Sunday, December 5, 2004

Log 29 - Getting to Know Seville and Area and its Roman, Muslim and Christian roots

Log 29 covers October 29th -  November 30th, 2004 where we spend some time chillin' and taking in some of the major sites in Seville.  This truly is a gilded city. 

Friday, October 29th - Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana in Seville
Well, we have finally arrived in the great City of Seville (Sevilla to the Spanish) and are excited to immediately begin discovering its history.  As a result of Columbus' landing in the Americas in 1492, Seville was given a monopoly on Spanish trade with the new continent and rapidly became one of the richest, most cosmopolitan places in Europe, which is clear to see by the numerous historic buildings and plazas.  Plaza de Espana, shown here, was built in 1929 for the Iberoamerican Exhibition, Seville's first great international fair.   Today it still remains the most visited monument in Seville and one of the city's favorite relaxation spots with fountains and mini-canals around the grandiose, semi-circular brick-and-tile building shown here.

Plaza de Espana is famous for this type of beautiful tile-work.  Each province within Spain features its own unique tile portrait depicting age old accounts of history.  The use of colors within the details is magnificent.  We spend quite some time looking at this great art work knowing we will revisit this plaza over our stay, and will probably see something new each time.

Tile mosaic at Plaza de Espana

Sunday, October 31st - Halloween

Our third Halloween away provided yet another unique experience.  We organized a party on the dock for all the international people we have just met.  Being a first Halloween for the Norwegian, French and Spanish kids, we had to explain exactly what was involved.  

We started off with crafts where scary faces and spiders were assembled, pumpkins were carved and apples were bobbed for!  

Treat or Treat on the docks at Club Nautico Sevilla

Then there was 'trick or treating' between boats, followed by a pot luck meal get together.   As you can see by the costumes, everyone caught on fast and the whole evening was a great 'ice breaking' party between all the new arrivals at Club Nautico Sevilla.  
Great costumes by all

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Near the historic center of Seville and named for the king who commissioned it in 1928, Hotel Alfonso XIII, was designed to be Europe's most luxurious hotel.  It has served royal families, heads of state and innumerable personalities from all over the world (but not us!).  For the Royal Suite, it's about  € 1800 (Euros) per night ($C 3000). 

11:38 AM, Thursday, November 4th - The Cathedral

Seville's grand cathedral

Today, we decide to get out and see a couple of the major sights.  History is so much more impressive to us this way!  It's important to have an overview of the more recent history of Spain (or more correctly the Iberian Peninsula) to put together all the sights we will show you in this and other logs.  Briefly,  the Romans ruled the Iberian Peninsula  for about 600 years from 200 BC (when they beat the Carthaginians).   Christianity began two-thirds into this Roman occupation.  As Roman power and influence waned, the peninsula was gradually invaded by Germanic tribes from the north, particularly the Christian Visigoths who hang around until 711 AD, when Muslims from North Africa invade and overrun pretty much the entire peninsula within a few years (all the way up to today's France).  The Christians immediately begin to reconquer the peninsula, but it takes 8 centuries!  So the Muslims were here for a long time and their architectural footprints and influence are everywhere!  The area under Muslim control gradually and naturally shrinks to the south (the Andalucia - where we are) as the Christian Reconquista (reconquest) expands.  Finally, in 1492 and the same year Columbus discovers the Americas, Granada, the last Muslim possession, falls back to the Christian Kings.

Back outside the Cathedral in Seville, we discover that Seville was reconquered by Christians in 1248.  Back then, its main mosque, legacy of the Muslims, was used as a church until 1401 when the church authorities decided to knock it down and start again.  'Let us create such a building that future generations will take us for lunatics', they agreed.  Our experience of the place is that they got what they wanted in creating the largest place of worship in Spain and the third largest cathedral in the Christian world! 

Capilla Meyor - The Major Chapel

We can't even begin to show you the sheer size and wonder of this broad, five-naved cathedral.  The main building is 126m long and 83 m wide, with a height of 37m at the center of the transept.  It was completed by 1507 and was originally all Gothic, though work done after the central dome collapsed in 1511 was mostly in Renaissance style.   Shown here is the Capilla Mayor, considered the jewel of the cathedral with the biggest altarpiece in the world!  We marvel at the stained glass and incredible details, and find it unfathomable as to the effort and coordination required to bring this magnificent building to its current state.

