We’re Moving!

Wait! What? Why?!

We weren’t planning on moving, but it all came together really fast. The whole process was kind of crazy. Oh…and we’re not moving back to the US, just to the next town. Knowing that we like where we live, you might be wondering why we have decided to move. Good question.

We felt extremely lucky to have found our current place and have been very happy here. When we arrived in Portugal last year we wanted to get settled as quickly as possible. Our timing was tight, our wish list long, and our reservation at the AirBnB time-constrained. This all meant we needed to find a place to live – fast. While we didn’t get everything on our wish list, the apartment we chose met the majority of our needs and we felt we could deal with the things that were missing.

Fast forward to May of this year. Pandemic-related restrictions were easing and our friends all began to get vaccinated (including us) which meant we could accept invitations to their homes because they all have outdoor space. This was an eye-opening experience.

Our friends Jennifer and Mark’s place is built into a cliff above the water with stunning views up and down the coast from their enormous terrace – and it comes with a hook up for their Tesla! Our friends Mark and Tracey are tucked into a darling little bungalow in a nearby golf community. Their place comes with a working fireplace in addition to a breezy patio and grassy yard for their dog, River. Kirk and Joy live within a 10 minute walk of our home and have a really spacious apartment and a huge wrap-around terrace that includes a yard and a peek-a-boo view of blue water in the distance. Hmmm…we started to think about the possibility of moving. We have been craving a few things that are missing in our current place like private outdoor space with the ability to BBQ, dedicated parking, and air conditioning.

We evaluated our finances, talked about what we wanted (in addition to the above mentioned must-haves), knew that we would most likely NOT find another location with brand new, stylish furniture, which meant we would need to furnish it, and discussed at length where we would like to live. It started out innocently enough – mostly chatting and dreaming.

Even though we were in no real hurry, Won decided to take a look and see what was on the market. We did not connect with a real estate agent because at this point we were just curious and searched on our own mostly looking at http://www.idealista.pt.

I need to stop for a moment and share an interesting tidbit…

Portugal does not have an equivalent resource to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). For those of you who are not familiar with the MLS, it is service organization in the US that provides real estate brokers access to an aggregate database of nearly all properties listed for sale or rent in the entire country. It is also used to establish contractual offers of cooperation and compensation between brokers and enables appraisals. While the MLS is not available to individuals outside the real estate industry, Zillow and Trulia pull much of their data from the MLS. Another difference between the US and Portugal is that in Portugal a property owner can work with multiple real estate agents so you might find the same property listed many times on a site like Idealista. There are also real estate sites like ReMax, Keller Williams and JLL, that list only their properties, but it seems as though Idealista is the best aggregate site most people use when searching.

Back to your regular programming

We started by focusing on our current neighborhood because we like it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much available in our price range. Won upped the budget a little and kept searching, but that didn’t yield much either. He then decided to expand the search area and kept increasing the rent amount to see what we could get for more money. Not the best idea…at one point I told him he was pushing the limit too far after his efforts resulted in a budget contortion exercise to see if we could handle a 4.000€ per month payment. We could, but I was losing my mind at the prospect of spending that much money and the impact it would have on our lifestyle. In the end we didn’t get anywhere close to that amount.

During this process, Won found a few places that were possibilities and set up time to see them. One was a quirky apartment on the top floor of a beautiful old building in Monte Estoril that was once the summer residence of some wealthy person. Parts of the unit were renovated, but not all (i.e. the kitchen). Distant views of the water and the charm of the building weren’t quite strong enough to overcome the quirkiness, like accessing the outside area through the master bedroom, and we both ruled it out.

He then found a newly renovated place also in Monte Estoril that was built into a down slope. Even though this unit had a shared pool and grassy area, it was semi-below grade, which made it dark. We were convinced we could do better.

Then there was a condominium for rent in a very large complex in Cascais with loads of amenities like an onsite gym, multiple swimming pools, and a guarded gate entrance where you could have deliveries accepted on your behalf. It was also a quick walk to the coastline – another big plus. Won liked it, and while it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t into the shiny marble tile floors throughout and a kitchen that looked like it was probably very hip and cool about ten years ago, but now just looks dated and tired. In the end, we decided we aren’t big complex kind of people.

Then, the next day, a listing popped up in the historic center of Cascais (the marker below shows the general area, not the property location).

This place was slightly bigger than our current apartment and came with two bedrooms, each with an on suite bath, as well as a guest 1/2 bath. The building had been built in 2019 so it was practically new. It came with central air conditioning and heat, wide-plank wood floors, Bosch kitchen appliances, a massive kitchen island, two underground parking spaces, a washer/dryer combo, really spacious balcony, and it was an open floor plan. This one was promising.

The images of the unit that were posted online were really impressive, but there was one little oddity. It’s always something, right? In this case, it was the way the bathrooms and bedrooms were configured. The back wall of the shower was shared with the bedroom. Not so bad, right? Not unless the floor to ceiling wall is made of clear glass! This means whomever is showering can see directly into the bedroom and vice versa. Hello world!! I suspect this design choice was done to bring natural light into the bathroom. Thankfully, the toilet is in its own little room with a wall and door made of frosted glass for privacy. I wasn’t sure I could get past the glass wall and nearly told Won I wasn’t interested, but decided to see it anyway. We sent a note to the listing agent to schedule a viewing.

I’m glad I didn’t pass on it because the minute I walked through the front door and into the bright, large open living/dining/kitchen area, I was wowed. My eye was immediately drawn to the wall of fully retractable floor to ceiling, glass doors leading out to the spacious balcony. I loved the 2.75m (9′) ceilings and the “intelligent” front door that uses a key fob to automatically open and close it! Then I walked out on to the balcony and could see across the tops of the houses and trees all the way to the historic downtown where the Ferris wheel is located (click here to see what I’m talking about). My heart started to flutter.

Once we tore ourselves away from the balcony and toured the rest of the unit, we were both thinking that this place might be the one. The bedrooms were reasonably sized and had ample built-in closet space that included drawers. I started to think about how to deal with those glass walls. I mean really…who thought a totally clear glass wall between the shower and bedroom was a good idea?? Putting the whole privacy issue aside for a moment, I will admit that it looks stylish when you can see nothing in the shower but chrome fixtures and marble walls, but once you bring in shampoo, conditioner, a razor, mouthwash, body wash, etc, that stunning architectural feature becomes an eyesore. And, no they didn’t put in a recessed shower niche to help hide those necessities.

Because property addresses are never provided on a listing (you’re lucky if there is a street name), we didn’t initially know that the building is situated in an old, established neighborhood with elegant homes and just a few minute’s walk to numerous wonderful restaurants. Plus, it’s an easy three to five minute walk to a nearby park where we could take Sweet Pea daily and the Parque Marechal Carmona (a huge park), where a weekly organic farmer’s market is held. A sandy beach and the stunning coastline are easy to walk to, as well as the Cascais hippodrome where annual jazz festivals and music events take place.

We told the agent we were interested and then headed home to talk at length. We learned the current tenants were staying until the end of July, which would be fine with us. Even though we weren’t planning on moving right now, this place just felt right so we decided to take action. The next day we confirmed that having a dog wouldn’t be an issue and made an offer that was slightly lower than the listed price. Since moving here we have learned that it is acceptable to offer 100€ to 200€, and sometimes up to 500€, less than the list price. The owner may reject it, but it’s worth a try (keep in mind that with rare, highly desirable properties, you may be offering more in a competitive bidding situation). Our offer was accepted. We notified our current landlord and signed a two-year lease agreement that includes an additional one year option (for a total of three years). We get the key – fob, that is – on August 1.

On Monday of this week we went back to measure the rooms so I could do some space planning. We will need to buy everything except a table lamp, desk and a desk chair. I love this part of the process and have been in shopping heaven since that time. I promise to post pictures of the apartment after we’ve moved in and finished decorating.

In the space of two short weeks we went from, ‘Hey, let’s consider moving late this year or early next year’ to signing a lease agreement. What??!! Who knew that when I posted the blog on Cascais on May 28, we would end up choosing to live there one week later!?

I told you it was crazy.

Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch!

From Portugal with love,

Beth

A 4th Edition of…

As always, gird your loins, I’m all over the place…

Inequality of the sexes…

Not too long ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table thinking about how really crappy it is that at the tender age of 12 or 13 girls have to deal with monthly menstruations (stay with me…) which includes cramping, headaches, lower back pain, mood swings, food cravings, bloating and fatigue. Fun stuff. This monthly scourge then plagues us for FOR YEARS and once we are past that we get to be tormented by menopause, which includes hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, and memory and concentration problems. More fun stuff. [Note: There needs to be a globally recognized font style that clearly represents sarcasm. Can someone get on that right away?]

Back to my rant…This issue (female physiology, not the much-needed font) happened to be on my mind when Won innocently wandered into the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee. I swung around and laid this all out demanding to know what parallel physical issues men have to deal with. He immediately sensed a trap. His eyes flew wide open and said, “Men die early!” I was momentarily and marginally placated. He hurriedly grabbed his coffee and ran out of the kitchen, but then I remembered, something else. Holding my fist in the air, I came running around the corner yelling, “Childbirth!!! We have to deal with pregnancy and childbirth too!!!” His response? “I’m making a killing in the stock market this month.” I narrowed my eyes, looked deep into his soul and said, “Good. Keep it up.” The weaker sex…HA!

More fun with Alexa…

Won: “Alexa, add mold killer to the shopping list. Alexa: “Mall killer added to the shopping list.” Egad.

Oh snap!

I just found out – after nearly 22 years of marriage – that Won cannot snap the fingers of his left hand. He is a snapping machine with his right hand, but can not seem to manage it with his left. I think this evens things out. I still cannot hold a pair of chopsticks correctly after all these years. But, it makes me wonder what other deficiencies he’s hiding from me. Things that make you go, hmmmmm.

Name change…

I have no idea why I had this thought, but I was curious as to why Siam and Burma changed their names to Thailand and Myanmar, respectively, so I looked it up. Turns out, both were originally named by the Portuguese and then those names were anglicized by the English. Then I randomly stumbled across a fact involving the original name of the Democratic Republic of Congo which was formerly called Zaire…another Portuguese-assigned name! The word Zaire was derived from the name of the Congo River, called Zaire in Portuguese, and adapted from the Kikongo word nzere or nzaid (“river that swallows all rivers”). I wonder if there are any other similar examples out there? It is amazing how much influence the Portuguese have had on the world.

Christmas Lights…

One of Won’s Christmas presents, which he specifically requested, were lightbulbs that could be controlled with an app on his phone or via voice command through Alexa or Google – because, you know…we live in such a BIG house (see? I need that sarcasm font). Won set the bulbs up with Alexa. The other evening, he told Alexa to “turn off all the lights.” Her response? “I’m not sure about that.” The mind reels with thoughts on that one.

Using my noggin…

We were headed out to dinner and I decided to throw on a scarf to complete my outfit. I keep all my scarves rolled up, which while ideal for storage purposes, isn’t so great for keeping them wrinkle-free. Rather than drag out the iron and ironing board for a third time since February of 2020, I thought, how can I iron this thing without going to a lot of trouble or time (I’m always running late, sigh). Ah ha!! I know! I plugged in my flat iron, put it on the lowest setting and then ran it over my scarf. It worked perfectly!! So, ladies, the next time you’re in a pinch and you need a scarf ironed, think hair styling tools. I suspect this would be a convenient travel tip as well. And, speaking of travel tips; whenever I travel and the weather is cold, I always warm the bed up using my blow dryer. It makes the bed all toasty and warm and I’m asleep in minutes.

