Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’

Ай, ну что вы травите

Получила рассылку из DesignHotels с рекламой Португалии.

To understand Portuguese perhaps all one really needs to know is the country itself. For example, to say “beautiful whitewashed villages set on low cliffs overlooking perfect sandy coves” in Portuguese, you need simply say Algarve.

А то я не знаю!

вилла монте

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Joao Pedro

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Прочла текст и комментарии. И не написала рефлекторно «свидетельство очевидца». Не поддалась!


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Step Away

Hauntingly beautiful photos of Portugal in winter time by nessa_flame

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visitors from Portugal: let’s switch!

For a couple of weeks, that is.

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Attention, Cinderellas:

…уж полночь близится!
Museu Nacional dos Coches [1726]- Belém, Lisboa (Portugal)

By Laurent.D.Ruamps, Museu Nacional dos Coches [1726][Belem, Lisboa, Portugal]

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Found on Etsy

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It is probably effect of a certain time in life – suddenly I wake up to the fact of wide wonderful world out there. Suddenly, because the randomness and intensity is just like those annoying and a bit shameful “flashes” of middle age that I’d never believe my body is capable of. Until it was, recently. Now I live in uncertainty not unlike my teenage years: what to wear? how to dress? would people think me mad if I up and force open the office window – and then in two minutes flat run to shut it and put on a cardigan and a coat? The suddenness of my urge to travel surprised me exactly like that.
All fall and winter I was meeting with indifference stories of somebody’s trips; travelogues meant to me not much more than a nicely constructed text. And now, starting last week, I wake up with yet another vivid vision in front of my eyes – vision of another country, city, people, smells, language, food, melancholy or joy. They might be possible to recognize but never they will become my own – they are foreign and endlessly fascinating.
Lagos! Montevideo! Barcelona! Key West, Grand Cayman and Kauai! Rome, Ostia, Tivoli, Capri, Herculanum! Budapest!  I want to be everywhere, ASAP!

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Update to old post

Porto. Casa de Serralves. Arch. Marques Da Silva

Porto. Casa de Serralves

My stats showed a reader who came searching – not for “Jews”, not “Lvov pogroms”, not all-time stat champion “Bilibin”, not some LJ schlock – but  about Portuguese architecture. Darling visitor, you made me very happy.

…Pleasant park cacophony turned into a deliberate silence. Unknown bird cried something …a warning? The alley grew darker and longer. The tops of the trees swung frantically under invisible wind; here, on the path, like at the bottom of the well, all was quiet. I couldn’t see the end of the alley; it went uphill like a straight red arrow. A movement in the treetop sent a chestnut to my feet: small, hard as a rock, deliciously smooth and the color of dried blood. I picked it up and noticed, at a side glance, stroke of pink behind vegetation on my left. A flamingo? I followed the flashing vision…there was a path trickling between jasmine shrubs. I exited the alley and had a revelation.

Although you can’t see any pictures – my photos of the time all disappeared together with the depository storage site faces-dot-com – I can make at least one thing better, compared with 2006 post. Porto’s glorious Villa Serralves considerably improved their website; we can now read it in English, and they added several pages on history: original owner, architects, interiors and surrounding park. Enjoy it with me!

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Speaking of Lagos and Art:

How do you like the little animation?

Don’t see the little animation? Ah, sorry, here’s the link-to-click. Still don’t see it?  What about now?


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September in Lusitania

It is tempting, oh so tempting!

IMG_0055My British friends R. and Y. just let me know they have booked 2 September weeks at Lagos hotel where we all met 7yrs ago. They hope I “will be able to make it this year” and are already planning grandiose program of picnics, day trips and wine tastings.
And I made a mistake of checking room availability…ohmygod ohmygod! They have a gorgeous one for $65/night, with sunken bath, shower and balcony overlooking the bay, with breakfast and beach shuttle included.


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One of three

…my most beloved cities in the world, Oporto. I saw this and got another attack of saudade. Or maybe it’s because I can’t get rid of a winter cold ( it actually became worse – got an ear infection – which led to losing not just hearing of outside world but sense of taste, too*).

So now I’m looking at familiar streets descending to Douro, re-live my days there, recall tiny events and small details and deep yearning, almost a wail, fills my chest.

