Arriving this morning fresh from the colonies to the point where explorers took off to discover them, I’m reminded why we’ve namedPortugal the world’s best place to live or retire overseas for nine years running.
We’ll be showcasing all that this hugely historicandwarmly welcomingandsublimely affordable country has to offer during our sold-out LiveAndInvestInPortugalConference kicking off brightand early Wednesday morning.
A primary focus will be the country’s sun-drenched Algarve coast, but we’ll shine a light on its capital city, as well, which deserves far more attention than it gets.
For a city devastated two-and-a-half centuries ago by Europe’s most destructive earthquake,Lisbon hasn’t done badly.
The Reconstruction Of Lisbon
Destruction means reconstructionandthat gave the Marquis de Pombal,Lisbon‘s reconstructor-in-chief, his chance to build the world’s first grid-based capital. TodayLisbonis what New York might have been had a cultivated 18th-century nobleman beenin charge of planning.
The broad, placid waters of the Tagus River remainLisbon‘s foreground, but beyond now stands the finest of Pombal’s colonnaded squares known as the Praça do Comercio, or Black Horse Square, after the equestrian statue of King Jose Iinits center. Locals call it the Terreiro de Paço. One magnificent square, among the finestinthe world, with three names. From here, two broad avenues lead through the city’s principal restaurantand shopping area to another fine square known as the Rossio.
From that point, the broad Avenida da Liberdade, the city’s principal artery, climbs straight for over a mile to a big public park named after Britain’s King Eduardo VII. Well shaded by trees from the summer sun, it offers strollers broad sidewalks decorated withintricate mosaics of tiny blackandwhite stones carefully tappedinto place by an army of municipal workers. Rickety varicolored old wooden trams ply the streets along with open horse-drawn fiacres. Kiosks offer alcoholic beveragesand sweet treats.
Looking down overLisbon‘s agreeable center from the east is the city’s Romanesque cathedral, standing on a rocky summit amid the ruins of St. George’s Castle. Although badly damagedinthe earthquake of 1755, it has been expertly restoredand contains a magnificent organ with rows of golden trumpets facing each other across the nave.
Below the cathedralandclose to the river’s edge is a portion of oldLisbonthat escaped the earthquake’s shock, the medieval Alfama. It is a sharp reminder of the four centuriesLisbonspent under Moorish rule until captured by King Afonso Iin1147, a neighborhood of narrow, winding streets, frequent flights of stairs,and tall, white Arabian buildings.
The site of a fish marketinthe morning, it becomes at night the place to dineinits many little restaurants while listening to singers cladinlong black gowns chanting the traditional sad Portuguese folk songs known asfado, or fate.
West from Black Horse Square is the Jerónimos Monastery, the finest surviving example of the typically Portuguese Manueline Gothic style, featuring elaborately decorated archesand pillars with nautical motifs.
Complementing the monastery is the nearby Tower of Belem, a Manueline fort on the tiny peninsula off the banks of the Tagus. This was the last landmark seen by Portuguese explorers as they sailed west or south to discover the world.
Portugalmarked the 500th anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator’s deathin 1960 by erecting alongside a monument depicting the prince standing on the prow of one of his ships boldly pointing ahead.
Dominating this end ofLisbon‘s waterfront is the enormous suspension bridge connecting both banks of the Tagus, first completedin1966. It is now backed by a second lowerand longer bridge a few miles east.
AnotherLisbontreasure not to be overlooked is the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, which houses the personal art collection of the man once considered to be the richestinthe world thanks to his 5% stakeinmost of the Middle East’s oil fields. Gulbenkian collected pre-Revolutionary Louis XIV to XVI furniture, gold coins, oriental carpets,andtwo Rembrandts. Because he left so much money toPortugal, Gulbenkian also financed a modern art collection built up by curators after the Salazar regime Gulbenkian favored had collapsed. I am not sure the old oilman would have approved. Sincerely, Kathleen Peddicord Founding Publisher,Overseas Opportunity Letter