Cheapness of Portuguese Hotels, by C. Edwardes, in: Chambers's Journal - Sixth Series - Vol. IV. - Nº 202 - Oct. 12 1901 - W. & R. Chambers, Limited - London and Edinburgh
Portuguese hotels are interesting for the sake of the company one meets only in such cities as Lisbon, Oporto, and Coimbra. Elsewhere, and especially far from the railway, they appeal to the stranger for the very varied nature of their entertainment and the complete and constant amiability of the landlord or landlady. Alike in the towns and the country, they astonish by their cheapness; but in this particular it is the foreigner from a country the finances of which are in good condition who has best cause to congratulate himself. The native Portuguese has no gold to exchange into the national currency at a gain of 60 or 70 per cent. His income, such as it is, is paid in the State paper. An Englishman may, if he likes, receive the equivalent of a single sovereign in no fewer than eighty bank-notes of one hundred reis each. If he is wise he will prefer the golden quality in his pocket, changing his pound-pieces only when he must. He may feel confident that, in whatever part of the beautiful land he finds himself, there will be no difficulty in passing his gold.
In the city hotels of Portugal the prevailing characteristics are Spanish waiters from Galicia, a lavish table, weird and disturbing noises in the corridors at night, and a resident population of Brazilian guests. The cheapness, also, is a matter of course. You will be quite extravagant if your bill comes to five shillings a day. For the half of that you may easily get board and lodging in reputable houses, with two meals daily so charged with courses that the Anglo-Saxon conscience might well be shocked by the reflection that it is nothing less than robbery to eat more than half the menu. But it is not the fault of the Gallego waiters if you do not slight your conscience's promptings in this matter. Their seducing whispers and smiles in praise of the olla podrida, the matchless forest-fed veal, and the ingenious puddings of Portugal are enough to turn the scale in favour of appetite at the expense of conscience. When a Portuguese himself condescends to turn waiter, he conceives an instant heen loathing for his unassuming rivals from the North. "They know nothing, they learn nothing, and they work for next to nothing", was the sentence passed upon them for my information in one Portuguese house; but i knew better than to believe so splenetic a libel. The Gallego is industrious and thrifty; the fact that he carries his savings from Portugal into Spain is alone sufficient to explain why he is reviled in Portugal.
It is the fashion for Portuguese clocks to strike the hour twice over. Heaven only knows why, for certainly the people are not so keen about the profitable use of their time that they require to be reminded thus of its flight. The habit is apt to be irritating, especially in the night, when your bed (like enough a straw mattress and a bran pillow) chances to be near one of these monsters which dings its four-and-twenty strokes at midnight, with a pause between the dozens which merely stimulates expectation. If there are five clocks in the establishment, all with sonorous works (and the supposition is reasonable), they will of course differ widely, so that twenty-four may be striking, with intervals, during a maddening half-hour. You may happen to want to know badly which of the monsters is the least mendacious, and the bells at your bed-head communicate with two servents, one a Gallego and the other a Portuguese. In such a case ring for despised stranger without hesitation. He will be with you in a minute, fresh and smiling, though half-naked, and if he distrusts his own judgment about the clocks he will not mind saying so, and hasten to awake the landlord himself rather than that you should remain in doubt. I regret to add that his more conceited fellow-servent will more probably say whatever first comes to his tongue, more heedful of his own comfort than of your desires. Thus is the installation of the Gallego waiter in Portugal justified as that of the German-Swiss with us." - Continua