Eurovision mania…

Our exposure to, and general awareness of, Eurovision has been absolutely nil – until last year when we saw the Will Ferrell movie, “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.” The movie was released to coincide with Eurovision 2020, which, unfortunately, had to be canceled due to the pandemic – the first time in its 69 year history! If you haven’t seen this movie, it is currently playing on Netflix and it’s very silly and very funny.

For some reason, Won and I missed all the hoopla connected to Eurovision last year and this year. While channel surfing last month, however, we stumbled upon the semifinals and were instantly pulled in. Having zero idea of what to expect, it took us until the finals to understand that each country’s representative sings the exact same song in the exact same way in the exact same costumes with the exact same staging. Keep in mind, it is called Eurovision SONG Contest.

Voting, which takes place live, is an interesting process. For one thing, you are blocked from voting for your own country. Of course, we were cheering for Black Mamba, the group from Portugal. They performed a really good song called Love Is On My Side (click here to see their final performance). Won and I had very high hopes for them. However, while watching the program, we completely and totally fell in love with the group from Iceland. Their song, called “10 Years” was really good, but it was the choreography and the group itself that was so campy, quirky and imminently lovable. Click here to watch. Portugal made it into the finals and we made sure we were in front of the TV to see how they fared.

Being complete newbies to the process, we had NO IDEA the live show would last four hours!! Eurovision is WAY bigger than the Super Bowl. Last year’s Super Bowl was watched by 96.4 million viewers. Even the final episode of M*A*S*H only had 105.9 viewers. This year Eurovision pulled in 183 million viewers for the final night of competition. And, the outcome? In a completely unexpected twist (Switzerland and France were neck and neck for most of the voting process) Italy was swept to the top of the leaderboard on a wave of fan support! Needless to say, we are complete Eurovision converts and can’t wait until Eurovision 2022 which will be hosted by Italy. Clearly our lives have been incomplete up to this point and we had no idea.

Bad Golf Is Good For Your Health…

Won just realized that his step count is a lot higher when he plays bad golf. It therefore stands to reason that bad golf is clearly better for his physical health. However, it is not so good for his mental health. This epiphany has caused an existential crisis – he is not sure which is better for him. Thankfully, he does not have to worry. His physical and mental health both get a good workout on a regular basis.

Handicapping happiness…

Sticking with golf…Won was in a pickle. He wanted to play in local golf tournaments at his club, but was prevented from participating because his USGA (US Golf Association) handicap was not recognized in Portugal. In order to resolve this dilemma he needed to play with someone at his club who already had an FPG handicap (Federação Portuguesa de Golfe or Portuguese Golf Federation) and who would be willing to sign off on Won’s scorecard. Then his club would submit it to the FPG.

Won’s friend Mark stepped in to help. About a week later, Won was on his club’s website to see if he had received his handicap. There it was. However, the assigned handicap of 14.8 was a bit higher than what it had been in the US. He wasn’t terribly happy about that, but given our move to Portugal and pandemic-related closures of the club and courses, he had not had the chance to play very regularly. After ruminating on it for a few minutes he decided that, while it was not what he had hoped, it was not as bad as it could have been. He went back to reviewing the online data. A moment later his head popped up and he shrieked, “I’m in the senior column!” (He turned 60 last year.) Ouch! That stung. After another minute of further review, he happily reported that at least he wasn’t in the “super senior” column. High fives all around! Perspective is everything.

Next week I will be sharing some big news! Until then, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Captivating Cascais

Always have a Plan B…

Soooo, at the end of last week’s blog I promised pictures of the Palácio e Jardins do Marquês de Pombal. Won and I got up Tuesday morning and got ourselves ready. We took Sweet Pea for an extended walk to tire her out and dropped her back at home. Before we left, I made sure I had both the fully-charged extended battery AND the cord to connect it to my phone (groan). We entered the address of the palace into our navigation app and off we went! It was a beautiful day, sunny, clear and 22C (72F). We got there with no problem and upon arrival, BAM! This is what greeted us…

Nooo! The ENTIRE building was shrouded in netting and covered in scaffolding. Talk about a let down. It looked like the gardens were open, but I was so disappointed, we both agreed that seeing the palace would have to be rescheduled after all the work was completed. Boo hoo. On the plus side, it should look great when we return so my expectations are going to be sky high when that happens.

As we drove back toward home along the coast, we decided to stop for lunch at the Cascais Marina and figure out what to do next. The marina is lovely with loads of restaurants all bustling again now that most of the pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted. It sits right next to a 15th century citadel and has views of Baía de Cascais (a fun beach area nestled near the center of town). And then it hit me…d’uh…why don’t I write about Cascais?!

I have been thinking about doing a post dedicated to the neighboring town of Cascais for sometime, but I keep pushing it to the bottom of the list. Not because it isn’t interesting or beautiful, but more likely because it is literally within walking distance and is practically a part of our daily lives. This means I struggle to focus on what to write about. I suffer from I-know-too-much syndrome (even though I’m hardly an expert on the city). I know just enough to make it challenging, so I have decided to focus on what I love about Cascais.

But before we jump into that, the first thing you should know is how to pronounce it. Many people use a French pronunciation saying, cass-kigh, like “high,” which is wrong. The Portuguese pronunciation is more like “kush-guy-zsh” (kush, like ‘hush’).

(Remember to use the plus and minus symbols in the upper right hand corner of the map to zoom in and out.)

Cascais is an easy 35 minute drive along the coast from Lisbon. Won and I take the coastal route nearly every time we drive into Lisbon as opposed to taking the faster A5 highway inland because it is so pretty. There is a direct train between the Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon and the terminus point in Cascais. And, the train runs along the coastline so you get to see views of the water during most of the ride. Cascais is also located right next to Sintra making it a great spot to use a base to explore that area too.

Of course the history of Cascais is fascinating. Very early on, the town was seen as a strategic post in the defense of Lisbon due to its location at the mouth of the Tejo (Tagus) estuary. However, the medieval fortress was inadequate to repel invasions, and in 1580 Spanish troops took the village during the conflict that led to the union of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns. After that, modifications were made to enlarge and strengthen the fortress.

Over time, the citadel, gradually decayed until King Luís I decided to establish a summer residence in Cascais. From 1870 to 1908, the Portuguese royal family stayed in Cascais to enjoy the sea, turning the quiet fishing village into a cosmopolitan address. Thanks to King Luís, the citadel was equipped with the country’s very first electric lights in 1878.

Today the citadel is a cultural and artistic center with bookstores, outdoor sculptures, a flower shop, offices, art galleries, a church, and a swanky hotel.

It is a lovely walk between the marina and the historic downtown along the side of the citadel.

The downtown area is super cute with many pedestrian-only streets lined with shops and restaurants. The museum of Cascais is right there too.

Cascais also has several parks, one of which is in the downtown area. It has the cutest merry-go-round and a great place sip an espresso and watch the people go by.

From the intimate to the expansive, Parque Marechal Carmona has wide lawns, herbaceous and shrub beds, and a forest with large trees and paths with a touch of romanticism. The park also includes lakes, a picnic area, and a field for traditional games. The Municipal Children’s and Youth Library is also located there. The space also has a playground, which is divided into three areas and adapted to children’s age groups. Every Saturday the park hosts the Cascais Biological Market, where you can find certified organic products, fruits, vegetables, jams, and sweets.

If you venture just beyond the main part of downtown, you will find loads of great restaurants to tempt you and charming streets to explore.

Due to royal interest, Cascais became the go-to place to be. Many noble families followed King Luís’ lead and built impressive mansions in an eclectic style commonly referred to as summer architecture. Some of these homes can still be seen in the area and a few have been turned into museums. Here are two magnificent examples.

Another thing I love about Cascais are the wonderful beaches. Cascais is home to 17 beaches, which are a major draw for both residents and visitors.

Some of the beaches hug the edges of the populated area of Cascais and others are further up the coastline where there are no homes nearby. Some have sandy beaches and some have seawalls and ocean pools that fill and empty with the tides. Those nearest to town are reached via the paredão (pedestrian seawall). Most of the beaches have ice cream kiosks, restaurants and/or bars to keep folks happy and entertained. Clearly there is something for everyone!

Here are some images of Praia de Guincho (Guincho Beach), which is pronounced gheen-shoo with a hard “g” sound. I’ve also included a video I took when we were there on March 1 to give you a feel for this awesome beach where it seems there is someone surfing everyday of the week.

And, if all that wasn’t enough, we recently discovered Casa de Guia, pronounced kaza de guy-ah. Located on two hectares of land by the sea, the old Quinta dos Condes de Alcáçovas, has been transformed into a cornucopia of restaurants, cafes and shops. The magnificent views can be admired from any number of terraces, walkways, gardens or the open-air amphitheater. The original house, built over a number of years and finally completed in 1912, was renovated in 1999 to preserve its grandeur and is now a lovely restaurant and museum. We’ve been there during the day to shop and dine, and at night to dine and drink.

Egad…I’ve been at this for far too long and I’m long overdue for my typical, self-imposed publishing deadline of 5PM local time. Unfortunately, I could go on and on. See? This is why I’ve been stalling on making this the topic of one of my posts. There is so much more I didn’t even cover, but I have to stop sometime.

I hope you enjoyed learning what I love most about Cascais and that you will add it to your list of places to see when you visit. I’m confident you will enjoy every minute!

Until then, please, stay safe, stay healthy and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

One Down, One to Go!

…we are checking “Getting our vaccines” off the to do list…

I know not everyone has had a seamless experience when trying to get a vaccine, but the process Won and I had went pretty flawlessly.

Late last year, when news that vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency would begin flowing into the country and into people’s arms, Portugal initiated a plan of action which prioritized groups of people who were most at risk. The ultimate goal of the plan is to get the majority of the population (10.2 million people) inoculated with at least one dose by the end of this summer.

Things got underway on December 27, 2020 when the first doses were administered. Based on the published vaccination plan, Won and I knew that people in our age group and health status would potentially have access to the vaccine sometime in May. We also knew that because we had secured our residence permits last year and signed up with the National Health Service, we would be proactively notified when it was our turn to get the jab.

The plan was moving along well until the third week of January, when AstraZeneca announced that problems at their Belgian plant would significantly impact the supply available to the European Union. AstraZeneca said they were going to reduce the number of doses they had promised to deliver by March 31 from 80 million to 31 million doses. This news came at a time when Pfizer announced they would be reducing the output of its vaccine to allow for upgrades to its facilities leaving the European Union with a significant shortfall on its requirements. All of this unwelcome news coincided with reports about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Needless to say, vaccination programs across the Europe Union were thrown into a tizzy.

With this as a backdrop, Won wasn’t convinced things would go smoothly nor that the process would work the way it had been laid out. He didn’t think we would be vaccinated by end of summer. I, on the other hand, had complete and total faith in the system. I was convinced we would be vaccinated, or at least have received the first of two shots, by the end of May…end of June at the latest. (I am generally a very optimistic person, but also, most of my career was spent working for big, complex, global organizations. I know that large-scale, complicated projects always have challenges, but that people are generally committed to getting issues resolved and plans back on track as quickly as possible. There was too much at stake with a deadly virus wreaking havoc on people’s lives and livelihoods. I figured it would be resolved quickly enough.)

As I predicted, the problems with the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were sorted out sufficiently enough to enable vaccination programs to ramp back up. Of course, I’m oversimplifying an extremely complicated and messy situation for the purposes of this post. If you are interested in learning more, click here.

