Thursday, June 4, 2009

Our first stop on continental Europe! Lisbon, Portugal


Destination: Lisbon, Portugal

Where we stayed: Crown Princess

Best of: A free wine tasting at ViniPortugal & strolling through the tiny back streets

Worst of: We loved it and thought the city was great but we did hear that a lot of pick pockets were out and about on Tram 28 so be aware!

Lisbon is the capitol of Portugal and represented our first stop on mainland Europe. Although we had a nice and relaxing time on the crossing, it was time for some sightseeing. Not as well known perhaps as its neighboring capitol cities, it still represents an important part in the history of the world. One of its most famous early citizens was Vasco de Gama, the first to sail around Africa to India thus establishing a new trade route to the spices of Asia.

After arriving in Lisbon we caught Tram 28 and headed up to the Alfama area and to Castelo St. Jorge. Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon. With it's winding narrow streets, it makes for a pleasant stroll relatively traffic and noise free. Laundry hanging out to dry, old men puffing away on cigarettes and the occasional ringing of the trolley bell brings the scene to life. One of the few areas of the city to survive the earthquake of 1755, it also represents one of the best places to see the fine Moorish tile work from the 1500's. Although there are several tram/trolleys in the city, the #28 is the main line for tourists, making short work of the steep hills of Lisbon.

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Our first official stop was the Castelo de Sao Jorge. From this ruined fortress you can take advantage of the commanding views of Lisbon, taking in the distinctive orange tiled roofs lining the hills and our ship in the background! The Moorish Castelo is over 1000 years old and you are free to wander up and over its towers and many rooms.

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On our way back down the hill from the Castle and the Alfama Quarter, we made a quick stop at Se, one of the great churches of Lisbon complete with a beautiful stained glass window.

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Although Portugal is really known for its Ports (as in wine, not boats) we decided to give their wines a try instead. Aiding us in that decision was a) we knew where the wine was and b) it was free! ViniPortugal works similar to a taste test in that vineyards pay them to get feedback on their wines. You can have up to 9!!! tastings from 3 different regions in Portugal. All they ask is your opinion on taste, smell, color, label design and suggested price. After getting our buzz on (hey it's 9!!! healthy pours of wine and we didn't eat lunch) we decided to try and squeeze in one more tourist stop before the boat set sail...

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The Monastery of Jeronimos, with it's intricate carvings and great detail was worth the effort to make it out to see. With the afore mentioned Vasco de Gama's discovery came wealth and prosperity to the tiny nation. To honor this, Prince Henry (supporter of many such missions) built the Monastery in 1502. The tomb of Gama himself is here along with several wonderfully carved statues. We took a quick stroll through the free part, the church, before returning back to the ship knowing that we had just a few minutes to spare.

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Knowing that we were going to be late as it was, we got really worried when the bus we were on pulled over and made everyone get off! Luckily, there was another bus right there to pick us up and finish the journey. We raced back to the ship with about 15 minutes before they pulled up the gangway. Safely on board and avoiding the wrath of the captain we set sail for Cadiz, Spain!

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To see more photos of Lisbon please click here!

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