Porto | Cascais
São Miguel, Azores
On each subsequent visit since our
first trip to Lisbon in 1997, we have seen this
remarkable city smoothly transform itself into a dynamic
cosmopolitan urban metropolis without losing its
historical, cultural and architectural identity. Colorful
trams still patrol the streets and hills; neighborhoods
have not lost their distinctive character while embracing
reconstruction and renovation (the laundry still hangs
majestically), and the riverfront has taken on new life
with the development of leisure activities, restaurants,
bars and cafes along its banks. Traditional shops,
restaurants and hotels coexist with the new trendy
offerings. The streets were busy, the restaurants were
packed and the hotels were full, which in a way worked
out better, since we got to stay in three totally
different hotels within a few minutes of each other on
the city's main boulevard, Avenida da Liberdade. It was
no hardship to roll our carry-ons from one to another.
We stayed at two hotels of Hoteis Heritage Lisboa, the brand new Heritage Av Liberdade,
Avenida da Liberdade 28, and the Hotel Lisboa Plaza, Tv.
Salitre at Av.Liberdade. The third was Hotel Tivoli Lisboa, Avenida da Liberdade, 185.
Our stays in Lisboa have always
included the properties of Hoteis Heritage. We were
delighted that they were able to accommodate us in their
newest, Heritage Avenida Liberdade, at the corner of
Largo da Anunciada, a location of historic significance:
Liberdade, the ancient pedestrian thoroughfare and Largo
Anunciada which once housed a 17th century Dominican
Friar Monastery and the Ericeiras Palace. A major portion
of the public promenade was owned by the Ericeiras family
as well as the site of the hotel, which building was
erected around 1770.
Portuguese architect Miguel Cancio
Martins did a masterful renovation of this 18th century
building to a modern boutique hotel while maintaining its
ancient character. The exterior is unchanged. As we
approached the stunning blue mosaic tiles were bathed in
sunlight highlighting the French windows and narrow
balconies. Enter not just a lobby and reception but a
grand sitting room surrounded by tall windows overlooking
the treed esplanade of Liberdade and the pretty largo
leading to the old Elevador do Lavra and the hills above.
The beautifully upholstered chairs and sofas offer an
opportunity to sit and admire the attractive high ceiling,
the restored original azulejo tiles that grace the walls,
and the handsome pieces of traditional Portuguese
furniture and art scattered throughout.
Overlooking the ground floor is a
small mezzanine library lounge with a desk and computer,
books, magazines, newspapers and comfy seating.
If you remember to bring your
workout clothes and bathing suit, there's a stunning
fitness center with treadmill, bikes, whirlpool and
lounges on the lower level.
When the elevator doors opened, we
were treated to a stunning, innovative design concept
with old photographs of city scenes decorating its
The French windows of our front
corner king bedded room opened to a panoramic view of
Liberdade and Anunciada. The walls and fabrics of the
drapes, stylish lounge and bedding were in hues of gold,
brown and beige which complemented the wooden floor and
area rugs. The original tiles and marble floor of the
bathroom contrasted agreeably with the contemporary
fixtures. The mirror over the sink spanned the full
height of the wall to the high ceiling - a basketball
players dream. A unique feature was a socket in the
electronic safe for charging cell phones, etc. A
combination of spot, floor and bedside fixtures provided
excellent lighting throughout.
A tantalizing top quality buffet
breakfast is presented in the bar area of the main floor
lounge, a great way to start the day.
The stylish Hotel Lisboa Plaza is
an old friend. The hotels unique character is
defined by its dedication to good taste and detail. The
wide handsome marble lobby and smiling faces at reception
give the first clue. The bar/lounge and adjoining sitting
room are designed and furnished comfortably for meeting
friends for a drink or reading. A well equipped business
center offers complimentary computer access.
Guest accommodations are elegant
and comfortable. Our large sitting room with sofa, chairs,
desk and tables and the king bedroom were done in classic
style with a TV in each space. Two closets and two
luggage racks were more than we required but ample even
for those who have yet to adopt our packing light
strategy. We appreciated the good lighting as well as the
decanter of Port and bowl of raisins. The large marble
bathroom had all the comforts and, as in the Heritage
Avenida Liberdade, cozy bathrobes and slippers.
The breakfast buffet is served in
the dining room. The presentation, selection and quality
leaves nothing wanting - eggs, meats, vegetables, fruits,
cheeses, breads, cereals, yogurt, pastries, juices,
coffee, tea, plus, plus. If buffets are your thing, try
dinner or champagne brunch on the week-end.
We had enjoyed our time at the
Hotel Tivoli in Sintra in 2004 so we were looking forward
to our stay at the Tivoli Lisboa and we were not
disappointed. This traditional, elegant hotel, with 329
rooms, is geared for business travelers and tourists. At
the rear of the huge main floor lounge, an Internet point
with two computers is complimentary for guests.
At check-in we were told that the
room we had booked was still occupied so we were being
upgraded to an available suite! A large entryway led to
the sitting room which was done in quality period
furnishings in rich burgundy tones. There were two sofas,
three chairs, a desk, TV cabinet, three tables and a bar.
Lovely drapes separated the comfortable bedroom with twin
beds, night tables, a table and four chairs plus a chest
of drawers. The marble bathroom with tub and stall shower,
double sinks and separate toilet/bidet room was stocked
with every amenity including thick terrycloth bathrobes
The breakfast buffet in the main
floor restaurant was excellent, a great variety on offer,
well-presented and maintained. We were impressed with the
level of service considering the number of guests being
In 2004 we wrote enthusiastically
about a recently opened restaurant, Luca, at Rua
Sta. Marta, 35, Tel. 21 3150212, which has become one of,
if not the most popular restaurant in Lisbon. From Porto
to Cascais and Portel we met people who had been to and
raved about Luca. Rua St. Marta is just east of the Hotel
Tivoli so off we went to say hello to Luca and
congratulate him on his success. Luca spotted us in the
doorway and came dashing over with the ever-present
charming smile, hugs and kisses. He remembered that we
had been the first to discover and write about his
restaurant. He was busy attending to the lunch crowd so
we quickly made reservations for the evening and took our
Its geographic position capturing
the suns rays from rising to setting, Lisbon is
known as the "white city" with its buildings
and stone streets and sidewalks sparking throughout the
daylight hours. Combine this with its warm temperatures
year round and you have the perfect walking city. If the
seven hills wear you out the trams and elevators will
bail you out.
Heading back to Liberdade, we
scooted down Rua Rodrigues Sampaio and as we approached
Hotel Britania, a Heritage Hotels property where
weve stayed several times, Marco the doorman
spotted us and invited us in for a drink. After chatting
a bit he asked if we would like to see the new rooms that
had been added on the top floor. Wow, a floor that had
been used for laundry and storage was now a show stopper!
They had managed to find the marble that was used on the
corridor floors below to maintain the continuity. The
rooms are stunning in their simplicity. Soft grey tones,
cork floors, minimal contemporary furnishings, marble
clad bathrooms and balconies with wooden decks create a
smart sophisticated environment. As usual, the Britania
has done it with style.
Walking along the sidewalks and
tree lined esplanade of the wide Avenida da Liberdade one
sees the pace of change. Renovation and reconstruction is
bringing renewed vitality to this historical thoroughfare.
At the south end is Praca dos Restauradores and the
Rossio train station, a historical monument. Now that the
facade has been restored and cleaned, its architectural
beauty shines in all its glory. Work is still going on
inside so it is still not open for business. If your
plans involve traveling to or from Rossio, be sure to
check for alternatives.