Initially, the only way to get a vaccine in Portugal was to wait for the National Health Service (SNS )to proactively contact you. Then, in late April, the SNS launched a website allowing people to schedule an appointment directly. Access to appointment dates and times, however, were based on age and health status reflecting the framework of the vaccination program.

Given the pent up demand to get vaccinated, and the number of people attempting to access the site all at once, it was not surprising that there were reports of frustration and confusion. Many appointments had to be rescheduled resulting in local news coverage about the initial challenges that first week. The kinks were worked out pretty quickly and the only news stories we then heard were that more and more people were being vaccinated. Won would periodically log on to the site to see if we could schedule our appointments, but our age groups had not yet been green-lighted.

Then, late Friday evening (May 7), Won received a text message from the SNS. It informed him that I had been scheduled to receive a vaccine shot on Tuesday, May 11 at 13:53 (1:53 PM). [I should stop here and tell you that no one in Portugal uses the AM/PM designation, they all use military time, so if you are planning to move here, start to think in that format.] The message said to reply with my SNS number and “sim ou não” (yes or no) by Saturday, May 8 to accept. We both looked up at the clock. It was 20:50 (10:50PM). We were not sure if we had to reply by the stroke of midnight or sometime the next day, but we did not want to take any chances. Won immediately replied on my behalf and received a confirmation of the appointment in return. [The reason the text message was sent to Won and not me is because I am still using my US phone number which is associated with Sweet Pea’s microchip; I do not have a local mobile number mainly because I do not want to carry two phones. I am putting that off for as long as I can.]

This was great! My appointment had been proactively scheduled just as I had anticipated. The very next day, Won decided to log on to the SNS scheduling site to see if he could get an appointment. He had no problem this time and the first appointment that popped up was for 10:23AM on Friday, May 14…his birthday. I wanted him to find another day, because I did not want him to be suffering post-injection symptoms while we were trying to celebrate. He said it was not a big deal and went ahead and confirmed the appointment. (Now who was being overly optimistic??)

On Tuesday, May 11, Won decided to come with me so he would know the drill when it came time for him to get his shot. The venue was a local high school gymnasium and there were loads of people wearing “volunteer” vests directing folks on where to stand, where to go next, and what to do each step of the way. We got in line outside and were asked almost immediately what my vaccine time was and whether this was my first or second dose. The line was not that long and it was moving, but we were pulled out of line and walked in, I assume so that we could begin the process by my appointment time. I was very impressed. Most of the volunteers were young people, which meant they spoke English. Everything ran very efficiently. I filled out a form that asked me some health-related questions and then waited for one of the private booths where they were administering the injections to become available.

The gymnasium was filled with older people going through the process of being vaccinated. They seemed a lot older than me and it finally occurred to me that many of them were likely getting their second shot. We sat and waited for about 20 minutes until it was my turn. Inside the booth there was one nurse in front of a laptop and one who would administer the shot. They wanted to know if I had any questions, so I asked what the post-injection reactions would be and how quickly they would appear (I was worried that it might affect our plans for Won’s birthday Friday night). Won’s question was, “Can I drink the night I get the vaccine?” The answer was yes, and we both high-fived each other. That made the nurses laugh.

Immediately after getting my injection (the AstraZeneca vaccine), I asked when I could receive Dose #2? The nurse behind the laptop did some quick typing and said, “Tuesday, August 4th.” WHAT?!? She said they were scheduling the vaccines 12 weeks apart. Groan…I was really hoping to be all done within three to four weeks. [After the fact we did some research and learned it was a benefit to wait; “A pooled analysis published in the journal Lancet in late February suggests there isn’t much of a deleterious effect on COVID antibodies with a longer gap between the first and the booster dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with preliminary evidence suggesting it actually may be a more effective biological strategy than a shorter time between shots.” So, I guess…OK.]

After receiving my injection, I was handed a small card with a QR code, the date and type of my first vaccine, and the date of the second noted. I was then directed to a waiting area where I was given a small bottle of water and some crackers in a sealed bag and told to wait thirty minutes so I could be observed.

Once I had been given the green light to leave, we headed out to the mall to run some errands. By the end of that evening I had not experienced any reaction to the vaccine. The next morning I got up, showered, and put on my makeup in anticipation of taking care of a few errands that day. At about 10AM I told Won I was feeling a little achy and tired. Within about an hour I needed to lay down. And, that’s where I stayed for the remainder of the day. I took one paracetamol (the equivalent of a Tylenol) to address what felt like was a bit of a fever (I didn’t even bother taking my temperature). I had a nasty headache, was generally achy, my skin was sensitive, my eyes were very light sensitive, and I was really tired. I didn’t have much of an appetite and the injection site hurt too.

The next day, I was just fine with the exception that the injection site was still sore.

Friday morning, Won went by himself to get his first dose of the same vaccine. Everything went just the way it did for me on Tuesday. We were able to make our dinner reservations that evening and celebrated Won’s birthday at a great place along the ocean called Furnas do Guicho. Please note…we are total crap at taking selfies. Won is still learning how to smile naturally and I generally get the giggles as we execute take after take attempting to get a good shot. The one below is the best out of the bunch, which validates my points extremely well.

At the restaurant, we were seated outside on the patio. The ocean was relatively calm that evening so the waves weren’t reaching up too high (we were told that at times the waves can crash over the dining patio and they have to close!). By the time dessert came, Won was feeling really cold and was beginning to shake. We called it a night and headed home. He crawled straight into bed.

His symptoms mirrored my own, except that he was a lot more feverish and needed to take paracetamol several times the next day. He also didn’t bounce back quite as fast as I did, but felt pretty good by Monday and played a good round of golf – the ultimate measurement of how well he was feeling. His second dose is scheduled for August 7. This means we will be fully vaccinated and as protected as we can be by August 22 (two weeks after Won’s second dose).

We are both so happy that we have some protection against this scourge of a virus. We continue to wear our masks in public places, maintain social distancing, and keep our hands clean. No vaccine provides a 100% protection, so being vigilant is in our own (and others’) best interest.

Won and I can now be counted among the 4,673,916 people who have received a vaccination in Portugal by the end of May 20. That represents 45.8% of the population. I’m confident Portugal will reach its goal of getting a shot into the arm of every resident of Portugal – who wants a vaccine – by the end of summer!

Completely off topic, but for anyone who has been curious about the status of our car registration and my driver’s license…no word yet. I submitted the paperwork for the car on January 6 and my license on January 7 (click here to read what was involved regarding the car and, if you have the stamina, click on the “Next Post” link at the bottom of that page to read the next one). Apparently, the national lockdown that began on January 15 backed everything up even more than usual. Nothing to do, but wait…

Next week, it’s back to pretty pictures! We are headed to out see the 18th century Palácio e Jardins do Marquês de Pombal (palace and gardens of the Marquês de Pombal). Pombal played a significant role in the rebuilding of Lisbon after the devastating and destructive 1755 earthquake so I thought it was time to see where he used to live and learn a bit more about him.

I truly hope that you have already been vaccinated or will be as soon as possible.

Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch!

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Did you know…

…these interesting tidbits about Portugal?

I periodically come across really interesting facts about Portugal and thought it would be fun to do some additional research and see what else I could learn. I have pulled them all together to share with you.

Cabo da Roca

Let’s start with an “oldie, but goodie” just in case this fact has escaped a few people. Did you know that the westernmost point of continental Europe is located in Portugal? It is true. I covered this in my post “Cabo da Roca – The Very Edge of Europe”. Click here to learn more and see additional pictures.

I am going to correct an error that I have read many times and inadvertently perpetuated, which I have already gone back and corrected in my very first blog post. While Lisbon predates other modern European capitals by centuries (Lisbon is said to be four centuries older than Rome), Lisbon is NOT the oldest capital in Europe, that honor goes to Athens. Lisbon is the second oldest.

BUT!  Portugal is the oldest nation-state in Europe. Portugal has maintained its firm borders since they were defined in 1139 CE, making it one of the most identifiable and oldest countries in the world and the oldest in Europe. So there.

Marriage of Philippa of Lancaster to João I de Portugal
(Jean Wavrin, 15th century)

Did you know that Portugal shares the oldest treaty in the world with England? The Treaty of Windsor is a diplomatic alliance signed between Portugal and England on 9 May 1386 at Windsor and sealed by the marriage of João I de Portugal to Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster. The Treaty of Windsor established a pact of mutual support between the countries and remains in place to this day. The original document is preserved at the Portuguese National Archives.

Portugal is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Another 19 have been nominated and placed on the UNESCO tentative list. Go Portugal! Won and I have been to six of the 17 official sites and three of the nominated sites. These locations play an important role in bringing tourists to Portugal. Of the 17 confirmed sites, here are the six we have visited. Below from l-r, Sintra, Belém Tower, Palace of Mafra (King’s Gallery).

Below from l-r, Guimarães (10th c. castle), Porto (looking across the Duoro river at Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia), Évora (1st century Roman temple).

And, speaking of tourism, according to a 2019 global ranking by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Portugal came in at number 17 with 22.8 annual million visitors. Pretty cool considering there are only 10.2 million residents.

Did you know that the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan in the 16th century? While they were there they left their linguistic mark on the country. Words such as pan (from the Portuguese pão meaning bread) and sabato (from the Portuguese sabado meaning Saturday) are good examples. 

And, speaking of Japan, I was surprised to learn that tempura, a fritter-cooking technique, was introduced to the Japanese by the Portuguese. It is thought that the name tempura may originate from the Portuguese word tempêro, meaning seasoning.

Livraria Bertrand, Lisboa

As a nation of book lovers, it is not surprising that the oldest bookstore in the world can be found in Lisbon’s Chiado neighborhood. For nearly three centuries, the Livraria Bertrand, as it is known today, has served Lisbon’s bibliophiles. It has also been a space for intellectual and cultural conversations. Opened in 1732, it holds the Guinness record as the world’s oldest bookstore still in operation. Impressive!

Did you know that the word coconut comes from the Portuguese word “coco” which means head or skull? (There is a pun in there somewhere, but it is escaping me and driving me nuts!)

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra University

Portuguese academics established the University of Coimbra in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities in the world. The University achieved UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2013. Today, you can visit its Royal Palace and the Biblioteca Joanina, considered a priceless national monument.

Did you know that Portugal is investing heavily in renewable energy? In 2016 the entire country ran for almost five consecutive days entirely on renewable energy powered by wind, sun and water. One of the world’s largest photovoltaic farms is near the town of Moura. Innovative projects include a floating wind farm (the WindFloat) and WaveRoller, which converts the movement of ocean waves to energy and electricity. Portugal’s goals for the future are also extremely ambitious: to achieve 80% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the generation of electricity by 2050. And all this hard work has not gone unrewarded; Lisbon was announced as the 2020 European Green Capital Award winner. Parabens, Lisboa!

Big wave surfing, Nazaré, Portugal

Portugal has 800km (497 miles) of stunning Atlantic coastline and its temperate climate makes surfing possible all year long. Many world records for big wave surfing have taken place in Praia do Norte, Nazaré. And, when I say big, I mean B. I. G! Click here to see a video from 2019 that will make you pucker up (if you know what I mean). Seeing this in person is on our list of things to do this year.

Portugal takes caring for their beaches very seriously. In 2020, it was awarded 372 Blue Flag designations. The Algarve topped the list with 91 (87 beaches and four marinas). The Blue Flag program is a global initiative of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and has the support of the European Commission (EC). A Blue Flag designation means that a beach, marina, or boat operation and facilities have met exacting criteria regarding water quality, environmental management and education, safety, and cleanliness standards.

