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| Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2015 - 2016
Christmas and New Year Cruise - Part 7
Lisbon is the largest city and chief port of Portugal. The city lies on the northern shore of the Tagus River, about 8 miles from the Atlantic. We have been to Lisbon several times before on the QE2 and comprehensively explored Lisbon City and the Waterworks Museum in 2001 and on the Lisbon visit in 2005 took a tour along the banks of the Tagus on the scenic coastal road and into the area known as the Portuguese Riviera to the 18th-century Palace of Quelez. In 2007 on the QE2 we walked to the Belem Area including the Maritime Museum and in 2010 saw the Cathedral and Roman excavations. In 2013 on the Queen Victoria we took a train to Cascais, situated on a coastline with small picturesque beaches and peaceful fishing-boat-bobbing waters. Our last visit was our 2014 Christmas Cruise on the Queen Victoria when we were moored in the new cruise terminal at Santa Apolonia making it easy to visit the central areas of Lisbon.
This time the weather was atrocious with horizontal rain in winds too strong to keep an umbrella intact so we decided to spend the morning on-board to see if the weather improved which it did not. Pete went out on the back deck and got an unusual picture of the Cunard Flag blowing upwards which summed the day up. So we settled for a leisurely lunch in the Britannia for the first time this cruise and reviewed the situation and decided to stay put.
What follows is a virtual visit based on a number of visits over the years but mainly from last year when our plans to visit Balem and the Maritime Museum were similar but foiled by being moored in the new terminal as happened this year.
We always get up early to see the last of the journey up the Tagus river where one passes some of the best know sights, in Pete's case often from the gym. First comes the Tower of Belem which is a five storey fort which some say looks like a giant chess piece and is one of Lisbon's most recognised landmarks. The masterpiece of Manueline Architecture was built on what was once an island in the middle of the Tagus between 1515 and 1521, since medieval times the river has changed course and the tower is now on the North bank. Then one passes the Discoveries Monument which was constructed for the 1940 exhibition but was erected on its present site only in 1960 - it is built in the shape of the bow of a caravel. Led by Henry the Navigator, stylised over-sized figures look out on the Tagus. The 16th century Jeronimos Abbey of Santa Maria and the Monastery is set back a little from the waterfront. Henry the Navigator built a small chapel on the site at the time of the great voyages of discovery and it is thought that work on the monastery began on the initiative of Manuel I, in 1502, and was finally completed in 1572.
The Maritime Museum comes next on the waterside and very interesting - to us the highlights are the Royal Barges and early amphibious aircraft, including a 1940s Grumman Widgeon, a 1917 FBA H amphibious biplane and the first aircraft to cross the South Atlantic in 1922, a Fairey IIID flown by Admiral Gago Coutinho and Commander Sacadeba Cabral. Then one goes under The Bridge of 25 April. The bridge is two-storied, with a railway bridge below, and a road bridge above. On the southern side is the huge Christo Rei statue modeled on the statue in Rio de Janeiro.
We expected to again berth near the Bridge of 25 April, and had planned to walk back to visit the monuments, monastery and in particular the museums we had passed on the way in as they are usually free on Sunday. So it was with surprise that we passed the usual berth, steaming on towards Lisbon town. Our new berth was beyond the main square, in the cruise terminal of Santa Apolonia, described as the Dock of the Jardim do Tobacco. It was our first visit there and an easy walk into the centre, but a tram ride back to Belem. This gave a fresh opportunity - it had been many years since we last visited Lisbon town, and although it was a Sunday and many shops would be closed, it seemed better to take advantage of our new berth. Next visit we may be back down by the Bridge.
We walked along to the main Square of Praca do Commercio which is the usual drop-off for the shuttle buses from the opposite direction - it is also called Black horse square because of the black statue of Jose I. It has three sides of classical arcaded buildings, with the fourth side open directly onto the Tagus river. One corner has a seasonal typical conical silver metal christmas tree. There was a palace here before the earthquake of 1775, and the Triumphal Arch built afterwards and leading to the Rua Augusta has panoramic views from the top.
Narrow pedestrian streets with pavement cafes lead to Don Pedro IV Square, and the National Theatre. On the left is the interesting Moorish facade of the Rossio Railway Station, with a very useful Starbucks for purchase of coffee beans - despite being a big international chain, Starbucks produce the best Decaffeinated Espresso we have found so far. Trains were running every 30 minutes to Sintra and we will explore these in future. The area was temporarily car-free because there was a race around Lisbon, and many people in shorts and trainers wearing large numbers were arriving at the Praca das Restauradores. We could only just glimpse the obelisk monument in the distance. After a free coffee and wifi with our purchase of beans we set off towards the Lower Town and the Church of San Domingos.
Looking upwards it looked easy to climb up to the Castelo of San Jorge, and from the map it was not far beyond the cathedral. We had hoped to spend time in the cathedral and get an update on the archaeological research in the cloisters but the ticket office was closed on Sunday. Following the tramline and continuing to climb reaches the Miradouro Santa Luzia with good views over Alfama.
The entry to the Castelo of San Gorge was just above. Our visit had to be hurried because there was weather approaching and we had to return to the ship shortly so we could not afford the time to shelter. So we were unable to visit the archaeological site which has houses from the 11th and 12th century and the ruins of the Palace of the Counts of Santiago. And we could not wait to visit the Camera Obscura. Although the tours were every 30 minutes, the next ones were in Spanish, then English and Portuguese. So we had too long a wait. However there was plenty of time to stroll around the gardens, admiring the views towards the Tagus, and then cross the bridge to explore the castle. It was built in the 11th century, and uses the natural slopes of the land as part of its defences. It retains 11 towers, the most outstanding being the Tower of the Keep, the Tower of the Riches or Tumbling Tower, the Palace Tower, the Tower of St Lawrence and the Tower of the Cistern. The towers are joined by a walkway on top of the walls.
It was quicker to walk down the hill than it had been to climb and we had time to visit the Church of Santa Maria Madelena, and found there was an exhibition of the Turin shroud and a computer generated and full size reconstruction of the body of the person who had been wrapped in the cloth, presumed to be Jesus.
The final highlight of this purely fictional tour was the facade of the 16th century Casa dos Bicos with rows of pyramidal stones, occupied by the foundation of Jose Saramago. Opposite was one of the old tobacco warehouses now painted in a cheery red colour. We reached home just ahead of the weather giving us a nice picture of the Queen Elizabeth under the threatening skies.
In the evening we had a box in the theatre to see Hollywood Nights, the premier of the new Cunard Extravaganza. The boxes are always fun starting with the stand full of finger-desserts accompanied by a champaign cocktail before the show starts then another bottle of champaign awaits one in the box along with a small box of pink marc de champagne truffles to make sure one does not get hungry.