Praca D. Pedro IV and neighboring
Praca da Figueira were ablaze in sunlight and with their
renovations completed are a compelling sight. This is the
city center, the crossroads of history and culture, the
place to people watch and understand the diversity of
Near the entrance to the Barrio/Chiado
metro stop, I spotted "5 A Sec Laundry". I had
a nasty spot on my sport jacket and stopped in to see how
long they would need to clean it. Manuella asked me to
take it off for her inspection and she immediately began
to work her magic. Five minutes later she handed it back
to me good as new. She refused to take any payment and
wished us a pleasant stay in her city and country
what a country!
At 20:00, when we arrived at Luca Restaurante (Rua St. Marta, 35, Tel. 21 3150212), it
was hopping. Luca's menu features creative recipes with
an Italian bias utilizing the freshest market ingredients
available. The stylish, airy contemporary design and
enthusiastic young well-trained staff bring life to Luca's
We told Luca we would like a little
bit of a lot of things, a tasting menu if you will. He
was more than happy to accommodate us, as was our waiter
who was wearing a Luca t-shirt with "Rookie"
emblazoned on the back. He may have been new but he was
efficient with a delightful personality.
We were teased with a shot glass
filled with a gazpacho with morsels of octopus and green
beans. Luca suggested a light, fruity white of organic
grapes from Casa de Monraz in the Dao region which was
delicious and perfect with the entire menu.
I can still taste the incredible
next course, fresh rare foie gras on a bed of greens with
toasted hazelnuts, mango and candied ginger on a balsamic
Our next treat was a plate of two
pastas. Fettuccine "Al Granchio" was prepared
with fresh crab meat, tomato, sautéed garlic, chili,
white wine and a bit of fresh cheese. Pennette was done
with tomato, baby spinach, bacon, garlic and chili.
Now something from the sea,
slightly seared scallops on a bed of mashed potatoes
dotted with almond slivers in a puree of pumpkin,
decorated with a drizzle of balsamic, filled the bill
Who says you can't have another
serving of pasta between the sea and the earth? This time
an ethereal house made, pumpkin-filled, ravioli lightly
dressed in truffled cream sauce with a touch of curry and
I must point out that there was
ample time between courses for us to socialize with our
neighbors and prepare for the next surprise which turned
out to be a bed of artichoke, porcini mushrooms, walnuts,
bacon bits, celery cream, resting on mustard sauce,
topped with a serving of tender, juicy partridge.
We were at the point that we were
begging for mercy but to no avail. We really thought the
lemon gelato with a touch of champagne was the end, but
soon after a plate of hazelnut cake filled with warm
hazelnut sauce and passion fruit ice cream was placed
For a memorable meal and delightful
experience, Luca is a must. Call for reservations.
Today we would visit the Alfama
District. We headed south through Rossio Square on Rua
Augusta through the Baixa, the central shopping and
business district grid. This wide majestic street is the
busiest thoroughfare of the Baixa. The buildings lining
the way are architectural gems. Shoppers can choose from
age old traditional shops, international chains and
everything in-between. Mimes, ice cream and flower stands,
roasted chestnut vendors and outdoor cafes add color and
fun. At the south end of the street is an enormous
archway that leads into Praca do Comercio.
At the cross street, Rua Conceicao,
we boarded tram #28 which would wind its way up the
narrow streets of the Alfama to Castel St.Jorge where we
would stop to admire the city and river views one more
Close to the castle in Graca is the
imposing church and monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora, one
of the most notable religious monuments in the city.
Down the hill
through the narrow, twisting, colorful residential
streets, we checked out the renovations to the ancient
homes as we found our way to the Fado and Guitar Museum
at Largo Chafariz de Dentro, 1. Opened in 1998, the
museum traces the evolution of Fado music in Portugal.