Did you know that there are 62 museums in Lisbon and a little more than 300 in the entire country? (Just for grins I decided to look up how many museums there are in the United States…drum roll please…35,000!!!)

National Flag of Portugal

Circling back to the topic of flags…did you know that the present Portuguese flag (Bandeira Nacional) was adopted in 1911? The flag consists of two unequal rectangles of green and red with the yellow Portuguese coat of arms and shield in the center. The red and green colors are associated with the Portuguese Republican Party, which overthrew the monarchy in 1910. The color green represents hope and the color red represents the blood of sacrifice. The armillary sphere symbolizes the triumphs of navigation of the “Age of Discoveries” when Portuguese ships set out on voyages to South America, Africa and the Far East from the 15th century onwards.

Here’s a throwback fact from your school-age days, do you recall that Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) a Portuguese explorer, is credited with masterminding and executing the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe? (I hear you saying, “Oh right…I remember that…”)

Cork Oak Tree after harvest

Did you know that Portugal is the number one source of cork in the world? The country is responsible for more than 50% of all global cork production, producing more than 100,000 tons of cork annually. The main importers of Portuguese cork are Germany, the UK, and the USA. The cork oak tree, which is native to Portugal and has been legally protected since the Middle Ages, is considered a national heritage. Cutting it down is strictly prohibited. The trees can only be cut down if they are dead or diseased, and even then, only with written permission of the authorities.

Portuguese is the official language of not just Portugal, but also Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea. The language is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao (China), and East Timor (southeast Asia).

Did you know that Portugal holds the record for the shortest-reigning monarch in the world? Crown Prince Luís Filipe was the King of Portugal for a total of 20 minutes after his father Carlos I was assassinated on 1 February 1908. After suffering injuries in the same attack, Luís Filipe also died and the title of king was transferred to Manuel II, Luís Felipe’s younger brother, who ended up being the last King of Portugal.

The largest artificial underwater park and reef in Europe is located off the coast of the Algarve in Portugal. The Ocean Revival Underwater Park has four decommissioned Portuguese navy ships nestling on the seabed, home to an ever evolving eco-system and major attraction for divers from all around the world. Suit up and come see it!

516 Arouca Bridge, Arouca, Portugal

Did you know that Portugal is home to the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge? I know a few of you are aware because you forwarded articles on this topic to me. For everyone else, the 516 Arouca Bridge, which opened just a few weeks ago, is 516 meters long (1,692 feet) and is suspended 175 meters (575 feet) above the ground. It connects the Paiva River banks and has stunning views of Paiva Gorge and the Aguieiras Waterfall. Won and I are already planning to cross it a little later this year. And when we do, I promise to tell you all about it (assuming my heart is strong enough to survive the crossing).

And finally, if you have not read my post called, “How Progressive is Portugal?”, click here. It is full of fascinating facts on where this country stands on a wide range of topics like gun rights, LGBTQ rights, drug use, the death penalty, etc.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Portugal. Were there any facts that were surprising to you? For me, writing this post was a little like a treasure hunt; I enjoyed the process immensely and ended up with a few gems!

As always please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Day Tripping Down to Lagos

Praia dos Estudantes, Lagos

…Lagos, Portugal, not Nigeria.

The pandemic has been awful. We all agree on that point. However, there have been some oddly good things that have come from it – at least for Won and me. We have saved a lot of money. With limited to non-existent entertainment options, rarely eating out, and the inability to travel outside the country, we’ve racked up some nice savings. Also in the plus column, Won has fully embraced his inner chef during this time enabling us both to benefit from this new passion. Being forced to stay home has allowed us to focus on European football, which is always on TV. We have been learning about the governing bodies, dizzying league structure, top tier players, and league play (it’s more complicated than you might imagine!). But one of the most surprising, and appreciated, outcomes of this terrible pandemic has been the ability to see Portugal in a unique, once-in-a-lifetime way – with fewer people around.

Portugal is on the precipice of reopening its borders (potentially next month??) not only to residents of EU member states that meet certain virus-related criteria, but also to residents of countries outside the EU that also meet those same criteria. It will be a joy to see the streets, restaurants, bars, and beaches come back to life and finally welcome friends and family with open arms.

This long-awaited shift also means our ability to walk through palaces, monasteries, churches, and gardens, play on pristine beaches, or clamber along clifftops soaking in the spectacular coastlines nearly devoid of other humans is coming to an end. We don’t even know what our town is like during “normal” times. It will be an interesting adjustment.

With all this as a backdrop, Won and I are quickly prioritizing locations to see. This is why we decided to take a daytrip down to the Algarve to see Lagos. It is an easy three hour drive from our home – basically the same as my daily commute when I lived in Los Angeles. (OK, not quite three hours…but close.)

Lagos, pronounced “lah-go-sh,” is located along the southern border in the western part of the Algarve. I have embedded a map below to help orient you.

Quick tip…use the + and – navigation symbols on the map to zoom in and out. If you use your mouse to zoom out you will end up in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when you try to zoom back in. Trust me on this, I did it four times which required deleting and then re-embedding the blasted thing before figuring it out.

Lagos is one of the most visited cities in the Algarve due to its variety of tourist-friendly beaches, rock formations, bars, restaurants and hotels. It is renowned for its vibrant summer nightlife. Yet, there is a lot of history associated with Lagos too. It played a significant role in the Portuguese Age of Discovery, was a frequent home of Henry the Navigator, and, sadly, at one time, was the center of the European slave trade. Lagos, Nigeria, may have been named after it, since the town was the main center of Portuguese maritime expeditions in the 15th century when the Portuguese were focused on exploring the African coast.

Lagos is an ancient maritime town with more than 2000 years of history. So, let’s get started! Just kidding. No one has time for that so I’ve summarized the important points for you. Read this next part super fast, out loud; it makes it more fun.

Lagos got started as an early Carthaginian settlement, was colonized by the Romans, occupied in the 6th century by the Visigoths, and later by the Byzantines. The Moors arrived in the 8th century, renaming the settlement Zawaia (meaning lago, or lake). It became part of the much larger coastal region of al-Gharb, which eventually became known as the Algarve. Lagos was captured from the Moors by King Afonso III of Portugal in 1241 and eventually became an independent jurisdiction under the rule of King Peter I in 1361.

Deep breath!

By the 15th century, Lagos had become the center of Portuguese maritime exploration. When Portugal came under Spanish rule, the Portuguese coast became a target for the English fleet and was attacked by Sir Francis Drake in the late 1580s, but was successfully defended. Eventually, the center of the Portuguese shipping industry moved to Lisbon. From 1576 to 1755, Lagos was a high-profile capital of the Algarve, until the old Portuguese town was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami of 1755. Fishing was its primary economic activity until 1960 when the city embraced tourism.

Congratulations, you are all caught up. That wasn’t too bad, was it? I crammed roughly 2000 years of action into two palatable paragraphs. (Even I’m impressed!)

This past Tuesday, with Sweet Pea in tow, we decided to focus our time on a few of the beaches, the famous cliffs, and the old town. Our drive down was comfortable and easy. The highway infrastructure here is really good, because there are tolls to maintain it. It cost approximately 55,00€ in tolls for the day. Our route took us over the Pont 25 de Abril where I caught a perfectly framed image of the Cristo Rei through the cables of the bridge. Sweet Pea is becoming a more seasoned travel companion and chilled in the back seat. (Clearly, she was nonplused about the awesome picture of the giant statue I captured. She’s tough to impress. She is also looking a bit shaggy again…we are heading up to see her stylist next Tuesday.)

Marina de Lagos

After making a few pit stops along the way to allow Sweet Pea the chance to rehydrate, stretch her legs, and do her business, we arrived in Lagos. We thought it would be good to take a quick spin around the city to get an idea of what it was like. Unfortunately, this resulted in us accidentally ending up inside the old town. Won successfully navigated the impossibly tight, ancient streets that were barely wide enough for a single car to pass through. After white-knuckling our way around, we finally found a way out and headed to the waterfront (we go back to the old town a bit later, but on foot). The marina was very nice, but it was the beaches and cliffs we came to see.

Here is an aerial shot I found online of the coastline. It shows the marina dissecting the area. The Marina de Lagos has 460 berths and has become an important center for long-distance cruisers. That long stretch of curved beach just beyond is called Meia Praia (Half Beach). It is a popular tourist beach with soft, white sand. The bay fronting Meia Praia is one of the largest open bays in Europe. It has calm seas which create great conditions for nautical sports.

On this side of the jetty is Praia da Batata. For anyone who is curious, batata means potato…draw your own conclusions on how that name came to be, but my personal, and completely unfounded, theory is that it is the origin of the term “couch potato” having stemmed from seeing people lie on the beach all day, where they were referred to as “beach potatoes.”

Praia da Batata is a small beach tucked between two cliffs (where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean), it is known for intimate music festivals that take place there during summer. It is also where you can rent a kayak or hire a boat to explore further. Just above Praia da Batata is a miradouro (viewpoint) with a bronze statue of São Gonçalo do Lagos (1360 -1422). São Gonçalo, The Blessed, was venerated by fishermen in the Algarve who prayed to him, seeking protection while they were at sea.

Just across the street is the Arco/Porta de São Gonçalo (Arch/Door of Saint Goncalo), the main entrance from the quay into the old town through the 14th century Islamic castle walls. As we walked along and admired the ancient castle walls, I spied a Japanese mock orange that was so old, it was essentially a tree!

Also next to Praia da Batata is the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, a fortress complex from the 17th century which guarded the entrance to the harbor. It has a moat, drawbridge and chapel, and these days, provides space for art exhibitions.

Just past Praia da Batata are a couple of secluded beaches called Praia dos Estudantes (Students Beach) which are connected by natural and man-made tunnels through the rocks. We took a winding stone staircase down to explore more closely.

If you like to collect seashells, this is the beach for you. They are so plentiful in certain areas, you can’t help but reach down and rifle through them. You never know what you might find.

As we passed through one of the tunnels, we came upon a very small beach with an ancient, 3rd century Roman bridge spanning two large rock outcroppings. In order to protect it, the bridge is no longer open to the public.

We climbed back up to the top of the cliffs and drove further up the coast. We stopped to gape at the stunning rock formations cradling Praia do Camilo. This area is great for kayaking. To give you a sense of scale, there is a person in the water in the picture below.

Looking back the other direction.

We drove on to Ponta da Piedade (Mercy Point), an ecologically protected area. We parked nearby and got out to walk along the tops of the cliffs gawking at the views. There are hiking trails available, but there are also railed, wooden walkways to keep you safe. It was amazing how far up the coast you could see.

I honestly didn’t want to leave. I loved being up on those cliffs on such a bright, warm, sunny day. There was a light breeze keeping me comfortable. All I could hear was the sound of the ocean at my feet and the seagulls flying overhead. It was an experience of total peace and tranquility. Ahhh….

I could have stayed there all day, but we had to get going. We drove back to the old town, found parking outside the castle walls and proceeded on foot. The old town is super cute and filled a wide variety of cool and interesting stores, restaurants, bars, street art, Calçada Portuguesa (traditional Portuguese pavement), old architecture, and people watching. Here is a little sampling:

At one point in the middle of our walk through town, Won realized he did not have his cell phone. After a moment of panic, he said he was “pretty sure” he did not leave it at the ice cream shop where we had stopped earlier. He thought he had most likely left it in the car. While he retraced his steps, Sweet Pea and I plopped ourselves down in the shade. I finished my yummy coffee and vanilla ice cream cone and we both watched the world go by. Won returned about 20 minutes later, phone in hand (he had left it in the car after all), crisis averted.

