38:38.9N 09:06 W Seixal and Lisbon

Tue 8 Sep 2015 16:42
This peaceful backwater had been recommended to us as it was a short 20 minute ferry ride from the centre of Lisbon’s shoreline and we could either anchor free of charge or use a mooring for 8.30 Euros per night. As we approached the narrow entrance it became clear a railway bridge had once spanned the estuary. The passage was to the right of the central bridge support. A modern ferry was tied up inside and as I didn’t see it move for a long while I became suspicious of the advice we had had about it being a regular service. The ferry was in fact out of service and the ferry dock proper was outside the inlet. Silly me.
We tried anchoring but neither of us were happy as the scope of our anchor would give us a wider diameter than the mooring buoys that the other yachts were tied to, risking us touching our neighbour on the swing of the tide. So we picked up one of them, sat back in the cockpit, and had a welcome beer.
We motored ashore to find Carla still in the tourist office just before 7.00pm. In good English, she confirmed everything positive about Seixal, furnished us with timetables and recommended the big music festival that was underway at the far end of the lagoon. She was off there herself, but would be back in the office at 9.00am. the next day, a Sunday, so we could show her our papers then as we had left them aboard.
We spent the cool of the evening exploring old Seixal. A ribbon of cobbled streets contained some fine houses with wrought iron balconies, many now in ruins and supported by their inhabited neighbours, testiment to a wealthier past. The tree-lined square had numerous bars and restaurants but the place was quiet as all the shops had shut for the night. We sat in the shade as the light faded and enjoyed a beer. The waiter invited us to remain for a meal as a local group were going to entertain with songs, but we hadn’t brought a torch so felt we needed to motor back.
Behind the old shore level town, new Seixal comprises attractive modern apartment blocks built on sandstone cliffs, making this a dormitory town for Lisbon. What a lovely contrast, employment in the metropolis while living in this tranquil backwater. The ferry commute reminded me of mine to and from Lymington, where Emily and I lived, to Yarmouth, when I used to teach in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. The lagoon is so like Newtown Creek with its evidence of past industry in the form of tidemills, pounding, sawing, milling and grinding products of commercial value to be transported by train along the now broken down bridge, just as Newtown has a trading history and was once a major harbour town with two MPs. The watery cry of curlews as the tide turned and revealed fresh seafood for them completed the comparison for me.
6th September, Lisbon revisited. Two black swans together sailed serenely across the lake, watched by a mature woman of indeterminate age who, having finished her lunch was chatting to the young waiter while he processed her card. She gathered her handbag and small, wheeled case and slowly, for it was a very hot day, made her way into the Edward VII gardens that swept in manicured precision of clipped hedges and razored grass downhill towards the centre of Lisbon. The wide, polished granite paths that bordered the greenery were shaded with trees and park benches allowed rest and conversation. Since there were a few hours to kill before the Youth Hostel opened its doors to the travel weary, the lady sat down, opened her book and lost herself in the story behind its pages.
The following morning, having met the five other female occupants of her room, including a banker from Madrid who was fluent in English, feeling rested and released from the burden of her case now safe in a locker, our lady set out for a day of exploration. Riding on open top buses, listening to English commentary through headphones she soaked up the architecture, history, modern day habits and atmosphere of today’s Lisbon.
Down in the part of Lisbon rebuilt by the Marquis do Pombal after the earthquake of 1755 our lady wandered around the vast Commercial Square admiring its elegance and style but thinking ‘Oh for some shade and soft greenery’. Through the grand and mighty Arch of Rua Augusta a space was found at one of the many tables running down this pedestrian street, all shady under umbrellas. The waiters were friendly of course and warned her to keep her bag close. An armed member of the Guardia National Republic was patrolling infront of the shops to discourage pickpockets. With time to kill she lingered over her lunch before wandering up the attractive street and photographing bottles of port in a shop window, some over a hundred years old and displaying hefty price tags.
The next day Sintra and Cabo de Roca occupied her and she loved the exciting and different countryside as her coach sped past. High above the Atlantic the wind made her hair fly while she photographed the coastline and arid plants. On the way back the coach stopped at Cascais for refreshments and some fresh sea air.
On her final day in Lisbon she again had the company of her case. ‘Thank goodness for wheels’, she thought as it lumbered along obediently behind her. Gardens were on her agenda. One at the university where an open air theatre provided a welcome sit for a while. Another enclosed entirely with netting to keep in the special birds and butterflies. Then downwards, as she would soon be meeting her ship, the sail training brig Stavros Niarchos to fulfil her role as Watch Leader on the cruise back to St Nazaire down river from Nantes.
A quick lunch in Rua Augusta once more, then a little rest in the nearby cool, dark church before the steep ascent to Castelo de Sao Jorge on top of the hill. A kind kiosk attendant agreed to mind her case while she looked around the precipitous battlements and fascinating museum. The latter conjured up how life must have been in times past and how the views across the city to the river Tagus and mountains beyond have changed with human development spreading all the while. Beneath her the lady watched her ship arrive and life moved on.
Not too many years later the lady returned and while walking in the shade of the trees at the castle hand in hand with her husband, reflected with delight,
“I never would have thought last time that I would return with you dear Rob.”
This time we made it to the Lisbon 1998 Expo area to see this 100 hectare area, now a well established part of Lisbon life. At the Belem area on the banks of the river Tagus (Tejo) the rebuilt Torre de Belem (Bethlehem) once stood mid-river to defend the city, but silting of the north shore means long queues of tourists wait to cross just a short wooden bridge from the shore and gain entry.
It was fun to show Rob the places I had visited, many from the top of our bus, including the Youth Hostel, and I can report one vast improvement. There are now two escalators to take one to the Castle of St George!
When we returned to Seixal after our first day in Lisbon we found the other side of the tender had blown a seam in the heat (it had been around 30’ and we hadn’t released any air before leaving it). The marineiro had secured the motor with rope to a rail on the concrete pier, otherwise it may well have sunk. Also he had effected a repair with duck tape. So in the dark we pumped it up and made our way back to Zoonie while I pressed my hand firmly over the leak. Motor and dinghy safely on board we pondered the need to replace it while we supped some Jamesons. It appeared to have failed at exactly the opposite spot to the other leak, ie at the highest point of the tender. Hot air rises we thought so maybe those are the weakest points.
The next morning Rob patched the leak while I tried to get the attention of the marinero to give us a lift ashore. No answer on the VHF or phone number we had and neither the local police (they didn’t appear to be too busy!) nor the local council lady spoke any English. So guess what, out with the inflatable canoe, now referred to as ‘Plan B’ and a gentle row ashore to catch the ferry for our last day in Lisbon. We thanked the marinero for saving the engine and patching the leak and through tactful investigation I discovered his handheld VHF was turned off and although my mobile number had come through on his work mobile and it was in his pocket, he hadn’t answered it. Never mind, we solved the problem independently.
Its just as well we did because the marinero works office hours to 7.00pm and when we got back to the ferry terminal in Lisbon we were locked out. We all waited patiently and will never know whether it was a security issue, strike or something to do with the man Rob saw being arrested, but it was 8.30pm and dark when we got back. We lifted the canoe onto the pontoon to replace the air we had let out and then under a starlit sky, with the town street lights showing up Zoonie’s white hull a treat, we had a lovely night-time paddle home.+-