With enthusiastic guides, its a fun learning
experience with wax figures, audiovisual aids, photos and
information panels. Fado music with emotional themes of
longing, personal feelings, love and relationships, came
to be in a Lisbon neighborhood. A bar scene with
authentic costumed figures and instruments from that
period starts your education and ends with a replica of a
current typical fado restaurant. Fado music accompanied
our journey through the museum where we saw smashing Fado
posters and were introduced to legendary fado artists.
The collection of guitars is fascinating and it should be
noted that electric versions just don't cut it for fado.
The museum operates a fado and classical guitar school.
There's a cafe and shop with an excellent selection of
Cafe-Restaurante Martinho da Arcada, Praca do Comercio 3, is one of the oldest
in the city. We have often had coffee and pastry in the
cafe, but this would be our first visit to the restaurant.
This is an eatery steeped in
tradition from the menu to the decor and waiters. We
started with sopa de feijao verde (green bean soup) and
ameijos a bolhao pato (baby clams steamed with oil,
garlic and pepper). A thick cut of grouper was nicely
grilled and served with boiled veggies as was a filet of
sole with a lobster bisque sauce. Everything was top
quality, fresh and well prepared. However, our waiters
were terribly slow in serving (just disappeared at times)
so that the food arrived late and not hot enough. We were
there forever and will never return.
We wanted to take bus #28 west to
Belem from Praca do Comercio but were delayed by a union
demonstration march from the waterfront up Rua Augusta,
which was blocking all traffic. Finally one bus driver
was brave enough to work his way through the marchers and
we were on our way.
Since we would be attending MODA
Lisboa in the Museo da Electricidade in the early evening,
we decided to stop at the famous Antiga Confeitaria Pasteis de Belem, Rua de Belem 84, for a sampling of pasteis
de Belem. Head for the blue awnings and line-ups, folks,
these pasties de natas are second to none. Their secret
recipe delivers a delicious smooth creamy filling in a
flaky crusty cup served warm, right out of the oven. I
took a walk all around and discovered rooms I did not
know existed. It's huge and every table was taken. Folks
were three deep in front of the kitchen windows watching
the preparation process. The take out counter at the
front was a gazillion deep. It's good stuff. Luckily for
us we have Portuguese bakeries in Toronto that do a
pretty good job "copying" the natas.
When we arrived at the nearby
Jeronimos Monastery we found hoards of visitors outside
and inside and it's no wonder why. It's a stunning
example of the Manueline art style. UNESCO recognized it
a World Heritage Site in 1984 by declaring, "Standing
at the entrance to Lisbon harbor the Monastery of the
Hieronymites - construction of which began in 1502 -
exemplifies Portuguese art at its best".
King Manuel I ordered its
construction to honor Vasco da Gama's discoveries and to
thank Virgin Mary for the success. The monks of the Order
of Saint Jerome who lived in the monastery gave blessings
to the ships, seamen, navigators, explorers and prayed
for the King's soul. Vasco da Gama's and poet Luis de
Camoes' tombs are placed inside the entrance. Other
historically important Portuguese persons are also
entombed; Kings Manuel and Sebastiao and poets Fernando
Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.
cloister is a show stopper. The Manueline carvings on the
high arches and graceful columns, each with a different
design motif of the sea, are awe inspiring. The ground
level and balcony rise in perfect symmetry and are topped
with graceful spires. Just off the cloister is the
ancient, huge refectory with its vaulted Manueline
ceiling and blue, yellow and white tiles depicting the
Biblical story of Joseph.
Off to the nearby Museo da
Electricidade, Av. Brasilia. This huge building on the
banks of the river was an electricity station from 1914-1975.
It become a museum in 1990 and today also hosts
We were delightfully entertained
here for the better part of four days having been invited
to attend MODA Lisboa Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2007
Portugal. It was show time for all the best Portuguese
fashion designers, the well-known and the new names.
We were treated to energetic
performances reflecting the themes of each collection.
Models, makeup, hairstyles, accessories and music in
harmony, created a buzz that culminated in resounding
applause and accolades from the enthusiastic industry
professionals filling the stands.
