I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Sunday 30 September 2018

Western Mediterranean Cruise - Day 12 - Sea Day and Day 13 - Lisbon Part 1

Day 12 - we had a very quiet sea day as we were all knackered!  Penny and Jim sat round the pool while Richard and I stayed mainly on our balcony and dozed!  That's my hat!!

We went up on to the top deck as we went through the Straits of Gibraltar - we could see both coasts.  I didn't realise that the North African coast had mountains.

Day 13 - Lisbon

Wow - what a day!!!  We were due into Lisbon at 1.00pm but we were up on deck about midday to see the sail-in.  The port of Lisbon is about 10 miles from the sea up the Tagus River.  The sheltered harbour was an ideal spot for an Iberian settlement and would have provided a secure harbour for unloading and provisioning Phoenician ships.

One of the highlights of the sail-in is the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge.  It was inaugurated on August 6th 1966, and a train platform was added in 1999.   With a total length of almost 1.5 miles, it is the 32nd largest suspension bridge in the world. The upper deck carries six car lanes, while the lower deck carries a double track railway. The bridge was originally named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar) but after the bloodless revolution in 1974 the name was changed to the date of the revolution. The bridge is based in part on two San Francisco Bay Area bridges: its paint is the same International Orange as the famous Golden Gate Bridge; and its design is similar to that of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. Both the Bay Bridge and the 25 de Abril Bridge were built by the same company.  The bridge was completed in 45 months and inaugurated on the 6th August 1966, this was 5 months earlier than originally estimated. The total project cost the Portuguese government $32million and it took 25 years of toll collections to cover the construction costs.  The height of the bridge at at mean high water is 230 feet and Silhouette needs 200 feet - so heaps of room though it didn't look like as we got nearer and nearer!

As we sailed under it we could hear a strange hum, this is because the two inner lanes are relatively slippery metallic platforms instead of asphalt.

Once under the bridge we could see old Lisbon and oh, how beautiful it was :-)  

We had booked another tour through Spain Day Tours and were met by Nonu, once again in a very nice Mercedes people carrier.  Nonu is a native Lisboetas (people from Lisbon are NOT called Lisbians!) and is proud of his city and his country. 

Nonu first took us to east Lisbon where the Expo '98 was held from 22nd May to 30th September 1998. The theme of the fair was "The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future", chosen in part to commemorate 500 years of Portuguese discoveries.  The entire area at the eastern end of the city's waterfront was rebuilt for the event. When it was over, the new urban district was dubbed Parque das Nações (Park of Nations), and became one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in Europe.  

Hosting Expo '98 necessitated a second bridge, the Ponte Vasco da Gama.  A novel way to fund the bridge was devised which would cost the Portuguese tax payers absolute nothing. The Portuguese government tendered the building, maintenance and, most importantly, the collection of the road tolls to private companies, who would be able to raise the estimated 1 billion dollars to construct the bridge. A private consortium, Lusoponte, agreed to build the bridge but held exclusive control of toll collection for both of Lisbon’s bridges for 40 years.  With the funding organised the bridge was constructed in an unbelievable short time period of only 18 months. The 10.7 mile length of the bridge was divided into 4 sections with each section being built by different private engineering companies that were over seen by Lusoponte.  At the height of construction over 3,000 people were employed, this combined with the 2,500 who worked on the expo site resulted in the largest construction project in Portugal during the 21st century.  The bridge’s official length is 10.7 miles and at the time of the inauguration on the 29th March 1998 was the longest bridge in the world and today is still Europe’s longest bridge over an expanse of water.  On the inauguration day residents of Lisbon were invited to a massive seated party which stretched the length of the bridge. 

On our way to the west of the city we passed the beautiful Gare do Oriente railway station which was built for Expo '98.  There is only one international train from Lisbon and is an overnighter to Madrid.

