Located near the mouth on the right bank of the Tagus River Lisbon is the westernmost capital of Europe. The historic city center is composed of seven hills, and some of the streets to narrow to allow the passage of vehicles. About 2.8 million people live in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (which represents approximately 27% of the country's population) The Lisbon region is the wealthiest region in Portugal and it is well above the European Union's GDP per capita average
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Alfonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic, and cultural center of Portugal.
Most of the Portuguese expeditions of the Age of Discovery left Lisbon during the period from the end of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century, including Vasco da Gama's expedition to India in 1498. The 16th century was Lisbon's golden era: the city was the European hub of commerce between Africa, India, the Far East and later, Brazil, and acquired great riches by exploiting the trade in spices, slaves, sugar, textiles and other goods.
In November 1755, the city was destroyed by a devastating earthquake, which killed an estimated 30% of the population and destroyed 85 percent of the city's structures.
The decision was made too completely rebuild the city in the Parisian style of star, or 5 street, intersections. Today like Paris, Lisbon is a city of grand boulevards and intimate neighborhoods. Street cars and even a tramway ease getting from place to place and add immense character to the city.
Some of the must-see places we will see in Lisbon are:
Jeronimos - a World Heritage Gothic Monastery. The medieval Belem Tower that stands guard over the Targa River. Sao Jorge Moorish Castle and palace ruins. Sao Roque Church & Santa Catarina Church, are exceptionally lavish masterpieces of Baroque art and style. Madre de Deus Convent, formerly a lavish convent it is now a museum housed in a beautiful church. Alfama district one of the oldest parts of the city with charming streets that are a world away from modern Lisbon. Lisbon’s nightlife is becoming one of Europe’s best with stylish bar and restaurants. Cocktail Culture is the vibe here as many places offer over 100 unique cocktails. If you don’t like your drink trade it in for a different one!
Portugal is a country of surprises. Lisbon deftly blends a little of the old with the demands of a modern capital. And if you tire of it there are medieval villages, swanky beaches, and surfing mecca’s nearby.
The Portuguese Riviera
Within an hour of Lisbon you’ll discover Sintra, and the Portuguese Rivera. The towns of Sintra, Cascais, and Estoril neighbor each other but are completely unique. Sintra, in the cool foothills of the mountains, was the king’s resort town. The Sintra National Palace, the Pena Palace, and Quinta da Regaleira are the must-see places in Sintra, but the village has more than 10 national monuments. Including ornate palaces, ancient ruins and decorative houses. The Pena Palace is the standout monument of Sintra, known for a whimsical design and sweeping views. The vividly painted palace was designed to reflect a scene from an opera. The interior of the palace is as it was in 1910, when the nobility fled Portugal due to the revolution. Completely different, the Quinta da Regaleira, is an extravagant 19th century gothic mansion that is surrounded with some of the most elaborate gardens of Sintra. They are a joy to explore with decorative fortifications, mystic religious symbols, secret passages and caves. One of the finest examples of Islamic inspired architecture is the 19th century mansion, Palacio de Monserrate. The palace overflows with intricate geometrical patterns, fine carved stone detail, and stunning Indian inspired stone inlaying. The palace’s fine detail is to such perfection that it could only be funded by England’s richest man, Sir Francis Cook, a merchant who amassed a fortune exporting textiles and wool. Just a few miles away Cascais is a delightful fishing town that is the region’s most popular holiday destination. Historically the town was a favorite with the Portuguese nobility, and today the town is an elegant blend of grand 19th century architecture, traditional Portuguese charm and outstanding tourist facilities The heart of Cascais is the pretty Old Town that overlooks the fishing harbor. Cascais has been a holiday destination since the early 19th century. It was a minor fishing port but this changed when King Fernando II proclaimed Cascais as his favored destination for his summer retreat.
Estoril has been inhabited for centuries. There are remains of Roman villas in the parish that date back to the first millennium. During the Second World War, the region was the center of spies and diplomatic secrecy. During the Second World War European nobility such as King Umberto II of Italy, Carol II of Romania, the Count of Paris, and Spain's Don Juan lived here. Hollywood actor Orson Wells stayed at the town's legendary Hotel Palacio at the time, and was reportedly "stunned" by the number of kings at the hotel during his stay. Estoril became a major tourist destination with the construction of the grand Casino, which to this day is still one of the largest casinos in Europe. The writer Ian Fleming was inspired to create his legendary hero, James Bond, based upon the intrigue and events that played out in the historic casino.
We’ll have a busy day exploring these towns, and you will begin to see why Portugal is a country of surprises.
There is a great website about the Making of Her Majesty s' Secret Service visit On the Tracks Of 007
Ties that last - Portugal and Britain, 944 years of alliance
The alliance between England and Portugal is the oldest alliance in the world that is still in force – which originated with the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373
English aid to Portugal went back to 1147 when English crusaders – en route to the Holy Land to participate in the Second Crusade helped Portuguese King Afonso Henriques to take Lisbon from the Moors.
In 1386, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and son of King Edward II of England came to Portugal on his way to reclaim Spain. To further seal the Anglo-Portuguese alliance he left behind his daughter, Philippa, to marry King John I of Portugal. She provided royal patronage for English interests that resulted in trade in codfish, cloth, wine, cork, salt and olive oil.
The alliance was disrupted when a 60-year dynastic union between Portugal and Spain interrupted the alliance when Portuguese foreign policy became tied to Spanish hostility to England. After the breakup of the Iberian Union the alliance was reconfirmed because of England and Portugal’s rivalries with Spain, the Netherlands, and France.
