quarta-feira, 14 de novembro de 2012

A casa do cônsul

Década 1920-30
O Hotel Boa/Bela Vista tem sido bastante focado aqui no blog. Este, por exemplo: http://macauantigo.blogspot.com/2009/05/hotel-sanatorio-boa-vista-decada-1920.html
A pedido de uma jornalista chinesa de Hong Kong que está a escrever um 'conto' cuja história se passa ao longo de várias gerações neste espaço mítico de Macau, volto ao tema, em português e inglês. Recordo que um pequeno livro do Padre Manuel Teixeira, escrito em 1978, é um guia essencial e de consulta obrigatória a quem se interessar pelo assunto. Bem como o livro "Crónias dos velhos hotéis de Macau", de Luis Sá.
Aqui fica uma pequena resenha histórica.
O edifício, no nº 1 da rua do Tanque do Mainato, foi construído cerca de 1870 para ser a residência da família Remédios num terreno com uma área de 3 mil metros quadrados. Mais tarde, em 1890, foi adquirido pelo inglês William Edward Clarke, capitão de navios que fazia rota junto a Macau e que viu no edifício qualidades únicas para se tornar um hotel, em especial para os visitantes da vizinha colónia britânica de Hong Kong, que viajavam no seu barco. Assim foi... mas pouco tempo depois tudo mudou. Em 1901 o governo expropriou  o espaço para ali instalar um sanatório. A Santa Casa da Misericórdia acaba por comprar o edifício que, curiosamente, viria a alugar ao governo. Foi entre 1917 e 1924. Nesses anos a residência Boa Vista acolheu o Liceu de Macau, onde leccionou Camilo Pessanha.
Em 1924 o governo compra o edifício - por cerca de 83 mil patacas - para criar um hotel que acaba por ir parar às mãos de privados que o mantêm até 1932, altura em que o proprietário o aluda ao governo de Hong Kong que ali instala uma escola de cantonense para os cadetes (militares) britânicos aprenderem cantonense. Cerca de 1936 passou a acolher refugiados, primeiro da China e depois de Hong Kong. Depois da Guerra do Pacífico serviu de estância para descanso dos oficiais das forças armadas britânicas..
Em 1948, regressou novamente à sua função hoteleira. Nos anos 90 devido ao avançado estado de degradação esteve fechado. Surgiu a hipótese de ser adquirido por uma grande cadeia hoteleira mundial, mas o governo acabou por ficar como edifício e no final de 1994 reabriu como hotel. Assim funcionou até Março de 1999. Desde a transferência de soberania é residência oficial do cônsul-geral de Portugal em Macau.
Está classificado como Edifício de Interesse Arquitectónico. Tem três pisos e traços da arquitectura neoclássica: arcadas, colunas, balaustres, arcos de volta inteira, molduras, etc.

Imagem reproduzida na revista illustração Portugueza de 14-12-1908

Em Abril de 1999 a revista "Macau Travel Talk" dedicou um artigo ao edifício.
The historic Hotel Bela Vista - one of the most elegant and atmospheric buildings in Macau - goes out in a blaze of glory this month.
Special functions and glittering parties, thrown by private citizens and the Macau Government, mark the last days as a hotel of the century-old building House full signs were already going up in February. Those lucky guests who booked early have a few more weeks to enjoy the luxurious, colonial-style surroundings as the graceful old lady sited above the Praia Grande prepares for a new life. "'The last guests will stay on the night of March 27," says manager Paul-Andre Guidat. "A joint farewell evening for owners and management will take place on March 28 and at midnight the shop closes. Then, at midnight on March 30, the Bela Vista will be handed to Portugal." The building will undergo minor changes to prepare it as the official residence of the first Portuguese Consul General when the enclave reverts to Chinese administration from December 20.The Bela Vista Ball, a sumptuous affair organised by Hong Kong's king of the parties Ted Marr, will be one of the highlights in March, with 300 to 400 guests.
"There have been a lot of inquiries about holding last-minute celebrations and farewell parties," says Guidat. "All weekends are full. It's possible to get a table in the restaurant on weekdays but the weekends will be very busy." Guidat moves to a supervisory capacity at the Mandarin Oriental Macau. After extensive European experience, he managed the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong at its opening and was five years in Malaysia with the Shangri-La group. Manager since 1993 when the Bela Vista reopened after a costly renovation, he admits that the handover has tugged at his emotions. "After five or six years with a hotel like this, it's your pride. But nobody can stop history. After 130 years, it's one more phase in its life."
The hotel building, with its characteristic shady terraces and arches, was constructed around 1870, possibly by a wealthy trader. Masonry from the 17th century Bom Parto Fort may have been used in the foundations.
William Clarke, a young British sea captain, bought it and with his wife, Catherine Hannack, opened the Hotel Boa Vista. There was indeed a "good view", looking out over the Praia Grande (big bay) with constant movement of junks, sampans and schooners. Distinguished visitors included Sir William Robinson, Governor of Hong Kong, and Baron and Baroness of Ladario of Brazil.
But tourism slumped as revolutionary currents swirled through China. By 1899 Clarke had to seek a 15,000 - pataca loan from his steamer company. Two years later he tried to sell out to the French consul -the French wanted to create a sanatorium for troops from Indochina.
This sale was blocked by the British government who wanted no French foot-hold in Macau and the Santa Casa da Miseric6rdia, the Portuguese charity, purchased the building.
In 1909 Auguste Vernon rented the hotel, but he was forced to return to Europe due to illness. Albert Watkins, who took over, fell foul of the law when clandestine roulette tables were discovered in the hotel and he was evicted.
In 1917, when the world was at war and China in turmoil, the Boa Vista was closed and converted into secondary school. Renowned poet Camilo Pessanha was on the staff.
However, in 1923 the building reverted to being hotel, until in 1932 it was sold to Mrs. Ieong Pat for 55,000 patacas. She rented it to the Hong Kong government as accommodation for civil service cadets. It was briefly reopened as the Hotel Bela Vista in 1936, but after Japan invaded China the Portuguese refugees crowding into Macau were billeted there. After World War Two it served as a British service-men's rest centre, then in 1948 opened once more as a hotel. Adriao Pinto Marques, a well-known Macanese took over management in 1967, being succeeded by his son in 1986.
The Macau Government had declared the Bela Vista an historic monument and in 1990 a joint venture company, formed by the government, Shun Tak Holdings and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, took over. A 45-million-pataca renovation scheme converted the building - delightfully eccentric but showing its age - into a luxury boutique hotel, with decor resembling that of a traditional Portuguese mansion. Eight suites and an elegant 60-seat restaurant were installed. Its style and charm won praise from clients and international travel guides. A succession of colourful characters and celebrities have stayed at the hotel and it halls featured in a number of films - in 1988 Peter Ustinov and Pierce Brosnan were there - for a TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days. French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy waxed eloquent about the Bela Vista: "It is a magical place, it is a mythological place. It is somewhere which one cannot believe does not have a fantastic legend to its name. where you feel the presence of Bogart... or Bacall... or Loretta Young, or Hemingway...