Since we were in the Algarve, we decided to drive an hour east and take a quick look at Portimão. We didn’t stay long; just long enough to get a taste of the place and embed a desire to come back. It had a completely different look and feel from Lagos. We will definitely visit again and I’ll make that the focus of a future post.

Knocked out after a long day and a much-needed bath.

We got home at 9:30PM, gave Sweet Pea a much-needed bath and then relaxed with a glass of wine. Sweet Pea was out like a light as soon as her blow dry was complete.

We really enjoyed Lagos. Even though we covered a lot of ground, being there for only a single day was not optimal. There is so much more to see and do. I would love to get a kayak and paddle around those spectacular rock formations along the coast. There are caves and even more secluded beaches you can only reach by water. I guess this means we will have to return.

I hope you enjoyed this quick visit to Lagos and that it helped you relax and forget about any stress you might be feeling. Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Chic Chiado

This Lisbon neighborhood is not to be missed…

July 2019 was the very first time Won and I had ever been to Portugal. We spent four days in Lisbon before heading off to meet a passel full of friends for a river cruise up the Danube. We included a visit to Lisbon on that trip because we thought it might be important to see the place we had made the decision to move to earlier that year. [This would be a good spot to include an eye rolling emoji…if only WordPress had one.]

On that very first trip we stayed in a cute little boutique hotel right in the middle of Chiado just up the street from Praça de Luís de Camões. With the iconic yellow trams passing by the front of the hotel, a darling little pastelaria (bakery) across the street, and a grid of narrow alleyways filled with restaurants to explore behind us, we instantly fell in love. The funny thing is, even though we spent four days in Lisbon, we didn’t get the chance to really focus on Chiado. Won had an overly ambitious itinerary in order to help us determine where we might want to live. Our time was spent crisscrossing the city, exploring beach towns on the other side of the river, and driving west along the coastline to see Cascais and Sintra. It was a jam-packed four days.

After my post last week focusing on Tram 28, which goes through Chiado, it rekindled our interest to go back, take our time, and really explore this fascinating area. So, that’s what we did this week.

First, I think it is helpful to know how to pronounce Chiado; she-ah-doo. Second, I could not find anything official that defined the borders of the neighborhood. However, I did find a map that does a fairly good job of outlining where it is within Lisbon and in relation to other well-known parts of the city.

As with many areas of Lisbon, Chiado is hilly and those hills are steep. It starts in the Cais do Sodré area (close to the river front) and then goes up from there. Chiado is an important cultural and commercial district, known for its luxury shopping, historic landmarks, and numerous theatres and museums so there is no shortage of things to do or see.

António “Chiado” Ribeiro (c. 1520–1591)

People have been referring to this part of Lisbon as “Chiado” since about 1567. No one knows exactly where the name came from, but the most widely cited origin relates to António Ribeiro (c.1520–1591), a popular poet from Évora who lived in the area and whose nickname was “chiado” (which means ‘squeak’). A bronze statue of the poet was placed in Chiado Square in 1925. [By the way, there’s an important lesson in this for all of us…beware of what nicknames get assigned to you, they could follow you for centuries.]

An interesting fact about Chiado is that it has suffered two significant and destructive events. The first was the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and the second was a massive fire in the 20th century.

In the early hours of August 25, 1988, a fire started at the Grandella department store and quickly spread to 17 other buildings (an 8000 m2 area). The department store and ten other structures, some historic, were completely destroyed.

The fire was fought by 1680 firefighters from throughout the country, and was put out by 16:00 local time. Two people were killed and 73 injured (60 of them firefighters). Approximately 300 people lost their homes and close to 2000 lost their jobs. In terms of the impact to Lisbon and the number of destroyed buildings, the Chiado fire is often considered the worst disaster to strike the city since the 1755 earthquake. The cause of the fire was never fully determined.

The rebuilding effort began in 1989 and was mostly completed by 1999. It included the new Baixa-Chiado metro station as well as other new public spaces. The exterior look of the damaged buildings was restored, while the interiors were completely rebuilt according to modern construction techniques and safety regulations.

On Tuesday morning of this week we drove to Lisbon and parked at the riverfront right next to Time Out Market, which is not a market by the way, but a huge food hall showcasing the best chefs and local restaurants in Lisbon. Time Out Market also holds cultural events and cooking workshops; it’s pretty cool. To learn more, click here.

Entrance to the Bica Funicular

We walked one block inland to find the Bica Funicular which would take us all the way up to the primary area of Chiado. As we stumbled around looking for it, we nearly missed it because the station is located inside a doorway. [Apparently the GIANT sign over the door wasn’t quite big enough for us. I really need that that eye rolling emoji…] We purchased two round trip tickets for 3,80€ each (7,60€ total). The price was a bit ‘steep’ for a five minute ride up a hill (ha! did you see what I did there?!), but we didn’t care. We thought it was worth it since we planned to do a lot of walking and needed to save our legs.

A plaque outside the door of the station informed us that Bica Funicular is the most recent of Lisbon’s funiculars having been inaugurated on 28 June 1892. (That’s funny, isn’t it? That they call something nearly 130 years old “recent”.) It was designated a national monument in 2002.

That was fun(icular)! [I bet you’re wishing there was an eye rolling emoji now.]

From the top of the hill where we disembarked, we walked over to Rua do Almada and headed for the Miradouro de Santa Catarina. Due to the narrow streets and ancient infrastructure of this part of Chiado, they restrict car traffic. Each entrance has a retractable barrier and an intercom system you have to use to gain permission to enter. There are no restrictions for people on foot. In the image below you are looking down Rua do Almada with the Frutaria Saldanha café on the right. All the streets in this area are narrow like this.

Adamastor, a mythical creature symbolizing the Cape of Torment

Do you remember when I said that you should not pass up any miradouro (viewpoint) opportunity in my last blog? Well, I might have been overly enthusiastic with that advice. We walked to the Miradouro Santa Catarina to take a gander, and while this one had views of Lisbon, the river, and of the Ponte 25 de Abril (the one that looks like the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco), they did not seem that impressive. (Could it be because we had been dazzled the week before as we looked out across Alfama?)

In addition to the river and bridge, this view included the container ship port and a lot of construction cranes. Kind of disappointing. The only things I felt worth taking pictures of were two seagulls hanging out on top of a building, the miradouro terrace, and a really interesting sculpture of Adamastor (which means “northwind”). Adamastor is a mythical figure created by Luis Camões, a 16th c. Portuguese poet, to symbolize the Cape of Torment. (By the way, the Cape of Torment was the original name of the Cape of Good Hope. It was the site where many Portuguese ships were wrecked. It was renamed after it was successfully navigated, giving sailors new hope.) I have read that the terrace and miradouro are great places to watch the sun set. Perhaps the views are more compelling at night when the city is lit up. We will have to check that out on a future outing.

Not only is it a challenge to get up to Chiado, it can also be a challenge to traverse it. Here is an image looking across the length of Travessa da Laranjeira (Laranjeira means orange; travessa means secondary or narrow street). You can see how the street got its name; those are orange trees on the far end directly across from us. This should also give you some idea of how steep these hills are.

While doing some advance research on Chiado, I learned about a very highly rated shop called Landeau Chocolate on Rua das Flores. One of their signature desserts is a delectable chocolate cake. Unfortunately, it was closed the day we stopped by. Groan…I was really looking forward to having a bite of that heavenly cake (the image of the cake below is not mine). I hope they didn’t close permanently and will reopen soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Feeling totally bummed, I slowly turned and started to trudge back up the hill toward Rua Horta Seca, but instantly perked up when I saw a Fabrica Coffee Roasters just across the street. It was a good time for a coffee break so we stopped in. We immediately agreed to share a slice of warmed banana bread with butter. [During editing, Won insisted I include that it was warmed and slathered with butter…where is that eye rolling emoji?!] Won ordered an espresso, but I wanted something cool and refreshing. The barista recommended I try a special concoction they had created of iced black tea with an infusion of mint, orange and macerated red berries topped with a few frozen blackberries. Sounded good so I ordered one. Boy, what a treat! That drink was tasty!

Rested, refueled, refreshed, and ready to go – off we went! We walked up toward Rua Horta Seca passing a couple of cute shops.

Our route took us right to Praça de Luís de Camões (Tram 28 makes a stop there). Even though we have been to this plaza a few times, it never ceases to charm. You can also very easily walk to Rua Garrett, a popular shopping and dining area, from the praça. The area around Praça de Luís de Camões has two churches that happen to face each other, loads of stores, cafés, and lovely places to sit outside where you can sip your espresso and nibble on a treat. However, because these areas are also tourist draws you will see people pandering (we saw three) and it is always good to keep an eye on your personal items, especially when the country reopens and there are more visitors.

One of the places on my “must-see” list was the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. I know, I know, another miradouro, but this one I knew would not disappoint (I had been there for literally two minutes last year when Won let me jump out of the car to get a picture).

However, before we got there, we stopped in to see Igreja de São Roque. The austere façade of this church belies what is inside (it was so non-descript that I did not even bother taking a picture of it). The church was built in the 16th century and was one of the very first Jesuit churches in the world. Another distinction is that it was one of just a few buildings that survived the 1755 earthquake relatively unscathed. The church has a rather unusual layout because it was originally meant for teaching (not surprising to learn knowing what the Jesuits are all about). Two rows of narrow pews sit under a gorgeously painted coffered ceiling and are flanked on both sides by over-the-top, ornate, heavily gilded side chapels.

Here are just a few images…

After seeing all that gold, the sun seemed a bit less bright when we stepped back outside. Just around the corner from the church was the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. This miradouro also includes a jardim (park) with two levels. Unfortunately, the park on the lower level was in desperate need of some gardening care (which I hope the city of Lisbon addresses soon), but it didn’t impact the amazing views.

There were young school children enjoying playtime on the lower level all dressed in matching light blue smocks and red bucket hats (adorable!!). The expansive views from this vantage point look out across Lisbon and include Castelo de São Jorge, the domes of Igreja de São Vicente de Fora, and the Rio Tejo. (I included the picture I took when I jumped out of the car last year. It was just as the sun was beginning to set and the lights were coming on. So pretty. I had to share.)

At this point, we agreed that it was time to start heading back, which meant we would finally be going downhill vs. up. On our way, we passed some cute places like…

The Rebel Café with a sign on the door inviting humans and dogs to come in (I also love their winter hours)…

Pateo – Bairro do Avillez, a great place to dine al fresco. Three follow up notes on this place: 1) I looked them up when we got home and learned they are highly rated and have a great interior space (I pulled an image from the Internet to show you), 2) I didn’t know why the street was painted blue and found out that Lisbon has designated certain streets as pedestrian only and painted them blue to signify this, and 3) we’re definitely going back to eat there…

…and, just in case we weren’t sure about the gender focus of Refém, they informed us right up front.

Knowing I would be taking loads of pictures that day, I made sure to bring my external battery. And, as expected, my phone died just after I had taken a few pictures of the Carmo Cathedral, Chafariz do Carmo (a Baroque fountain in front of the churches’ ruins), and the Elevador de Santa Justa (which is currently closed).

I confidently pulled the external battery from my purse to plug it in to my phone only to realize the cord I needed to connect the two was in the car. Unbelievable. (Here’s another great place for that eye rolling emoji.) And, the worst part? I didn’t get credit for all the steps we took to get back to the car. Waaaaaaa!!!

