Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

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Trans-Iberian express

Bom dia! Bom dia! It wasn’t the plan to be at the other end of Europe the week before our Athens conference (you are joining us, aren’t you?) but somehow the attractions of new projects, a little real-estate tour and an invitation to check in to a hotel in the heart of Alentejo tempted me to the boarding gate flashing “final call: Lisbon” midday on Thursday.Before I made my way to the airport, I managed to grab a coffee with the very clever author and commentator Jess Henderson. You might recall that I recommended her book Offline Matters a couple of weeks ago and if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you must. At a time when many who are reading this column are planning their marketing and media plans for 2022, it’s an informative take on what works, what doesn’t and how you might want to stick to some tried-and-tested strategies rather than investing into multiple platforms you think you can measure in a KPI spreadsheet. Also, if you want to hear from Ms Henderson, CNN’s Clarissa Ward and a host of other clever minds then make sure to make your way to London on 14 October when we’ll be hosting the Monocle Media Summit at The Churchill. We’ll have much more on that over the coming weeks but first, it’s time to touch down in Lisbon and share a few observations from the continent’s western edge.It’s official: Lisbon boasts the most exciting approach of any major airport since they shuttered Hong Kong’s Kai Tak. And just like the aviation stories of yore about peering out the window of a Cathay Pacific 747 and watching families sitting around the dinner table slurping noodles, here you can peer into living rooms and see laundry being hung as your Airbus barrels down above the apartment blocks. From below, the steady stream of approaching aircraft over the city is a pleasant reminder that the wheels of the global economy are shifting back into gear.You know the French invasion of Portugal is continuing apace when the Lisbon branch of the Lycée is expanding, ‘F’ license plates rank number two after ‘P’ plates and there are Parisian couples drinking and clinking almost everywhere you turn. With question marks over the future of HK as a business hub, is this where all the French from Hollywood Road are establishing a new colony for commerce and cavorting? C’est possible.Somehow, I’ve missed some of the better modernist corners of Lisbon over the years as my trips tend to be business-focused and traditionally don’t extend much beyond 18 hours. Not this time. Thanks to colleagues Helena and José Luis I had the opportunity to gaze upwards on Friday and have been having decorating and landscaping fantasies ever since. I think a Monocle shop, café and bureau just might be on the cards. Better yet, atop some very graphic, Roberto Burle Marx-style pavement tiles.It’s not only the French who are piling in: the Belgians are also making an entrepreneurial appearance in the restaurant space. Java is worth a twirl for drinks and tacos with fine views across the city. Owner Pierre runs a tight ship and is a gracious, handsome host to boot.It’s Saturday morning and I find myself two hours southeast of Lisbon at the São Lourenço do Barrocal hotel. It’s a project that’s close to my heart as our agency worked on the branding for the project and I haven’t been since it opened. If you’re not familiar with this little corner of Europe, swing down and give it a try. It feels a bit like being up the coast and inland from Cape Town – vineyards forever but also cork trees and sprawling olive estates. Last night I dined on delicious barbecue pork and vegetables picked from the garden, tried a variety of wines from the estate’s vineyard and woke up this morning to the eeeee-awwwws of the most attractive, affectionate donkey. Perhaps a venue for a Monocle Weekender retreat next spring? Mais definitivamente!

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