July 29, 2014 § 1 Comment
Roman cities are generally organized around two perpendicular streets, the “cardo” and the “documanus.” In Viseu, an elegant city in the interior of Portugal, the cardo is called Rua Direita. This ancient street has been turned upside down by an installation called Mesas (the Portuguese word for tables). Artists Pedro Rebelo and Ricardo Jacinto suspended in the air tables once used by jewelers, tailors, office workers, school children, card and ping-pong players. These tables project sounds recorded while they were in use, inviting us to celebrate the people who study, work, and play in this city.
Mesas is part of Ephemeral Gardens, a great annual event which fills the streets of Viseu with art, music, dance, theater, and gastronomy. Click here for more information.
June 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Older people often complain that food doesn’t taste as good as it once did. Are they right or it is just that everything tastes better when we’re young? We can answer this question thanks to Herdade do Freixo do Meio, an Alentejo estate.
In 2001, the Herdade adopted organic production methods and planted old varieties of fruits and vegetables that were left behind by the industrialization of agriculture. They also started to raise black pigs, Barrosa cows, Alentejo turkeys, and other animals, letting them roam free. You can see and taste the amazing results by visiting their store in Lisbon’s Ribeira market.
When you try their products, you quickly realize that older people are right: food used to taste much better. The good news is that Herdade do Freixo is bringing that taste back!
Click here for the Herdade do Freixo do Meio web site.
June 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
When the Portuguese kings and queens stayed at the Mafra Palace, they enjoyed hunting at a local game reserve called Tapada de Mafra. The Tapada is now a national park that offers many fun activities for kids. There are train rides, donkey rides, archery lessons, and falconry demonstrations. You can see deer, wild boar, foxes, and other animals in their natural habitat.
Our favorite activity at Tapada is taking horse-ridding lessons. A 30-minute lesson costs only 5 euros. But riding an elegant horse in the beautiful Tapada grounds, always makes us feel like royalty.
Click here for the Tapada’s web site. Mafra is an easy 40 km drive from Lisbon on the A8 highway. Horse-ridding lessons are offered between 9:30 am and 12:00 pm. It is a good idea to call in advance to make reservations (Tel. 261 81 4240 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
April 20, 2014 § 2 Comments
Physicists think that traveling to the past is impossible, but Catarina Portas, a Portuguese entrepreneur, proved them wrong. Through painstaking work, she brought back to life many Portuguese products and brands that had disappeared: beautiful baskets, blankets, ceramics, glassware, pottery, toys, and much more. In her wonderful stores we can be archeologists without dealing with dust and visit the past without giving up our smartphone.
Catarina Porta’s stores are called A Vida Portuguesa (the Portuguese life). There are two in Lisbon, one in Chiado (Rua Anchieta, 11, tel. 213-465-073) and the other in Intendente (Largo do Intendente Pina Manique, 23, tel. 211-974-512). There is also one store in Oporto (Rua Galeria de Paris, 20, tel. 222-0220105). Click here for A Vida Portuguesa’s web site.
January 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
If you’re visiting Lisbon with kids, don’t forget to go to the Oceanarium. It is a beautiful aquarium where you can see up close the wonders of the sea. You’ll find a large sample of marine sea life: scary sharks, elegant manta rays, cute penguins, fragile sea horses, and much more.
The Oceanarium is located in the Park of Nations, a large public park by the river, in the north of the city. The best way to get there is to take the subway. You’ll arrive at the most elegant subway station in Lisbon, a light, airy structure designed by Santiago Calatrava, an architect who often turns to sea life for inspiration.
The Oceanarium is open every day except for New Year’s and Christmas. Click here for more information.
November 28, 2013 § 6 Comments
It’s very easy to have fun in Lisbon. But, to have an unforgettable vacation, you have to make this city your own. All it takes is a little effort: choose a window and write a story about it. Suddenly, Lisbon will be more than just another tourist destination. It will become your city, a place where you have a window.
The photo shows our window. Our story is about a couple that can live anywhere in the world, for their talents are many. He and she came to Lisbon for a short stay and rented this apartment in the Campo d’Ourique neighborhood.
One late afternoon, they were enjoying the view of the Tagus river, when he said: I think we should move to Lisbon; this place should be our home. She smiled tenderly at his impractical idea. Then, she noticed that his eyes had the same color as the Tagus river. And, from that day on, she called him river.
She began to notice the same blue color everywhere, in the ancient tiles, in the hydrangeas sold by florists, in the old pottery on the windows of antique shops. And she began to wonder. Isn’t blue the color of heaven? Can you keep a river from flowing to the sea?
November 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
If you keep a list of ideas for fun activities, we would like to suggest a new entry: visiting a port-wine cellar.
Port wine is made in the Douro region where Summers can be very hot. So, the wine is shipped to Vila Nova de Gaia, a town adjacent to Oporto, to be stored away from the heat. There, the wine is kept in dark, cool cellars until it trades the brashness of youth for the refinement that comes with maturity.
Most port-wine houses offer tours of their cellars. The tour guides teach you to distinguish between tawny, ruby, late-bottled vintage, and vintage port. They also regale you with interesting stories and facts about port-wine production. You’ll learn, for example, that the “share of the angels” is the fraction of the wine stored that is lost to evaporation. At the end of the tour you are invited to a port-wine tasting, so you’ll also get a share of this precious nectar.
November 3, 2013 § 2 Comments
When Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, married King Charles II in 1662, her fabulous dowry included the city of Bombay. But her most enduring gift to the British people was the habit of drinking tea. This drink, once reserved for Buddhist monks, was quickly adopted by the royal court. Later, tea houses became popular, serving as gathering places that helped disseminate the ideas of the age of enlightenment.
Most tea consumed around the world comes from large industrial plantations. One of the last surviving artisanal tea estates is Gorreana, in the island of S. Miguel in the Azores. Their tea plants were brought from China in 1874. They pick, select, and dry the leaves by hand to produce wonderfully fragrant organic green and black tea.
If you’re seeking the inner peace of a buddhist monk, the wisdom of the age of enlightenment, or a unique gift for a friend, give this delicious tea a try.
You can order Gorreana tea from A Vida Portuguesa, an online store that sells many other great Portuguese products. Click here for their web site.
November 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
Casa dos Bicos is famous for its pyramid-stone facade. Brás de Albuquerque built the house in 1523 with the riches accumulated by his father, the Viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque.
Like so many other homes, Casa dos Bicos was severely damaged by the earthquake that hit Lisbon on November 1, 1775. The house’s first two floors were restored after the quake, but the top two floors were rebuilt only in the 20th century.
In a poetic twist of fate, Casa dos Bicos became the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation. Saramago received in 1998 the Literature Nobel prize for his brilliantly original novels. So, a house built with the spoils of imperial conquests is now devoted to celebrating a writer’s feats of imagination. Is the pen mightier than the sword?
Casa dos Bicos is on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, near Terreiro do Paço. Click here for the José Saramago Foundation web site.