Lisbon 38:43N 09:07W

SV Jenny
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Fri 26 Sep 2014 22:42
Dear Family and Friends,

Our boat lift-out went well in Seixal, we got several of our maintenance issues sorted. We were temporarily in the boat sling and then on supporting blocks for 3 days. We had particularly strong winds whilst 2-3 m in the air which didn’t feel at all comfortable. The vessel creaked and was flexing as the cupboard doors began not to fit so we were very pleased to get her back in the water and get her settled again.

Arriving in Lisbon we were the last boat to arrive. Whilst Alan went off to a rally meeting, I spent the evening trying to get some medication for my hip pain. Having spent over 3 hours in Urgencia, (A & E) in a downtown hospital without being seen, I gave up and went back to the boat. I had been following advice from the local health helpline, personally I was doubtful that going there was at all the right place. Well, as you can imagine, I was triaged to the back of the queue, rightly more urgent cases were being seen first but after a long wait there were still 16 ahead of me and an unstoppable flow of more people as the Friday night wore on. After an evening with a rich seam of humanity, it was a relief to get back to the boat and happily I found a pharmacy able to sell me the drugs over the counter!

Our rally organiser was Anne Hammick who has written the pilotage books for this area out to the Cape Verdes assisted by the marina staff.

Lisbon is a place of many faces; the wonderfully historic and the modern vibrant Lisbon, the unkempt and derelict, especially along the water front and the ever present graffiti. Its grand facades of past wealth mingle with austerity of modern times, architectural gems, over optimistic recent development standing idle, it’s all here. It is raw and refined, a city of contrasts. The suburbs to the North bank of the River Tejo, (translated Tagus), cover much of the low hills that line the river, merging into sprawling Lisbon. As ever apartment living is the norm and there are a wealth of small shops, often very narrow and dimly lit, kiosks are even smaller. There are some wonderful themes though, who would have thought of a shop selling just tinned fish! Nor another you can smell way down the street, selling dried salt cod. My favourites were the wine and port merchants, with a glass floor revealing roman walls and you guessed it port bottles along side them! Rua Augusta is for the serious shoppers. But curiously many places will only take cash and the bank machines will only allow you to draw 200E a day, (boat bills don't come in small numbers so this is a pain).

No visit to Lisbon is complete without checking out Belem, the iconic tower of Belem, on the North bank of the River Tejo together with the pleasing modern monument to the discoverers. Fountains, gardens and market places front the river, the monastery, church and museums, (maritime and archaeological), just north of these. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the maritime museum,(where else would sailors go!) and heard excellent reports from fellow ralliers visiting the church and monastery. No trip to this area is complete without visiting the famous pastilleria of Belem, a short walk from the church. The Pastel da Nata, served warm and  with crisp caramel flavoured pastry and creamy custard filling, are not to be missed and nor is the authentic decor.

Our cultural immersion  included Fado music and singing, a traditional genre of  folk songs of longing. Excellent as the guitar playing was, and the singing too, its style was in minor chords and sounded harsh to our untrained ears. Listed as a Unesco cultural heritage, we arrived in Lisbon during a Fado Festival. Street events and live Fado music played in restaurants, the district was buzzing. We heard classical Fado singing and also lighter street music, love it or not, it was worth seeking it out.

Anne has been unstinting in her organisation of events and the time she has spent with us. Who can forget during our tour of central Lisbon, Anne’s indefatigable optimism in the face of torrential rain of biblical proportions, nor her sense of calmness when the rising flood waters had us standing on the tram shelter seats, nor indeed standing under sunshades during another cloudburst with close quarters thunder, whilst drinking tea and listening to a guitarist playing ‘raindrops keep falling on my head’ Priceless Anne thank you! I think our stop at a street Ginjinha stall selling cherry brandy, (in chocolate cups for the indulgent), at 1E a shot fortified us for our trial by weather!

We loved our visit to the aquarium, within walking distance of the marina, it was packed with impressive sea life, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Our remaining activities, a traditional colourful wooden carvelho boat  trip to Vila Franca de Xira, through the wetlands nature reserve of the Tejo Estuary, allowed us to see flamingos in their natural habitat, sadly some photos are against a background of shipping containers, so not so natural! We slipped into an exhibit about a famous bullfighter, as he died at age 32, one can only guess his profession had a part to play in it. This was followed by a wonderful demonstration of Lusitania horse and rider skills at the equestrian centre of Leziria Grande. We were mesmerised by the grace of the horses and their evident eagerness to perform.

If you are here, do make time to go to Sintra, about an hour by train. On the way we spotted a medieval aqua duct,  an amazing feat of engineering, giving access to cleaner water which reduced infant deaths in the city dramatically. In Sintra summer palaces abound, on roads that are impossibly steep with terrifying switch backs. I am full of admiration for the bus drivers who will get you to the Moorish castle or the Pena Palace, (bus 434 from outside the rail station). We did in fact see the Pena Palace from the sea perched at the very top of a very steep and high hill, scratch that, I walked it, mountain! 

Rounding off our Lisbon leg with a ‘Sardinhada’ we said our grateful thanks to Anne. I managed to avoid sardines on all but the last day although finding decent restaurant food was less easy. We did have some good dishes, in a merchants palace and an unassuming restaurant around the corner from the marina. The food is often quite plain, although the cheeses and hams are good. Fish features everywhere, as well as beef from the Azores and pork. If I had any room I would have tried the puddings but the elastic is already straining so its back to the diet!

All our best wishes to you, photos to follow.

Lynne and Alan