Pedro did become king and in order to have a happy end with the love of his life, ordered that his tomb be placed by Inês’ upon his death. Two monumental gothic tombs were built, and they now stand facing each other in the abbey of Alcobaça. Pedro believed they’d meet once again at the end of the world, so the words “Até ao fim do mundo…” (“Until the end of the world…”) are inscribed in the marble of the tombs.
Before that, Pedro also had Inês’ body exhumed, placed on a throne, dressed in royal fashion, and had his courtiers kiss her decomposed hand as a queen.

King Pedro II and Queen Maria Francisca de Saboia
In the 17th century when kings were essentially dictators, there wasn’t much a king couldn’t do and not much a country’s people could disagree with. But apparently stealing your brother’s wife met with great disapproval among the Portuguese population. King Pedro II was therefore an unpopular king ever since he married his former sister-in-law and took over the throne from his brother, King Afonso VI, by having him declared insane.

“Virtuoso Life” Magazine Recommends: Portugal’s Algarve for Luxurious Holidays Now

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Virtuoso Life Magazine

The current issue of luxury travel magazine “Virtuoso Life” (available worldwide) is entirely dedicated to Europe and presents “50 Reasons to Go Now.”
One of the main cover articles is about Portugal’s southern Coast, the Algarve, which the magazine describes as being “saturated with color” and “flavor,” “from the landscape to the table” due to its “plunging cliffs and golden beaches, the vast Atlantic and the arid inland plains, roses and orange groves.”
It recommends a luxury resort but also describes the small towns with the best historical or cultural offerings, such as Tavira (“the Algarve’s prettiest town”), Silves (with its Moorish fortress), and Sagres (where the “inspiration” from Prince Henry the Navigator’s school is “unmissable”).
As a “side trip,” it recommends the province of Alentejo and there’s also a tip for a visit to the Vicentina Coast north of Sagres, “an unspoiled piece of Europe.”

Virtuoso Life Magazine - Algarve

The Luxury of Porto

Thursday, December 9th, 2010


The Financial Times’ monthly magazine “How to Spend It” always features a city in its “The Long Luxurious Weekend” column. Lisbon was highlighted in the February 2009 issue (as reported here: “Lisbon for a Long Luxurious Weekend“), and the December 2010 issue has chosen Porto.
The reason for the trip was the new luxury “wine hotel” The Yeatman, but the author found that the city is “increasingly home to design-savvy hotels” like the recent Hotel Teatro and the Palácio do Freixo Pousada.
In addition to the new sophisticated accommodation, the city also offers “original restaurants, world-class concert halls and chic boutiques.”
Porto is “now echoing with vibrant culture,” and among the featured attractions in the article are the Rem Koolhass-designed Casa da Musica and the Serralves Museum.
The city is also described as a “first-class walking city,” and a visit to the riverside Foz is recommended for its “signature boutiques” and “buzzing” restaurants.

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

The 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Azores Landscape

First it was the new 7 Wonders of the World announced in Lisbon in 2007. Then Portugal was inspired to choose its own seven (man-made) wonders in the country, the 7 Portuguese Wonders of the World, and is currently voting for its seven natural wonders. It’s now arrived at a list of 21 finalists in 7 different categories that range from protected zones to caves which can be voted at Among the nominees are sites already singled out by UNESCO as World Heritage — the Sintra landscape, the Douro Valley, and Madeira’s Laurissilva forest.
Not on the list are a couple of my personal favorites, the breathtaking scenery of Coa Valley in the north of the country, the mystical Cabo Espichel, and Cabo da Roca which is the Westernmost point in Europe. Still, the ones on the list are all worthy of the distinction.
The winners will be announced in the Azores (itself a natural wonder) on September 11. In the meantime, here are a few illustrated examples of the candidates:

Berlengas Natural Reserve

Arrábida Natural Park

Sintra Landscape
Sintra Hills

Lagoa das Sete Cidades, São Miguel, Açores
Sete Cidades Lake

Grutas de Mira D'Aire
Mira D’Aire Caves

Lagoa do Fogo
Lagoa do Fogo (“The Lake of Fire”)

Douro Valley
Douro Valley

Greetings from Portugal in New York

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

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)

