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Wednesday 8 April 2009

New Year on the Waterfront

Yes, it was three months ago, so I’m running a bit late. After putting up with two doses of airport security, and a short, sharp wake event on take-off from CDG, I fetched up in one of my favourite cities, Lisbon (don’t mention the Treaty).

And the exchange rate was not far over parity: very little more than EUR 1.02 to the Pound from hitting the Multibanco downstairs at the recently refurbished Estação do Rossio. So was it all a bit expensive?


What about eating out? Well, first evening I stopped by at Paulo Marques’ agreeable O Marques restaurant – just north of the Rossio – where a meal including half a litre of pretty reasonable red wine cost less than nine Euro. That was very much par for the course. Travel wasn’t expensive: a day pass for the Metro and all the trams (ride the 12 and 28, and avoid the tourist ones) was around EUR 3.50. Staying at a Residencial in the central Baixa district will set you back EUR 45 a night for singles, and 65 for doubles.

But the New Year crowds?

It was certainly busy in the Praça do Comércio on Lisbon’s waterfront: there was the obligatory sound stage, and makeshift beer and food outlets, but the crowd was an agreeable one, mainly of locals. Old Lisbon is actually quite a small city – there’s sprawl, and lots of it, but not in the centre.

Bad behaviour? Apart from some climbing over the tram shelters, and pushing in the beer queues, not much. And, as midnight approached, many got out their bottles of sparkling wine and plastic cups to toast the New Year. I was briefly surprised, thinking that in the UK, all that would have been confiscated and the area cordoned off.

Come to think of it, where were the police? They were there, but it was all very low key.

The fireworks were enjoyable, and then the crowd dispersed, most walking back to their apartments, with the more adventurous heading for the Metro.

Not at all what you might expect in a capital city. And where in the UK can you stroll around on New Year’s Eve without a jacket?

[Crowds gathering on the Rua Augusta here, warming up the Praça do Comércio here, and a glimpse of the fireworks here]

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