Accomodation in Portugal and Spain Hotel Websites
November 26, 2002 1:57 AM   Subscribe

Where To Stay In Portugal And Spain: You could do worse than try Secret Places, an ambitious and delightful website that has the advantage of emphasizing unusual and charming accommodation. I don't know about Spain, but the places they recommend in Portugal, the Azores and Madeira are top notch and not at all touristy. These are the fairly priced rural inns, private homes and hotels we Portuguese repair to when our batteries need recharging. Although Portugal is a big tourist destination and there are loads of accommodation websites, I'm sorry to say that this is the first I've seen that's any good. I'm not so sure about the other hotel chain websites highly praised in a New York Times article [ registration required; with pop-ups], although the Ian Schrager Hotels [with pop-ups] one is quite attractive (in an early Nineties way) and very efficient reservation-wise.
posted by MiguelCardoso (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
But Miguel, when we visit Portugal we'll want to stay with you.
posted by rory at 2:14 AM on November 26, 2002

I stayed in hotel Burna near an abandoned Bull fighting ring in Lisbon. Portugal was beautiful, but the hotel was, erm... ok
posted by monkeyJuice at 2:30 AM on November 26, 2002

Schrager Hotels?
It's amazing how for 500 dollars a night they manage to be "quite attractive" and "very efficient"
posted by matteo at 3:27 AM on November 26, 2002

My band toured a lot of small towns in Alentejo, Minho and Douro a couple of years ago - including a lot of village festivals. Our klezmer repertoire eventually morphed into a lot of songs in D major played on mandolin that people could clap along to.

Coming from Hungary, my impression was that Portugal maintains impressive traditional regional cultures, and the small hotels were excellent for value and quality. The food... except for the toasted dried octopus snacks popular in Beja, the food is better than anything in France, something you would never imagine if you've only tried Portuguese restaurants abroad. . these people do amazing things with salted cod.

If you can afford the flight, go to Portugal and get out of Lisbon after a couple of days. Thanks, Miguel!
posted by zaelic at 3:30 AM on November 26, 2002

Hotels?! What the hell kind of money do you think we're made of? For those who want to visit Portugal on a common man's budget, go to a youth hostel instead.

By the way, Miguel, what's the deal with Portugal and Spain? How did two completely different languages and cultures evolve right next to eachother with such a seeming lack of geographical boundaries?
posted by dgaicun at 3:31 AM on November 26, 2002

C'mon, Matteo [*putting on his travel agent voice*] you can get a double room at the Hudson for $180, at The Paramount for $185 and at The Royalton for $225. I've stayed in all three more than once and, although the rooms are tiny, they're great fun and value for Manhattan. The Royalton, though it's getting old is, in fact, a bargain. Anyway, I was talking about the website, not the hotels, you unreformable-grouch-from-a-country-where-decent- hotels-in-big-cities-are-shockingly-expensive! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:39 AM on November 26, 2002

Dgaicun: I searched and found this brief explanation. Portugal has the oldest borders in Europe and, along with Sweden (?), is the only truly monolingual country. I.e., it's really old and set in its ways. Spain is a really a federation of nations led by Castile and is much more recent (Andalusia, pace Osama bin Laden, was only conquered at the end of the 15th century). Portugal tried to conquer Castile once or twice; Castile tried the same, but neither was successful. There was a period, from 1580 to 1640, when the two crowns were united (by legitimate inheritance) under the Spanish monarchy. But we soon tired of this and expelled the smelly bastards in 1640. We don't get along very well; sort of like Holland and Germany, I suppose. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:57 AM on November 26, 2002

We don't get along with the Castilians, I should add. The other Spanish nations (who don't much like Castile either) we love dearly.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:00 AM on November 26, 2002

Ah, Miguel, is that NYC tax (State, City and weekend) included?

And the Paramount's room are tiny if you are a midget. If you're a normally developed adult, they're less than tiny, Miguel. But we all love Vermeer, so...

You carefully avoided to mention Delano, Mondrian and St. Martin's Lane, you unreformable-grouch-who-thinks-the-Royalton-is-a-bargain (I had you as a Sherry Netherland - Carlyle - The Pierre man, by the way).

ps In Milan, stay at Hotel Manin, it's very close to the Duomo, really nice and most definitely not shockingly expensive. I also have a few good hotel names for Florence and Rome, contact me by e-mail if you need those also...
posted by matteo at 4:01 AM on November 26, 2002

Miguel: Sweden's not monolingual. Only Portugal and Iceland are the only truly monolingual countries in Europe.
That said. I'd love to go to Portugal someday, as I've never been. So I think I'll bookmark this thread. Thanks!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:33 AM on November 26, 2002

How are you people defining monolingual? Does that mean everyong only speaks one language, or that there's only one recognized national language? I find it hard to believe the former, as I'm sure many people speak Spanish and (egad!) even English. If it's the latter -- well, I think there are a lot of countries in Europe that have a single national language. Just asking for clarification and enlightenment, not trying to be snarky.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:49 AM on November 26, 2002

In Paris, Hotel de la Paix (predictably), between Avenue (or was it Rue? It's been a decade, and I was drinking at the time) Bosquet and Rue Augereau I think it was, best damn cheapo 1-star ever. Couple blocks from the Tour Eiffel.

In the morning, croissants and crusty bread with cocoa that was, and I use this word sparingly, heavenly. Stayed there for two weeks. Totally failed to hit it off with the American chicks next door. Bought more wine, wrote bad poetry.

Things change, though, so it's probably a fucking fitness center or something now.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:53 AM on November 26, 2002

Civil_Disobedient: I define monolingual the same way the article I linked to above does. We may both be wrong, though.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:57 AM on November 26, 2002

Hey Miguel, just for the record: I am Spanish (at least is what says in my passport), although as I was born in Barcelona (Catalunya or Catalonia), so I don't have a strong Spanish feeling.

It's amazing how far away in terms of knowledge of each other Spain and Portugal are. Well, maybe it's just the Spaniards, I can't speak for the Portuguese. Here in Catalunya there are more friendly feelings towards your country. To start with, we still have some unsolved issues with Castilla since 1714...

It is very sad that being so close we are so far away.

Ah, the link, the site interface is horrendous, but the selection of places and hotels is interesting. Those places aren't easily found in foreign guides.
posted by samelborp at 5:02 AM on November 26, 2002

Sweden has, at the very least, Lapps (Sami) and a handful of "Swede-Finns" (the latter a mixture of ethnic Finns who speak Swedish and ethnic Swedes who speak Finnish, as well as Finns who speak Finnish).

Miguel, how is it possible? An expert on cocktails, wine, food, literature ... and Portugal too!

dgaicun, I would say to think outside the box of modern national boundaries. First, Portuguese and Spanish are not "entirely different". Both are Romance languages with a common heritage and are allegedly mutually intelligible in a pinch. But really, there aren't two languages on the peninsula -- there are at least five. Portuguese in the west, Gallegan (Galician) in the northwest, Castilian in the interior (the "standard" Spanish, in vocabulary, spelling, and accent), Catalan in the east, and the only oddball, Basque, in the north. France and Italy are both thought of today as unitary Romance languages, but in reality they, too, represent aggregations of regional dialects: in France's case, a merger of "Langue d'Oc" and "Langue d'Oeil" centuries ago, assisted by institutions such as the Academie, and in Italy's case, a deliberate selection of a single Italian dialect in the 19th century as a standard-bearer for the unification of that peninsula. Don't think of these languages as ending bang! at some border; they evolved out of Latin and local Germanic dialects with only slight regional differences as a man might walk. The natural boundaries of the Pyrenees and Alps made for sharper distinctions, of course.

But in most ways Portugal and Spain are not that different. To the extent that they are separate nations today, it is largely an accident of history and geography that Portugal had the economic and political power, largely achieved by virtue of its maritime empire, to maintain independence from Spain. In its decline, it was a useful bulwark for other continental powers against the strength of Spain.
posted by dhartung at 5:09 AM on November 26, 2002

Monolingual? I was in Miguel's chatroom last night, and they were switching between Portuguese, English, Spanish and French. I asked dgaicun's question, how can two countries cut from the same territory be so different, and one fellow was cursing Spain I think for trying to get the oil spilling tanker nudged over toward Portugal. I suppose that if one wants to understand this topic, it might be best to buy one of Miguel's books...alas, over at Amazon they are all listed as "out of print." Rare first editions, eh, Miguel?
posted by planetkyoto at 5:12 AM on November 26, 2002

My wife and I stayed at a couple of the places when we went to Spain - the Casa Imperial in Sevilla and El Horcajo in Ronda - both were fantastic. This is a great website - wish we would have known about it (if it was around then) before our vacation.
posted by drobot at 6:17 AM on November 26, 2002

I was in Miguel's chatroom last night

you mean MetaFilter, right?
posted by matteo at 6:26 AM on November 26, 2002

Miguel and dhartung, those were very succinct and nutritious answers. Some might call them 'snacks' or 'factoids'. Thank you. I might even actually read a book one day and learn more. Stranger. . .things. . . have. . .happened.
posted by dgaicun at 6:29 AM on November 26, 2002

$225/night is a bargain in NYC? my can stay at the snazzy-looking Habitat for around $100. And I got a perfectly serviceable room at the Hotel Wellington (on the old side, not trendy in the least, but quiet, clean and friendly) for $105 via Priceline.

I'd rather spend less money on the hotel and more money seeing the city, no matter where in the world I am.

And besides, Miguel, you can always crash with me in Astoria.
posted by Vidiot at 7:02 AM on November 26, 2002

*rushes in breathlessly* Did somebody say "monolingual"?

dhartung: Your list of five languages needs a bit of explanation, in that most linguists don't consider Galician and Portuguese to be separate languages: Galician is simply the northernmost of the Portuguese dialects (see this dialect map). Of course, there's no clear division between "dialect" and "language" -- the famous dictum says a language is a dialect with an army -- and if Galicia were a separate country its language would be more readily accepted as such (like Dutch vis-a-vis German, when linguistically it's just a variant of Low German); as it is, you pays your money and you takes your choice. The important point is that there's no clear demarcation between the two as there is between them and the other languages you mention. As for France and Italy, my impression is that langue d'oc (now called Occitan) is in a similar position to Irish (i.e., dying fast), whereas the Italian dialects are still vigorous, but I'm not sure about that. Anyway, this site has a nice map that shows the evolution of the linguistic situation on the Iberian peninsula (watch Arabic melt away and disappear!).

Vidiot: A fellow Astorian -- represent!
posted by languagehat at 7:53 AM on November 26, 2002

So... howsabout some links helping us desperately-in-need-of-a-geographical-education Americans find cheap airfare across the Atlantic?

Oh. Wait. I'll need a job to earn the money for any airfare, anyway. Drat.
posted by namespan at 8:15 AM on November 26, 2002

A fellow Astorian -- represent!

just moved here (well, moved here in July.) Love it. Much more interesting than my previous hometown of Atlanta.

Plus it's fun to say "Ditmars."

oh, and namespan?,,, and the various airlines (check out Air Europa) are all good for finding x-lant deals.
posted by Vidiot at 8:23 AM on November 26, 2002

Matteo: you mean MetaFilter, right?
No, at Miguel's "pastilhas," where the appropriate metaphor for chatroom is "emergency room." Just use the words "suckling pig" in a romantic come-on line to indicate you are from Metafilter.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:11 AM on November 26, 2002

I love Portugal. Portugese is my favourite language.

But where are all the Greek people? I'm going to Greece this summer!
posted by ginz at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2002

I can imagine this bizarre pilgrimage in which dozens of foreigners arrive in Lisbon, and, begin walking the streets, and asking in broken Portuguese: WHERE IS MIGUEL? WHERE IS MIGUEL? HAVE YOU SEEN MIGUEL?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:48 AM on November 26, 2002

But where are all the Greek people?

They're in Astoria!

Vidiot: Be alert; there's also a "Ditmas" in Brooklyn!
posted by languagehat at 10:12 AM on November 26, 2002

Me and Mrs Buddha have often strolled past the Hotel San Roc in Callella de Palafruguel on our way to and from our various rented apartments either there or in LLafranc. We have often commented that it looks idyllic, but pricey. Now I see it is only 46 quid a night low season. What a bleeding bargain, and we can get a flight to Barcelona for 80 quid.
Nice one Miguel.
posted by Fat Buddha at 10:28 AM on November 26, 2002

whereas the Italian dialects are still vigorous, but I'm not sure about that

Until the Fifties/Sixties they were still very vigorous, definitely, but then massive immigration of Southerners toward the richer Northern regions and widely available National TV programs have strongly decreased the number of (usually less educated) people who use their local dialect as their primary language

My parents' generation, they also talked and understood their local dialect besides Italian. Young people nowadays don't, and dialects are in danger of extinction
posted by matteo at 11:16 AM on November 26, 2002

Only Portugal and Iceland are the only truly monolingual countries in Europe.

As far as I know so is Hungary, insofar as it's not like any other language. Thanks for the link Miguel, any good link for classy bordellos?
posted by semmi at 12:50 PM on November 26, 2002

As far as I know so is Hungary

There are thirteen official ethnic minorities in Hungary, the largest of which is the Roma (stress the -a), or Gypsies. There's a report on the Jews and Roma here; the Jews speak Hungarian, which is why they're not included among the official minorities of the first link—I hope...

