Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Why you must visit the Palácio de Queluz

Today we will write about one of the most beautiful Palaces in Portugal, the Palácio de Queluz in Sintra, just about 15 minutes from Lisbon.
Palácio de Queluz (Parques de Sintra/Emigus)

The Palácio Nacional de Queluz is an eighteenth century palace, located in Queluz and is one of the
last great Rococo buildings in Europe. The palace was built as a summer retreat for D. Pedro de Bragança, between 1747 and 1752.

It is known as a mini Versailles due to its exquisite Rococo palace and formal gardens and we’ll give you 5 features not to be missed when visiting this magnificent piece of history.

1 – Throne Room
Competing in splendor with the Ambassadors’ Room, and with a splendid oval, domed ceiling, the Throne Room also serves as ballroom, church and theatre.

2 – Gardens
Two formal gardens, the Neptune Garden and the Malta Garden, fill the space between the palace’s two asymmetric wings.
Palácio de Queluz (Parques de Sintra/Carlos Pombo)

3 – Dom Quixote Chamber
The inlaid circular-pattern floor and domed ceiling make this square room look round. It was named after the painted scenes from Dom Quixote that it contains.

4 – Robillion Staircase
This beautifully flowing staircase links the lower parkland area to the palace and formal gardens. It is flanked by an arcade with a water cascade flowing into a tiled canal where in the past, the royal family went boating.

5 – Ambassadors’ Room
The magnificent Ambassadors’ Room was used for diplomatic audiences, and it is opulently decorated with stucco work and painted and glided carved woodwork.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Valentine’s Day

All is set for that much expected day, the day that nothing can fail. The history of Valentine's Day dates back to a dark fasting day, held in honor of St. Valentine.

Emperor Claudius II had prohibited marriage during the wars believing that single soldiers were better fighters. Bishop Valentine fought against such instructions and, clandestinely, continued celebrating weddings despite the prohibition of the Emperor.

He was later arrested for this "crime" and during that period, young couples send him flowers and letters saying that they continued to believe in love.

During his time in prison, Bishop Valentine fell in love with the blind daughter of a jailer, to whom he miraculously restored the sight. Before his execution, Valentine wrote a farewell message to his love, in which he signed "From your Valentine".

But it was only in the late Middle Ages, during which the concept of romantic love was expressed, that this date started to be associated with romantic love.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Avenida da Liberdade

One of the most important avenues in Lisbon is also the core of haute couture stores in the city, offering also a large and new variety of snack bars.

Av. da Liberdade was built after the big earthquake in 1755. At the time was called "Public
Quiosque Avenida da Liberdade
Foto Evasões
Promenade" and despite the name, it was surrounded by a wall and was accessible just for aristocrats. Only in 1821 after the Liberals came to the government it became open to the general public.

The avenue that we can see today was built in 1879-1892, with the same style as the Champs Elysées in Paris and it became the center of parades and local festivities
The Avenue itself is filled with hotels, cafes, theaters, and cinemas, but the last couple of years has been the heart of haute couture in Lisbon with stores of most of the great designers such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Todd's, Burberry, Armani, Adolfo Dominguez, and Ermenegildo Zegna

And, to take advantage of the large sidewalks, several snack bars were installed in typical Lisbon quiosques, each with its own specialty. Bananacafe, Hot Dog Lovers, Lisbon on Wheels, Quiosque Ribadouro and O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo are some of the offers.

You can try one every day without getting bored.

This is the scenario for a perfect afternoon, shopping in haute couture stores and a snack on one of the most emblematic avenues of Lisbon.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Hotel Avenida Palace, the history (part VI)

For the last part of this “saga” we arrive to the current Administration. After a couple of years “decaying”, the time came to “rebuild” the old Palace, returning it to its past glory. 

The new decoration, preserving the original style, caught the attention of both Movie and TV companies and soon the Avenida Palace was the scenario for films such as “Chain Reaction”. 

“However, on the 1st of March, 1964, Soportel – Sociedade Portuguesa Hoteleira, Lda. (Portuguese Hotel Society) is established specifically for the purpose of purchasing the Avenida Palace from the Companhia Portuguesa de Hotéis.

The former is already in greatly degraded conditions. For two years, with the participation of the Gabinete de Planeamento e Arquitectura Carlos Ramos (Carlos Ramos Cabinet of Planning and Architecture), it is deeply renewed, and equipped with the latest technology, while maintaining the style of its time. 

The walls are covered by panels with soft and golden tones, the ceilings are alight with crystal chandeliers, and the chairs are lined with brocade. The stately staircase connecting the six floors is reminiscent of the old palatial scurrying. Harmony rivals with exquisiteness.