Monument to Christopher Columbus

When we entered, we opted for an audio-guided tour, which adds tremendously to the detail hidden within the numerous famous paintings, sculpting and architecture.    A must-see for our family is the tomb of Christopher Columbus!  The great sailor's remains (or rather, his probable remains, for no one's completely sure that the real ones didn't get mislaid somewhere in the Caribbean) were brought here from Cuba in 1899.  The monument shows four pallbearers representing the kingdoms of Spain at the time of Columbus' 1492 voyage. 

3:00 PM, Thursday, November 4th, - The Giralda Tower

Giralda Tower - a minaret to a Muslim mosque

After a couple hours exploring inside the Cathedral, we head to the passage connecting it to the Giralda.  'Giralda' is the name of this tower, built as part of the previous Muslim mosque.  From this tower (called a minaret), the Muslim faithful were called to prayer five times each day by a muezzin, or crier. Such a tower is always connected with a mosque and has one or more balconies or open galleries. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the call to prayer was made from the highest roof in the vicinity of the mosque.

As an emblem of Seville and its rich history, the Giralda forms an elegant and tall silhouette next to the Cathedral.  This structure was originally 76 m high and built as a minaret to the mosque in the 12th century.  In 1568 the Christians fitted the minaret with a bell tower and at the very top is El Giraldillo, a bronze weather vane representing Faith, whose nickname Giraldillo also gives its name to the tower.  These additions increased the height to 96 m from sidewalk to tip of weathervane. 

Views from inside the Giralada

We find the ascent to the top quite easy as there is a series of ramps (not steps) all the way up, which enabled access to the top long-ago to be made on horse back.  As we climb, we are not only enjoying the great views, we envision and hear the horses hooves clomping up the well-worn old stone. 

As we depart the Cathedral grounds, we decide to attend a flamenco concert tonight we have heard about.  Chris and our onboard guest Nik walk for tickets while Sheila and the boys head home to make a quick supper. 

8:43 PM, Thursday, November 4th, - Flamenco Concert

Cultural Center of El Monte - Flamenco Concert

Flamenco is a mix of song, dance and music born of Gypsy and Andalusian culture.  It is also strongly influenced by the Arabic culture, which filled it with sentiment from the persecution of Andalusian Moors (Muslims) and Gypsies after the reconquest by the Catholic Kings.  Centuries later, in the 1970's, musicians started mixing traditional flamenco with jazz, rock, blues, etc. creating a new flamenco sound which has brought appreciation of flamenco rhythms to millions who might otherwise have passed it by.   This concert is very traditional with distinct Arabic influence in the singing.  Gerrit asks at one point, "Is she crying?"  We need more shows to be able to hear and see distinction because this certainly was a far-cry (or was that a wail) from the familiar Gypsy Kings style we have enjoyed. 

Friday, November 12th - The Alcazar Palace

Today we find ourselves within the walls of the first royal palace in Seville.  The Alcazar began life as a fort for the Cordoban governors of Seville in 913, and has been adapted and/or enlarged in almost every century since. 

A fountain in Seville's first palace - the Alcazar

If you paid attention to the history lesson above, you'll have placed the starting date as being under Muslim occupation.  Cordoba was then the peninsula's Muslim capital, and Sevilla an out-post.  The Alcazar now feels like an Arabian Nights fairy-tale with finely etched domes, keyhole arches, and comfy courtyards.  While the décor is Moorish (or Arabic) in style, we saw depictions of peacocks, animals, and kings, which you apparently don't find in true Muslim décor.  The walls are ornamented with a stylized Arabic script that relates New Testament verses. Quite an interesting mix in this palace shared over time by many Muslim then Christian monarchs.

Gardens at the Alcazar Palace

The outside gardens are a beautiful compliment to the palace with gentle murmurs of water combined with the smell of flowers and orange trees.   It is easy to see why it still remains the official residence of the current royal family. 

Monday, November 15th, 2004 - Homeschooling at it's best. 

Today's homeschooling involves Mark from s/v Arcturus giving a lesson on scuba diving.  Being just two on board (Mark and partner Murphy) they have room to carry tanks and all the requirements for diving.  
Mark is super good at answering all the questions and even lets the boys try the breathing apparatus. 

May we introduce BUC!

Black Ugly Car = BUC

By the way, back in Portugal we bought this car for € 500 for our six-month stay in Seville.  BUC is an acronym for 'Black Ugly Car'.  Well, he's not that ugly and he gets us around to all the sights, grocery stores, and airports for visitors.

Wednesday, November 17th - So long Nik!

Take care Nik...see ya back in Canada

Well, after almost 7 weeks with our family, Nik's family is missing him terribly and we think Nik is missing his.  It has been a great opportunity for us all and he'll forever be in our hearts.

