Posted on Leave a comment

Café Nicola, a “must visit” place in Lisbon

Lisboa-028---Portugal

Café Nicola, a “must visit” place in Lisbon

The Café Nicola is one of the icons of Lisbon, is a “must visit” places in the city.

There are many fine examples of monuments, interesting buildings or just events started by foreigners in Lisbon or Portugal and the Nicola coffee shop is one of the most iconic in between those cases.

In 1755 Lisbon was greatly affected by a very destructive earthquake and the city had to be totally rebuilt.

The square where Nicola is located, called D Pedro IV square but generally known by the name of Rossio before the earthquake was an area where the military used to train or do their parades. At that old square, there was also probably the biggest hospital in Lisbon.

In 1787 an Italian gentleman called Nicola opened this coffee shop with his own name.

The coffee shop location was perfect. Quite close to the most elegant garden at the time, the “Passeio Público” (Public Promenade) where you could find the most influential people of the Lisbon society.

The “Passeio Público” no longer exists but the Nicola is still there proudly open and usually crowded.

It has been a meeting point for artists, politicians’, writers and other public figures.

I waited until Christmas time to take the picture … I absolutely love like that.

Enjoy the place.

David Monteiro

Note: Café Nicola, Praça Dom Pedro IV 24-25, 1200-091 Lisboa

Posted on Leave a comment

Jewish heritage of Castelo de Vide, Portugal

castelo-de-vide-portugal-002

Jewish heritage of Castelo de Vide, Portugal

When looking for the Jewish heritage in Portugal, Castelo de Vide has to be on the list.​

When you are looking for the Jewish heritage in Portugal, Castelo de Vide has to be on your list.​

At Castelo de Vide, you will find many points of interest like its medieval Castle and the village itself.

However, the most important heritage you will find there is its Jewish background.

This small village located by the border with Spain is usually not included in vacation routes.

Why? Probably for not been in the list of most touristic destinations.

Personally, I love the place.

I find Castelo de Vide as hidden treasure, and it can take you to a time travel to the XV century.

During the XV century, the Jewish community was running away from Spain.

One of their logical destinations was the Portuguese border to establish their new settlements.

At the end of the XV century and during the XVI century, the Jews found themselves also trapped in Portugal.

The marriage agreement in between D. Manuel I and D. Isabel (1), included expelling the Jews from Portugal.

Please consider that D. Manuel did not want to do that so the solution was to proceed with the agreement but closing the borders at the same time.

Now, the Jews found themselves in a situation not to be wanted in the country but from where they could not run away.

The result was, they were confined in ghettos called “Judiarias” – Jewish quarters or neighborhoods.

This part of History you can learn more about it in Castelo de Vide.

Related with the Jewish background, what can you see today in Castelo de Vide?

  • Judiaria (Jewish quarters or neighborhoods)
  • Sinagoga (synagogue)
    Casa do Arçario (Arçário House)
  • Fonte da Vila (Town’s Fountain)

If you are interested in the History of the Jewish community in Portugal, you must visit Castelo de Vide.

David Monteiro

(1) Manuel I, of Portugal, and D. Isabel, one of the daughters of the Catholic kings

Posted on 2 Comments

How to visit Lisbon in one day?

Commerce Square, Lisbon
Commerce Square, Lisbon

Are you planning to visit Lisbon in one day?

I will leave here my suggestions on how to divide the time during a one-day visit to Lisbon and the best way to structure my suggestions is to divide the visit in morning, afternoon and after dinner.

You know the answer: that is impossible. However, what to do when a day is all the time we have to get to know Lisbon? Of course, we will have to make the most of the available time.

I will leave here my suggestions on how to divide the time during a one-day visit to the city and the best way to structure my suggestions is to divide the visit in morning, afternoon and after dinner.

JOIN ME FOR A TOUR

In this post, I will not include meals or lodgings because I will write about hotels and restaurants later.

Morning

– One monument visit: Jerónimos Monastery – this monastery is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built by King Manuel I in 1502 and it took about 100 years to be built. Is the maximum exponent of Manueline architecture, also known as the Portuguese Baroque.

– One tasting: Pastéis de Belém – as a result of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, in 1834 the convents and monasteries were closed. Was in this context that someone went to a sugar refinery close to the Jerónimos Monastery and put a few cookies on sale, these cookies are today known as the “Pastéis de Belém” and they must be the better worldwide known Portuguese sweets.

– The first walk: Baixa and Chiado – are two typical neighborhoods of the city and good representatives of the society of 18th and 19th centuries. Start by the view from the Viewpoint of São Pedro de Alcântara and walk downhill until the Camões Square and after this walk along the Garrett Street and end at Rossio. It is certainly a beautiful journey through Portuguese Romanticism and also a good opportunity to visit Baixa (downtown), the neighborhood that was built after the great earthquake of 1755.

Please check: Lisbon walking tour map – 1 of 2

– The second walk: Alfama and São Jorge Castle – Alfama is a medieval district and has been inhabited since the foundation of the city so it is here that we can find the oldest buildings in the city. Walking through the narrow streets of Alfama and observing its inhabitants is to know the typical Lisbon. Start your walk at the São Jorge castle and hence find the Miradouro das Portas do Sol from where we can see the roofs of Alfama, the quarter where we will walk until Terreiro do Paço.