View the slide show on my blog, for a taste of Portugal fashion
Spring/Summer 2007 as presented by the likes of Anabela
Baldaque, Alves & Goncalves, Nuno Gama, Ricardo
Durado, Jose Antonio Tenente, Ana Salazar, Nuno Baltazar
and Maria Gambina.
It's always a special treat when we
can get-together with members of TheTravelzine discussion
group. We have had the privilege of meeting with João
and Rui here in Lisboa in the past and fortunately they
were available to meet us for lunch. We met at Pinóquio,
Praca dos Restauradores, 79, a Lisbon institution. It was
a warm day so we passed on the outdoor patio and opted
for the air conditioned comfort indoors. We arrived in
time to get a table just before the lunchtime crowd.
Linda had a thick cut of grouper,
beautifully grilled, served with boiled potatoes and
fresh green beans. João and Rui recommended either the
marrone (pasta) de grouper or the arroz (rice) de grouper.
I chose the stewed grouper with pasta. A huge iron pot
was placed in front of me chock full of grouper, clams,
and elbow pasta in a luscious broth. Our dining mates had
the arroz, one with grouper and one with monk fish.
Everyone loved his choice. The Portuguese dine at a
relaxed pace appreciating the food, chatting with friends
or family, probably discussing the next meal. It works
We took a walk after lunch to the
nearby Largo de Domingos to sample Ginjinha, a famous
cherry drink, at Ginjinha sem Rival (ginjinha without
rival). This tiny stand sells only this drink, perfect
after Sunday lunch.
João offered to drive us to
Electricity Museum for the scheduled shows and Rui
followed on his motorcycle for a final goodbye. These are
The Shaare Tikva (Gates of Hope)
Synagogue is at Rua A. Herculano, 59. We rang the bell
and were welcomed by the caretaker. In 1821, with the
inquisition and abolition ending, the Sephardic Jews
began to return to Lisbon. It took years of hard work and
struggle to build a synagogue and finally on May, 19,
1904 Shaare Tikva was inaugurated. There is a complete
and detailed history on the Shaare Tikva web site.
It is a shame that there are only
500 families that are spiritually nurtured at Shaare
Tikva, a handsome synagogue, and that they have been
without a Rabbi for a year. Members of the congregation
conduct the services themselves.
There are many excellent small
places to enjoy very good food at reasonable prices with
the added benefit of an authentic cultural experience. We
always return to such a place, Tendinha do Salitre, Rua
do Salitre, 141. Tendinha is only open for lunch. Come
early or late or you will wait (its worth the wait).
Antero mans the tables and a fellow behind the counter
coordinates activities between the kitchen and the dining
room. The two ladies in the kitchen produce simple
traditional dishes made from the freshest ingredients.
We arrived in time to wait, but
just 10 minutes or so. It was late enough that we had a
table for four to ourselves rather than sharing. We
always order the soup, fresh grilled fish and melon for
dessert. The portions are generous. Todays sopa was
puree de feifao (beans) and hortalica (cabbage). The fish
was cherne, served with boiled potatoes and mixed salad.
The waiter thought I should try a bit of a local favorite,
beans and pork fat, and brought me a small dish. It's
really very tasty, I nibbled on the beans but my
conscience would not let me pack my arteries with pork
fat. He understood and was not hurt. Somehow they always
manage to have the sweetest melon in town and the coffee
is the best.
Another one of these wonderful
small places to eat is FORVM, Rua de Santa Marta 39A.