Nowadays, the hotel has 82 rooms, and 17 suites, one of the latter being a Presidential suite. The suites are spacious, and thematically decorated by eras: Louis XV, D. Maria, D. José, Empire, and British Colonial. The rooms, dressed with matching curtains and bedspreads, provide great comfort. We emphasise room 415 due to its baroque decoration. 

A centenarian of 109 venerable years of age, the hotel gradually evolved, and surpassed its original quality. All rooms are equipped with soundproof windows, air conditioning, direct telephone, safety boxes, and satellite TV. All suites have a Jacuzzi, as do some of the rooms, as well as a fax and a computer, which were installed in the latest remodelling.

The Reception Room, which is about 130 sq m, is decorated in classic blue and gold shades, and has made history in international cinematography. “The Count of Monte Cristo”, “Passage to Lisbon”, and “Chain Reaction”, starring Martin Sheen, as well as the Portuguese TV series “Sozinhos em Casa”, were filmed there. The stained-glass ceiling is highlighted by the red brocades lining the walls, and by long velvet curtains, also red, hugging the windows.

The walls of the dining room are lined with solid oak and satin, and the room provides a privileged view over the Avenida da Liberdade and Restauradores Square. It possesses all the requirements to provide exquisite meals. It no longer provides restaurant service, but maintains a room service. It is only opened for breakfast and special occasion official lunches. One of the Palace’s latest acquisitions was the foyer. During the 1998 remodelling, Lucien Donnat and João Chichorro turned the hall into an exquisite space overlooked by a stained-glass window. Just at its side, the bar is an invitation to dreamers and dilettantes. Each square meter has a story to tell.

They have seen spies and politicians, princes and plotters, forgers and goodwill men. While some wove political intrigues, others burnt passions, and fed impossible loves, amidst the lukewarm tediousness of palatial luxury. A temple of memories, the Avenida Palace has everything to deserve a visit. It is easily accessible, and well assisted by transports. It has ensured parking in the underground parking of the Restauradores, and half a dozen parking places just at the front entrance. The prices are those fitting a five star hotel.”

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Hotel Avenida Palace, the history (part V)

On the 5th part of this history, we share some of the famous and infamous people that stayed in the hotel on the 1st half of twentieth century, from royalty to bankers. You will also learn about the hotel’s “participation” in the Spanish Civil War and in World War II. 

The refugees and the spies they all tasted a little bit of the Palace although in the 50’s the hotel started to show a little tired.

“Acknowledged by nobility, and preferred by diplomats and secret agents from all four corners of the world, the hotel was also a channel for knowledge and contacts, a recommended calling card. Alves dos Reis knew that when he chose it as a temporary residence, while the sumptuous residence he had purchased at Príncipe Real was being prepared.

It is said that the famous forger and swindler, who was stuffed with counterfeit 500 escudo bills, moved from the less elegant Metropole Hotel, at the Rossio, by the Avenida Palace, where he lived some time, in 1925. Manuel Teixeira Gomes used it when he came to Lisbon, before going into diplomatic life, and made several references to the hotel in his books.

In 1937, Emperor Hirohito of Japan chose to spend his honeymoon at the hotel. On that same decade, a group of foreign intellectuals established themselves at the Palace, following the invitation of António Ferro. They were: Julles Romain, François Mauriac, Jacques Maritan, Miguel Unamuno, and Wenceslau Fernandez Flores.

During the Spanish civil war, the Palace was filled with refugees, and it was a manoeuvring area for secret agents. Soon afterwards, during the Second World War, spies and conspirators from England, Germany and the United States, crossed paths in the hotel, and decided upon the faith of the world. In fact, it seems that the political class always had a place at the Palace, with some of Salazar’s ministers visiting the hotel regularly. Cardinal Mitsensky also stayed there. Later on, Miterrand would also stay there every time he came to Portugal.

In the 1950’s, the Portuguese high finance remained faithful to the hotel. Cupertino de Miranda selected it when he needed to stay in the capital, and the Espírito Santo family often visited it. There are fewer references from artists, but they did immortalise it. Nureyev, Guilhermina Suggia, and Amália Rodrigues definitively marked it.

On the second half of the twentieth century, Lisbon did not follow the evolution of other European capitals. The railway service did not evolve, and the Santa Apolónia station had begun receiving the international railway traffic sometime before, taking the role of Central Station from the Rossio station. The Palace loses its initial vocation, ages, and starts to show some signs of decadence. In 1963, the Tourism services warn its owners that if they do not do some restoration work, the hotel will lose its ranking.”

