I am sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of destinations that I can travel to in Europe in a short time for not very much money, thanks to a crop of inexpensive airlines like Easy Jet, Ryannair, and Vueling. Lisbon has been one of the top five places on my Europe travel wish list since I moved here. I read an enticing article in an airline magazine a few months ago about Lisbon and that cinched my decision.
I went in early November, as the weather is still not that cold and it’s off-season. I arrived late morning on a brilliantly sunny day with the crispest blue skies. I like taking the bus from the airport to most of the cities I visit because it goes slow enough to take in the city and I can observe the locals. During my 30 minute I could already tell I liked Lisbon.
The first hotel I was staying at was in the Belem area on the waterfront facing the Tagus River. Walking along the river looking for my hotel I came upon a most striking structure, the Discoveries Monument. Belem is one of the most historical districts in Lisbon and the Discoveries Monument, built in 1960, commemorates the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. The sculpture represents a three-sailed ship with famous Portuguese historical figures and explorers including Vasco de Gama, Magellan, and Cabral. The surrounding plaza has an intricate mosaic floor given by the South African government and signifies a compass of the map of the world charting the routes taken by the Portuguese explorers.
Across from the Discoveries Monument is the Jeronimos Monastery, built in 1502 by King Emanuel I, to celebrate Vasco de Gama’s voyage to India. (Vasco de Gama’s tomb is located inside). The Order of the Saint Jerome monks provided spiritual guidance to the sailors. The incredible detailing and the rich ornamentation of the both pristine white marble on the outside and the dark, mysterious inside dazzled me.
As I was standing on the riverfront, I couldn’t help feeling like I was in San Francisco. The bridge in front of me looked like the Golden Gate Bridge, the color and temperament of the water and the sunny but windy weather conditions were almost identical to San Francisco. My comparison was justified as I later learned that the same company that built the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge built the 25 De Abril Bridge, which connects Lisbon to the Alamada area. Another similarity to San Francisco is that Lisbon had a major earthquake in 1755, which was immediately followed by massive fires and a tsunami and almost totally destroyed the city. The main reason for the fires was that the earthquake happened on All Saints Day, November 1, and there were thousands of candles lit for the holiday, hence causing the fires.
I finally found my hotel, the Altis Belém, a grand white modern edifice that I couldn’t tell what it was from the outside, as the hotel sign, although prevalent, was hard to find. I loved the massive open spaces of the sleek hotel and the restaurant and bar areas were so cool. All the rooms are named after different territories the Portuguese explorers discovered including Africa, South America, and southeast Asia. I was in the Sao Tome room, named after the Caribbean island. The fabulous room was all white except for the dramatic lacquered wall mural of tropical plants and flowers in black, orange, and red and it was so my taste. The bed was deliciously comfortable and next to it was a switch that electronically opened and closed the sheer white drapes. The amazing bathroom suite was nearly the size of my bedroom in Paris with a separate shower room. There was an ample sized balcony that had a terrific view of the bridge and the river.
It’s a good thing the room was so big and comfortable, as I fell ill later that evening with a horrible sore throat and fever. I convalesced the entire next day in the room except for going to the restaurant to eat and I stayed glued to the television watching the election results on CNN. The young, very helpful staff called a doctor for me and he arrived within two hours. I got some antibiotics, which worked like magic bullets, and was almost completely fine by the next day. The waitress from the restaurant was so sweet; she asked if she could bring chicken soup to my room.
I will be writing more about Lisbon the entire week, so stay tuned.
Altis Belém Hotel and Spa
Doca de Bom Sucesso
Tel. +351 210 400 200
Looks a lot like Place de la Concorde in Paris
New Eye Prefer Paris Photos for Sale
I am happy to announce the sale of a new set of prints of my Eye Prefer Paris Photos. I am offering 20 of my most popular and iconic images for sale including my doors, architectural details, statues, and monuments. They will make great gifts for all your Francophile friends, relatives, and colleagues but don't forget to buy some for yourself.
Click here to see photos and for full details including sizes, prices, and shipping. Here is a sample of some of the photos.
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 185 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
Tours cost 195 euros for up to 3 people, and 65 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com