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Cunard Queen Victoria 2016
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Lisbon, Portugal - Thursday 15th December 2016 and 2nd January 2017

Introduction to Lisbon: 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 proper 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. We did also come on the Queen Elizabeth in 2015 but the weather was atrocious with horizontal rain in winds too strong to keep an umbrella intact so we decided to spend the day on-board.

First Visit - Thursday 15th December 2016

On our first visit in these two cruises, it was barely dawn when the QV passed Belem and continued up the River Tagus. Belem in this case is the area which is an outskirt of Lisbon rather than a Spanish Nativity Display, both having the common root of Bethlehem and slightly different spelling. The QV berthed at the old Tobacco warehouse, so we were much closer to the central square in the Praca do Comercio than in the other berth which is down by the 25th April bridge. The berth is ideally placed for our plans to first explore the pumping engines at the Museu da Agua before looking for other parts of the supply system.

The reconstruction work at the 'cruise terminal' continues and there are a number of new car parks by the river, and a small popup shed selling Portuguese wine and souvenirs. It is some time since we visited the Museu da Agua and it was only 15 minutes walk from the berth near the old Tobacco warehouse. When we reached the Santa Apolonnia Train Station, the oldest train station in Portugal, and the Military Museum at the National Panthenon we were half way.

Lisbon Waterworks: The Museu da Agua is one of five sites belonging to EPAL, the Grupo Aguas de Portugal. It is not expensive to visit, and there is a combination ticket, 10 euros, which is good value and valid for 12 months. Seniors pay half price. Water in Lisbon was supplied by two distribution networks. The first and most interesting comes from the Aguas Livres Aqueduct which is a line of arches measuring 941 metres long and built over the Alcantara Valley. It was completed in 1744 and carried water from the springs 14 kms away to the Mae d'Agua das Amoreiras Reservoir in the city. This reservoir can be visited as well as the Patriarcal Reservoir which was originally supplied in the same way but after 1890 was supplied by the second distribution network and the Alviela Aqueduct. On reaching Lisbon the water traveled underground through a network of channels and of these the Loreto Gallery, built in 1748, can be visited. By a miracle it all survived the earthquake of 1755.

Our target was the Barbadinhos Steam Pumping Station which was built next to the final reservoir of the Alvielo Aqueduct. It was in operation between 1880 and 1928 and contains four steam pumps built at Rouen. Three are dated 1877 and were made by E. W. Windsor and Sons; the fourth is dated 1889 by E. Windsor. They were powered by five coal-fed boilers and pumped the water stored at the Barbadinhos Reservoir to supply the Arco Reservoir through the Monte Reservoir and the Veronia Reservoir. One of the engines is in working order, although it is powered by electricity and operates only at very low speed. It is not permitted to climb to the top floor of the pumping house, but the ground floor and the first floor are interesting, especially when we persuaded the guardian that we had a serious interest in the engines. We were told about a black and white archive film, dating from 1928 and lasting for an hour, which showed much of the countryside and many of the people involved in the industry and after about 30 minutes has a few moments of the engines working at full speed. (Cinemateca "A agua que se bebe").

In addition to the reservoir, the gardens also contain a more modern electric pumping system.

After a further ten minutes walk we arrived at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, the National Tile Museum. There are also several buses which stop outside, including the tourist HopOn HopOff bus. The museum is in the cloisters of the Madre de Deus convent which was founded by Dona Leonor, the widow of King Joao II, in 1509. The ground floor has a restaurant with a pleasant garden and then the renaissance cloister gives access to rooms with decorated tiles dating from the 15th century onward. Many of the large tile panels were funded by churches. The Manueline cloister is an important surviving feature of the original convent.

The church of Madre de Deus, which is accessed from within the same complex as the tile museum, was completed in the mid 16th century and the stunning altarpiece was added after the earthquake of 1755. Upstairs there are more tile panels, dating from the 17th century, and a view down into the church from a treasury filled with framed relics of martyrs and saints. The top floor contains the well known 18th century panorama panel which shows the view of Lisbon before the earthquake.

We walked back to the QV and then continued past more construction work to the Praca do Comercio. The Arch of Rua Augusta leads to the Rua Augusta and is the gateway to the lower town, the Baixa. This is the commercial heart of the city with banks, offices and shops. The pedestrian Rua Augusta always seems to be crowded and it leads to the Rossio square, the Praca de Dom Pedro IV. Halfway along Rua Augusta is the Elevador de Santa Justa, on the left. The lift is of french design, made of iron, and has a viewing gallery. Continuing in search of Christmas festivities led us along the Rua Aurea to Rossio to admire another Christmas tree. On the northern side of Rossio is the Neo-Classical Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II. We turned back here because we knew we would be going to Lisbon again in the New Year and that our explorations then would take us further into the city. Choosing a different street, the Rua da Prata, gave the chance to look inside another church, at the Rua da Vitoria, and we passed the church of Nostra Senhora da Conceicao Velha (which we later visited in January).

Second Visit - 2nd January 2017

Having spent time at the Museu da Agua on the first visit this cruise it was time to complete our discovery of the water system and visit some of the structures in Lisbon which transferred the water from the mountains inland and down to the town reservoirs. Having gone under the 25 April Bridge exactly on time at 0800, the Queen Victoria was again berthed at the Tobacco Wharf, where it seems that good progress is being made with new constructions and more parking. The Marco Polo and the Magellan, both Cruise and Maritime Voyages, were berthed behind us. We joined a slow procession of passengers walking along the cobbles to the town, but managed to overtake and keep to a sensible speed.