Porto (photos by *i_shmael @ http://i-shmael.livejournal.com/3287589.html)

* An afterthought: this circumstance, actually, more likely explains my blues: I love food and being unable to appreciate the taste feel inadequate and confused. That, and the fact that while consuming I now hear my own chewing VERY LOUDLY, unlike the sounds from the outside. On the other hand – this must be a good method to loose some weight…will see.

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Clicking on “likes” under my posts sometimes I come across a like-minded soul.
Meet Mishatsky:

Born Polish, in love with Istanbul, lived in Warsaw and Lisbon, currently looking for a new place. I haven’t found my place on earth yet, but it may be because I feel good everywhere in the world. Before I end one project there are several other ideas in my head already. I love travelling, cooking, skiing, reading, taking photos, painting and making graphics. I believe that nothing happens without a reason

She traveled to Portugal and noticed things I would notice myself…ah, it is September again, and how I wish to be there!

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Дорогая Аннунциата,


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Retirement plan


  1.  Learn to drive
  2. Learn to drive a compact cargo van on serpentine mountain roads
  3. Move to Marvao, Portugal
  4. Work as supply  line for population of 150 (permanent employment guaranteed)
  5. Happiness

[see more outstanding photos of the place @Lada’s journal, here]

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came back from her travels and posted pictures

…and I, again, am smitten with longing for Portugal

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Expat universe

World is full of wonder, I’m never tired being amazed by the fact. Internet just made this realization more noticeable.

After reading Alan Little’s comment to Brian’s post I leisurely googled “history of foreign occupation of Portugal”. Haven’t found what I was looking for, but came across an astonishing publication. Apparently there is a local newspaper in English in Algarve established, maybe, by British expats? – or so it seems to me after 3-minute browsing – called Algarve Resident, that highlights such tremendously important matters as golf courses supposedly putting strain on the environment, possible abuse of German juveniles in Portuguese homes (?!?) and…wait for it…the need [of Portugal]  to “invest in biomass and nuclear energy”.

Two more links on that site brought me to possible sponsor of that enterprise, The ResidentGroup, that evidently owns other branches – AlgarveGoodLife magazine, Welcome magazine, golf, real estate and business websites, directories for property buyers and various services (medical, retail, etc)…I immediately remembered my friends Ivonne and Roger whom I met in resort hotel in Lagos, a couple from W. Midlands, vacationing on Algarve coast for the last 15 years.

Aaaaaa, the British are coming!

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Is here, again, and promises to be no less spectacular than the previous years’. The listings are on, the reservations, alas, are all in – and the most interesting spots are already filled.
But one man’s “interesting’ is another man’s “boring”, so there is plenty left to enjoy without a reservation. Personally, I decided to skip the city on Saturday and go all the way up to Riverdale where I’ve never been before, to take advantage of the last days of indian summer and enjoy the park and the mansion at Wave Hill

On Sunday I will be volunteering again; this time – manning the site of Congregation Shearith Israel, at 8 W 70th Street/Central Park West, from noon to 4pm. Come to see a neo-classical home of a first-in North America Jewish Congregation; I certainly am excited to be chosen to help behind the scenes.
This time I promise to remember NOT to format my memory card after I filled it with beautiful pictures. You bring your cameras, too – and try your hand at FOCUS competition. It’ll be fun!

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Porto. Casa de Serralves. Arch. Marques Da Silva

In the park, almost empty on a midweek afternoon, I wandered off deserted main road. The side path, of coarse red sand, took me to a neoclassical opening in the foliage, adorned with a white stone balustrade and two symmetrical stairs descending in graceful sweep into the alley of old trees. Mildly curious, I went along. Pleasant park cacophony turned into a deliberate silence. Unknown bird cried something …a warning? The alley grew darker and longer. Treetops swung frantically under invisible wind; down here, on the path, like at the bottom of the well, all was quiet. I couldn’t see the end of the alley; it went uphill like a straight red arrow. A movement in the treetop sent a chestnut to my feet: small, hard as a rock, deliciously smooth and the color of dried blood. I picked it up and noticed, at a side glance, a stroke of pink behind the vegetation on my left. Flamingo? I followed the flashing vision…there was a path trickling between jasmine shrubs. I exited the alley and had a revelation.

[From this old post ]

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What’s in YOUR “Port cellar”?

