Introduction to Portugal: I recently read an article about Portugal which said that the country was “so forgettable” that no-one has “bothered to think up a rude nickname for it.”
The truth is that although it may be a little-known country sitting on the Atlantic rim in the far south west of Europe, it is certainly not forgettable. Millions of tourists leave the country expounding on the warm climate, sandy beaches, the friendly people, the excellent fresh food and distinctive wines. Yet even they, on their two week holiday, only scratch the surface of a multiplicity of characteristics that can only be discerned by living here.
One of the things you first discover when you stay here for any length of time is that Portugal is a country of contrasts. One example is wine which is produced from north to south. The best wine can dumbfound even seasoned gourmets. And the worst? That’s best left unsaid except the Portuguese wisely keep the best wine for home consumption.
Portugal may appear to be underdeveloped, yet it is surprisingly advanced in technology. It was the first country to produce the via verde on the motorways.This is an automatic toll paying system which, to those who adhere to the scheme, means that the toll fee amount is deducted directly from your bank account as your car passes through the scanner. Nowadays via verde is also used to automatically pay for parking your car, so gone are the days of hunting around for change.
The ATM machines – which can be found on practically every street corner in Lisbon - are able to perform a multitude of tasks, including paying bills, paying fines(!), paying your social security, ordering theatre tickets, topping up your mobile phone as well as withdrawing cash. Many government taxes can now be paid via the internet, and in some cases it is obligatory.
Although it is a small country, and not counting the islands of Madeira and the Azores, Portugal can be divided into three very diverse areas – the north, the centre and the south, each with its unique geographical features, culture and way of life. You could say that there is a fourth area which is different from anywhere else in the country and that would be the capital city, Lisbon.
Lisbon: is a city of clarity, beloved by artists. The old and the new monuments blend together harmoniously and the young and the old live happily side by side. Ancient traditions are upheld, yet new-wave entertainment is equally welcome.
The people from Lisbon (or alfacinhas) are proud of their seafaring history and the Discoveries era, yet the fact that they are actively looking to the future can be borne out by the development of the Expo ’98 site which is now called “Parque das Nações”.
It must be one of the few capitals in the world that is only a stone’s throw from kilometres of sandy beaches with blue EU flags, or from historical, beautiful towns such as Sintra, Cascais, Estoril and Sesimbra.
One part of Lisbon life that cannot be surpassed anywhere else in the world is its coffee and café culture. Just learning the names of the various types of coffee takes months. A café sits on every street corner, and if the aroma does not entice you inside, then sit outside on a mosaic pavement and people-watch.
Geography and Climate: Lisbon lies in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean climatic zones, and so it enjoys a pleasantly temperate climate year-round. Its mean annual temperature is 17°C (63°F), with average temperatures in winter of 13°C (55°F) and 27°C (80°F) in summer.Even when summer temperatures reach the mid-30s, the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean ensures some cooling breezes. July and August are the hottest, driest months, while November to February are the wettest and coldest.Lisbon has an area of 84 sq. km. and a population of 556,797 inhabitants. The area known as Greater Lisbon has a population of 2.1 million in an area of 2750 sq. km.
History: The city is said to date back to pre-Roman times and, according to legend, it was Ulysses who founded the city and christened it Olissipo. The Phoenicians had difficulty saying that so they subsequently changed it to Alisubbo, which means “friendly bay.”The Romans agreed with them for in 205 BC as they began their two-century reign in Lisbon, it was renamed Felicitas Julia by Julius Caesar. However, when the Moors arrived they changed the name to Al Aschbuna which sounds more like our current day “Lisboa”.
The Moors were ousted in 1145, after four hundred years, by Afonso Henriques and Lisbon became the capital city. Lisbon was probably at its most prosperous in the 15th/16th centuries when Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama put to sea in search of a passage to India.By the 16th century these sailors had helped build a huge empire which included Brazil as well as parts of Africa and Asia. There are still some 200 million Portuguese speakers around the world today.
On 1st November 1755, a huge earthquake shook the city and it was followed by a fire that lasted four days and which destroyed much of Lisbon. During this time 30,000 people lost their lives. The Marques de Pombal drew up plans for rebuilding the city and, today, much of the area around the Praça de Comercio and the “Baixa” dates back to that time.
In more recent times, Portugal has lived through a dictatorship when António Oliveira Salazar ruled the roost for 35 years. The regime, which lasted almost 50 years, was brought down in a bloodless coupe on 25th April 1974, and has become known as the carnation revolution. In 1998, Lisbon very successfully hosted Expo ’98. The site they used was on a run-down area which nowadays is jumping with upbeat shops, cafés, restaurants, and auditoriums as well as housing Lisbon’s Oceanário. It is also a popular residential area with many buildings enjoying views of the Tagus River Estuary.
Culture: Portugal's history has had a lasting impact on Lisbon culture with Moorish and Oriental influences in architecture and the arts.
Food is diverse from the ubiquitous bacalhão (salt cod) to cozido (which includes a variety of meats and vegetables).The Portuguese eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fish, seafood, fresh homegrown vegetables and fruit and lots of olive oil.Lisbon is not overtly religious but it still enjoys its Popular Saint’s Day – St. Anthony who apparently was born here. In the evening of 12th June, pots of basil, colourful paper carnations and casks of wine are everywhere. There’s a definite whiff of grilled sardines on street corners and Lisbon becomes one big street party.
Economy and Taxation: Portugal has become a diversified and increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Community in 1986. Over the past decade, successive governments have privatised many state-controlled firms and liberalised key areas of the economy, including the financial and telecommunications sectors which had sectors which had been nationalised at the time of the carnation revolution.
The country qualified for the European Monetary Union in 1998 and began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002 along with 11 other EU member economies.
Economic growth has been above the EU average for much of the past decade, but fell back in 2001-05. The country has been increasingly overshadowed as a target for foreign direct investment by lower-cost producers in Central Europe and Asia.
The government faces tough choices in its attempts to boost Portugal's economic competitiveness while keeping the budget deficit within the eurozone's 3%-of-GDP ceiling.
Information about taxation in Portugal can be found
Property: Portugal’s interest rate is linked to the European Central Bank’s and so is slightly lower than the UK’s.The property market is thriving around Lisbon, especially in the middle ra
Healthcare: There is a reciprocal agreement on social security between Portugal and the UK. However, anyone coming to live in Portugal should have private health insurance. Although medical care is excellent, in some hospitals nursing-care leaves a lot to be desired.
Sardines on the Grill
(For 4 people)
* 8 sardines (medium, more if small)
* Fresh thyme
* Fresh savory
* 4 Tbsp olive oil
* 2 garlic cloves
* Salt and pepper
* Grate the garlic cloves with a microplane to have it very fine.
* In a bowl, mix the garlic with the oil, salt and pepper, and the herbs finely chopped. Coat the sardines with this sauce and place in the fridge, covered, for 1 hour.
* When ready to eat, heat a grill.
* Cook the sardines on each side for 3 to 4 min only, according to size. Brush with the sauce while cooking. Adjust the seasoning.
* Serve the grilled sardines with a marinated fennel and radish salad — with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice — and plain Jasmine rice or boiled potatoes.
* Wild caught, all natural Portuguese sardines and tuna.
* Sustainably fished off a non-industrial coast.
* 100% dolphin safe.
* Packed fresh within 8 hours of catch.
* Tested low in mercury.
* A natural source of Co-Enzyme Q-10 and Omega-3.
* A good source of calcium.