Sailing into Lisbon you meet the countless ships that take tourists out on Rio Tejo to see Lisbon from the water. In the distance the large bridge “Ponte de 25 Abril” frames the river and makes the city look a bit like San Fransisco. With the steep cobbled streets and varying architecture, it is actually not so far-fetched. Some of the popular sites can be seen from the river, like the castle Torre de Belém, that looks like it moved in straight from a fairytale. Museums line up next to each other by the river, and just after the big bridge the “Docas” with pubs and restaurants give a first glimpse of the nightlife in Lisbon.
We moored up at Doca de Alcantara, which is pretty central but also next to the industrial harbour. One advantage of having Stine onboard is that I get an ally to explore new cities with (Jens rather keep his distance to city life). Walking into the old town on the East side was hot, and everywhere the Jacaranda was in full bloom giving the city an extra boost of colour. After walking up to Barrio Alta and down again to the shopping district around Baixa we were definitely ready for an ice-cream, and Café Chocolates provided really yummie ones.
There is a lot of pretty architecture in town, and since this was our fourth Portuguese town we visited we could really tell that the capital was in its own league. Big squares with monuments and magnificent buildings, embassies, countless restaurants and all types of shopping everywhere you could see. Finding a supermarket was not as easy 😉 And of course, a lot of tourists. But I found Lisbon to be a very charming city, with friendly people and a lot of things to do. Walking up to Castelo de Sao Jorge is worth the effort to get a nice view over town.
On the way back we walked along the river past Cais do Sodré where the drink and food stalls lined up offering all types of tasty drinks that would make anyone passing really thirsty. It almost felt like being somewhere in Asia with the heat and exotic drinks. Definitely a good place to take a break and enjoy the sun.
My only mission that day (except exploring Lisbon) was to find a pair of comfortable shoes for walking and sailing. Living on a sailboat, it is very important that they are good for jumping onshore and are white underneath so they don’t leave marks all over the boat. After trying out all the types and colours of shoes at Paez, both me and Stine got a pair of comfy shoes. The staff was amazed that we had managed to get a sunburn on the feet this time of the year and laughed at the fact that we had so white skin compared to them 😀
Back at the harbour Jens had got back from his visit to the Mastervolt office to see what was wrong with one of the units we have onboard. One of the boats that were on the hook in Cascais had also arrived in the harbour and Jens had got to know them a bit better. Turns out that despite the Belgian flag it was a French boat with three different types of therapists that were on a mission – “Voilier Taka”. They were on their way to Africa to sail along the west coast and offer free sessions to people there as well as visiting schools and collecting information about what types of therapies are available in different countries. One of their goals are “Bring therapy (medicine, Chinese medicine, acupuncture and osteopathy) to some regions where health access is not so easy” . They are looking for more funding to support their project, if you want to know more about Voilier Taka, have a look at their web page or Youtube!
Just a day trip from Lisbon or Cascais lies Sintra, which several friends and family suggested as worth a visit. So one day when we got bored at lying by the hook at Cascais me and Stine jumped on the bus for an excursion to the mountains. The national park surrounding Sierra de Sintra is huge and probably worth a whole day visit, but on the few hours we had we prioritised hiking up to the Moorish castle (8th-9th century) that was once a military fortification and used as a watch tower to protect Lisbon and the surrounding area. On the way up we got nice views over Palacio de Sintra which just like the Moorish castle has Arab roots. It is astonishing to think about the trouble they must have gone through building this large construction so high up in the mountains. As we climbed the towers, we also got to see the Palace of Pena which King Ferdinand II built on top of the Sintra hills. Then it was time to get back to the boat and have dinner with the captain!
I must say that I am quite impressed with Portugal, and have learnt quite a lot about their history that I had little clue about before we arrived. Did you for instance know that Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, was the first Europeans to reach India by the sea? That was done in 1948 and is just one of the accomplishments that made Portugal one of the leading countries exploring the earth over the seas, the new sea routes opening up for trade and colonies. After Lisbon we set sails towards Lagos, to meet friends and family!
NOTES FOR SAILORS
There are several harbours in Lisbon, but not all welcome visitors. The harbour in Alcantara is probably one of the most central, taking the tram you are in the center of the old town in ten minutes. There are some chandleries but they are very hard to find and don’t offer much. When going up and down the Rio Tejo, keep a lookout for the many ferries, tourist boats and freight ships. There is an anchorage by the beach near Caxias, but the depth on our chart wasn’t consistent with the depth we measured so we didn’t dare to drop the anchor there. There are also anchorages further up river on the East side that we didn’t try this time.