Local Information. Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is the Westernmost European Capital. The city proper has a population of approximately 550,000 with about 3 million people living in the greater Lisbon metropolitan area.
Our first time in Lisbon, Portugal and it is a beautiful day…
Equinox docked in Lisbon
We are both on the same tour today: “Lisbon, Cascais, and Sintra plus Lunch”. My tour guide is Rita and she is excellent (good English and very informative). Some of the people I toured with previously are on this tour as well.
The bus made its way from the port through the city on its way to the countryside. We passed the Alfama District. Alfama displays some of the characteristics of its Moorish past – the name “Alfama” is derived from the Arabic “Al-hamma” (baths). Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon and the home of Fado Music (sad, soulful, melancholy music – perfect for easy listening).
Proceeding out of Lisbon proper, we passed through the hip neighborhood of Alcântara, home of pubs, bars, and nightlife.
Alcântara and the Aqueduct
The bus wound its way along the Tagus River (Rio Tejo), which like the Rio de la Plata in Buenos Aires, looks like both a river and a lake. The river eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The route takes us along the Estoril Coast and through the Parrish of Estoril – long known as the playground of the posh of Portugal and the rest of Europe. The Grand Casino of Estoril is testament to its place in high society.
Our first stop is the town of Cascais. Cascais (“Cash-case”) – located on the Estoril Coast about 19 miles west of Lisbon has a population of 35,000. It is one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. The bus dropped us off near the water and we are given some free time in Cascais to shop and/or grab some coffee. We were able to hijack some WiFi from a nearby hotel so we did check our e-mails.
In the photo below, you can see Lisbon in the distance (note the 25th April Bridge).
Fountain in the waters off Cascais
The Cascais Beach and Atlantic Ocean
Main Street Cascais
One thing we did not expect to find in Cascais was a Hanukkiah but right there near the beachfront we did. We could not tell who put it there but it was still nice to see considering the Iberian Peninsula’s record with respect to Jews.
The Hanukkiah of Cascais and Us
Facilities were difficult to come by and we were advised to buy something at a restaurant to use theirs. I did find a pub that didn’t require any purchase.
Facilities in Cascais
After about 40 minutes, the bus left Cascais and drove along the Atlantic Coast.
Top: Villa on the Atlantic; Bottom: Looking back toward Cascais
Our destination was the Cabo Roca Lighthouse. Cabo Roca is the Westernmost point on the European Continent. A monument designates the spot. There is also the lighthouse and a gift shop (selling “Westernmost” stuff). Note: The gift shop had very nice facilities.
Cabo Roca Monument
Cabo Roca Lighthouse
Leaving the view point, the bus headed inland to the quaint little town on Sintra. Sintra (population 33,000) is almost a suburb of Lisbon. It is home to three palaces/fortress but we only visited one of these, the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. This unusual structure – due to its conical smokestacks - was once the summer home of the Royal Families of Portugal.
We didn’t tour the Palace – just pictures and some free time.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Ellen and I met up and took a small walking tour of the town. The town in on a hill and the streets are very narrow – I don’t see how they can accommodate anything bigger than a motor scooter.
Ellen in Sintra
Rita, our guide, told us to try the local pastry - Queijadas De Sintra (Portuguese Cheese Tarts With Cinnamon). A lot of the passengers were taking her advice because the nearest bakery from the bus drop was full of folks from our tour. We decided to walk a little further to a more remote bakery to try the pastry. We did and my take was that it was an acquired taste – the combination of cheese and cinnamon just didn’t go together (upside: the bakery had facilities). When we got back to the bus, folks told me that the other local treat – a kind of cream puff – was better. One passenger even shared her cream puff with me and it was better.
Everyone made it back to the bus and I was able to get one last picture of Sintra.
An Estate in Sintra
Lunch was next on the agenda and the restaurant was just outside of Sintra. On the way, the Moorish Castle was visible on the top of a nearby hill but the moving bus prevented any pictures.
Our restaurant was called Curral dos Caprinos – (“Corral of Goats”) and you can see by the picture below, it was all about the goats (my fingers is pointing out the animals).
