"" Writer's Wanderings: Lisbon, Portugal, The Seven Hills

Friday, May 12, 2023

Lisbon, Portugal, The Seven Hills

[See a correction below]
Our arrival in Lisbon was scheduled for noon. That left ample time for our cruise director to do a port talk. We had already asked the excursion desk if there was going to be a shuttle into the city because our last experience with a port call in Lisbon turned out to be at a dock in what was probably a warehouse/industrial area and not very savory, meaning we wouldn't walk off the ship in that neighborhood. To our relief, the excursion desk told us that Lisbon had a whole new area for cruise ships and we would be right smack in the middle of the city. No need for shuttles.

That said, we were now curious to know more about the city since that last visit to Portugal had taken us through a fishing town and to a reception at a hotel sponsored by a travel group who invited us. The port talk this time was quick and informative and left us eager to venture out when we docked.

The sail-in to the city takes you a ways down the Tagus River which is huge. We passed several landmarks including the Belem Tower which is a 16th century fortification. Luckily our stateroom is on the port side and that was the side that had most of the landmarks to see on the way in.

The next we recognized was the Padrao dos Descobrimentos which commemorates the Portuguese explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries. It is kind of like the bow of a ship with all the sailors lined up on it. 

A large suspension bridge called the 25 of April Bridge spans the river connecting Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the other shore. [It is said to be designed by the same person who designed the Golden Gate Bridge and that's why it looks so similar.] The information in red was incorrect. It was given at our port talk and since I have discovered that it was actually designed and engineered by the grandfather of a friend or ours. His name was Ray Boynton. I should have checked my information.  It was opened in August of 1966 but got its name from the Carnation Revolution of 1974 commemorating the day the revolution took place (a military coup that overthrew the reigning prime minister).

Reminiscent of Rio, there is a statue of Jesus with arms outstretched near the bridge on the opposite side from Lisbon.

The cruise director had mentioned that Lisbon was known as the city of seven hills and it would not take long for us to realize that. Just looking from the ship at the hills full of buildings and I knew we were in for a day of climbing.

After lunch and allowing for the crowds to thin at the gangway from those in a hurry to get off for excursions, we ventured out and took a look at the square that was near our ship to start. It was surrounded by lots of restaurants and sidewalk cafes and we decided it would be a good place to end our tour rather than really begin.

I had several walking tours on GPS My City to choose from and we decided on the shorter one that led us from the castle to the cathedral. While there were fewer sites along the way, it started with a climb to the top of one hill to start and I do mean a climb. Added to the challenge of the climb was that most of the way was cobblestone along with a long stretch of steps. I did my usual stops to take a picture--of anything--just to catch my breath.

The sun was warming the day a bit but there was a strong breeze that kept the temperature from feeling too hot. The exercise though was making me long for a shower by the time we reached the Castelo de Sao Jorge at the top of the hill.

The top of the hill I guess is the best place for a defensive fortress. The castle dates back somewhere before 1200. The information I found is a little confusing, or maybe I was just needing more oxygen from the altitude. What we did see was a walled area and a huge line at the ticket window. One look and we knew we weren't going in. There was no way we would stand in that line. Should have looked to see if they were available online.

We walked around the little streets that surround the castle which were not all pedestrian. That discovery was made when we had to flatten ourselves against a wall to allow an SUV to pass. We literally sucked in our tummies so that the side view mirror didn't get us.

I love the tiled facades on some of the buildings. The tiles are called azulejos in Portuguese and are very popular for design or even storytelling as some of them are actually pictures. The popularity of the tiles dates back to the 13th century.

We passed on the idea of seeing a museum that was next on our list and headed for the cathedral. At least now everything would be downhill. Of course there were still the cobblestones and narrow streets with traffic. On the way to the cathedral was a park with a view of the city below. I don't know that I was impressed so much with the view as I was the tiles that decorated all of the walls. The tiles are truly beautiful.

When we arrived at the cathedral, we found that there was a charge to enter if you wanted to see past just inside the door. (Information online always says its free but if you want to explore, you pay.) It was only five Euros each and there was no long line so we paid and entered. The cathedral is not as elaborate or decorated as much as some we've been in but it was still impressive just for the size and huge arches. 

The cathedral was built in 1147 and most of it survived several earthquakes including the big one in 1755 which devasted Lisbon. You had to smile when you saw one of the tombs in a side alcove where a faithful dog is immortalized at the feet of his master. I mean the dog is smiling too.

A room off to the side of the sanctuary featured the ceremonial garb of the priests/bishops. We couldn't find information on what it all was for but it was interesting.

On the way back to the huge square by the dock, which was dubbed "black horse square" because of the statue in the center, we stopped at another church. It had a beautiful altar area. 

Back on the black horse square, we circulated until we could finally find a cafe that had Portuguese custard tarts on the menu. We were told they were not to be missed. And all that information was correct. The custard in the tarts was not overly sweet and was very light with a cinnamon seasoning. The pastry was filo and was light and flaky. I'm glad we only ordered one each but it was difficult to restrain ourselves from ordering more. Don't miss this treat if you are ever in Portugal.

While our ship was not to sail until nine thirty, we were done for the day before dinner. Enough climbing and walking. We'd stay where the elevators took us up and down. Oh, there are some elevators in the city but we never found one where we wanted it. 

The ship left a little early since everyone was back onboard. The sun had set behind one of the hills and the statue of Christ was illuminated as we passed it. The head and hands were a little distracting with red lights that warned low flying planes that it was there. The ship passed under the bridge and we were on our way to two days at sea--part of another change in itinerary that eliminated Brest, France. 

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