Please check: Lisbon walking tour map – 2 of 2

Note: using a city map will help you making sense of all these names I’m mentioning.

Afternoon

Having walked in the morning, for the afternoon I will suggest more cultural moments for the afternoon, so I will propose a Museum and the Oceanarium visits.

– Museum of the City: it was easy to propose a visit to the Museum of Ancient Art (Museu de Arte Antiga), which is the most common suggestion you will find in terms of visits to museums. However, I believe this Museum, being an excellent Museum, does not offer something unique to those visiting Lisbon, here you will find excellent pieces that could be in any major European Museum but not necessarily Portuguese pieces. So I will propose a visit to the City Museum, a small museum, whose collection is not something extraordinary but has the particularity of being a very nice space and the collection is Portuguese, this is a truly Portuguese space.

– Oceanarium: is the second largest aquarium in the world which is by itself a sign of being something that you can hardly see elsewhere and has an extensive collection of marine creatures. It is located at Parque das Nações, which is an ideal area for a late afternoon beer and to end the active day.

After dinner

The visit to the city will not be complete without a stroll through the area of nightlife where you can have a drink and hear some music.

Of course, there are several areas in the city where this may happen but without complicating too much the explanation I would say that is in the Bairro Alto where you can find more diversity of bars.

Personally, I love bar “Pavilhão Chinês” (Chinese Pavilion), one of the most beautiful bars I know.

JOIN ME FOR A TOUR

Have fun in Lisbon.

David Monteiro

Posted on Leave a comment

Visiting Portugal – where to go, what to visit?

iberactive-portugal--(28)

Visiting Portugal – where to go, what to visit?

Where to go, what to do when visiting Portugal?

Where to go, what to do when visiting Portugal, must be the question I answer more often in this context.

Of course, the answer will always depend on who is asking. Not everyone enjoys doing the same things.

Not only will depend on individual preferences but also depends on the time and money you have available to spend in this country.

My answer could be very different for those who want to visit Portugal for walking vacations or for those who want to spend some time in Portugal relaxing on the beach or visiting museums.

However, I will try to simplify the idea and try to draw a plan to the visitor who wants to spend some time in Portugal, having active vacations but not necessarily for walking in the countryside.

Will be a plan for a visitor who values visiting areas with some History, values tasting the Portuguese cuisine and local wines, and is also interested in our cultural differences.

I will also consider this visitor prefers to see the sites in a more relaxing way rather than jumping from site to site in a frenetic race … more quality instead of quantity.

In relation to the time length, I will consider two possibilities: 7 days and 14 days.

For both options, I find it fascinating to do the trip from North to South, in which the city of arrival will be Porto and Lisbon the departure city where there are more flight connections with the rest of the world.

7 days: 2-Porto; 1-Guimarães; 1-Fátima/Óbidos; 2-Lisbon; 1-Sintra/Cascais

14 days: 2-Porto; 1-Guimarães; 1-Viana do Castelo; 1-Pinhão (Douro Valley); 2-Coimbra/Fatima/Óbidos; 3-Lisbon; 2-Évora and surroundings; 1-Sintra/Cascais; 1-Setúbal/Tróia/Arrábida

Each of these sites has a remarkable History, different customs, and typical gastronomy and wines to accompany and I will write about these places on this blog.

Join me to tour in Portugal.

David Monteiro

Posted on Leave a comment

A hiking adventure at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

At 110 Km Norwest from Madrid you will find the landscape of the book “For whom the bell tolls” from Ernest Hemingway and a perfect location for a hiking adventure.

If I remember well, I read the book “For whom the bell tolls” when I was 18 years old or something like that. At that age I was far from imagining that one day I was going to lead tours there or even to climb to its summit, the Almanzor.

When I read the book I was fascinated by the description of how the earth shacked when we made love with Maria, I admired the strength of Pilar and I could only imagine the mountains landscape in my dreams. One have to realize that back then there was no internet where I could go browse about Gredos, the closest thing I had was the local public library and there was not many books about such a place.

Anyway, this mountain range is like a mini Alpes, it really looks like it but in a much smaller scale. With its snowed granitic needles and its “U” valley one have the sensation of being in much higher mountain.

The highest summit is the Almanzor with 2,592 m (8,504 ft). If you want to know more about the origin of the name Almanzor, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almanzor

Sierra de Gredos is a lovely place to go for a walk, both during the winter or summer time.

Although during the winter is usually completely covered with snow, the walk from the parking area called Plataforma until the mountain hut Elola is well marked and there is always quite a lot of people doing it, especially during weekends.

But if you want to climb to the Almanzor summit or similar, you better know what your doing or hire a mountain guide. I can’t remember how many time I climbed this summit with clients and quite often we find people in trouble during the way up without proper guidance … please don’t do that.

Just the walk until the mountain hut is already a wonderful memory and in the mountain hut you will find something very important: beer 🙂

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Hoyos del Espino, Spain