The Museu da Agua leaflet suggested three walking routes: the Museum Route, Underground Galleries Route and the Fountain Route. All these routes have a common central part, with two main features : the Patriarcal Reservoir and the Mae d'Agua das Amoreiras Reservoir. The plan was to see some fountains en route to the reservoirs and then to continue the walk to the famous Aguas Livres Aqueduct if there was time.

The first fountain on our route is the Carmo fountain, which is in the middle of a square of the same name, with the church of Carmo. It is south-east of Rossio, and all of the main roads north from the Praca do Comercio lead towards the elevador de Santa Justa, which we saw on our previous visit to Lisbon and which climbs to the Carmo square. There is a choice of paying to use the elevator or walking around and uphill and the long queues made our decision easy. Leaving the square along the tramlines on the R de Trindade there were views of elegant buildings, theatres and churches. The next square, the Largo T Coelho, had a small outdoor nativity scene outside the anata Casa and the Museum Church of Sao Roque.

We were now close to the Belvedere of Sao Pedro de Alcantara and the fountain of the same name. On the edge of the square is the terminus of the Elevador da Gloria, where for 3.70 euros a tram goes down to the Placa dos Restauradores. We suspect the journey uphill is better value than the trip downhill. Inside the square, a small Christmas food and craft market, including two birds of prey, was getting ready for the day. The little central fountain was obviously not our destination but the large monumental one in the gardens below was not working. The views of Lisbon from the Belvedere were good although the dismal weather did not produce good photos. The next two fountains, at Praca da Alegria and Seculo, were off the direct route, and with the weather deteriorating it was best to go directly along the R D Pedro V to the Praca do Principe Real.

The Patriarcal Reservoir is hidden under the Principe Real Garden, beneath the lake. It was completed in 1864 and was originally supplied by the Aguas Livres Aqueduct, then after 1890 by the Alviela Aqueduct. Access underground to view the octagonal structure with 31 pillars supporting the stone arches of the vaulted ceiling is only on Saturdays, and there are timed tours through the tunnels. The underground route followed by the water in the Loreto Gallery can be visited over four different sections. Three are from here and go to the Rua de O'Seculo (300 m), the Sao Pedro de Alcantara Belvedere (410 m) and the Mae d'Agua das Amoreiras Reservoir.

The R D Pedro V becomes the R da Escola Politecnica, leading towards the Rato Square, with its Metro station. The map indicated a fountain, the Arco de Sao Mamede, nearby but we did not find it, although we must have been very close because we found the square of Sao Mamede with the church of Sao Mamede. However nearby was the National Museum for Natural History and Science which was in a large monumental building and would be interesting to visit next time. The intention had been to also visit the Botanical Gardens, which are also accessed from the R da Escola Politecnica and surround the Museum, but it was all closed for construction work.

Arriving at the Largo do Rato we looked unsuccessfully for the Rato fountain so crossed to look at the Mae d'Agua das Amoreiras Reservoir which was signposted. The reservoir is a large square building, designed by the Hungarian architect Carlos Mardel in 1746, and containing a water tank 7.5 m deep with capacity of roughly 5500 cubic metres. Unfortunately it is closed on Sunday and Mondays. On other days, visitors can climb to the roof terrace for a panoramic view over the city. The Casa do Registo in Rua das Amoreiras controlled the flow of water which supplied the city and it is possible by advance booking to visit the Loreto Gallery, 1250 m long, which carried water from here to the garden of the Sao Pedro de Alcantara Belvedere. The road behind the reservoir led back to the Largo do Rato, passing the Instituto de Investigacao Scientifica Bento da Rocha Cabral. The Rato fountain was clearly ahead, on the corner. We had passed it at the end of the R da Escola Politecnica without realising. The fountain is another in the baroque style, built between 1753 and 1754, also designed by Carlos Mardel. There are two level of water distribution, the higher one for people and the lower trough for animals.

There had been some showers and we abandoned the idea of the extension of the walk to the Aguas Livres Aqueduct. The obvious option was to take the Metro back to Rossio but an alternative walking route is via the Avenida da Liberdade, which was reached along the Rua do Salitre at the side of the Rato fountain. We quickly discovered this is not a good option for wet weather because the cobbles on the pavement and the street get very slippery. At Restauradores Metro the other end of the Elevador da Gloria had a queue waiting for the uphill journey and there was a glimpse of the fence of the Belvedere high above. The area has many monumental buildings, including the National Museum of Sport. The Praca dos Restauradores merges into the Praca Dom Pedro IV at Rossio. Having missed the port of Funchal, this was the only opportunity to buy the famous custard tarts, Tarta de Nata purchased from the Cafe Gelo, and there was a convenient bus stop to eat it in the rain. Even in the rain the buildings in this area are very fine, and there was time to visit the church of Nostra Senhora da Conceicao Velha. Finally the last picture is of our last fountain, just near the Queen Victoria.

More on Lisbon compiled from previous visits

What follows is a virtual tour of Lisbon based on a number of visits over the years covering much of interest to first time visitors.

We always get up early to see the last of the journey up the Tagus river where one passes some of the best known 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.

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Content revised: 31s t December, 2016