Excerto de um artigo publicado em 1995 por Marc A. Thiessen na revista Cigar Aficionado... pouco depois do edifício ser restaurado.
Central to the Portuguese revival is the recent restoration of the extraordinary Hotel Bela Vista. Located on Penha Hill, overlooking the captivating Praia Grande Bay, the Bela Vista (Portuguese for "beautiful view") is a spectacular Portuguese colonial mansion with a colorful history. Built in 1870, the Bela Vista has been (between stints as a hotel) a Portuguese secondary school, a billet for British civil servants studying Cantonese, a hostel for refugees escaping Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and Shanghai, and a clandestine casino. Thanks to the renovation, the hotel's graying exterior has been replaced with a bright yellow-and-white facade, and on stepping into the lobby you feel as if you are entering the foyer of an old Portuguese family home.
There is no registration counter; the receptionist sits behind a beautiful antique desk under the winding staircase. Relax in a comfortable easy chair as she checks you in, then follow her to one of the hotel's eight rooms or suites, each decorated simply but elegantly in Portuguese style, accented with Oriental antiques. After checking in, take lunch on the Bela Vista's gorgeous veranda. On an average weekday, you'll find Portuguese government officials dining around you (the governor's mansion is a stone's throw away), and on weekends you'll see many foreign expatriates escaping Hong Kong's hectic pace.
Foto de Ricardo J. G.
The hotel's kitchen specializes in "Macanese" cuisine, incorporating Chinese and Portuguese culinary traditions. Begin with a plate of traditional Portuguese antipasto or dim sum dumplings filled with spicy Portuguese sausage. For the main course, try the specialty of the house: African Chicken, marinated in coconut milk and grilled to perfection. The wine list offers French and Californian selections, but you're in Macau, so choose from the hotel's extensive offering of Portuguese wines--they're inexpensive and terrific.
Of course, the highlight of the evening will be an after-dinner cigar, enjoyed with a selection from the Bela Vista's considerable cellar of excellent tawny and vintage Ports. We enjoyed a velvety bottle of vintage 1963 Krohn. The Bela Vista's humidor has a small, but high quality, selection of cigars, focusing principally on Cohibas and Davidoffs. Maitre d'hotel Alain Gomis says his dream is to build a cigar room supplied with nothing but the finest Ports and cigars. For now, sit on the veranda, where at night the lights of the two bridges connecting the Macau peninsula to Taipa Island are strung across the horizon like glowing pearls. Or relax in the bar, which evokes the hotel's colonial feel better than any other room: solid white wood bar, plush green chairs, ceiling fans, tall palms and dark wood tables fitted with large, cigar-friendly Chinese porcelain ashtrays. Or, with cigar in hand, venture out to Macau's legendary casinos, including the gaudy casino at the Hotel Lisboa. Simply put, the Bela Vista is a romantic reminder of Portugal's colonial past, and today stands as Macau's unquestioned crown jewel--well worth a day's excursion on your next visit to Hong Kong.

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