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Hotel Avenida Palace, the history (part IV)

In this “episode” the Avenida Palace is stage of significant Portuguese historical developments.

“The hotel did not fall short of their expectations: A private orchestra flooded the rooms with music during their famous Saturday balls, and while the dancing pairs challenged love, spies from everywhere looked for conspiracies. A Special Night Service, characterised by an exquisite French “à la carte” cuisine, sustained the hours, and “seasoned” the most fierce emotions. The aromas of Parisian fragrances filled the air with the faint and sweetish scent of a decadent monarchy.

Upon the monarchy’s fall, in October, 1910, the Palace provided to the diplomatic corps a privileged balcony over the events: shrapnel and grenades flew over the roundabout, where the revolutionary armies were camping, and the Rossio, where the realist troops were stationed. The latter’s Military Staff was established in the Palace of Independence, on the S. Domingos square. Inevitably, the hotel was hit. In spite of such a change, the spot still held its attraction over the elites.

In the late 1917, a year in which Russia lived some dramatic moments, Lisbon welcomed the Ballets Russes Company, which was run by the famous Sergei Diaghilev. Almada Negreiros went to the hotel to greet the Company, and dedicated a manifest to it.Two years later, the hotel is sold to the Sociedade Portuguesa de Hotéis, Lda. (Portuguese Hotel Society), which in turn sells it a year after that. The world’s economic situation worsens after the end of the First World War, and affects every sector. In this picture of crisis, a group of Portuguese businessmen establishes the Companhia Portuguesa de Hotéis (Portuguese Hotel Company), and buys the Palace on 17/11/1919, ensuring its management for 45 years.

President Sidónio Pais also visited the Palace for some time, and was fatally wounded almost in its midst, on the 14th December, 1918, at the Rossio station. He was shot on his way to the Hotel. It is unknown if he ever used the “discreet” door on the 4th floor, which connected the Hotel to the Rossio station. Naturally, little is known about those who used such a “secret path”, meant for VIPs who wished to remain anonymous, and possibly an access to forbidden passions. However, we know it was used on several occasions. Years later, Salazar used it. According to the recollections of an old employee, who is now deceased, the former President of Government would have visited the Hotel to greet Biachi (the representative of Yugoslavia in Portugal), who was staying at room 405, using the door on the 4th floor, which was usually locked.”

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Hotel Avenida Palace, the history (part III)

In this 3rd part we reveal some details of the hotel’s luxury decoration, the name change and also a story of a Prince who defied a Queen.

“The interior decoration had an exquisite Belle Époque style. The rugs, portieres, and upholstering of the ottomans were the finest available in the quality market. The furniture was purchased directly from Maple, one of the most elegant stores in London. Almost all the rooms distinguish themselves with their silk lining or leather paper. The walls in the dining room were overlaid with leafy velvet, which was broken off by oak wainscoting. All rooms had heating and ventilation apparatus, and almost all already had bathrooms. The guests had a hydraulic elevator at their disposal, to go from one floor another, and the Hotel’s kitchen was considered to be one of Lisbon’s finest.

In 1893, the Grande Hotel Internacional is renamed Avenida Palace, just as its European congeners. The Palaces symbolised the court’s splendour, in a time when the birth aristocracy was beginning to be surpassed by the bourgeoisie’s money. The pleasure of travelling, which up until then was limited to diplomatic, political or commercial reasons, had become fashionable amidst the wealthier classes, favouring the search for hotels with palatial luxury. In 1900, the hotel is sold to Wagons Lits, a Belgian company which had always been associated to railway transportation.

The Palace recreated the magnificence of Versailles, offering the fascination of rivalling with the hotels in Paris or Rome. It was fit for princes, and it lodged members of the European royalty. D. Miguel of Bragança, prince of Portugal, was one of them. He defied the law issued by D. Maria II in 1834, which forbade D. Miguel I and his descendants to come to Portugal, under penalty of death upon summary procedure. According to some accounts of the time, the prince D. Miguel II arrived at the Rossio station, on the 23rd of January, 1901.

He was escorted by a secretary, “two elegantly dressed young men”, and servants dressed as chausseurs of the German noble households. The proscribed prince and his escorts lodged at the Avenida Palace, under aliases. D. Miguel registered himself under the name of Count of Mutzgen. They were identified by some noblemen and were acclaimed by D. Miguel’s supporters. The stay of a Portuguese prince in the Avenida Palace endowed Rossio’s hotel with a new romantic aura, drawing clients from both the wealthy Brazilian bourgeoisie and the European aristocracy, who sought a capital with a pleasant temperature.”

Source – Lisboa Porta a Porta