May 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Portugal has one of the world’s best highway systems, so it is easy to drive around the country’s 36,000 square miles. But driving in the two largest cities, Lisbon and Oporto, is a different story.
Lisbon has wide avenues, built after the 1755 earthquake, as well as many new tunnels and overpasses. But, whenever the Lisbon soccer teams lose, drivers are irritated and drive in aggressive, erratic ways. Since the Oporto soccer team wins most of the championships, it’s a bad idea to drive in Lisbon. It is much better to use public transportation, the subway, buses, trams, and taxis.
In Oporto, drivers enjoy the serenity afforded by their soccer victories. But the medieval streets in the center of Oporto were designed for vehicles with only one horse power. Driving a car requires constant care and attention. Here too, the subway, trams, buses and taxis will take you reliably everywhere.
There’s another reason why city driving is a bad idea. Every moment focused on traffic lights and road lanes, can be better spent contemplating the aristocratic beauty of Lisbon and Oporto.
May 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Some visitors like to stay in Lisbon to have the excitement of the capital city on their doorstep. Others prefer the seclusion of Sintra with its romantic palaces and lush vegetation.
If you’re visiting the Lisbon region, there is a third option: you can stay in Cascais, a picturesque beach resort, 30 km north of the capital. From Cascais you can take the train to Lisbon, following a scenic route along the Tagus river. You can also rent a car and visit Sintra, Colares, and Cabo da Roca.
The great writer Samuel Beckett vacationed in Cascais in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Beckett stayed at the Cidadela de Cascais, an old fort converted into a hotel favored by Portuguese writers. This hotel has recently been beautifully renovated to add modern comforts to its historical location and expansive ocean views.
Once Beckett got to Cidadela, he simply stayed there, enjoying the moments when the sea paints the sky with white mist. It’s not surprising that the author of a play about waiting in vain knew to stay still when beauty arrives.
The Cidadela de Cascais is located on Avenida Dom Carlos I, Cascais, tel. 214814300. This hotel is part of a network of historical hotels called Pousadas. Click here for our post on the Pousadas and here for the Pousadas web site.
May 16, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Some British guidebooks tell their readers that eating salted cod is a strange Portuguese custom that they should avoid. There’s an historical reason for this point of view. When Henry V married Catherine de Valois in 1420, England was in the midst of the One Hundred Years’ War. Perhaps for this reason, the royal couple had a frugal wedding feast. The 600 guests ate boiled salted cod served on slices of stale bread. The meal was so bad that the British have avoided salted cod ever since.
May 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Much of a vacation’s pleasure comes from anticipation. The joy of saying: my holiday in Portugal starts next week! The vacation begins and you relax, enjoying the food and scenery. Then, someone up there presses the remote control and puts time on fast forward. Soon, you’re counting how many days are left, feeling the vacation blues.
Luckily, a cure for this malaise is right at hand: simply go shopping for some great souvenirs! No, we’re not talking about useless knick knacks. Buy items you can wear, like the T-shirts produced by the brand Perdição de Maria (Maria’s perdition). They feature local motifs: sardines, lamp posts, trams, Portuguese guitars, etc. You can’t buy these clothes anywhere else, they’re a piece of vacation you can take home. Because every time you wear them they’ll remind you of the fun you had in Portugal.
You can buy Perdição de Maria’s clothes in many stores in Lisbon. One convenient shop is Portfolio at the airport.
May 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Art is made of constraints. When architect Frank Gehry received a commission to build whatever he wanted, he turned it down. Sometimes, artists create their own constraints. The French writer George Perec wrote a 300-page novel, “La Disparition,” without using the letter “e.”
Other times, circumstances dictate the constraints. When artist Joana Vasconcelos was invited to represent Portugal in the Venice Biennale, the problem was that Portugal does not have a permanent pavilion at the fair. The artist’s solution was to use a ferry boat that was about to be dismantled both as a floating pavilion and exhibition piece. So, after spending a lifetime between the margins of the Tagus river, this humble boat has become a work of art!
The ferry boats that cross the river Tagus are called “cacilheiros.” They’re a great, inexpensive way to travel on the Tagus. Click here to see their schedule.
May 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We get asked this question all the time: I was in Lisbon once but didn’t have a chance to go to the Algarve; is it worthwhile going? Of course it is!
You can get a taste of the Algarve in Lisbon. Faz Gostos, a restaurant from Olhão, has an outpost in the capital that offers a wide array of delicious southern food: clam soup, seafood rice, grilled razor clams, and roasted octopus. They have inexpensive special menus and a list of wines that are great values.
There’s only one downside of dining at Faz Gostos. You might get a sudden, irresistible urge to change your travel plans and head to the south of Portugal!
Faz Gostos is on Rua Nova da Trindade 11 H/K, Lisbon, tel. 213 472 249 . Click here for the restaurant’s website.
May 2, 2013 § 4 Comments
The Portuguese love to use the suffixes “inho” (pronounced eeño) and “zinho” (zeeño). They change the meaning of words in subtle, endearing ways. Instead of calling your friend Pedro, you call him Pedrinho. It means little Pedro, dear Pedro. It says you care about him.
If the gender of the word is feminine, you use “inha” (eeña ) or “zinha” (zeeña ). To greet your friend Maria you say “olá Mariazinha,” and Maria is guaranteed to smile.
These suffixes don’t apply only to proper names. To ask for a favor, ask for a “favorzinho,” and you’re more likely to see it granted. “Obrigado” means thank you, but to say a special thank you, you say “obrigadinho.”
In the 16th century, the Portuguese arrived in Japan where “obrigado,” became “arrigato.” But we didn’t stay for long, so the Japanese never learned to say “arrigatinho.”
In contrast, the Portuguese stayed in Brazil time enough for Brazilians to learn the ways of the “inho.” That’s why Brazil has been blessed with talented soccer players like Ronaldinho and brilliant bossa nova musicians like Toquinho.
Would the Japanese play beautiful soccer and sing bossa nova if they had mastered the art of the “inho”? You bet.