Portugal’s capital is a lively, hilly port with historic trolleys, grand squares, fado (nostalgic bluesy singing), fine art and a salty sailor’s quarter topped by a castle. Suffice to say, Lisbon ranked near the top of cruising destinations this season followed closely by Normandy and Bordeaux.
In early morning we left the Atlantic and entered the Rio Tejos (Tagus River) after a calm overnight passage. The Tower of Belem as well as the Monument to the Discoveries welcomed us as we passsed them on our way futher up the river to center city.
The Tower of Belem is an important remnant from Portugal’s Golden Age, when explorers such as Vasco de Gama, Henry the Navigator and Magellan to name a few opened new trade routes around Africa to India, and later colonized Brazil – making Lisbon one of Europe’s richest cities. Belem was the send-off point for voyages in this Age of Discovery.
By the way…Nordhavn just selected this photograph for their 2016 Nordhavn calendar! 😉
The Monument to the Discoveries was built in 1960, honoring the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. This is a giant riverside monument honoring the explorers who brought Portugal great power and riches centuries ago.
Note for the nautical types – in this photograph, Prince Henry, the largest outboard figure, is holding a ship’s model called a “caravel”. Caravels were easily maneuverable fast trading ships (~8o feet) and relatively light (~100 tons) with a few cannon and three triangular-shaped sails. They were ideal for sailing along coast lines. Columbus’ Nina and Pinta were re-rigged caravels.
The essential Lisbon is easily and enjoyably visited as three distinct downtown neighborhoods. Braun really liked the ‘Barrio Alto’ (High Town) area. Characterized by narrow streets with streamers, lots of young energy, bars (fab wine bars!) and eateries separated by cozy plazas.
I tended to favor the Alfama and Castle area. Tangled medieval streets of the old sailor’s quarters with trolley cars below the Sao Jorge Castle. The urban jungle of roads are squeezed into confusing alleys. We discovered how frustrating it was trying to find our way to the castle! But along the way, tiny balconies of tile façade buildings with laundry hanging from them or the occasional teeny bar with impromptu fado singers made this area so charming.
The Baixa is the most central and important neighborhood in Lisbon. It was rebuilt after the earthquake in the 18th Century by the Marquess of Pombal, in a classic style, with geometric streets, in which facades of grander homes are covered in tiles, in typical Lisbon style. It’s the most commercial neighborhood, and during the day it offers a lot of action. In this neighborhood you can find the most emblematic squares and streets. Starting in Restorers Square (Praça dos Restauradores,) and going up Avenida da Liberdade, you come to the Marquess of Pompal Square (Plaza del Marqués de Pombal), where modern Lisbon begins.
Castle and Palace
– A notable highlight near Lisbon is the magical village of Sintra. A small town just 15 miles northwest of Lisbon which was the summer escape for Portugal’s kings. The town itself sprawls at the foot of a large hill. There’s a Moorish castle on the hillside and at the top the splendid Pena Palace. These structures represent the difference between a castle (a fortification you can live in) and palace (a dwelling that is fortified).
– After the castle and palace is was off to a memorable evening at the Camp Pequeno for the bullfights.
No matter how you feel about bullfighting it’s rooted in Portuguese tradition and history. Portuguese style bullfighting differs in many aspects from Spanish-style bullfighting.
First the Matadors are not the main figures. The big dogs are the Calaleiros which are very experienced horsemen and picadors. They are the real stars of the show. They magnificently and repeatedly maneuver their beautiful horses within inches of the bull’s horns. The bull’s charging of the horses tires him but also tires the horses quickly. To avoid injury the Calaleiros will change mounts 3 to 4 times for each bull.
Next in the pecking order are the Forcados – are a group of eight gutsy men who challenge the bull directly, without protection or weapon of defense. They do most of the work on foot in the ring. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de cara or pega de caras (face catch). The front man grabs the animal’s head and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is somewhat subdued. One even grabs the tail! Forcados were usually people from lower classes who, to this day, practice their art through amateur associations. They take the humorous nickname of ‘Suicide Squad’, and after seeing the spectacle first hand, it’s no wonder!
Once the bull is tired by the horsemen, tackled by the Forcados and after a few waves by the matdors he is applauded and allowed to exit. To return another day. So it’s festive and not at all as final for the bull as the Spanish bullfights.
– After a great stay in Lisbon we set off for Portugal’s warm and dry south coast, the Algarve. It just kept getting better in Portugal as we landed in Portimao. A beachy resort town with a nice marina.
– Our next port of call. We were carefully monitoring the weather to avoid repeating the sea conditions the last time we entered Gibraltar. In 2004, we had been at sea for days after leaving Sao Miguel, in the Azores. As we entered the Strait of Gibraltar we experienced 25+ knots wind on the nose with the uncomfortable washing machine effect due to current against the wind.
our beloved Grey Pearl. We did not want to repeat those sea conditions!
Thankfully, we had a beautiful near full moon overnight passage. It was on my watch that the “Rock” made it’s appearance.
Our time in Gib was short…but long enough to bunker and get good cheap fuel – $2.05/gallon for diesel! We bid farewell to our good friend, Jose Gutierrez who was on the original 2004 NAR voyage with us, and had a much smoother entry this time.
– We set off for the Mediterranean, specifically the Balearics to rendezvous with our GSSR (Great Siberian Sushi Run) buddies, Ken and Roberta Williams on N68 ‘San Souci’ and Steven and Carol Argosy on N62 ‘Seabird’.
We enjoyed a week in cruising around Ibiza before we arrived in Port Adriano, just west of Palma, Mallorca in early September. It was an exciting time to meet up with our GSSR (Great Siberian Sushi Run 2009) pals plus, Chris Samuelson and Sonaia Maryon-Davis, who live in Palma.
Braun, Tina, Carol, Steven, Sonaia, Chris, Roberta and Ken
Spending time with our GSSR pals was a wonderful way to close out this year’s cruising season. We plan to ship the boat on a yacht transport ship to the Caribbean later this fall. We’ve had a an incredible journey cruising from Southampton to Palma. We feel the time is right to come back to our old cruising/stomping grounds ;-)…at least for now!
Ocean Pearl signing off…
Tina and Braun