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At last - Madonna has made her property choice

MadonnaWhen I bumped into Madonna at the Ritz last week, I thought she was looking particularly driven. Now I can tell you what must have been on the superstar’s mind, writes James Mayor.

For weeks, Madonna has been keeping Lisbon’s gossip circuit on tender hooks. Everywhere you went people have been asking the same question: “have you heard anything new?”

How gentrification in Lisbon may be killing the goose that lays the golden egg

JamesLisbonA tsunami of gentrification is racing across the Lisbon hills. For centuries a sleepy city on the remote fringes of Europe, Lisbon is now definitely on the map and the visitors are pouring in. But has this boom now got out of control?

Giant cruise ships tower over historic buildings, making us gasp as we cross the street, while a stream of low-cost aircraft land like noisy migrating birds. Lisbon has become a strong destination brand, the perfect place to head for a city break, or even for a property investment. Nothing, it seems, will stop this tide.

Street partying with the Patron Saint of lost things

JamesStAntonioThis week, Lisbon will be ramping up to Saint António’s day, the 12th of June and the peak of a wave of street parties. All this month Lisbon will be partying, 'com intensidade.'

In what a friend of mine recently dubbed the city’s “hysterical centre,” impromptu barbeques have appeared on street corners and the scent of grilled sardines hangs over each neighbourhood. For the thirsty, and they are a multitude, stalls serving draft Sagres or Super Bock also have popped up.

Discovering one of Portugal’s greatest modernists, José de Almada Negreiros

JamesArtistIf you are in Lisbon, you should head straight to the wonderful Calouste Gulbenkian Museum as fast as you can. Until the 5th of June, you can see the work of an important Portuguese modernist artist, José de Almada Negreiros.

In 2016, the Grand Palais, in Paris, hosted a hugely successful exhibition of another Portuguese artist, Amadeu de Souza-Cardoso. His fellow modernista Portuguêsa has not yet, however, broken through onto the international stage. Almada Negreiros certainly deserves to, and this is one reason why the major exhibition of his work which recently opened at the Gulbenkian is such an exciting event.

Where are the most beautiful pavements in the world? In Lisbon of course!

calcadaThere is no doubt about it, the world’s most beautiful pavements are to be found in Lisbon. Along the city’s waterfront several kilometers of them are currently being renovated.

With their playful designs recalling the city’s maritime heritage, Lisbon’s pavements are one of its most delightful features. Their patterns offer an exuberant celebration of Portugal’s past as a great seafaring nation. In the streets and squares of the historic centre we discover ships, sea creatures and, in particular, waves, culminating in the great set piece of Rossio Square, covered by an entire ocean which rolls beneath our feet.

Is Portugal a success story for drug use decriminalization?

hash2The low number of deaths in Portugal from drug overdose indicates that the decriminalization of drug use can dramatically reduce the number of these deaths. The reality behind the statistics is more complex however.

In 2001 Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs. The idea was that drug taking should be considered a public health issue and not a criminal one. 16 years on, this courageous liberal measure would appear to have brought uncontested benefits. Portugal now has an impressive 3 deaths from drug overdose for 1 million citizens, compared to a horrifying 44 for 1 million in the UK.

The evening I visited the Prime Minister of Portugal’s residence

JamesSaoBentoA few weeks ago, some of Lisbon’s official buildings held an open day, to welcome members of the public. I visited one of them: the Prime Minister’s residence.

We were standing in a line of well-dressed Portuguese waiting to go through a metal detector. Apparently this appliance wasn’t functioning correctly as a friendly policeman was waving people through without any further security check. This laid back attitude could almost be taken as a metaphor for the current Portuguese administration, in which empathy and confidence-building are both playing an important part.

How I spent my first summer in Portugal at Quinta de Bacalhoa

JamesBacalhoaWith its magnificent gardens and tiled pavilions Quinta de Bacalhoa must surely be one of the most romantic country properties in Portugal. This is where I spent a family summer holiday, in the early 1970s.

My father had been unwell and, when they heard that the Quinta de Bacalhoa could be rented for the summer at comparatively little cost, it seemed to my parents the perfect place for a restful holiday. It had shaded terraces overlooking the garden and a huge ornamental tank, in which you could swim, surrounded by pavilions decorated with tiles.