Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Whirlwind Tour of Lisbon, Portugal

The sun rose over the Alfama district. This area survived the great earthquake of 1755 and is filled with narrow streets and old tiled buildings. We could already see the buses lining up for tours.

Happy Halloween! A very creative display was set up in the atrium. 

Aren’t they talented carvers?



I've heard quite a few people talking about their costumes. Good for them! I can't imagine packing a costume along with everything else.

Welcome to Lisbon! As we had arrived a day later than planned, the tour we had scheduled with Cruise Critic people was not able to accommodate everyone. The organizer drew names out of a hat, and we were not one of the lucky winners. We decided to do the hop on, hop off bus tour.

Instead, we met Alex, a smooth talking taxi operator, who barely had a trace of Portuguese accent. Turns out he had spent quite a bit of time in Scotland, New York and other places, before returning to his native Portugal. He offered a good city tour and we took him up on his offer, along with two ladies from Bermuda. He took us to this belvedere for some beautiful views of the old buildings with their orange-tiled roofs.

As a side note, I didn't know that a belvedere was "a roofed structure, especially a small pavilion or tower on top of a building, situated so as to command a wide view." This was exactly that.

On the hill sits the Castelo de Sao Jorge fortification built in the mid 11th century, which today is home to peacocks and parks.

In the background you can see the spans of the 25th of April Bridge, and on the left, the huge statue of Christ. It is a smaller replica of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and was built by the citizens of Lisbon to give thanks to God that Portugal did not enter WWII.

Kim and Jim in Lisbon…

Our next stop was the Sao Vincente de Fora church and monastery, another building which survived the great earthquake. The ground for the monastery was broken in 1147, but it was not completed until 1649.


Alex would just park the taxi (pretty much anywhere), while we went in to check out the attraction. Parking is a real problem in Lisbon, but especially in the Alfama district with its narrow streets. Alex was talking a lot, but we weren’t getting a whole lot of information. We wandered into the church, which was beautiful.


And came out and gave a donation to the lady sitting on the steps. She blessed us…I think.

Our next stop was the Pantheon, which was built in the 17th century as the Church of Santa Engracia. It is the last resting place for many of Portugal's most famous citizens, including presidents and artists.

This old derelict building was beside the Pantheon and was quite interesting with this gauzy material swaying in the breeze. The birds had taken up residence.

The distinctive tiled buildings of the Alfama district…

With the narrow curvy streets…


Alex talked about the local embroidery and told us not to buy it here, that he knew a shop where we could get a better price. Actually, we never did stop for any shopping. We drove a lot and he talked a lot!

A very common sight in Lisbon…laundry hanging on the outside of buildings.Would you look at that brilliant blue sky!

Trolley tracks run everywhere and, with several cruise ships in port that day, the trolleys were full. 


Next stop, the Church of Santa Maria Maior, or the Lisbon Cathedral. Since the beginning of its construction in the 12th century, it has been modified many times and is a mix of architectural styles. It was designated as a national monument in 1907.

This church was definitely not meant for handicapped people, as you had to step over the door frame to get into the church. Look at the workmanship in the doors…

Once again, a beautiful interior.

These distinctive blue and white tiles are called Azulegos, an art form of early Portuguese origin.

Our next flying stop, was a return to the Baixa quarter and Praca do Comercio, which we had visited the previous night. The soaring arch leading into the square…

It really did remind me of Venice…without the water. 


The statue and the arch behind lead to a grid of streets, which were rebuilt after the earthquake.

From there we whizzed over to the Belem quarter and the Belem Tower which we had noticed on our sail in.

This beautifully sculptured tower was another in the series of fortifications along the Tagus River. It was constructed in 1614 and was both a ceremonial gateway to the city, as well as a defence system.

Also near the tower was the first plane ever to fly the transatlantic from Portugal to South America.

There was an abundance of high priced boats in the marina…

Our last stop of the morning was the Monument to the Discoveries. 

Built in the shape of a ship's prow, the monument shows more than 30 statues of people who played an important role in the discoveries.

