The Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit on craftsman, manufacture and innovation was a big draw for two girls besotted with crafted products and how they fit into the digital space. All our favourite on-line portals had a seat on the stage at the Summit. The CEO’s of Yoox Net a Porter and Farfetch talked digital; craftsmen were represented by the head Honchos from Cartier and Hermes, manufacture by Miroslava Duma Founder of Fashion Tech Lab and innovation from CEO of Vetements. But before we got down to work at the conference, we had eight hours on the loose in Lisbon.
When we arrived in Lisbon there was lots of singing and the streets were packed with people, they had just won a major football match and the Eurovision song contest, Lisbon was now the capital of fun. Our aim was to bring you the undiscovered Lisbon and most importantly to buy the local produce of Sardines, Soap and Gloves.
We were there to work, but Sunday was our day off and we wanted to make the most of it. I started the day with a private Pilates class in the wonderful gym at the Ritz, Four Seasons. There is a Pilates room and a Pilates expert centre was there to see I was fully stretched before I started my day as a tourist.Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the city reflects this amazing cultural history. Every country in the world seems to have left an impact on this lovely city, you almost expect to meet a Roman warrior in one of the tiny cobbled streets.
Alfama is the ancient part of Lisbon, small streets only accessible by foot with the sounds of a Fado singer lingers in the air. The area survived the catastrophic earthquake of 1755 and the Arabic influences can be seen along with other examples of Portugal’s great trading history. This is the place where residents waved good-bye to Vasco da Gama on his trips of discovery and trade in spices, sugar, textiles and many other goods which now gives the Portuguese their rich are varied history.Be warned, a number of guide books fail to draw attention that Lisbon is full of hills, you go up and then you go down, your step count on your Fitbit thinks you are on a stair climber. My companion was in shoes more suitable to pounding the pavements of Mayfair and not the vertical cobbled streets of Lisbon, plus we were short on time so we needed to work fast. Thanks to technology we had a solution, use an Uber, a big black Mercedes swept us from place to place, charging 5 euros a trip. Lisbon is not expensive, for example our fresh and delicious lunch, tucked in a cellar off the main strip was just 15 euros including two cappuccinos.
We needed a bit of culture, and where better that the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. This is a very unusual city museum, just two minutes walk from the department store, El Corte Ingles in the centre of the city. Set in in 19 acres of wonderful gardens with a small lake and lots of ducks and turtles. It was the parkland of the former Palacio Azambuja dos Meninos de Palhava to give it the full name. The museum nestles in the park in a sixies style buildings and you wander through the park to reach the treasures. We would love to return to see the many cultural programmes they hold in their 1000 seat amphitheatre. The museum pays homage to of one man’s dedication to collecting. The Lalique room is full of lovely and unusual pieces, it is not crowded and the feeling of space with well hung paintings makes it a delight to spend an afternoon (it is free from 2.00p.m. on Sundays).You can’t visit Lisbon without buying sardines. There are shops selling tins of sardines everywhere, the packaging is a joy, vibrant and interesting. Our visit to A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11), run by Portuguese journalist Catarina Portas. This shop is a gem of traditional local products, Portuguese soap in exquisite packaging; sardines packed in old fashioned tins featuring superb graphics and handmade notebooks perfect for taking conference notes. It was the oldest glove shop which captured our imagination. The tiny shop or rather a glove kiosk has been on the same premises since 1928 and has gloves in every colour of the rainbow. Lisbon has several celebrity chefs and Michelin starred restaurants which, as to be expected, were difficult to get into. Book ahead to get into Belcanto which has been awarded two Michelin stars or try Bairro do Avillez where the fish are the kings of food.
We met Manuel Portela who has a treasure trove of antique and vintage jewellery at the Ritz. Manuel is a font of knowledge and spent a long time showing us eighteenth century gold Portuguese filigree earrings and a cross of beautiful garnets. Here we fell in love with a pair of vintage Bulgari earrings.I had the pleasure to sit beside Artur Miranda at the conference gala dinner and learnt how he formed Oitoemponto, the leading international firm of interior designers and architects with his partner Jacques Bec. They have followed the Portuguese tradition of trading all around the world. After hearing his story, we had to visit his boutique where the sweet smelling candles created by this talented team captured our senses and perfumed the air. Sadly, our suitcases were so full, of sardines, gloves and soap that the candles had to be left behind but are top of our shopping list on our next visit.
Lisbon is an ideal city for a weekend break, relaxing, lovely people, different places to see and visit, you can wander the cobbled streets of old Lisbon or sit and eat an ice-cream and watch the big ships come and go. We would go back tomorrow for the sunshine, food and the sardines, gloves can wait until the winter.For further information: