Portugal News

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Archive for the ‘portugal (mainland)’ Category

No more booze cruises to Vigo

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State rail operator CP has run an international service from Porto to Vigo, in Spain, for nearly 100 years. These trains will cease operating at the weekend because CP says an average 11 paying passengers use each train. The route costs CP €450,000 to run yearly and only generates revenues of €218,000. This cash is not from ticket sales but paid to CP by Spanish counterpart Renfe for running trains from Tuy, on the border, up to Vigo.

Another reason the line is loss making, according to Publico, is that Renfe rarely puts ticket collectors on the trains for the Spanish leg of the journey. Consequently, many passengers get free travel from the Vigo to the Portuguese frontier on the Minho river. Porto and Vigo were to have been linked by an ambitious Iberian TGV link between Lisbon, Madrid and the northwest of Iberia. This high-speed line has been cancelled owing both governments being cash strapped.

Porto to Vigo takes just under four hours by train compared to less than two hours by bus. So the service being suspended operates largely for local use on both sides of the border. Carriages were often half full of live chickens when I used the line in the 198os to lunch in Spain or hit the beach at Viana do Castelo.

Written by porkncheezer

July 5, 2011 at 9:23 am

New and old PMs; blast them ATMs!

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Portugal’s prime minister elect, Pedro Passos Coelho, tells the FT he won’t leave his humble suburban pad for the official PM residence behind Lisbon’s Sao Bento parliament. Instead, he’ll  continue to live in his own flat in a humdrum Lisbon suburb. Not much of a big deal here because Jose Socrates, our previous government chief ousted in early polls, spent most of his time in a pretty modest, by local standards, pad opposite a pizza takeaway restaurant on Rua Braacamp between Marques de Pombal and Largo do Rato.  The latter a mere 10” pizza throw from his house and also the HQ of his own Socialist Party.

Passos Coelho, despite his noble claims, will likely still spend most of his time in the rather low key official residence because that’s where people will expect to find him. The building in question, with no apparent security, is difficult to find unless you know Lisbon. Many happy tourists whiz up and down the Calcada da Estrela on the No 28 tram without spotting it or the National Assembly immediately behind.

Jose Socrates, a divorcee which sometimes doesn’t play too well in Portuguese politics, often sent his bodyguards down to collect pizzas when it was his sons’ weekend to visit pa. Getting back on track, incoming PM Passos Coelho also tells the FT his new administration will unleash extra belt-tightening to the already agreed package with the IMF and EU to qualify for a €78bn sub.

Elsewhere, thieves have been blagging ATMs by filling them with gas then blowing them up, with a crude car battery-powered sparking device, to release the supposedly secure note dispensers. Publico reports on three attempted heists on ATMs, or multibancos as we call them, in the early hours of Wednesday at Coruche, north of Lisbon, Setubal, south of the capital and at Santo Ovidio near Porto.

None of the above multibanco blast attacks resulted in the loss of any cash or injuries but a town hall at Santana do Mato, in Coruche, where the ATM was sited, showed some signs of damage and a powerful blast. Publico says these attempted robberies have begun in the last two months in Portugal after becoming common in some other parts of Europe. The article gives no hints on which gas is best to use to blow up an ATM. I know propane gas rises and butane goes down. Or is that the other way round?

Written by porkncheezer

June 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Sorry, you’re too dirty to take me downtown

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Lisbon’s city council wants to ban older vehicles that generate more pollution from the historic Baixa city centre. The move would affect 20% of the capital’s fleet of 3,500 taxis, according to Publico. Taxistas (cabbies) call for more time to meet the January 2012 deadline.

Pedro Lopes, director of one of Lisbon’s biggest taxi firms, says banning older vehicles from an area between Avenida da Liberdade and Terreiro do Paco will create confusion. If an oil-spewing ‘legacy’ taxi picks up a fare who wants to go to the Baixa, the passenger will have to be dropped off some distance from their destination to continue the journey by other means.

Lisbon has lots of old taxis that are mainly reliable but smoky diesel Mercs. The new regulations will ban pre-1993 cars from central Lisbon unless they are fitted with a catalytic converter.

Written by porkncheezer

May 20, 2011 at 8:24 am

¿Donde le duele?

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Another 40 Columbian doctors have arrived in Portugal to work in National Health Service centres facing shortages of medical staff in Lisbon, the Alentejo and central Portugal. Dozens of Colombian medics are already working in Portuguese NHS centres across the country.

About 10% of all doctors working in Portugal’s NHS are now from overseas. Not surprisingly around 2,500 of the 4,000-odd foreign doctors in Portugal come from neighbouring Spain. Some Cuban doctors (below) have also been sent to Portugal. Doctor shortages in the country are put down to a program of early retirement for medics rolled out last year.

Written by porkncheezer

May 19, 2011 at 7:41 am

Hands off our marquises!

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Many apartment blocks in Portuguese cities have a slightly higgledy-piggledy look due to customized modifications and enclosures of balconies, known as a “marquise”. Some town and city councils, including Almada across the river from Lisbon, are trying to standardize the appearance of buildings by getting residents to legalize their beloved marquises, used to stow a household ‘junk” and often a place to put washing machines in cramped flats. Many oppose the proposed law changes which will increase property taxes as apartments boost their square meterage.

Publico sends a crack investigative team to gape at the marquise of President Anibal Cavaco Silva. His relatively modest family home in Lisbon is off Avenida Infante Santo. A neighbour points to the president’s two marquises, the Cavaco Silva’s have bought the first-floor flat next door. One of the president’s probably illegal balconies has smart white blinds while the other is mirror glazed.

Portuguese TV showed the newly elected and beaming head of state in his marquise (on left) on election night in 2006. At the time one media wag doubted if President George W. Bush had ever set foot in a marquise, let alone allow himself to be filmed in one.

Written by porkncheezer

May 18, 2011 at 10:17 am

The players’ player

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Raul Meireles, Liverpool’s Portuguese soccer ace, gets interviewed by Expresso this week. It took him a while to adjust to the pace of the English Premiership after a GBP 12m move from FC Porto to Liverpool last year, he says, where he began playing on the left wing in 4-4-2 formation instead of his more natural central midfield berth. Meireles was returned to his favoured position when Kenny Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson at Anfield. The Portuguese international rapidly found form and played a key role in Liverpool’s revival with his trademark long-range goals and pinpoint crosses from midfield.

Meireles prefers English football to the game in his native country because it requires a lower level of skill but more tactical awareness. Kenny Dalglish is seen as a god by the Anfield faithful, says Meireles, who admits to having seen some youtube clips of the former Scottish international striker in his pomp. The ex-Porto and Boavista player goes for a regular drink with his Liverpool team-mates but says English fans tnd to appreciate players’ on-field exploits rather than which super models they hang out with. In Portugal things are the other way round, he wryly notes.

Fellow countryman Nani plays up the road in Manchester but the two Portuguese “craques” rarely meet up outside of international duty, Meireles tells Expresso. Probably something to do with the longstanding bitter rivalry between the two clubs who rarely have transfer or other dealings. Raul Jose Trindade Meireles was born 27 years ago in Porto. He was elected player of the year this season by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) in England.

Written by porkncheezer

May 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Going digital

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Portugal’s analogue TV switch-off has begun with a pilot digital switch-over at Alenquer, north of Lisbon. ANACOM, the state communications regulator, says around 16% of Alenquer residents won’t have access to free-to-view channels and will need to buy a €50 set-top decoder or upgrade their telly.

Cacem and Nazare are the next towns to switch to DTV in coming months and the rest of mainland Portugal, Madeira and the Azores will switch off analogue TV transmitters next year. DTV is already available over most of Portugal so can be picked up with the right equipment.

With early elections looming in Portugal after the collapse of the caretaker Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ Socialist government, the main PSD opposition has called for the digital TV switch-over to be suspended until after polling. Voters, the PSD argues, derive most of their political awareness from television.

Written by porkncheezer

May 12, 2011 at 9:54 am