I promise to do more on the ruins and museum of the Carmo Cathedral and the Santa Justa lift, which has great views over the city, in a future post. Until then, here are the images I took before my phone died.

Well, that wraps up our time in Chiado. Won and I will definitely be going back to check out some of those restaurants we found and I am still dreaming of that chocolate cake I did not get. If you have any questions about the places mentioned in this post, please let me know. I love receiving comments and encourage you to share your thoughts and reactions (I reply to every single one I receive).

I hope you enjoyed learning about this delightful part of Lisbon and encourage you to add it to your list of places to see anytime you are here. Here is one more look at that gorgeous view…

Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch!

From Portugal with love,

Beth

The Iconic Lisbon Tram 28

What a fun experience!

Kate and Liam at Castelo de São Jorge

Won and I have lived in Portugal for just over 15 months now and our last – and only visitors (blasted virus!!!) – came to visit just six weeks after we arrived. My darling niece and her wonderful boyfriend came to Lisbon on the very last weekend of February 2020 after spending a few days in Paris celebrating her 24th birthday. We covered a lot of ground in the three short days they were here, but since Won and I knew so little of Lisbon at that point, we were just as much tourists as Kate and Liam.

With the rollout of the vaccines beginning to make a difference, and a promise from the government that our age group will be vaccinated by the end of May, we expect the country to open up to non-residents at some point this year. With this very likely possibility in front of us, Won and I felt it was time to up our game so that when friends and family ask us for suggestions on what to see and do, we can confidently respond.

This is especially important, because our friends John and Marion have already booked their flights for a visit in mid-September! Their trip includes a few nights in Porto, followed by a multi-day bike ride through the Douro Valley, and then a week in the south of the country, which will include time in Lisbon.

Lisbon. Hmmm…we have spent some time there, but not as much as we probably should have, or would have liked to, due to all the lockdowns and movement restrictions. Getting to know Lisbon is now at the top of our to-do list. Won and I sat down and discussed what we thought would be important for people to see. We knew that one of the more interesting things to do is to take a tram, but our experience with that was very limited.

It was time to remedy that shortcoming. We decided to focus on Tram 28, which is widely known to be one of the best experiences. Won jumped in and started his research online. He reviewed the route of Tram 28. Ahh…this is why people love it so much. It takes passengers through the Alfama, Baixo, and Chiado neighborhoods – some of the prettiest and most interesting parts of Lisbon. Additionally, it passes by some great landmarks including a spot with stunning views of the Rio Tejo. In the map below, you can see the route outlined. But, before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start with some basics so you have some context and perspective.

Lisbon is hilly. Don’t underestimate that point. (Ladies…when you are here wear comfortable shoes that won’t slip on smooth cobblestones – trust me on this).

One of the first electric trams from 1901.

Back in the day it was the challenge of navigating those hills that led to the development of a tram system. Trams with horse-drawn cars pulled on metal rails made their first appearance in Lisbon in 1873. At that time they were called carros americanos, American cars, because the first ones were developed in the United States. The first electric trams were installed in 1901, which is why they are still called eléctricos by the locals.

Although it is commonly agreed that their heyday was in 1959 (when the network reached 76 km and it had a fleet of 405 trams), you may be surprised to know that the trams are still a popular way for locals to get around the city. The network is still pretty expansive and includes lines that go all the way past scenic Belém to Algés. But the fact that it goes through much of the downtown, appeals to residents and commuters alike.

With so many forms of transportation becoming available over the decades, the tram network has shrunk considerably, but there are still six active lines:

This past Tuesday we drove into Lisbon to a large parking garage located under the Igreja do Santo Condestável (Saint Constable Church). The tram stopped right next to the church (the 3rd stop on the route beginning in Campo de Ourique). We hopped on, paid 3,00€ each, and off we went!

Important side note: Do not do what we did. We did not use our Viva Viagem cards. We did not plan to get off and get back on the tram so many times, but our plans changed mid-way (sigh, we are still learning…). This meant we paid 6,00€ each time we re-boarded (3,00€ each). It cost us a total of 18,00€ for the day. If we had used our Viva Viagem cards it would have saved us 4,20€. You can purchase a 24-hour Viva Viagem card at any metro station. They can be used on all forms of public transportation in Lisbon (trains, ferries, trams, metro, and buses). The reusable card costs 0,50€. Once you have the card it can be reloaded multiple times. The cost of a 24-hour pass is 6,40€ (for a total of 6,90€ with the card as a first-time purchase). It is totally worth it. I will also say that using the card is much faster when you board the tram (or any form of public transportation) because you simply swipe the card against the reader next to the driver. To learn more about the Viva Viagem card, click here.

The tram is such a fun way to move through the city. It is a little bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland. With the windows down (it was a lovely day) and the sounds of the city mingling with the sounds of the tram as it squealed, rattled, and occasionally jerked its way around (especially on tight corners), ensured that I had a smile on my face the entire time. The interior seating on the tram offers a bench seat for two on one side and a single seat on the other.

We learned, after watching other passengers, that the way to notify the operator you intend to exit the tram is by pushing one of the red buttons located above the single seats. The word parar (stop) is indicated directly above the button.

It was such a joy to see the city coming back to life with stores open and people moving about their daily lives. Here are images I captured out the window as we rolled along.

There are times on this line where the streets are so narrow in the Alfama that the tracks overlap (see image below). We stopped and waited at one such juncture, I assume, to ensure there was no other tram coming the opposite direction. I must admit though, I could not see any discernable way she was able to assess whether or not another tram was coming. Apparently she did because after waiting a few minutes, and no tram rounded the corner, off we went.

You think I am kidding about how narrow some of the streets are? Here is how close we got to one building. If there had been anyone standing on the “sidewalk” they would have had to put their back to the wall and suck in their stomach to enable the tram to pass by. EGAD. We had the same experience with a few trams going the other direction; we were literally inches apart. Reminder, keep all hands, elbows, and heads inside the car!!

We rode the tram all the way to the terminus point, Praça Martim Moniz, where you must disembark. (Unfortunately we did not time the ride, but it felt like it took about 20-30 minutes from the time we hopped on until we got off.) We told our tram operator that we planned to take the tram back, but she said we must exit and pointed to a nearby tram stop where we could catch one there. We hung out for about 15 minutes and then, as it turned out, the exact same tram stopped to pick us up! We paid another 6,00€ and sat right back down in the same seats we were in earlier.

Knowing what to expect on the way back, we made the decision to disembark at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol. “Miradouro” means viewpoint. When you are out and about in Portugal, don’t pass up any opportunity when you see a sign for a miradouro. I guarantee it will never disappoint. The Miradouro das Portas do Sol was a great place to stop for a few reasons. One, for the spectacular views, but also because there is a coffee kiosk right there (playing soft jazz no less) with tables on the terrace inviting you to sit down and soak it all in. These are the views:

While we were enjoying our coffee, a bold little bird kept creeping closer and closer with his eye on my dessert. I shooed him away a few times, but he was quite persistent. I finally acquiesced and decided to put a little bit of crust on the railing, but before I could do that, he flew right over and took it right from my fingers!! I was so surprised, I told Won to get his phone out and see if he would do it again. And, wouldn’t you know, that little stinker came back and we caught him in the act.

Right next to the terrace is an ancient wall called the “Moorish fence” more commonly referred to by locals simply as the “old fence.” The majority of the wall was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, but this portion is still standing. What you see above is a narrow bar (with spectacular views!) and the bell tower of the Igreja de Santa Luzia, a church from the 1600s.

We walked around the corner and into the courtyard of the church to find the most beautiful, romantic garden and another miradouro! This one is called the Miradouro de Santa Luzia and it affords another panoramic view over the Alfama and the Rio Tejo. Decorated with azulejo tiles and colorful vines, you can either enjoy the shade by the tiled benches or the sun by the water mirror. Be sure not to miss the azulejo panels on the side of the church when you visit.

I won’t share any other images of the courtyard and surrounding area so you can discover it for yourself.

We continued to walk down Rua Limoeiro and spied some spectacularly strange trees whose trunks have become knotted and fused together. What made this little tableau even more unusual was the ‘hobbit’ door tucked just behind. I do not know how fast those trees are growing, but wherever that door leads, I hope there is another entrance available somewhere. (Doesn’t it look like wild creatures from the Black Lagoon all writhing together and climbing over each other to reach the top of the trees? Yikes!)

A few minutes walk further down the street is the Lisbon Cathedral. Just last week, when I wrote about Romanesque architecture in Portugal, I mentioned that we had not seen the Sé de Lisboa (also known as Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa) a great example of this style of architecture. Now was our chance to remedy that oversight. We walked up the steps and through a door within the massive door. There was a 4,00€ entrance fee for each of us.

What a gorgeous church. Construction of the main chapel began in 1147 which makes it the oldest church in the city. In the following centuries a Gothic cloister was added during the reign of D. Dinis (1261- 1325). The ambulatory was commissioned by D. Afonso IV (1325-1357) to receive pilgrims arriving to venerate the relics of St. Vincent. And, in 1649, a new sacristy was added. Other modifications and restorations have taken place throughout the centuries. The church was classified as a National Monument in 1910.

At this point, we decided to hop back on the tram and head home. There was a stop just across the street and a tram arrived within a few minutes. We paid another 6,00€ and climbed in. It took us back the way we had come passing Rua Agusta (with Praça do Comercio in the distance and the statue of King José I framed under the arch), Praça Luís de Camões in the Chiado district, and the Basílica da Estrela eventually depositing us back at our starting point.

Once we were home we looked at Google Maps and retraced the path of the tram. We were astounded to see how close we were to Rossio Square when we were at Praça Martim Moniz. We were also surprised to learn how close the Lisbon Cathedral was to Praça do Comercio (totally within walking distance). For being the capital of the country, it is shockingly intimate and easy to navigate Lisbon.

Every time we go out and explore it helps us build our confidence. Soon, we will be able to provide good advice to friends and family on what to do, where to go, and how to get there. Now, all we need to find are the great places to eat! (I love doing “research.”)

Oh! I almost forgot to report…I purchased an external battery for my phone and, sure enough, I needed to use it. No missed opportunities this time! I’m so happy to have been able to capture all the beauty, fun, and memories of the day.

Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

The Architecture of Portugal

It is as varied and captivating as the history of this amazing country…

After last week’s post on Pena Palace, I received a request from a friend who expressed a desire to know more about the architecture in Portugal (thanks, Taffy!). The timing was perfect because the weather this week has been mostly overcast and rainy – not the best for exploring. While it was a slightly intimidating project given the scope, I was happy to tackle it because I was curious to know more about it too. Coincidentally, I worked for an architectural firm in California for 12 years (Dahlin Group), but I am not an architect. My time there, however, did give me a deep appreciation for this fascinating, ever-evolving artform.

As I began my research, I quickly realized that I have taken images of many of the types of architecture I am covering so I’ll be including those as visual examples. If I don’t have a personal example to share, I have pulled images from the Internet and will note that.

Like all aspects of Portuguese culture, Portuguese architecture reflects the artistic influences of the various cultures that have inhabited Portugal or come in contact with the Portuguese people throughout its history. Various artistic styles or movements have dominated Portuguese architecture throughout the ages. It is a deep topic and I won’t be able to cover them all, but will focus on a few like Roman, Moorish, Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Baroque, Rococo, Pombaline, Neo-Manueline, Art Nouveau, and Contemporary which I hope will provide a good breadth.

One last note – architecture is inextricably linked to history so there is a bit of that sprinkled into the narrative, but I’ve tried to make it brief and interesting. So! Grab your beverage of choice, a little snack that makes you happy, curl up on the couch and let’s dive in!

