17 October, 2011

Palacio da Bolsa and the Arab Hall

This last day in Porto we decided to visit the Palacio da Bolsa.  They wouldn't let us take photos, unfortunately, but we got the real scoop on the Palace. It was built for the "bolsa", which in English is their version of the Stock Exchange. Everything was imported from somewhere else, wood from Brazil, gold from South American, etc. One room had paintings of all their old kings. The last king, who died in 1932, ascended the throne after the assassination of his father and older brother. (A bit suspicious). He was ousted and exiled to England in 1910, where he died without an heir. But of course there are pretenders everywhere.  One is in jail in Vincenza, Italy.

The piece de resistance was the Arab Hall. All done up with gold leaf on plaster and Arabic script. It was built to impress, said our guide, to show how wealthy we were. I kept thinking some of that gold leaf, 22 kilos of the stuff, which she had translated into English as 22 tons, might help them out of their problems now.  http://olhares.aeiou.pt/salao_arabe_detalhe_foto895637.html   I know that is ridiculous, but there you go. Look this up.  It is quite beautiful.  

Then we stumbled on to a gourmet restaurant right in the center of the Palace. I was a bit enraged, because no one at the hotel told us about it. There were three courses: vegetable soup, either fish, rapped in something yellow and green, which was delicious, or a risotto made with many different types of meat and caramel ice cream.  All wine, coffee and mineral water was included for 15 euros per person, about $19. 

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