Leading the way is Henry the Navigator who is shown standing on the bow holding a model of a caravel. Behind him is King Afonso V, who supported the exploration and colonization of Africa. He is followed by the explorers Vasco da Gama (who found a direct route to India), Pedro Álvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil) and Ferdinand Magellan (the first explorer to circumnavigate the world). The other figures are navigators, writers, missionaries, a mathematician, a map maker and other figures from the era of the discoveries.

At this point our morning tour was over. Jim and I wanted to carry on for the afternoon and see the villages of Cascais and Sintra. The Bermudian ladies weren’t so sure and I was hoping they would not go, as the taxi was really not that big and 3 of us were squished into the back seat. They decided to go back to the ship, so after we dropped them off, we carried on with our whirlwind tour.

Next stop, the amazing Jeronimos Monastery. The monastery was built by King Manuel in the early 16th century. Sailors leaving for unknown lands would usually spend their last night ashore here. I never did get a complete photo of the monastery as it is so large. It took over 100 years to build.

Once again, Alex dropped us off, only this time he went to get us a pastry, while we took some photos of the monastery.

The detail was exquisite and in some ways it reminded me of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Can you imagine the work that went into this in the 16th century? A monkey gargoyle…

Absolutely amazing detail…


The gardens nearby the monastery might have been a nice place to relax, but we were off again. By the way, the pastry Alex bought us was like a custard tart, which was still warm and delicious.

And we were off to Cascais…this is where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Here we are entering the town of Cascais. It is a small fishing village which is now inhabited by the rich and famous in Portugal, including many soccer players. The houses are a mix of early 20th century and modern homes.

A very fashionable seaside town…no time for stopping though!

A nice hotel…Alex said it was very expensive, but I think it was around $200 Euros per night, not quite as extravagant as I thought he was going to say.

Even with the rich and famous, it is still a lovely fishing village…

With a nice sandy beach…

Jim and Kim on our whirlwind tour…

Alex with Jim…thumbs up! Alex was very interesting. He kept up a running commentary on life in Portugal, interspersed with questions which he didn't wait for us to answer.

Our next stop, Boca de Infierno or the Mouth of the Devil.

Alex stopped and bought us more pastries (I think he needed another shot of sugar!) and told us a story of how he and a cousin had gone into the tunnel at low tide, only to be stranded and rescued by the fire department.

Although pretty, I think we might have used our time more wisely in Sintra.

Whee! Back into the car, for a stop in Sintra.

Sintra is one of Portugal’s oldest cities. Alex had mentioned stopping here so I could get some stamps, but then whizzed through town without stopping. (Sorry, Ann…that’s why you got a postcard from Lisbon with a Bermuda stamp!)

This photo stop showed Sintra at its prettiest. A lovely arch framing an 8th century fortress in the background, which overlooks the town. 

The hillsides in Sintra are dotted with manors and castles of feudal lords and monarchs.

The geometric gardens overlooking the towns in the distance.

And a quick photo stop at this castle which was home to 18th and 19th century monarchs.

And with that, we sped back to the city. It was getting close to 4:00 and we were supposed to be onboard by 4:30. We whizzed by this statue of the Marquis de Pombal, who was responsible for the rebuilding of Lisbon after the great earthquake.

The very modern financial district of Lisbon…

And this strange building, the Santa Justa Lift. It was built in 1892, a few years after the Eiffel Tower, to connect the lower town with the upper town.

Back on the ship...we were mentally exhausted from listening to Alex talk non-stop and all the sights we visited. Once we had a chance to digest everything, we were pretty happy with everything we were able to see.

It was time for a martini demonstration with some of the bartenders from Crooners Bar. Denz, one of our favourite bartenders…

A little help from the audience for the shaking of the martinis…

And lots of laughs when things didn’t quite turn out as planned…

Don, another of our favourite bartenders…

And now it's back to sea days until we reach Bermuda...

2 comments:

  1. The city is a hotspot for history, with renovated castles and palaces, impressive churches, cobble-stoned pavements, Art Nouveau cafes, and a rich cultural heritage.
    I have planned a Lisbon one day trip itinerary from Madrid.

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  2. Thanks for visit (and like )my beautifull contry. I hope you came back soon.
    Best regards from a proud portuguese

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