The Seven Years War (1754-1763) was sparked by the colonial disputes of England and France in America. British victory in colonial America remarked the decline of France, eventually leading to Napoleon’s ascendance. Napoleon restored France’s position as a dominant power and the series of wars that became known as the Napoleonic Wars.
Portugal’s alliance the England irritated Napoleon. Britain was finding new opportunities for trade with Portugal's colony in Brazil, the Royal Navy used Lisbon’s port in its operations against France, and he wanted to deny the British the use of the Portuguese fleet. His irritation resulted in the Peninsular War[c] (1807–14) was a conflict between Napoleon’s empire and the allied powers of Spain, Britain and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars.
The war started when French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807. Emperor Napoleon sent orders on 19 July 1807 to his Foreign Minister, to order Portugal to declare war on Britain, close its ports to British ships, detain British subjects and sequester their goods. The Portuguese resisted and Napoleon was told that Portugal would not go beyond its original agreements. In 1808 France turned on its former ally Spain escalating the conflict, initiating what became known as the Peninsula War. The war lasted until Napoleon was the defeated in 1815.
The conflict pitted two of Britain s most famous commanders Wellsley and Wellington against Napoleon and his Marshal Nicolas Soult. Battles raged from Andalusia to Salamanca. Portugal’s Targa and Douro Rivers became highways as the French, British, and Portuguese forces fought through Portugal and into Spain. British and Portuguese forces eventually secured Portugal, using it to launch campaigns against the French army in Spain. Spanish armies and guerrillas tied down vast numbers of Napoleon's troops. Attacks and counter attacks continued through years of stalemate. In Spain and Portugal, the populace endured great hardships, becoming suspicious of foreigners and skilled in banditry and smuggling. Conditions during this time are starkly illustrated by the comments of a British Major General - “ "We paint the conduct of the French in this country in very harsh colors, but be assured we injure the people much more than they do ... wherever we move devastation marks our steps”. Desertion was common in the armies and the guerrilla forces. Hardships and bleak conditions lead commanders to fear that at any time soldiers might turn on the populace with the utmost savagery. The Peninsular War is regarded as one of the first people's wars, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare. Politicians and publicists exaggerated the activities of the guerrillas and elevated them to the status of national heroes, fueling nationalist sentiment. Napoleon said of the conflict, "It was [the Spanish war] that overthrew me. All my disasters can be traced back to this fatal knot”. By intervening in Spain and Portugal, Napoleon involved himself in a struggle that would have been difficult to win at the best of times: so intense was the national spirit of these two countries, the French armies were confronted by a veritable people's war.
Portugal successfully navigated the First and Second World Wars as a neutral country. The neutrality was tinged with support for the Allied forces as the Azores served as naval and air bases for English and American forces.
It is a calm country. The 1974 change in government was called “The Carnation Revolution” because carnations adorned the rifles of soldiers and police in a wholly peaceful governmental transition. Like many European countries the ensuing governments have been highly socialist resulting in the country requesting a bailout from the EU/IMF. Austerity measures have been working, and today the country is experiencing significantly better economic conditions.
Today Portugal has a more European view than Britain. It hasn’t experienced the waves of immigrants that have upset social order and is more bound to its European neighbors for trade and financing than England. The centuries old influence of good relations with Briton pervades Portugal like a second language. So while contemporary politics may influence who your friends are the Portuguese and British are highly unlikely to do anything to upset an alliance which has been in place for 944 years!
A visual symphony unlike any other. Porto surprises, confounds, and treats you to a place unique in the world
"Óbidos" probably derives from the Latin term oppidum, meaning "citadel", or "fortified city”. Perched on a hilltop Obidos is one of the most picturesque towns of Portugal. You will find a well preserved castle and within its walls a maze of streets and white houses that are a delight to stroll. Along with the Manueline porticoes, the colorful window boxes and the small squares, the many fine examples of religious and civil architecture from the town’s golden days provide a host of reasons for a visit. There is no better example of a traditional Portuguese town than Obidos.
In 1210, King Alfonso II gave this village to Queen Urraca. Since then, Óbidos has been patronized by the Queens of Portugal. Ownership by the Queen of Portugal has ensured that every house or shop has been lovingly cared for and maintained. The compact town centre is filled with cobbled streets and traditionally painted houses. The Porta da Vila was the main gate into Obidos and is decorated by traditional azulejos tiles which depict the Passion of Christ.
Ginja de Obidos is a cherry liquor that is produced within the Obidos region and no visit to the town is complete without sampling the sweet alcohol drink. The drink can be served in small chocolate cups which can be eaten after drinking.
Expect to spend an enjoyable time wandering the labyrinth of cobbled streets that are teeming with shops. Portugal is one of the few countries where shops are as likely to carry authentic items from Portugal than Chinese trinkets.
For the adventurous there is a walk along the ramparts, but it is ancient and brought with opportunities to trip or slip!
The Monastery of Santa Cruz became the home of Portugal's first king submitting himself to the Rule of Saint Augustine. The Monastery began in 1131 and had portions added until 1637. It is a masterpiece of sublime architecture and design gracefully incorporating a feudal fortress, Baroque sturctures and azuelo tile masterpieces
The Old Cathederal is a fine example of Romanesque architecture, and one of the finest in Portugal. The Latin cross floor plan combines a barrel vaulted nave with ribbed vaults in the aisles. The spectacular altarpiece is the work of Flemish masters
Most famous of Coimbra's famous sights is the Joanina Library, a beautifully decorated library with gilded; woodwork, Chinese illustrations on red laquer pilasters, and hundreds of rare books. The library contains three floors and a prison!
We'll have lunch at Quinto Das Lagrimas, one of Portugals most romantic sites that has hosted famous figures like the Duke of Wellington, King Pedro of Portugal and the empress of Brazil