This one is multi-dimensional, a restaurante, cafeteria,
pastelaria, snack bar. It's very clean and the staff is
particularly friendly and cheerful. We popped in for
lunch one day when we were in the neighborhood. The caldo
verde had a perfect pureed texture, thick with kale and
rich in flavor. Linda, who is an expert on fried fish
filets, declared her beauties were wonderful as were the
boiled potatoes, broccoli and carrots. I had my own slice
of heaven, rabbit stew with white beans, carrots, rice,
garlic and herbs. More excellent coffee. The prices were
Today we were off to Parque das
Nacoes (Nations Park) located on the former site of Expo
98. The excellent metro system had us there in about 15
minutes. (We took the blue line from the Avenida stop,
changed to the green line at Baixa Chiado, took that to
the Alameda station, where we changed to the red line to
The space age Oriente station was
designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrave. It was
designed as a complete transportation terminal linking
subway, inter-city and suburban rail links and road
transport. There is parking for 1500 vehicles. It also
serves as an introduction to the new suburban/urban
development here on the northeast coast of the city. The
setting on the sea is gorgeous, the air is clean and
fresh, commuting to the city center is a breeze and the
road connections to all parts of the country are nearby.
Exiting the station we found
ourselves facing the boldly designed Vasco da Gama
shopping center, the second largest in Lisbon. The
interior is flooded with sunlight from a large
transparent roof. To our left and right were brand new
tall condominiums, office towers and hotels.
destination was the Oceanario, the
aquarium of Lisbon, opened in 1998 as part of Expo with
the theme, "The Oceans, Heritage for the future".
Its purpose is to impart knowledge of marine life and to
promote conservation of the oceans. This is one of the
largest aquariums in the world housing 8000 animals and
over 500 plant species brilliantly presented by
reconstituting the ecosystems of the world's five oceans.
The central tank, the Global Ocean,
represents a single ocean with all major species and is
visible throughout the journey. It is breathtaking in its
size, capacity (5 million liters of water) and variety of
specimens. There are around 25 other thematic tanks in
which the geological and climatic characteristics of each
habitat have been reproduced. The grace and beauty of the
animals and the shapes and colors of the plant species
were a joy to behold. We were enthralled.
The cable car that starts from in
front of the Oceanario provides an excellent overview of
the park, gardens, water, and a great vantage point for
photographing the splendid Vasco da Gama bridge in the
distance. The ride goes as far as the Torre Vasco da Gama
before returning. The tower was built as an eastern
counter-point to the Torre da Belem. It's currently the
tallest building in Portugal, expected to be converted to
a luxury hotel.
There are many restaurants to
choose from. We selected Origens Bio,
Alameda dos Oceanos Lote 1.02.1-2A Lofa 1. The modern
space is done in green with lots of glass and mirrors,
quite appropriate for a restaurant committed to offering
a carefully selected product , 100% certified, without
artificial additives, preserving the environment
according to the standards of organic agriculture.
We started with a salad of arugula,
endive, sautéed shrimp, mango and coriander leaves and
codfish carpaccio with red pepper, coriander, olive oil
and a touch of crispy sausage. Both were quite good.
Linda had sirloin steak with fried potatoes and sautéed
vegetables which was fine. My robalo forno was uniquely
presented but was a frozen farmed fish that was tough and
tasteless. We also tried a shrimp acorda that was
presented in a hollowed out corn bread seasoned with
coriander, tomato, onions and piri piri which was fair.
We finished with assorted homemade ice creams. The
premium charged for this organic fare does not represent
good value, in our opinion.
There's something for everyone at
Nations Park. The numerous pavilions designed for Expo
offer distinctive venues for exhibitions, conferences,
trade fairs, etc. The brand new Casino Lisboa offers an
extensive gambling and entertainment venue. The runners,
walkers and strollers can take advantage of the riverside
We headed over to the Camoes
Theatre, headquarters of the Portuguese National Ballet, to get tickets for a future performance.
Its comfortable modern style is designed for music, dance
and theatre. We returned to a packed house of about 1000
to enjoy the ballet "O Passaro de Fogo"
performed to the dynamic music of Igor Stravinski.
This was a delightful way to spend
our last evening in Lisbon before departing for Sao
Miguel in the Azores.
Porto | Cascais
São Miguel, Azores
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