November 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Peter Mayle, a British advertising executive, moved in the 1980s to Ménerbes, a tiny village in Provence. There, he wrote “A Year in Provence,” an entertaining account of his experiences that became a global bestseller.
Frances Mayes, an American writer, moved in the 1990s to the Tuscan country side to renovate Bramasole, an old villa. She told her story in the inspiring, bestselling “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
The success of these writers reflects their ability to put the reader on location, feeling the thrill of living in a place where every day is a new adventure.
There are currently so many Portuguese houses in great locations selling at very affordable prices. These beautiful homes are waiting for the right person to come along and make them part of their story. Hurry up!
September 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The places where rivers meet the sea are often blessed with great beauty. Troia, a peninsula off the coast of Setúbal, near Lisbon, is no exception. It has the vast Atlantic ocean on one side and the majestic Sado River on the other. Between the two shores, you find pine trees and immaculate white-sand beaches. The weather is perfect and the water temperature is wonderful for swimming.
The Romans, who loved great locations, settled in Troia in the 1st century. Back then, the trip from Lisbon to Troia was long and arduous. Today, there’s a ferryboat that gets you from Setúbal to Troia in just a few minutes. As a result, Troia has started to attract its share of celebrities. José Mourinho, the well-known Portuguese soccer coach, just bought a house there (please don’t tell the paparazzi).
Click here to check the Troia ferryboat schedule.
September 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
September 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
September 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Baleal, a beach in the Peniche region, used to be an island but it is now connected to land by a thin strip of sand. Its name comes from the Portuguese word for whale (baleia) for, in ancient times, whales were hunted nearby.
Baleal has many charming houses with beautiful ocean views. But its hallmark is a dramatic rock formation sculpted by the sea.
In his 1923 book “The Fishermen,” the writer Raul Brandão singles out Baleal as the most beautiful beach in Portugal. Surfers, who flock to Baleal every Summer, seem to agree.
September 1, 2013 § 2 Comments
We really enjoy going to farmers markets. We always imagine we are in a museum and study the whimsical shapes of the vegetables, the exuberant colors of the fruit, and the amazing aromas.
Most of these fruits and vegetables cannot withstand long distance travel or extended stays in supermarket shelves. But what they lack in endurance they more than make up in taste and smell.
We love talking to the fruits and vegetable vendors. They always have interesting insights about their produce as well as about life. So, if you see a sign saying “Mercado,” follow it. You’ll find food for your body and wisdom for your soul.
The photo shows three generations of wonderful fruits and vegetable vendors: Dona Natividade, her daughter in law and her granddaughter.
August 12, 2013 § 2 Comments
Daedalus, a Greek architect, designed wings so that his son Icarus could fly. This early venture into extreme sports did not work out, but great progress has been made since then.
One of the most thrilling new sports is kite surfing. Powered by large kites, surfers dance to the music of the waves and the choreography of the wind. Their feats look impossible. Surely these are Olympic athletes or Bolshoi dancers taunting us mere mortals with their effortless acrobatic elegance.
As it turns out, kite surfing is much easier than it looks. Spend a couple of weeks in one of Portugal’s many surf schools and you too will be able to glide.
June 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In the 17th century, the Viseu region depended on the waters of the Pavia river to irrigate the farmland and power the watermills. In 1652, after a terrible drought, farmers built dykes that reduced the river flow to a trickle. As a result, the watermills in the village of Vildemoinhos stopped working. The millers clashed with the farmers over water rights until, in 1653, the royal court resolved the case with a verdict favorable to the millers.
To show their appreciation for this life-saving decision, the millers organized a cavalcade called Cavalhada through the city of Viseu. The Cavalhada was so successful that it became an annual event. It is held on June 24 (St. John’s day). Farmers sell pots of wild basil and children feast on Viriatos, a local sweet. There are marching bands, traditional dancing troupes, groups of drummers, and giant paper-machê dolls.
This Cavalhada is one of the many Summer feasts organized everywhere across the country. If you see a sign for Festa Popular (popular feast), be sure to stop by. They’re always fun events. And they celebrate the ancient traditions that make Portugal more than just a pretty landscape.
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.
March 18, 2013 § 1 Comment
Her grandfather, who worked in an antique shop, believed that it takes several generations to create a great artist. Maybe this belief was the point of departure for Joana Vasconcelos, who often draws inspiration from age-old artisan techniques. Some of her pieces have a colossal scale, shoes built with pots and pans, giant wrought-iron teapots, towers fashioned out of champagne bottles. But she also makes small, whimsical objects.
In 2012, the Palace of Versailles invited Vasconcelos to showcase her work. The artist filled the palace with glamorous objects made of humble materials: feathered helicopters, ceramic lobsters, giant fabric sculptures, outsize hearts built with plastic cutlery. She dedicated the exhibition to the Portuguese women who work in Paris as concierges.
From March 23 to August 25, Vasconcelos shows her work in a perfect setting: the Ajuda royal palace in Lisbon. Portugal abolished the monarchy in 1910. But, in the arts, Joana Vasconcelos is our reigning queen.
Click here to visit Joana Vasconcelos’ web site. You can see her exhibition at Ajuda from 10 am to 7 pm every day except on Wednesdays. On Saturday the exhibition stays open until 9 pm. Click here for more information.