(Monolingual, by the way, means only one language is spoken in the country, not that the language is somehow unique.)
posted by languagehat at 1:10 PM on November 26, 2002

semmi: Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language, meaning it's in the same family as (surprise!) Finnish. They are quite different, I understand.

languagehat: Thanks for the maps! You did seem to miss my point that there are in fact fuzzy boundaries between dialects. My old historical atlas has a 1900 linguistic map of Europe, which shows Galician as a dialect/offshoot of Spanish, so there seems to be some dispute of definition -- or perhaps this simply proves how close they are.

This did get me thinking (and you're just the one I wanted to ask) about whether there are any good online sources about "quantification of language variance", i.e. that would say Occitan is 5% different from classical French, but Catalan is 10% different from Castilian. The only real discussion I could find was, in fact, about Portuguese and the sociolinguist Gregory Guy {played in the movie of his life by Rip Torn with a facial tic}, who has participated in a program called VARSUL to do just that (or almost) for Portuguese dialects in immigrant communities within Brazil (e.g. a town populated mostly be Italian-Brazilians).

This does seem an appropriate moment to throw in the European Bureau of Lesser-Used Languages, which includes the educational-but-thin Web of Words, about the minority languages found in EU member states. There is quite a bit of behind-the-scenes regulatory activity trying to protect these languages from extinction and draw up common rules for minority rights (e.g. schooling).
posted by dhartung at 1:26 PM on November 26, 2002

matteo: Thanks for the (depressing) info.

dhartung: Great links, especially the Guy/VARSUL ones; I'll have to keep an eye on that program. I'm afraid I don't know of anything else online, but if I come across any links I'll pass them on. I looked through my collection of historical atlases, but although all of them have some kind of ethnolinguistic map of Europe, none of them is dated 1900 (1910 is closest). The best one, in the best historical atlas (the Hammond Atlas of World History), is dated 1815-1914 and shows several blobs of dark brown (the same color as they use for Portuguese) labeled "Galicians" in the northwest of Spain, afloat in a sea of a paler color labeled "Spaniards." (Oddly, although there is a label "Bretons" in the appropriate part of France, there's no associated blob of color; kowtowing to the Jacobin only-French-spoken-here ideology of France?)
posted by languagehat at 3:53 PM on November 26, 2002

I can imagine this bizarre pilgrimage in which dozens of foreigners arrive in Lisbon, and, begin walking the streets, and asking in broken Portuguese: WHERE IS MIGUEL? WHERE IS MIGUEL? HAVE YOU SEEN MIGUEL?

A onde Miguel? A onde Miguel? Voce teme vir Miguel?

(Is that broken enough for you?)
posted by namespan at 5:50 PM on November 26, 2002

Great links, Miguel, but like Vidiot, I do the budget travel thing with rooms so that I can stay longer and spend more on dining. I like a slightly higher level of creature comfort and privacy that most hostels afford, but still manage to find clean, decent places very cheap usually thanks to frommers or web research.
I loved Portugal as a destination and found it incredibly cheap in a shoulder season (May), particularly outside of Lisbon. Great food, nice people, a lot of unspoiled and noncommercial charming towns. I spent a week in the Algarve and a week driving around. Some of the Pousadas looked like interesting places to stay...we had a fine dinner at the one in Obidos, but didn't stay in any of the hotels.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:14 PM on November 26, 2002

Languagehat: living in Budapest I speak Hungarian most of the time, but on the average day I also use Yiddish, Romanes (Gypsy) and Romanian with friends and colleagues. At night I hang out in a pub where English, French, and Serbian are spoken. In south Buda there are Svab German speaking suburbs, and the commuter train near my home takes you to Slovak minority villages east of Budapest. And all the "Hungarian" vegetable dealers in the downtown market speak Bulgarian.

the Portuguese are lucky. Only one language. What a breeze!
posted by zaelic at 4:40 AM on November 27, 2002

zaelic: Your linguistic proficiency awes even me. I can read a bunch of languages, but to be able to converse in all those is damned impressive. I'm particularly jealous of your Romanes; the only gadjo I've known who could speak it was sort-of-married to a Rom for a long time and had gotten so far into the culture she made her living telling fortunes (and said "there are things I know about the Gypsies that I can't tell you because they're secret" -- and she told me plenty of disreputable things).

It's nice to know there are still Yiddish speakers in Budapest!
posted by languagehat at 7:10 AM on November 27, 2002

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