Marvel in a visit to Lisbon’s Lapa Palace
By Carleton Varney
In the Lapa’ luxury. I don’t really like to play on words, but I just can’t help it this time around. The Lapa Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, once the residence of the Portuguese Court, is one of the most perfect places to stay in the world – and I mean that. The palace, located in the hills overlooking the beautiful city of Lisbon, offers just about every amenity one could wish and the décor accents the charms of yesterday. Color-wise and furnishing-wise, all who know and love the time of black and white movies will appreciate this hotel.
Rui Palma, the hotel concierge, is in attendance to care for your every need — including mailing packages home that you do not want to carry on a long airplane ride back to America. Concierge Rui can also tell you what and where to go in the city of the seven hills.
Artisan Tile Galore
If one were to ask what one must see in Lisbon, you can begin knowing that Portugal is all about tile work, and the imagery in tiles will fascinate you. Even the walls above your bathtub at Lapa Palace are decorated with blue and white tiles, featuring the scenes of Lisbon landscapes or edifices.
Portugal is about fine wines and fine vineyards, and about olive groves and about handmade rugs. Special rug designs can take three to four weeks, but are worth the wait. Portugal is about ceramics, bed linens, and lace. The shops catering to the tourists are also filled with cork: cork bowls, cork picture frames, cork boots, and cork-finished wallets. Don’t ask me how a wallet can be covered in cork. I don’t know how they do it, but they do.
Bask in Yesteryear Elegance
Portugal is about sunshine and about music and dining in the manner of yesterday. I love the Lapa Palace dining room with its trellis-covered walls, its chandeliers from Murano, its ceiling – all hand-painted with puffy white clouds. The waiters are gentile, immaculately dressed, and the Maître d’hôtel Chainho de Oliveira knows exactly how to treat a guest.
Lapa Palace has a swimming pool, set among the trees and bougainvilleas. All rooms have terraces with sliding doors that open to an outdoor pleasure spot where room service will bring you afternoon tea, breakfast, or a cocktail before dinner – why not? The terrace is a romantic place to view the sparkling city below.
To Start Your Day
Breakfast at the Lapa is perfection — a breakfast room with outside garden and with handsome flower-decorated china is the total atmosphere. Not since Lady Bird Johnson created her flower china have I seen one pattern as pretty. On pink linen cloths, you’ll find a buffet of mangos and all colorful fruits, and all bounty of Portugal — caviar, smoked salmon, breads, croissants, yogurts.
When in Lisbon, you must see the Elevator of Santa Justa. The city abounds with lifts and elevators to carry you up its seven hills. The Santa Justa elevator was fabricated of cast iron in 1902, designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard. From the top of the elevator you will see an unforgettable view of the city.
The Panteão Nacional (The National Pantheon) is an impressive monument to Portugal’s past. Illustrious figures from the past are laid to rest here. From the pantheon, you can view the Tagus River flowing into the Atlantic Sea.
All of Lisbon is a tile museum and the exteriors of many buildings are decorated with panels and logos in a multitude of colors. A visit to the Museu do Azulejo is a must. If you are in Lisbon on a weekend, visit the craft market on the waterside. There you’ll find designs in tiles, wooden puzzles, jewelry, linens, ceramics, glassware, and all the art from photographs to cork accessories. While there, I made some small purchases of glass soap dishes in a fish-like form, as well as a wooden cow puzzle for my grandson Bowie.
Tapas, Tapas, Tapas
There are so many tapas restaurants in Lisbon that I suggest you find nearby recommendations from Rui Palma, that wonderful concierge at Lapa Palace. I shall leave you with one dining recommendation: For a treat of the best freshly baked croissants I have ever had, visit La Boulangerie close by the Lapa Palace.
Carleton Varney, President of Dorothy Draper & Co. Inc.,
is an American decorator, designer, lecturer and author.