In honor of Rachel’s porto christening I’m starting a meme.

Go to your vine stash (whatever you call it…cellar, bar, under-the-bed-treasure) , dig up and take a picture of the Port you own  – and post it for our mutual delight. Then drink a glass to our health – and be assured that we lift our own to yours, at this exact moment.

I’m first.

port 001port 002port003Oh, the last photo is a bonus.  I wish that was my selection now…

I took it at vine tasting 3.5 yrs ago, in Port Vine cellar in Oporto, in galleria overlooking Douro beneath, among roses and  twinkling water splashing in the fountain.

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I have an attack of saudade

Rural Portugal

Rural Portugal

Rachel Lucas is leaving Britain for a 4-day trip to Lisbon – and her post triggered the attack. It can’t be called anything but saudade – yes, not just nostalgia, but a yearning for an impossible dream, a place of wounding beauty, of life lived with lungs drunk on salty Atlantic air, of lost happiness.

Look at it. See what I mean?

[this photo, and many more just as beautiful- by Leah Lubomirsky]

(фото Леи Любомирской)

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The effect a passionfruit Caipirinha had on Neil Gaiman is suspiciously similar to the one I experienced after half a bottle of Vino Verde.

Somehow, strange as it sounds, but I think it has to do with the watermelony softness of Portuguese language… Ponimão?

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From the unwritten chapter

Alan’s comments reminded me of a few paragraphs I was planning to write for my dull Portuguese epic but was too discouraged by lack of interest and moved on, to other pastures.

Among other pleasant things about Portugal (in comparison to various European countries) are

– relatively little Arab presence on the streets. True, may be there are plenty of muslims of African/E.Timor/Philippino etc origin, still the fact was welcome for this resident of Arabs-invaded neighborhood. But the country is predominantly Catholic, quite religious and I think usual Arab sneaky tactics would not work there. South especially adheres to its in-bones history as frontier in centuries-long battle with Arabs. My local tour guide, on pages referred to Lagos, lists as an important landmark a monument to the “Boy-King”, Dom Sebastiao, who led an ill-destined expedition to Morocco and died there, leaving the throne empty, which resulted later in Portugal falling briefly under the hand of Spaniards. The guide says the people of Algarve have a tradition of looking at the horizon and waiting for “the king that will return”, whose sails “one hazy morning will appear from the sea mist and clear the world of the Moors”. I can’t imagine this sentiment expressed in such frank language anywhere in the Eurabia, nor in the PC-ridden US.

In the North, in Porto, I saw only one graffiti with pro-Palestinian slogan and usual lies about “killer sionists”. Again, there might be thousands more, but for my lack of language I remained blissfully unaware of them.

– mixture of declared power of socialists and grass-roots capitalism. Politically Portugal in an interesting position. I was raised in the belief that Salazar’s regime was equal to Franco’s, which was almost as bad as Hitler’s.
Thankfully, I now have access to a bit more information than was arranged for schoolchildren in Soviet Union. It seems to me now that Portuguese were among the few lucky nations in the 20th century’ Europe. This Wiki article, though throwing “extreme capitalism” and “fascism” in one “right-wing” pile, still give some facts explaining why Salazar’s state persisted through all the ordeals up to 1974, when socialists-forced “Carnation revolution” brought it to its end. I have a feeling if he didn’t insist on maintaining Portuguese colonies, his state would exist up until now, in some sort of more democratic conservative-Catholic form.

When I was visiting, the country was preparing for the elections, and it struck me as unpleasant reminder of SU that hugely oversized portraits of candidates (mostly Communists and Socialists, under various aliases) were erected on every public square and roundabout. However, I was told that traditionalists (or conservatives) are getting more popular, after many years of being suppressed by the lefty parties (fed by their Soviet masters, I’m sure) able to form coalition with Catholic faction etc. What makes more difficult for conservatives, in my opinion, to gain more votes, is their association with aristocracy; that and pseudo-egalitarian demagoguery of Socialists, who won the election and gained majority seats in Parlament. Interesting, though, that Socialist Prime-Minister felt compelled to give the rightist People Party half the posts in the government.

However, I have very elementary understanding of Portuguese politics and can’t claim any knowledge beyond very basic. So for any serious data I’m afraid I will have to send you to better informed sources.