Roman Ruins in Conimbriga, Portugal

I could have gone back even further (think Phoenicians!), but felt a good place to start would be with the Romans because they were known for their building prowess. The Romans arrived in Portugal in 219 B.C. and for the next 200 years left their mark on the country. The best-preserved remains of a Roman village are in Conimbriga (near Coimbra). Excavations revealed city walls, baths, a forum, an aqueduct, amphitheater, and houses for the middle classes, as well as luxurious mansions with central courtyards decorated with mosaics for the wealthy. Another important excavated Roman village is in Miróbriga (near Santiago do Cacém) where you can see the only Roman hippodrome known to be in Portugal. While we haven’t been to those places yet, we have been to Évora where a well-preserved Roman temple from the 1st century is located.

Let’s fast forward to the year 711 when the Moors put an end to Visigoth rule and took up residence in Portugal. Moorish architecture is a style within Islamic architecture which developed in the western Islamic world. This included al-Andalus (Muslim-ruled Spain and Portugal between 711 and 1492) and the Maghreb (now Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia). The influence of the Moors can still be felt in the south of the country where houses in many cities and villages have simple white façades that have a distinct Islamic look, similar to that of villages in Northern Africa. Moorish buildings were often constructed with rammed earth and adobe techniques followed by whitewashing. Many villages and city neighborhoods have retained the street layout from Islamic times, like the Alfama in Lisbon and the town of Olhão where were stayed last summer. Even our hotel in Olhão reflected this type of architecture (see below).

Other elements of Moorish architecture include horseshoe or “Moorish” arches, central courtyards (refer to the image above), and intricately carved wood and stucco as decoration. The Palacio de Monserrate in Sintra is a great example of these elements (see below). To learn more about the Palacio de Monserrate, click here.

Another important element of the Moorish influence is the decorative tile work known as zellij in Arabic or azulejo in Portuguese. Azulejo can be found everywhere you look in Portugal from street signs to fountains to exteriors and interiors of buildings.

The image immediately below was taken at the Sao Bento Railway Station in Porto. The upper parts of the frieze are lined with polychromatic (multicolored) azulejos depicting forms of transport used by people in various areas of Portugal. The lower and upper frame of the frieze consists of a line of tile in blue, browns and yellow in a stylized geometric pattern. Under that is a large composition that covers the entire wall, depicting the Battle of Valdevez (1140). This monochromatic composition, like the other significant azulejo scenes in the station are executed in blue on white tile. Keep in mind each tile is only about 13 to 15 cm square (5 to 6 inches).

Other examples of azulejo tile work…

Castle of the Moors, Sintra

Another big influence of Moorish architecture were the strong castles and fortifications the Moors built during the 500 years they were here. One of the most famous that can still be seen today is the Castle of the Moors in Sintra which was built between the 8th and 9th centuries. We were hoping to visit it last week since it is literally “next door” to Pena Palace, but our navigation efforts were abysmal that day and we ran out of time. Here is an image I pulled from the Internet. We will be going back at some point to see it for ourselves.

In addition to castles and fortifications, many mosques were built during Muslim domination, but virtually all have been turned into churches and cathedrals, and Islamic features cannot be identified anymore. The only exception is the Main Church (Matriz) of Mértola, in the Alentejo region. The Mértola Mosque was built in the second half of the 12th century and, even though it has suffered several modifications, it is still the best-preserved medieval mosque in Portugal. The church has an approximate square-shaped floorplan with four aisles and a total of 12 columns supporting 16th-century Manueline rib vaulting. Even though the roof has been modified, the labyrinthic interior with its “forest” of pillars clearly relates to other contemporary mosques in Spain and Maghreb. The inner wall still has a mihrab, a decorated niche that indicates the direction of Mecca. Here are images I pulled from the Internet.

Romanesque architecture was developed in Italy and various parts of western Europe between the periods of the Roman and the Gothic styles. Features include round arches and vaults with a narrowing and heightening of the nave, the decorative use of arcades and colonnettes, and profuse carved ornamentation especially on capitals and the moldings of doorways. Two beautiful examples are the cathedrals of Lisbon and Porto. While we have not been to the Cathedral of Lisbon, we have been to the Cathedral of Porto (see images below) which has a narrow Romanesque nave covered by barrel vaulting. To learn more about the cathedral, click here.

Let’s jump to Gothic! Gothic architecture was particularly popular in Europe from the late 12th century to the 16th century, during the High and Late Middle Ages, surviving into the 17th and 18th centuries in some areas. It evolved from Romanesque architecture. Gothic features include grand, tall designs that sweep upwards with height and grace, flying buttresses (structures that are used to spread the weight of tall walls and provide support by transferring force directly to the ground ), pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, light and airy interiors, gargoyles, and an emphasis on ornate decoration.

Gothic architecture was brought to Portugal by the Cistercian Order. The first fully Gothic building in Portugal is the church of the Monastery of Alcobaça, a magnificent example of the clear and simple architectural forms favored by the Cistercians. The church was built between 1178 and 1252 in three phases. We haven’t been there yet, but here are a few images I found online.

Other examples of Gothic architecture include Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação in Guimarães (we didn’t go in when we were there, but I took a picture of it from the outside) and the ruins of the Carmo Cathedral in Lisbon where we saw the Lisbon Under the Stars light show.

Manueline architecture, occasionally referred to as Portuguese Late Gothic, is a sumptuous architectural style originating in the 16th century during the Portuguese Renaissance and Age of Discoveries. Manueline architecture incorporates maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral. The name manueline relates to King Manuel I, whose reign (1495–1521) coincided with its development. The style was influenced by the astonishing successes of the voyages of discovery of Portuguese navigators, from the coastal areas of Africa to the discovery of Brazil and the ocean routes to the Far East, drawing heavily on the style and decorations of East Indian temples.

Although the period of this style did not last long (from 1490 to 1520), it played an important part in the development of Portuguese art. The influence of the style outlived the king. Elements that appear regularly in this style include:

A carved detail on Vasco da Gama’s tomb
  • the armillary sphere (a navigational instrument and the personal emblem of Manuel I; also a symbol of the cosmos)
  • Caravels (the ship that Portuguese used during the Age of Discoveries)
  • anchors, anchor chains, ropes and cables
  • elements from the sea, such as shells, pearls and strings of seaweed
  • botanical motifs such as laurel branches, oak leaves, acorns, poppy capsules, corncobs, thistles
  • symbols of Christianity such as the cross of the Order of Christ (former Knights Templar), the military order that helped finance the first voyages of discovery; it is also the cross that decorated the sails of Portuguese ships
  • elements from newly discovered lands (Islamic filigree work and buildings in India)
  • columns carved like twisted strands of rope
  • semicircular arches (instead of Gothic pointed arches) of doors and windows
  • multiple pillars
  • eight-sided capitals
  • lack of symmetry
  • conical pinnacles
  • beveled crenellations
  • ornate portals with niches or canopies.

There are several exquisite examples of this style of architecture. I’ll share images of two that we have been to; the Jerónimos Monastery (exterior and interior cloister) and the Belém Tower. If you look closely at the Belém Tower immediately below, you can see the rope motif and Knights Templar crosses. Images of the monastery follow.

Baroque architecture is a highly decorative and theatrical style which appeared in Italy in the early 17th century and gradually spread across Europe. It was originally introduced by the Catholic Church, particularly by the Jesuits, as a means to combat the Reformation and the Protestant church with a new architecture that inspired surprise and awe. It reached its peak between 1625–1675.

However, Portugal enjoys a very special situation and a different timeline from the rest of Europe. Why? Because gold, gems, and later diamonds, were found in Brazil in 1697. Mining exploration was strongly controlled by the Portuguese Crown, which imposed heavy taxes on everything extracted (one fifth of all gold would go to the Crown). These enormous proceeds enabled Portugal to prosper and become the richest country of Europe in the 18th century.

Baroque architects took the basic elements of Renaissance architecture, including domes and colonnades, and made them higher, grander, more decorated, and more dramatic. Interior effects were often achieved through the use of trompe-l’œil painting combined with sculpture to draw the eye upward, giving the illusion that one is looking into the heavens. Clusters of sculpted angels and painted figures typically crowd the ceiling. Light was also used for dramatic effect; streaming down from cupolas and reflecting off an abundance of gilding. In Baroque palaces, grand stairways became a central element.

There are many examples of this style of architecture all over Portugal, but the Mafra National Palace is among the best. Here are some images I captured of this eye-popping palace when we were there. To learn more about Mafra Palace, click here. The aerial shot of the palace is the only one that is not mine of the images below.

Rococo architecture (sometimes referred to as Late Baroque) entered Portugal through the north, while Lisbon, due to the court pomp, remained in the Baroque. It began in France in the mid-1700s and is characterized by delicate but substantial ornamentation Interestingly, Rococo is a period rather than a specific style. Often this 18th-century era is called “the Rococo,” a time period roughly beginning with the 1715 death of France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, until the French Revolution in 1789. Characteristics of Rococo include the use of elaborate curves and scrolls, ornaments shaped like shells and plants, and entire rooms being oval in shape. Patterns were intricate and details delicate.

The best example of Rococo architecture that I can share are images of Queluz Palace. To learn more about Queluz, and see more images of this lovely place, please click here. This palace embodies the elements of Rococo architecture beautifully. Oval rooms, or the illusion of oval rooms like the King’s bed chamber and grand ballroom, can be seen in the images below as well as the use of curves and scrolls on nearly every surface.

Pombaline architecture is a Portuguese architectural style of the 18th century, named after Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the first Marquês de Pombal, who was instrumental in reconstructing Lisbon after the great earthquake of 1755. The 8.5 magnitude quake was enormous and impacted most of the country. Eighty-five percent of Lisbon was leveled, first by the earthquake, and then by the tsunami and fires that followed. To learn more about this event, click here.

The new city (mostly the Baixa area now called Baixa Pombalina) was laid out on a grid plan with roads and pavements fixed at 12 meters wide (40 ft). The Pombaline architecture style is secular, utilitarian, and pragmatic in approach reflecting the military engineers who designed it. The buildings are a restrained Neoclassical style mixed with Rococo details, partly the result of limited funds and the urgency to rebuild, but also thanks to the enlightenment concept of architectural rationality adhered to by Pombal. In the reconstruction of the city, instead of ordering original azulejo works of art to add to the buildings, tiles with repetitive geometric patterns were used. This enabled the work to be done quickly and inexpensively. The Pombaline building is a structure of up to four floors with balconies and an attic, with arcades on the ground floor to allow for shops.

The Marquês de Pombal imposed strict conditions on the rebuilding process. Architectural models were tested by having troops march around them to simulate an earthquake, making the Pombaline one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction. They also employed the use of prefabrication, which was completely new at the time. Buildings were entirely manufactured outside the city, transported in pieces and then assembled on site. The construction, which lasted into the nineteenth century, lodged the city’s residents in safe new structures unheard-of before the quake. Lisbon was completely changed: medieval streets gave way to an orthogonal pattern (right angles) organizing the area into a modern design. Large spaces, gorgeous light and good ventilation, missing in the medieval city, became features of the new Lisbon.

The Praça do Comércio, Rua Augusta and Avenida da Liberdade are notable examples of this type of architecture. The Praça do Comércio has a regular, rational arrangement in line with the reconstruction of the new Pombaline downtown. Here is a map of the area with red tear drop markers to help you place these locations. You can also see how the streets of the Alfama neighborhood (near the water) were left unchanged compared to that of the grid pattern of the Baixa Pombalina neighborhood. You can expand and contract the map.

