Sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, the little country of Portugal has a growing number of visitors. Lisbon, the gateway city, has a number of direct flights from New York City. A good road system and few automobiles make for interesting tours by rental car, especially for the culturally and historically oriented visitor. Royalty and aristocracy have been officially displaced. Their castles and palaces constitute built-in tourist attractions and a few are available as hotels.
Lisbon is a beautifully laid out city thanks to the Marquis de Pombal. Following a great earthquake and resultant tidal wave that leveled most of the city, he decreed that much of what was left be razed and a new city built along broad avenues. Lisbon also has the advantage of overlooking the Tagus River, which runs 566 miles through Spain and Portugal and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
The old section of Lisbon is medieval with windings streets and a walled castle. Not far away on the Atlantic coast is Estoril, a favorite residence for nobility and for kings and queens who are no longer wanted in their home countries.
Up the coast is Oporto, from whence Port, fortified wine, is shipped to England and other overseas countries.
Visitors to Portugal increase as word spreads of the range of its attractions, from metropolitan Lisbon to the wine country of Oporto north to the Algarve resort region along the southern coast. Hotels are graded by the government, five-star being the top. In a class by itself is the Hotel Ritz in Lisbon, built at the request (read command) of the last dictator.
FIGURE 5.10 âœCampo Pequeno.â On a sunny Sunday afternoon this scene in front of Lisbon’s Moorish bullring changes into a mass of activity tourists and aficionados pour into the âœCampo Pequenoâ for a few hours of color, high excitement, and comedy. Best of all, no one gets hurt, not even the bull, for it is against the law to kill the bull in Portugal.
Also the Reid Hotel on the Island of Madeira, a part of Portugal, is in a class by itself. Built by a sergeant who had served his time in the British army in India before returning to England, it is stepped on the side of a cliff. At the turn of the century when the Reid Hotel was built, Madeira was a coaling stop for ships and its principal export was Madeira wine. Reid Hotel gives a glimpse of the grand hotel style of the 1920s. The service is impeccable. Also there is a grand view of the Atlantic.
To live like a marquis try the Hotel Palacio de Setais, near Sintra, about an hour out of Lisbon. A true palace, it was built by a Dutchman who had cornered the Brazilian diamond market. Later a Portuguese marquis made it his residence. Not far away is a fairy tale royal palace, the summer home of the last Portuguese royalty. (The last king abdicated in 1910.)