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Land of Saudade. Part IV

Part I, Part II, Part III


The static mental picture of a new place is made alive only by memory of its inhabitants.

I purposely avoided including people I communicated with, in one form or another, into my photographs. I didn’t want to associate this or that architectural landscape with faces – such association is often accidental: would it add something to my impression of Evora
if I took a snapshot of an amusingly incompetent guide from the bus tour, or, alternatively, impressively informed (and very cute) French tourist, kind enough to compensate for her inadequacy with his explanations?

Then, after many months of not touching the subject, I was surprised to discover that this exact thing happened – even without the visual aid, photographs of places remind me of people I encountered there. Shot of this house gate
brings to me that warm velvet evening, silent side street curving her way uphill, and the faces of two black men in the only lit window (in fact, their door was open, too), sipping some dark liquid and playing checkers among old armchairs, strewn raspberry and lemon-hued clothes and bluish flickers of the TV screen. I was returning to my hotel in particularly elevated spirits, after an evening of flamenco, excellent dinner and flirting with company of loud German tourists – only a minute ago there were bright lights, happy chatting and music on the Praca, and now, in the quiet of the southern night, these men looked out of their window, visibly startled by the sound of my heels on the rough mosaic pavers. I returned in the morning and took the picture of their house.

Flamenco festival was in town. Evening before, I couldn’t finish my bottle of red, asked the waitress to cork it and took it with me. Walking thru the Praca, with all its cafe tables, street magicians, gawking tourists, locals on the cellphones, I came across small group of people surrounding four guys with guitars and a girl dancer. They were having a sort of rehearsal, before the big concert, right there, on the street. She was dancing barefoot; olive-skinned lithe beauty in flowing rags, not a glance at the public, a worry line between her eyebrows. It was like a scene from Merimee’s Carmen, updated. Guitars cried, begged and suddenly broke off on a high-pitched accord. She continued for a few moments by herself, then stopped among clapping and looked around as if awaken from a dream. Then took the hat from one of the guitarists and went around the circle. I gestured ” have no money” and instead pointed at my bottle. The five of them laughed (what’s a half a bottle for 5 of them? but they got the gesture), the older guy took my present, she hugged me and started to dance again, this time for me personally; guitars and shouts “ole!” joined her. It lasted no more than a couple of minutes, then they bowed and left, but I still remember her turbulent skirt and white teeth.

The big flamenco concert was memorable too, in a different sense. Nothing of the raw quality of ancient street theater, something more like the Le Théâtre de Clara Gazul. Senoras and senoritas, in their evening best, were given black and scarlet fans at the entrance (I still have mine – it’s gorgeous and NOT made in China), and they surely knew how to use it. Restrained and proper at the beginning, by the end of 2 intense blissful hours the public was shouting, whistling, singing with the musicians and jumping to their feet. Roses were thrown on the stage, to the divine feet of “balerina Mirabal”, as she was called on the program (apology for red-eye; I didn’t have time to adjust for the low light). and she surely deserved them.

I can continue for hours describing similar mental images, which take a split second flashing in my memory. So instead of boring you further, let me just throw on the screen some random notes from my travel notebook.

– on the streets of Lisbon there are very few stocky people. Haven’t seen certifiably obese, so common in American cities. Usual face expression – alert, attentive. Often there is an opinion that Portuguese don’t smile. Yes, they are not giggling like idiots, but they respond likewise to your smile. They are polite and respectful of another’s privacy. Not knowing Portuguese, after 2 days I was able to recognize one word – obrigado (thank you): so often I heard it, and not necessarily addressed to me.
– bad teeth are everywhere. People are generally short. I was introduced to a theory that during centuries of importing the best physical specimen overseas, the country retained only short men – and then survival of the fittest played its role. How sound this theory is, I have no idea – but opinions from the audience are welcome.
– women dress either in black, with below-knee skirt, modest dark clutch and Thatcher-era haircuts (older generation, often very religious), or in pants/jeans/pant suits of every possible color, design and pattern. Very few young women wear skirts. Explanation – the idea of women equality is relatively new to the country (Salazar was gone in the 70’s – they have completely missed The Revolution!), and women celebrate their freedom to wear men’s clothes. [A received opinion. Discuss.]
– lots of young men with wedding rings. I got used to American tendency to get married much later in life – but here to see a 20-something guy, father of two, is normal. A disadvantage: nobody flatters my age here learning that I have a college-age son… Also, a marriage where husband is 5 to 10 years younger than his wife is not rare, at least in the city.

