Lisbon, Portugal: A tower, a monastery, a custard, #28, the Alfama

Today is Steve’s 55th birthday! We have had a great day so far!

We had a short day in Lisbon, arriving at 8:00 am and sailing at 3:00 pm. We woke up and noted that we were docked right across from the heart of old Lisbon. Marina had apparently gone up the wide Tagus river in the morning and docked in this prime location. I had done some pre-cruise research and found a company that came highly recommended called Inside Lisbon tours. We booked a private four-hour city tour for just the two of us.

We disembarked and met out driver, a young man named Luis, at the dock and we were escorted to a nice van that we had to ourselves. Luis was an excellent tour guide, speaking almost perfect English and with a vast knowledge of the city and its history and possessing a good sense of humor. We first traveled to the area downriver from Lisbon known as Belèm. We stopped for photos of the famous Belèm tower, which was built in a gothic style with fantastic shapes and creatures and used for ship navigation along the Tagus river to the Atlantic.

Our next stop was the medieval monastery church of St. Jerónimos, built beginning in 1459. We snuck around huge groups of passengers from our ship that were on tours and found our way into the vast sanctuary, built in a unique style known as Manueline (Portugeuse late gothic). We saw the tomb of the famous explorer Vasco de Gama and and also tombs of other Portuguese noblemen, some built on elephant pedestals.

We took a short break down the street near the monastery and sampled a delectable Belèm custard; these rich, but not too sweet, egg custard and pastry treats are produced in a huge restaurant that sells more than 50,000 of these yummy concoctions every day. The place was packed!!

Luis then took us to the city of Lisbon proper, where we stopped at a park and viewpoint at a first big hill in the old city for some panoramic photos. Much of the city of Lisbon was destroyed in an earthquake that occurred in 1755. Luis told us how they had to rebuild the city from this devastating event. We also caught our fist glimpses of the adorable yellow and red streetcars, including the famous number 28, that clatter up and down the hills of Lisbon, like Portuguese cousins of the cartoon trolleys from Disney’s Toontown.

We then journeyed down the main boulevard in the center of town, admiring the broad sidewalks with intricate stonework and the beautiful trees (this boulevard design was based on the Champs Elyseé in Paris). We worked our way through the shopping district to the next high part of the city, with viewpoints overlooking the Alfama, one of the oldest areas of Lisbon. At another viewpoint looking back at the main part of the city in the other direction, we enjoyed a beverage at a sidewalk cafe and talked to Luis about food!

We made our way back to the ship, going through some very narrow streets in the Alfama, which is an ancient neightborhood done in a Moorish maze-like style, similar to a Medina. The EU and the local government, in their infinite “wisdom”, are trying to make Lisbon a more pedestrian-friendly place and discourage driving. So this edict makes the streets much more difficult to drive, with huge detours; tour companies like Inside Lisbon spend more time and burn more gas to get to places that used to be directly accessible. Talk about unintended consequences…

After being dropped off at the ship and thanking Luis for a great tour, we embarked, had a really good hot dog for lunch at Waves (we wanted a sausage after talking about linguisa and chorizo) and sailed promptly at 3:00 pm. We took lots of photos of the city frm our veranda as we sailed under the 25 Abril bridge, which was built by the same architectural firm as the Oakland Bay bridge, although it resembles the Golden Gate bridge in color.

One other thing we noticed sailing out were many jellyfish in the waters at the point where the river flows into the Atlantic. Our research found that these were probably Medusa jellyfish, but they have also had problems in the area recently with the legendary Portuguese Man of War jellyfish.

We would love to return to Lisbon and start or end a cruise here.

We are enjoying time on the deck and will visit the Grand Dining Room for the first time on the cruise tonight and probably enjoy a steak.

Note: I apologize (well, not really) for the rant yesterday, but we were both really tired of seeing our fellow passengers act like it was a boring burden to be on this cruise, rather than a privilege.

On to Cadíz, Spain and our little jaunt to sizzling hot Seville.

2 Comments »

  1. PAIGE Said,

    September 23, 2012 @ 11:44 am

    It seems that not only did Steve have a great 55th, but from the photos and description this looks like the best port on this cruise. I know you had a great time. Did you have your steak dinner?

    Could you see living in Lisbon? With all of your travels and knowledge is there anyplace outside of the USA that you could call home?

  2. Steve Said,

    September 23, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

    Hi, Paige! What a WONDERFUL 55th birthday. It definitely took the sting out of the big “double nickle”!

    We enjoyed Lisbon very much; today Sevilla, Spain was also a spot worth remembering. I’m not sure I could live anywhere other than the U.S., but once again I was very impressed with how wonderful the French were. I don’t know why people think they’re rude and unfriendly — on the many visits we’ve had to France, I’ve found the people to be nothing but delightful and helpful.

    I wouldn’t live in any country that doesn’t ensure freedom of speech, religion, and the right to bear arms — and that includes the U.S. 🙂

    Steve

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