Curral dos Caprinos
I had spoken with Rita about veggie options and she had asked me if seitan would be acceptable (yes). Lunch consisted of salad, bread, French Fries, and a loaf made from seitan. The food was good although I had trouble defining what the faux meat tasted like. It was very nice of the restaurant to accommodate us by whipping up this item on relatively short notice. There was also wine and a nice dessert. Lunch was a very pleasant experience.
Our next stop was back in Lisbon (only minutes away) in the Belem area (near the Tagus River): The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (the Monastery of St. Jerome). The monastery is constructed of limestone and was built in 1502 by King Manuel I. The building has a unique architecture called manueline (after King Manuel) and consists of fresco figures depicting a story. The Monastery was built to showcase Vasco De Gama’s voyage to India in 1498. The tomb of Manuel I and De Gama are in the Monastery, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Monastery from the Bus Drop
The front of the monastery extends for several hundred feet as can be seen in the photo below.
The Manueline Architecture of the Monastery
The entrance of the Monastery was populated by a number of well dressed (leather and boots) peddlers – all women - selling shawls and pashminas. They were the best dressed peddlers we have seen in our travels.
The Monastery Interior
Before the Monastery was built, a small Hermitage ordered by Henry the Navigator occupied this site. It was from this Hermitage that Vasco da Gama began his historic voyage to India in 1497. Da Gama died in India (he was Viceroy at the time) in 1524. After his remains were moved a number of times (just like fellow explorer, Cristobal C), in 1880, they were placed in their final resting place, the Monastery. The Tomb of Vasco Da Gama is manueline like the rest of the Monastery. There are scenes on the tomb depicting voyages and the lions that support the tomb are symbols of the Order of Jerome.
The Tomb of Vasco da Gama
The Tomb, Random People, and Me
Following the visit to the Monastery, we drove to the Jardim da Torre de Belem (Belem Tower Park), where we were given free time to explore the park and the gift shop.
The Belem Tower was my first stop. The five story tower is the most photographed structure in Lisbon. It was built from 1515-1521 as protection from pirates. It was subsequently repurposed as a prison. There was a lot of construction going on at the base of the tower making photography difficult.
The 25th April Bridge pans the Tagus River (Rio Tejo) and was built in the 1960s by the American Bridge Company, the folks that built the San Francisco Bay Bridge (don’t let the color fool you into thinking it’s a copy of the Golden Gate Bridge) . It is the longest bridge in Europe (longer than the Golden Gate). The statue on the far side is the statue of Christ the King (monument to the neutrality of Portugal in WWII).
25th April Bridge
Gago Coutinho Monument – An Aluminum model of a Fairey IIID Seaplane used by Portuguese Aviators (Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral ) to make the first South Atlantic Crossing (between Lisbon and Rio De Janeiro) in 1922 (commemorating the centennial of Brazil’s Independence). It took three planes to complete the journey (mechanical and weather problems)
The Monument to the Discoveries – located in the Belem Marina - was built in 1940 as a temporary structure for the World Exposition. The Monument in Belem was built in 1960 (the 500 anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator) and is an exact replica of that statue. The sculpture – 171 ft tall) is in the shape of a Caravel prow – showing historic figures related to Portugal’s age of discovery (Prince Henry the Navigator is on the prow). The only view of the statue was from the moving bus.
Monument to the Discoveries
The bus then headed back to the pier. A few sites were visible from the bus.
Lots of museums in Lisbon including the Museum of Beer.
Monument – Spain-Portugal War
Praça do Comércio – Commercial Square – Statue of King Jose I (1775)
The pier is a short ride from the Belem Marina area and the traffic is relatively light so in a few minutes we are back on board. Since the Sun has not set, there are many photo ops.
Ellen and Lisbon
Lisbon in the Gloaming
25th April Bridge connecting Lisbon to Almada
Ellen on the back deck
The 25th April Bridge at night
Lisbon, Portugal at night
After dinner in the Dining Room, we saw Greg Scott- World’s tallest violinist (6-4) doing his show in the Theater. We had seen Greg before and his show was entertaining the second time around.
Tomorrow, we leave Continental Europe.