It’s entertainment in itself to observe foreigners in Portugal. In the South I befriended a couple from England, I. and R., who have been vacationing in Algarve for the last 12 years, she – a nurse, he – an engineer. It seems they knew the area better than locals; walked me a few miles to various attractions along the beach, advised on the the best restaurants for my budget and showed their favorite souvenir shop. But – they have never been to Lisbon, or other parts of the country. “We’re quite happy here”, they said. “Why spoil the good thing”?
– on the bus trip to Evora, a picturesque city with ancient University, beautiful non-Baroque cathedral
(a rarity) and labyrinth of Manueline streets
there were tourists from Europe as well as few Americans and even a Brazilian national. Who looked – and was – ethnic Japanese. Her family had lived in Brazil for 80 years; she could only speak Portuguese and some English; no Japanese. She said there are 2 million Japanese in Brazil, is that true? This information she revealed at lunch after excursion, in response to persistent questioning by a Texan. Two elderly ladies with Greek accent in their English at the table turned out to come from Naples, FL and expressed their irritation of having “too many tourists destroying our quiet beautiful town”. In 2 minutes, however, they found Portuguese customer service unsatisfactory: “these people are too proud for their own good; they should be thankful to us, spending good money in their backwater country”. That was hilarious – I exchanged glances with the French guy across the table – nobody else noticed anything out of line.
There was also an old Italian woman on the tour, positively mad. I had en empty seat next to me on the bus, and she moved there from the back; but she wouldn’t sit quiet – she tried to push me from my seat at the window, then she asked for a bathroom stop, then she kept interrupting the guide with requests to turn on A/C (or give her a blanket – it became too cold!) – all the while endlessly and excitedly talking in her native language.
That trip was fun.
– Portuguese stare. Not so much in the touristy South and in Lisbon, but in less-visited Porto I was constantly stared on; I started to feel I grew a tree on my nose or checked if i forgot to put on a skirt in the morning. Believe me, my beauty isn’t that outstanding and I’m not used to attracting so many glances. In two days I was:
a) the center of silent public attention on a tram;
b) in the park where I was looking for Museu Romantico and got a bit lost, a man was following me around; I couldn’t be mistaken since it was a weekday afternoon and there were not many visitors in the park. He disappeared when I finally entered the museum. I’m sure he didn’t have any indecent intentions, it’s just his curiosity took better of him.
c) two elderly signoras in the wine cellar couldn’t take their eyes off me, even when I changed the seat they moved the camp too.

-candid scenes from “Madonna and child” series. One – in one of plentiful tiny stores a mother seated her kid in the window, among the merchandise, and entertained him tossing an orange in the air. Another – on a steep narrow street a woman put an infant down for an afternoon nap – literally. On the sheet of carton on the pavement.

– beggars and bums don’t show a slightest embarrassment; on the contrary – they seem to be performing serious work and are full of self-respect. This guy was making rounds on the train station in Faro.

– I had a long and interesting conversation with concierge at my pensao in Porto, Nelson, a university graduate, about student societies. I showed him this shot
that I just took outside, and asked why I see lots of young and pretty people wrap themselves in black woolen  capes, in the heat of September? Turned out, they are members of praxe, which sounded like [prAsh] – sort of fraternities in the local University. They certainly put much more meaning in their traditions, apart from usual pranks and childish rituals, compared to what I hear from a certain member of American fraternity. Nelson (who was not aware of any connection of his name with the Admiral – heh!) even researched online and printed an article on the topic for me – unfortunately, it was in Portuguese, so I can’t quote from it for yours and mine education!
Back in Lisboa, I was given further explanations – and even a demonstration of the famous cape (thick, almost feltish, wool, with earthy animal smell), and of special signs and emblems in the boyscout fashion – but I promised not to reveal the identity of the bearer, since boasting is against his fraternity rules.

