WE ARRIVED IN PORTUGAL’S LARGEST CITY (and capital) after a quick afternoon flight, landing in driving late-November rain just after nightfall. After Sarah‘s fantastic City Guide, published here in August 2012, it would be a little over two years until we would have the chance to visit one of the oldest cities in the world. In fact, LISBON is the oldest city in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as Paris, London and Rome by centuries . . .
And despite the rain, needless to say, we were very much looking forward to Lisbon’s famous subtropical-Mediterranean climate, for the city is known for having the warmest winters in Europe, with an average temperature of 15 °C (59 °F) from December to February.
Our trip was part business, part pleasure, and part reconnaissance (more about that later); business, in that we had been invited to visit & stay for a part of time at the Inspira Santa Marta Hotel (above), to learn more about its environmental sustainability initiatives which pervade everything, from “the use of low environmental impact materials or the rational use of paper”, to energy that is derived 100% from renewable sources, and solar panels for water heating. The hotel, in partnership with Pump Aid, has also sponsored the construction of water pumps and sanitation infrastructures in sub-Saharan Africa, co-financing and installing three potable water pumps in three villages of Malawi.
Above and below, beauty sleep and travelling not-so-lightly . . .
Below, another section of the hotel lobby, where handmade pieces of art created by the Portuguese Association for Autistic People (APPDA) members are on display and sold, with all revenue reverting back to the organisation to provide services for people with autism and their families. Inspira Santa Marta Hotel also sponsors fundraising events for LACO, the Association for Breast Cancer; ABRACO, a Portuguese non-profit organisation supporting people affected by HIV/AIDS; and Fundacao Osorio de Castro, a charity for children with cancer.
“At Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, we try to reduce carbon footprint as much as possible and strive daily to create a better environment for us and for future generations.“
Above, freshly baked Portuguese pastries at a nearby padaria, including the world famous pastéis de nata, or custard tarts, and bicas, or espressos, of which we would have several cups a day in cafés and sunny kiosk terraces along the way . . .
The hotel’s sustainability policy also extends to their restaurant, Open Brasserie Mediterrânica, where we stopped for breakfast each morning before dashing out for the day. The restaurant uses fresh, local and seasonal produce, and whenever possible, uses organic products in the preparation of their dishes. Open Brasserie also offers gluten-free options.
Did you know : “Lisbon is the 7th-most-visited city in Southern Europe, after Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens and Milan.“
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” ―Anita Desai
During our stay, we were also invited for dinner at Open Brasserie Mediterrânica, run by Chef João Silva, whose menu was inspired by the tastes of Portuguese Cuisine, using Mediterranean ingredients and techniques to share the most distinctive tastes of Portugal, “with a selection of dishes which invite one to discover [the] gastronomic culture” through local products such as chestnut from the Tràs-os-Montes region, sweet potato from Aljezur, fish from the Portuguese coast, and desserts based on national ingredients such as eucalyptus honey, and the Rocha pear.
Above, Vieiras coradas, puré de abóbora assada com vinagrete de mão de porco e coentros (scallops & butternut squash purée) to start, Peixe da Costa Portuguesa, proveniente de pesca artesanal e sustentável e uma guarnição a condizer (fish from the Portuguese sea coast for me), Barriga de porco crocante cozinhada lentamente, com estufado de feijão encarnado biológico (slow-cooked crispy pork belly with stewed organic red beans) for P, and Mousse de chocolate, espuma de caramelo e manteiga de amendoim (chocolate mousse, caramel foam & peanut butter) to finish.
Above, a beautiful shop ceiling & winter roses at the mercado.