J. Crew, New York

Technology of the Future Made in Portugal

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Technology made in Portugal

Media reports have been buzzing about Apple’s latest gadget, the iPad. Among the mixed reactions (“it’s brilliant!” “where’s the novelty?”), there is also much excitement over flat devices where you can carry your entire life around with you. What we’re seeing is just the beginning of an upcoming technological revolution, and Portugal is set to become a big contributor. The country is actually a quiet technology leader, from wind and solar-powered energy to computer software. If you ever use the ATM in Portugal, you’ll see that it seems that Portugal is using Windows 7 while the rest of the world’s ATMs are still running MsDOS. The Portuguese do everything at the ATM (the “Multibanco“), from paying their monthly bills, to pre-paying their cell phone service, to even ordering concert tickets (there are currently 60 different functionalities possible at Portuguese ATMs). That also means that for many bank services you don’t have to wait to get back home or the office to use online banking, and you don’t have to stand in line at the bank, since you can do that right away, around the corner at the ATM. Having been living in Lisbon for half a dozen years, I have taken these conveniences for granted until I return to the United States and see lines of people at the bank still cashing their salary’s check on Fridays, or using the obsolete-looking ATMs. I also remember passing through New York’s EZ Pass, only to discover later that it is actually a technology developed in Portugal known as “Via Verde” where you don’t have to stop to pay your toll.
Then there are Portuguese companies like Displax which are embracing and innovating technological advances by turning virtually any surface into a touch screen. The company’s polymer film is thinner than paper, therefore allowing pretty much anything to become a touch-screen display. The interactive displays can measure anywhere from 20cm to up to 3 meters diagonally, meaning that one day you just may see entire shop windows turned into interactive displays with multiple users at any time.

ATM in Portugal
Options screen at an ATM in Portugal

Lisbon 2000-2009: The Decade in Review

Thursday, December 17th, 2009


A recent cover story of TIME magazine called the almost-over first decade of the new millennium “The Decade From Hell.” For Lisbon and Portugal in general however, it was not so bad. Not in economic terms, since the country suffered with the global crisis as much as everyone else, but the last ten years was a period of positive change in several other areas in the city and the country. With the handing over of Macau to China at the end of 1999, Lisbon was for the first time in five centuries just the capital of Portugal, and not of an empire. It had no choice but to better integrate itself fully into Europe, and that’s what it did from day 1. It is now a much more progressive, forward-thinking city, with a larger number of cultural attractions that have also helped it increase its number of tourists and revenue.
Below is a list of the major events that marked Lisbon and all of Portugal from 2000 to 2009, from politics to cultural events and international distinctions, to major local milestones:

-Lisbon starts the new millennium as the capital of the European Union for six months, just days after handing Macau over to China. For the first time in five centuries it does not have an overseas colony, and celebrates 500 years of its discovery of Brazil.

Porto is named European capital of Culture, leading to massive renovations around the city, including an expanded airport which eventually wins a Best European Airport award by Airports Council International, and opens a new state-of-the-art metro.

-The Douro Valley and the historic center of Guimarães are declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

-The Euro is the new currency of Portugal, together with eleven other European countries.

-American president George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar meet in Portugal’s Azores for a controversial summit discussing the start of the Iraq war.

-Portugal hosts Euro2004, the European soccer championships in new stadiums in eight cities: Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Faro, Aveiro, Leiria, Braga, and Guimarães. The national team reaches the finals for the first time but loses to Greece.

-The Azores’ Pico landscape is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

-Prime Minister Durão Barroso resigns to take over as President of the European Commission, leading to early elections in Portugal. While taking over the most powerful office of the European Union gave him an international status, his image at home was greatly damaged, in part due to his allowing of the Iraq war summit to take place in the Azores. His party is defeated by the Socialists who win an overwhelming majority.

-Lisbon hosts the MTV European Music Awards with Madonna opening the show with the first performance of her new single “Hung Up.”

-The Dakar Rally starts in Lisbon for the first time.

Lisbon Casino opens to rival the largest one in Europe, in nearby Estoril.

-The New 7 Wonders of the World are announced in Lisbon.

-After threats that the world-class Berardo Collection of modern art would move to Paris, the Portuguese government reaches an agreement to keep it in Lisbon and provides space for the opening of the new Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

-The Lisbon Treaty was signed by the leaders of all European Union countries in Lisbon, reviewing and restructuring the EU constitutional framework.

-A year of milestones and special celebrations: It’s the 20th anniversary since the fire that destroyed much of Lisbon’s historic Chiado district, 250 years since the renovation of Baixa after the Great Earthquake, 10 years since Lisbon hosted the World Fair, and Portugal’s greatest film director Manoel De Oliveira turned 100 years old as the world’s oldest active film director.

-Portugal remembers its cultural heritage around the world with the selection of the 7 Portuguese Wonders of the World, inspired by the announcement of the new 7 Wonders of the World two years earlier.

-Lisbon receives the exhibition “Encopassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 15th and 16th Centuries” organized by the Smithsonian Institute and previously shown in Washington DC.

-Lisbon finally opens its Design and Fashion Museum.

-Lisbon wins Europe’s Leading Destination, Best European City Break, and European Cruise Destination at the World Travel Awards.

Lisbon in New York – Part II

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Aldea Restaurant, New York

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 Bragança.
Today we also remember Emma Lazarus (Lázaro), 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 Portuguese Diamond: The World’s Most Valuable Gem and Other Portuguese Treasures

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The Portuguese Diamond

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.