There were many, many more interesting people…a clerk in the central tourist office, who sold me the ticket to the Evora bus tour and 3 days later run across me and L in the cafeteria of the Park of Nations’ mall: not only she recognized us first- she apologized profusely for the low quality of the tour (I didn’t say a thing!) and the incompetent translator; offered to retain tickets to excursions to other city attractions and was genuinely saddened to learn I was leaving the next day…A taxi driver who took me to the Fado restaurant and when instead of promised 10 minutes it took him about 18 (he missed the turn) – he asked for 1/2 of what was on the meter; and thanked me excessively when I paid the full fare and then some. A shopkeeper in Algarve, from whom I bought my cataplana, chatted with me about recipes, old porcelain china, and husbands (“ours won’t appreciate you, -she said – you should go to America, there are plenty of fine men there”)…a middle-aged couple seating next to me on the plane back: they were going on vacation to Macao; the husband was a RE developer. I was so starved for work, we spent an hour sketching layouts for the renovation of his new purchase, an apartment building in Cascais. I learned about many inexplicable restrictions of Portuguese building code; New York DOB is marvel of free enterprise compared to it. Imagine, no open plan allowed; all kitchens are required to be enclosed and have at least one window!

And of course, the jewel of my Portuguese collection, most pleasant people  L and T, thank you. You made my trip truly memorable.

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Part III. Architecture

Part I, Part II

Making preparations for the trip, I deliberately avoided reading much about local architectural styles. I wanted to see everything with a fresh eye. When there are no pictures prepasted, so to speak, in my mind, everything feels like my own discovery. Almost. [if you so desire there are plenty of guidebooks listing all periodic landmarks – Baroque, Manueline, etc – with all registered “must-see” sites.]

First impressive thing is the way Lisbon looks from above, out of plane window. It is very much a planned city. Old part, with its chaotic patchwork of terracotta roofs feels small compared to vast geometrical compositions of recent high-rise developments – pink, yellow, orange, taupe and white. On the ground, I couldn’t find them; that’s what probably passes for suburbia, and I didn’t have time to explore everything I wanted to within the city.
My interests were in the organic, homegrown, something that speaks “here only”; in authenticity. This is what I noted down.


Portugal is a sunny country, on average it has only 100 rainy days per year. (That’s winter! Here’s how perceptions fool you. Talking about the reasons for limited vegetable choices in a local restaurant in Lagos, the owner sighed: we had a very bad winter this year. “Oh, I said, we too had lots of snow in New York” – “Snow? we didn’t have any rain!”)
Merciless sun forces everyone to hide behind double and triple protective layers. Builders invented various ingenious devices – galleries inside the balconies, shutters that cover the windows from inside, rolling jalousies – from outside. In the South, where sun is the fiercest, Moorish patios, fences with terracotta overhangs, screened courtyards create defensive shade from double radiance – sunrays reflected by the eternally brilliant ocean.
In Lisboa, too, I’ve seen beautiful layers everywhere; they make the city appear mysterious, theatrical – like sudden dark and silent cool of the stonefloored parlor after scorching afternoon of the street.


Notice how contemporary building is using same device but expressed via modern vocabulary? That’s another common thing I’ve found to be consistent: modern buildings generally don’t disrupt the fabric of old towns. They grow organically, on the same principles, using the same logic as existing houses, 200 and 300 years old – just on different scale and in updated style. Well, except when starchitect of international fame wants to make a statement. See this white modern villa I took a shot of in siesta- sleepy’ Lagos – it’s on the same street with landmark cathedral circa 15th century, The Igreja de São Sebastião, and it doesn’t look out of place.

Portuguese attitude towards their landmarks seems to be different from American. In US, if some committee decides to give a building a landmark status, it is preserved for posterity in all its illogical anachronisms, down to historically correct formula of brick mortar, and nothing new could be build within a football field from the sacred artifact. Community activists’ outcry against new construction in “historical” neighborhoods (any badly constructed brownstone of 100 yo is considered historical in Brooklyn) make any owner who wants to add 2 extra floors and a roof garden to his property a public enemy. Alternatively, if the building is old but not deemed worthy of the landmark status by established experts, it gets demolished and something faceless, decorated by ugly wall A/C units, grows in its place, like a wound in the body of the street.
Portuguese don’t demolish anything, it seems. Noble Baroque buildings die slow death behind deteriorating gates, their grand facades peel colored plaster to the sidewalks – and owners just make additions. Extensions and extra floors on ancient houses are plentiful.
I was given complicated and long-winded explanation with words like “castle law”, “prohibited for foreigners “, “3rd generation clause”, “city property tax”, but after all this time that’s the only extent I remember. [May be I should ask Tim Worstall for help]
Nevertheless, the result is of peaceful coexistence, continuous tradition, sometimes cute, sometimes moving – like this 19th cent. house, leaning on the side wall of 16th century’s Governor’s Castle, but always warmly human.