Here is an aerial shot I pulled from the Internet to help further orient you (I really need to get myself a drone). In this particular image, Parque Eduardo VII is closest to you and terminates at Praça Marquês de Pombal, a monument dedicated to Pombal (the large roundabout). Just beyond that is the tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade which terminates at the Praça dos Restauradores (Restorers Square). You can barely see Praça do Comércio at the water’s edge.

The aerial shot of Praça do Comércio immediately below is not mine, but I wanted to share it to give you an idea of the scale of this place.

Here are images I have taken of Praça do Comércio, a colonnade along the periphery of of the plaza, Arco da Rua Augusta (the massive arch), Rua Augusta (the pedestrian street that starts just beyond the arch), and some examples of the Pombaline architectural style in other buildings nearby.

Neo-Manueline is a revival style of late 16th century Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline. It was the primary architectural expression of Romanticism in Portugal due to its highly nationalistic characteristics and history, which flourished from the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th in Portugal and Brazil.

The style features Portuguese national symbols, including the armillary sphere, the Cross of the Order of Christ (formerly Knights Templar), and elements of the Coat of arms of Portugal, as well as symbols of the Portuguese Discoveries, such as twisted ropes, exotic fruits and vegetables (like pineapples and artichokes), sea monsters, and sea plants (like coral and algae branches).

The first recognized Neo-Manueline architectural works were done between 1839 and 1849 with the building of Pena Palace by King Ferdinand II. A romanticist palace fusing Neo-Manueline, Neo-Mudéjar, and Portuguese Renaissance characteristics. Pena Palace was the focus of last week’s blog. To read that post and see pictures of the palace, click here.

Another example of this style is Quinta de Regaleira. A stunning, mysterious, highly symbolic, gorgeous palace. Here are some images of the main house (exterior and interior) and the chapel. To see more of Quinta de Regaleira click here.

Art Nouveau, known in Portugal as Arte Nova, arrived late and had a short duration in the history of Portugal, flourishing largely between 1905 and 1920. Portuguese Arte Nova is more in line with the school of French Art Nouveau than the Austrian schools of the time. Arte Nova was adopted mainly in port cities like Lisbon, Porto, and Aveiro. This style of architecture is characterized by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms.

The concept defining Arte Nova in Portugal was ostentation. The style was embraced by a conservative bourgeoisie who wanted to express their might, influence and affluence through decorative façades. Some examples we have seen include the Café Majestic and Livraria Lello in Porto, and buildings in Aveiro.

To close things out, I am finishing up with Contemporary architecture, which is defined as the architecture of the 21st century. No single style is dominant; Contemporary architects work in several different styles, from postmodernism and high-tech to highly conceptual and expressive forms and designs resembling sculpture on an enormous scale. Here are some examples I think you would appreciate. All of the pictures are my own except the one immediately below of the train station.

Gare do Oriente (train station)
Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT)

While searching for examples of the types of architecture covered in this post I learned more about the places we have been, but it also expanded our list of places to see! This effort has deepened my appreciation, interest, and respect for this fascinating country.

Whew!! If you got this far, you get a gold star!! Thank you for hanging in there. I hope you found this post to be informative and interesting. I truly enjoyed writing it. So far, the topics suggested by friends and family (wine, architecture, modern Portugal) have challenged and inspired me so, don’t be shy – I encourage you to keep the suggestions coming!!

Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Colorful, Fanciful, Romantic Pena Palace

We learn some things the hard way

Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace) is easily one of the most recognizable palaces in Portugal. Perched atop one of the tallest parts of the Sintra Mountains, the palace can be seen from Lisbon on a clear day. With its bright colors and fairytale-like shape it’s not too hard to see how that is possible. Pena Palace is a national monument and represents one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal (five down, two to go!). It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

The challenge for us was in getting there. We were generally aware of where the palace is situated. Its outline can be seen from miles and miles away. We saw it up on the mountain when we went to visit Quinta da Regaleira last May. Won’s golf buddy, Juan, told him he had parked at Penha Longa (Won’s golf club) and walked there. We even looked up the driving directions on Google Maps the day before to familiarize ourselves with the route.

On Tuesday of this week Won entered the Palace into his Waze app and off we went. Getting to Sintra was not difficult; we had been there before. However, our first effort to storm the castle, err, I mean drive up the mountain to get to it, took us up narrow winding streets. These streets are typically bordered on both sides by high stone walls with barely enough space for two vehicles to pass each other. (I have no idea why this is surprising…these streets and the walled houses that border them were likely built before cars were even invented!) It was so tight I’m pretty sure I lost a few years of my life on some of those passes. I’m not kidding. When you have to retract the side view mirrors to gain a few extra few inches, trust me, it is tight!

When the app said we were four minutes away from arriving at our destination, it instructed us to turn right and head up a road that was so narrow, even Won was convinced we wouldn’t make it. Rather than take a chance and scratch the sides of the car, we decided it was time to reassess.

We sat there for at least ten minutes trying to find an alternate route to get us to the palace using our navigation apps. Google Maps on my phone was suggesting a 25 minute route that led us out of town and around the other side of the mountain. That felt silly. We were so close! Won’s Waze app kept switching between the previously recommended route and the one my phone was suggesting. In the end, we gave in and followed the new route knowing there was no way we could complete the current route. However, once we had left the town and were at the base of the mountain it had us make a right turn heading up again, but this time it was a rough, pitted, uneven dirt track! As we gamely attempted to follow it, an older couple walking toward us, gestured for us to turn around. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough room to make a U-turn so Won had to back down the entire way. I think we were both secretly relieved to have abandoned that path, but our second attempt to storm the castle had just failed.

Won was understandably pretty frustrated. I suggested we drive to his golf club, which was about five minutes away, and hire a car to drive us there. A local would surely know how to get there, but when we got to the club Won couldn’t find the ride sharing app on his phone (the phone was new and he hadn’t downloaded it yet…groan…). With nothing left to lose, I suggested we drive up to Quinta da Regaleira, which we knew how to get to – and which we also knew was relatively close to Pena – and then enter the palace into Google Maps reasoning that being so close it would give us directions that were more effective. Won agreed and off we went, but we were stumped yet again! By that time, I could see a series of twisty roads on my Google Maps app leading up the mountain that looked like they would get us there. Instead of using the app, I told Won I would be the navigator.

[By the way, I should mention that there are buses that run people up to the palace from the town on a regular schedule. Why didn’t we take one you ask? We’re stubborn and Won wasn’t a fan of taking a bus.]

As I kept instructing him on where to go, we reached an intersection that required us to turn right or left. It looked like we should turn left, but the paved road we had been on turned to cobblestones. It remained paved to the right. Also to the left was a road sign that was unfamiliar to us. It looked like it might be private property and it certainly didn’t look like we should proceed that direction. I looked again at the spaghetti-like streets on my phone and said I thought I could guide us there if we turned right. Another total fail. This way took us DOWN the mountain, not up. Won turned the car around and headed back the way we came.

No Stopping

In the meantime, I kept thinking about that sign. It was round, all blue, with a red border and a red “X” across it. It seemed vaguely familiar. Then I remembered! I had seen it the week before and looked it up then. It means you cannot stop or park along the edge of the road! We plunged forward and followed the cobblestone road. Within minutes we could tell we were near the park surrounding the palace. As we followed the twisty road I noticed a small wooden arrow sign with the words “Pena Palace.” Just a bit further along we found a parking area. Yay!! We had finally made it. What should have been a 35 minute drive turned out taking two hours! We we so happy to have finally found it, we jumped out of the car and headed back to that little sign assuming that was the path to take.

This is where it gets comical. When we reached the sign, we stepped off the paved road and into the forest. There was a tiny little natural staircase leading down made of uneven tree roots and small pathway beyond which led to a jumble of stones we had to scale. Back on the pathway, we kept going. At one point I looked to my right and what did I see through the trees? Our car in the parking lot!! Not ten steps further and just around a corner, Won who was ahead of me, stepped back out onto the paved road. The palace entrance and ticket office was in front of him. I nearly peed in my pants with laughter!! Had we just turned right when we left the parking lot and walked about 20 feet around the corner, we would have seen it.

Now that the odyssey of getting to the palace was behind us we headed toward the ticket machines. We chose the ticket option that included the park as well as the interior of the castle. They were 14€ each. Be forewarned, the park is extensive and we didn’t have time to do it justice. There is a free Pena Park shuttle that will take you around, which, of course, we skipped. Will we ever learn???

Pena Convent (its former construction), by George Vivian (1839).

It is helpful to understand a little bit about the location and how the palace came to be. The castle’s history started when a chapel was built and dedicated to Our Lady of Pena in the Middle Ages after an apparition of the Virgin Mary took place. King Manuel I (1495-1521), was very fond of this sanctuary and ordered the construction of a monastery to be built on the site which was then donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks. In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightning. However, it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, occurring shortly afterwards, that took the heaviest toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins. Thankfully the chapel and its works of marble and alabaster escaped without significant damage.

For many decades the ruins remained untouched until 1838 when Ferdinand II acquired the old monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors and a few other estates in the area. King Ferdinand transformed the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. The commission for the Romantic-style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. Construction took place between 1842 and 1854. King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II intervened decisively on matters of decoration and symbolism. Among others, the King suggested vault arches and asked that Medieval and Islamic elements be included. In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the Republican Revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.

Won and I, for some bizarre reason, didn’t think it was necessary to take the park shuttle up the hill to the castle. We thought it would be better to walk. On the plus side, it was a sunny day, there was a lot of shade from the trees, and the gardens we passed through were beautiful. However, I nearly expired on the way there. I have no idea how long it took to walk – maybe 15 minutes? But, it was a steep climb. My heart was pumping like an steam engine. Now I know why castles are built on really tall hills and mountains; the invading army would be completely pooped by the time they got to the castle rendering them practically ineffectual upon arrival. Good planning, but woe to those poor souls who worked there and had to lug themselves and everything needed to supply the thing up the mountain. Egad.

When we got to the castle, and I had the chance to literally catch my breath, it was taken away again when I saw the palace up close. It didn’t seem real. It was also dizzying to look up at it.

The views from the castle are amazing. I don’t suffer from acrophobia (a fear of heights), but even I was slightly unnerved. Unfortunately, our extensive tour of the mountain using every possible road to get there delayed us considerably and the skies had turned slightly hazy by the time we reached the palace, but you can still appreciate how far up it is and how far you can see.

The intentional mixture of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance as seen in the Neo-images below (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

After racing from one side to the other to gawk at the views, we made the chapel our first stop. Built in the 16th century, it houses an altarpiece made of alabaster and black limestone (ca. 1470-1551) which survived the devastating lightening strike and subsequent great earthquake of 1755.

The old portion of the palace is centered on a lovely cloister that was originally part of the monastery.

The interior spaces of the palace are modest compared to all of the other palaces we have seen so far. The furnishings and décor reflect the styles and tastes from the latter part of the 19th century. The bedroom and bathroom below, as an example, belonged to King Carlos.

The private dining room for the royal family is located in the old portion of the castle, which is where the monks would dine when it was a monastery. And even though you can’t see it, the views are amazing.

The images below are of the “new” section of the palace and have high ceilings and more spacious room sizes. The leather furniture, full-sized torch bearers, and stained glass windows in the Great Hall are interesting and unusual. The room was used to entertain guests and had a billiards table when the royal family lived there.

The Stag Room is circular in shape and was used for formal dining occasions. A large round table was set around the center column.