Portugal! Well there’s a word I started repeating insanely these last few months, and truth be told, I can’t get enough. What on earth just happened here? The forgotten millennial country at the western tip of Europe, perennially bankrupted and continuously overshadowed by its big neighbour is pretty much the hottest thing around. Expats from various countries started flocking to Lisbon and Porto, in a buying frenzy that reminded me of the medieval Dutch tulip craze. Tax reform in France? On vas au Portugal. Brexit? Let’s flee to Portugal. Trump? Let’s buy us some Portugal! Who wouldn’t? It’s cheap, it’s civilized and there’s a Prada.
Luxury brands are following the money and Lisbon’s main thoroughfare, Avenida da Liberdade, is now quickly “montenapoleoning” itself. Boutique hotels and trendy restaurants are spreading like viruses. Pastel de Nata is the new Ladurée. Real estate is booming and Portuguese cities centres never looked as Disney-esque. The air is feverish, the energy is palpable.
And the Portuguese have loads of reasons to be proud. The nations self-esteem took a severe beating with the European debt crisis and all the judgement that came along with it.After going through some rounds of almost murderous budgetary chemotherapy, the Portuguese people managed to rise up again with a smile and a straight face.
And while much of this new-found happiness is fed by raving international reviews, it also comes on the back of a stream of international accomplishments. Last summer’s UEFA Championship drove people nuts, the appointment of António Guterres for UN chief made the country feel it actually mattered and to top things off, a very classy Portuguese song won the Eurovision Song Contest after 53 (!) attempts.
And as I’m flicking through a real estate catalogue it’s hard not to imagine my future pied-a-terre. Porto, Alentejo, Lisbon or Comporta? I’m spoilt for choice.