In the South, traditional white ornamental finials on the chimney stacks are characteristic of old 1-2 story buildings. But the modern vacation condos, too, are displaying them for the same purpose – decorative as well as functional. Passing just finished 8-story hotel with repetitive vertical alignment of terraces on the facade, I noticed 2 chimney flutes flanking each one, with open-air fireplaces on every floor; the tip of the chimney on the roof was finished with same traditional finial, painted yellow and with intricate cut lacework on all 4 sides.
In chilly winter nights, illuminated from within, these finials must look fantastic: little lantern of pulsing fire, mysterious scarlet hieroglyphics in the abyss of darkness.

Strolling without particular purpose along populated streets of Lisboa, I happened upon an iron tower looking vaguely familiar: those Gothic Revival arches…transparent structure…thousands of rivets; still I was sure I have never seen pictures of it. And then I was told it was built by Eiffel! so there exist more than one Eiffel Tower…

Tourists are welcome to climb to the top (I did): spiral staircases alternate with the ancient elevator; the view from the top, of the reddish roofs, guarding them tall marble cathedrals, scarce groves of greenery in between, descending to the silvery Tagus river and to the graceful sweeping arch of the bridge, all melting in the warm ultramarine of the morning skies, appears in its shining glory before my eyes as I write.

Later, nearing Oporto on the train, taking in the breathtaking view of the Douro-river from my window, I was stunned by another bridge we were crossing; quite memorable. This time I was prepared; it came as almost no surprise: Eiffel-built bridge Dona Maria Pia . Other bridges of Porto are amazing, too.

There are 2 more places I want to tell you about. I was tormenting myself for a week, unable to describe the experience adequately. To restrict the text to emotionless description seems…almost like a betrayal of sorts; to explain why a lump appears in my throat, cold abyss breaks in my stomach every time I look at this [very limited] reminder of these two places – you’ll think I possibly need a prescription of mood-altering hormones.

See, this method of mine, not knowing in advance of the wonder ahead, could be somewhat cruel: I know of people having heart attacks triggered by unexpected happiness.

In the park, almost empty on mid-week afternoon, I wandered off deserted main road. The side path, of coarse red sand, took me to the neoclassical opening in the foliage, adorned with white stone balustrade and 2 symmetrical stairs descending in graceful sweep into the alley of old trees. Mildly curious, I went along. Pleasant park cacophony turned into a deliberate silence. Unknown bird cried something …a warning? The alley grew darker and longer. The tops of the trees swung frantically under invisible wind; here, on the path, like at the bottom of the well, all was quiet. I couldn’t see the end of the alley; it went uphill like a straight red arrow. A movement in the treetop sent a chestnut to my feet: small, hard as a rock, deliciously smooth and the color of dried blood. I picked it up and noticed, at a side glance, stroke of pink behind vegetation on my left. A flamingo? I followed the flashing vision…there was a path trickling between jasmine shrubs. I exited the alley and had a revelation.

Fundacao Serralves, Casa de Serralves, is built by architect Marques De Silva. Close by in the park there is also a beautiful, really well-proportioned and well-thought Contemporary Art Museum , an object of pride of the Porto’s inhabitants (and rightly so).

Still, it can’t compete with the Casa Serralves…Coral floor-to ceiling mirrors. Harmonious halls. Lalique glass ceiling at the top stairwell’s landing. Magnificent gate. Accord of absolute perfection.

The only bit in English I was able to fish out of the Net waters about the architect reads: “Exoticism and Eclecticism
Examples of this new aesthetic tendency, consolidated in the second half of the 20th century, are the Alexandre Herculano and Rodrigues de Freitas secondary schools, by the architect Marques da Silva…”

And the other place, the Oriente railroad station in Lisbon, by my god, Santiago Calatrava. Words are useless here.

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