I am sure that there will be some of my friends on Facebook, fed up with endless notifications about my posts on this blog, that if they read this far will give a loud cheer when they read that this post is about the final port call on this epic cruise!
Most of the 16 ports of call so far on this cruise have at some time in the past been a colony of Portugal, so it was appropriate that our final port of call should be to the capital of that country, Lisbon. The city of Lisbon is the oldest in western Europe, and is also the westernmost mainland capital in Europe.
Like our visit to our previous port of call, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, documented in my post L1602 – Leap in Teror , this was to be a flying visit. We were due to dock at 10:30, and set sail for home at 17:00, which effectively meant about 5 or so usable hours to go ashore. However these timings also meant that most of the shore tours run by the ship were ashore over lunchtime, but as they did not include a stop for a meal this wasn’t the greatest of planning!
Also like Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, I have been to Lisbon several times before, but in this case it was fine as I think Lisbon is a lovely place to visit, not least because of the interesting and attractive sail in up the Tagus River.
Going up on deck for the sail in, I was pleased to find the weather much sunnier than was forecast, albeit with a keen and cool wind. As we passed a former island fort near the mouth of the river, now converted to a lighthouse, we started to have some feathered accompaniment:
After a while the 25 de Abril bridge came into view. This distinctive suspension bridge, similar in colour to the Golden Gate bridge, was first opened in 1966. Originally it had four lanes for vehicles on it’s upper deck, but later a fifth then a six lane was added. In 1999 two railway tracks were added to it’s lower deck:
A little later two more famous landmarks of Lisbon came into view – the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), built partly as a defensive fort and partly as a gateway to the city; and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), celebrating the Portuguese Age of Discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries, and located at the point in the river where the ship’s departed bound for India and the Orient, directed by Henry the Navigator:
By this time I had been joined by some of my dinner and quiz team companions, and we soon slipped under the bridge, listening out for the distinctive drone of the traffic above on metallic roadways. Just beyond the bridge we saw the huge Christ the King statue, a Catholic monument and shrine inaugurated in 1959. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue which we had seen dominate Rio de Janeiro, and erected to express gratitude that Portugal was spared the effects of the second world war:
Finally the Pedro IV Square, also known as the Rossio Square, came into view with it’s statue of King Pedro IV in it’s centre, and we docked as usual in front of the historic Alfama district of Lisbon, with it’s old buildings many with tiled walls looking so attractive in the low winter sun:
The shore tour I had chosen in Lisbon was to visit two contrasting towns between the city and the Atlantic coast – Sintra and Cascais. This four and a half hour tour started with a short panoramic drive through the city, seeing sights I was very familiar with, before heading out towards the historic town of Sintra. While we were stopped at traffic lights I noticed this dramatically painted building, and the low light illuminating the surface of the Casa dos Bicos (House of the Spikes) very well:
As we drove past I managed to grab this snap of the Águas Livres Aqueduct, with its 65 metre high arches spanning the Alcantara valley. The 35 arches were completed in 1744, and the main course of the Aqueduct runs for some 18 kilometres:
Sintra nestles in a steeply wooded hillside beneath a Moorish castle, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s most famous and popular building is the Palácio Nacional de Sintra (National Palace of Sintra), the best preserved medieval royal palace in Portugal. The palace’s origins were a second Moorish castle, but none of that survives today – the earliest existing building work is thought to be from the early 14th century.
Our local guide led us from the coach to the square outside the palace, and pointed out various areas we might like to explore in our free time, which was a little under an hour. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to visit the inside of the palace and do it justice as well as seeing the rest of this historic town. I therefore decided to explore the town and take photographs of it and also the outside of the palace with it’s distinctive kitchen chimneys, and buy a guide book for the palace interior without viewing it:
This I just about managed in the time allotted, as always I could have done with more time, but when the ship is only in port for part of the day I realise that is not possible.
We then took a lovely drive through the wooded hills of the protected Sintra-Cascais Natural Park on our way to the second town, Cascais. After the dry and barren Cabo Verde Islands, it was lovely to see the fresh green trees, some of which were cork trees:
Before reaching Cascais, we had a photo stop at the lovely beach of Praia do Guincho, behind which was Cabo da Roca, the cape being the most westerly point in mainland Europe:
Cascais was originally a small fishing village, which grew in fame when it became a royal resort in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is now a fashionable holiday destination for both Portuguese and international visitors, attracted by the fine sandy beaches and easy access from Lisbon.
Our coach dropped us close to the yacht harbour, and we were given 45 minutes free time to explore the town and it’s harbour:
I am sure that again there was more to see and photograph in the town than I had time for, but as in Sintra I was very impressed with what I did get to see. It was interesting to compare the two towns, and as both are readily accessible from Lisbon independently, they are both places I might return to one day.
We returned to our waiting ship via the coast road, which passed the resort of Estoril (which I have visited on previous visits to Lisbon), more beaches and the Torre de Belém:
Once back onboard the ship, it was only a few minutes before it was time to go up on deck to watch us sailaway for the last time on this cruise. The bridge looked striking silhouetted against the setting sun:
To start with I wasn’t sure the captain and pilot know which direction to head, but soon we were correctly headed downstream towards the bridge and the sea:
We soon slipped past these familiar landmarks:
Before long it was time to head back to my cabin for a very late lunch courtesy of room service, and to reflect on all the huge variety of places and cultures I had seen and experienced this cruise.