The city of Lisbon has always suffered from the lack of drinking water, and in 1731 King John V decided to build an aqueduct to bring water from sources in the municipality of Odivelas. The main course of the aqueduct covers 11 miles, but the whole network of canals extends through nearly 36 miles.  The Águas Livres Aqueduct was built between 1731 and 1744 and has a total of 35 arches across the valley, covering 3000 feet. The tallest arches reach a height of 200 feet.  The project was paid for by a special sales tax on beef, olive oil, wine, and other products.  On November 1st 1755, an earthquake hit the city, but the brand new aqueduct managed to remain intact.

We passed The Belém Palace, or alternately National Palace of Belém, which has, over time, been the official residence of Portuguese monarchs and, after the installation of the First Republic, the Presidents of the Portuguese Republic.   The photo of the palace is taken from Wikipedia.

There are only two guards who guard the palace!

Nonu stopped the car and went to buy us some Pasteis a Belem.  These custard tarts have been handmade, using traditional methods and to an ancient recipe since 1837.  The secret recipe originated from the Mosteiro de Jeronimos.  I don't like custard tarts in this country but these were just delicious - and that is an understatement!

We stopped at the Belem Tower (official name is Torre de São Vicente) which was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defence system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.  Constructed on the northern bank of the Tagus River, this tower was used to defend the city. Years later, it was transformed into a lighthouse and customs house.  It was started around 1514 and finished in 1519.  It was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.

This is an exact copy, in stainless steel, of the seaplane Santa Cruz which made the first crossing of the South Atlantic.  The Portuguese aviators were Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral and was made as part of the commemorations of the first centennial of the independence of Brazil.  The epic journey began next to the Tower of Belém at 4:30 pm on 30th March 1922 and although the journey lasted seventy-nine days, the flight time was only sixty-two hours and twenty-six minutes for a total of 5200 miles.

The next port of call was the Padrão dos Descobrimentos or the Statue of the Discoveries.  The structure is dedicated to the adventurers and explores who helped establish Portugal as a 14th century superpower. The original Padrao dos Descobrimentos was constructed from wood and plaster and was intended to be dismantled after the World fair of 1940.  During the later stages of Salazar's rule there was a trend of romantic idealisation of Portuguese history and the Discoveries Monument was converted to a permanent feature. The re-fabrication was completed in 1960 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator and this celebration was embraced by Salazar. The figure of Henry the Navigator is positioned at the front of the monument staring out towards the Atlantic Ocean.  The second person profiled is Queen Philippa of Lancaster, mother of Henry the Navigator.

From the Statue of the Discoveries we could see the The Sanctuary of Christ the King. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, after Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited Brazil. The project was inaugurated on 17th May 1959, while Portugal was ruled by the authoritarian President of the Council of Ministers António de Oliveira Salazar who gave his final permission for the project. The giant statue in cement was erected to express gratitude because the Portuguese were spared the effects of World War II.

Our whistle stop tour of Lisbon continued to the old heart of the city which was rebuilt in the 18th century, after the great earthquake of 1755.  We drove the small, winding, narrow and hilly streets up to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte (Our Lady of the Hill Viewpoint) which is the city's highest lookout point, here you have 260 degree views of the city.

Amongst the grounds there is a small statue of the Virgin and the Nossa Senhora do Monte Chapel.  Although the original chapel dated back to 1147 it was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake and the current one was built in the late 1700s. This chapel is reputed to protect women during childbirth, so many come here to receive its blessing.

We saw Lisbon castle, the Castelo de Sao Jorge, which was the ancient seat of power for Portugal for over 400 years.

When we go back to Lisbon, and we will go back, we will make sure that we see the old city on the number 28 tram. In any other city the 1930's trams would be an exhibit in museum, but in Lisbon they are an integral part of the public transport network.

It was then the end of our tour of Lisbon.  I seem to have written such a lot but we literally have only scraped the surface of the city.  We said our farewells to Nonu and clawed our way, knackered, back to our cabins.  We watched the sail-away from the Sunset Bar but, sadly, sunset had already occurred and all we could see were the lights of the city as we sailed away.  We will be back Lisbon!!

I have done a lot of history research on Lisbon and Portugal so will do another post tomorrow along with more photos that there really isn't room for on this post without crashing Blogger's servers!

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