Chris and Gerrit drive Nik the two hours SE to Malaga, Spain where he is able to get his fingers wet in the Mediterranean Sea before catching a flight to Norway to visit some relatives and then back to a Canada, all just in time for winter!  Not bad for a 14-year old. Godspeed Nik!

Nik at the Mediterranean before flying home

Sunday, November 21st, - Ancient Roman City of Italica  

Italica and its Roman ampitheatre

Our first sight-seeing trip is all of 8 km northwest of Seville to the site of the Roman city of Italica.  Founded in 206 BC as a place of settlement for veterans of Rome's victory over Carthage at nearby Ilipa, Italica's name makes reference to Italy, the original homeland of the first inhabitants.  
Excavation of this huge archaeological site has uncovered broad streets, public bathhouses, walls and the impressive ampitheatre shown here, which is said to have been big enough to hold 25,000 spectators for the Sunday feeding of the lions!  

Old streets uncovered and rebuilt

Roman streets complete with underground plumbing

The city was very advanced with running water being brought in by an acquaduct to cisterns and from there passed to the public fountains and main buildings.  Waste water passed into drains, which we could still see through railings at the junctions of the streets.  One of these drains is clearly visible as a black square just below the people in this photo of  a Roman walkway, still in its original condition.  Much of the old city remains uncovered though archaeological work has not stopped.

Wednesday, November 24th - Keeping Cool in Seville's heat

When we arrived in Seville, we were very happy to once again be greeted by the smiling faces of a Norwegian family on board the s/v Stroller, whom we had originally met back in Portugal.   We (and apparently they neither) had no idea they were coming here for the winter.  Ola being 11 years old, along with Henrik at 8 years old are great kids that our guys really enjoy the company of.  Chris caught up with them keeping cool by filling up with water and squirting each other.  In this carefully choreographed photo, they simultaneously squirt straight up in the air.


Tuesday, November 30th - Boat projects

Tioga at berth at Club Nautico Sevilla

Our first month has been quite hectic as we try to get a feel for the city.  This day finds us back in reality with tons of boat projects also to do.  Today, we washed all the sails down with fresh water and luckily a perfect breeze came up to help dry our genneker before storing it away for the next 5 months.  Yes, we are tied to the dock at Club Nautico Sevilla with a beautifully trimmed sail! 

In Log 30, we continue to explore the fabulous sights in the area, with a trip to Cordoba, the historical Muslim capital of the Iberian Peninsula, Christmas in Seville, and a trip to see where Christopher Columbus organized and departed on his famous voyage and discovery of the Americas. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 5, 2004

Log 28 - Portugal's Algarve and Southwest Spain

Log 28 covers October  6 - 25th, 2004 where we sail along Portual's Algarve and the south of Spain.  Eventually we motor up the Rio Guadalquivir to spend the winter in Seville, Spain. 

Wednesday, October 6th - Cabo de Sao Vincente (Cape St Vincent)

We depart Lisbon on the afternoon of October 5th for an overnight sail south to the town of Lagos, located in the Algarve region, which encompasses basically the entire south coast of Portugal. We rounded this point on Tioga in the early morning of October 6th, but we took this photo a week or so later while actually standing next to the huge lighthouse on the end of the cape.   This cape is Europe's south-westernmost point.  Awesome is the only word for this barren, throne-like headland, which was the last piece of home that Portuguese explorers would have seen as they headed out into the unknown sea! 

Cabo San Vincente - SW corner of Europe

Thursday, October 7th - The Algarve (south end of Portugal)

Once safely settled into the marina at Lagos, we set out in the dinghy to explore the coast line known as The Algarve.  The name Algarve comes from the days of Moorish occupation from the 7th to the 12th centuries,  though its warm coastline has attracted foreigners since the time of the Phoenicians, some 3000 years ago.   The rock colors and formations are exquisite and some arches high enough to drive the dinghy through .    We spend the afternoon on this beach and climb the steep steps up to the view point for this great shot.  (Wide view picture)

Popular beaches of the Algarve

Sunday, October 10th  - Ponta de Sagres

Just a few kilometers from Lagos, is the Ponta de Sagres promontory.  It is continually blasted by a steady, cutting wind and huge Atlantic waves on three sides, thus the steep, sheer cliffs.  The areas age of importance occurred in the 15th century when Prince Henry the Navigator chose it for a pioneering effort to extend the field knowledge in cartography, navigation and ship design.  He had his ships built, equipped and staffed in Lagos for the daring expeditions that soon followed to Africa and Asia, setting Portugal on course for the Age of Discoveries.  (Wide view picture)

More classic beaches

Wednesday, October 13th - Hopping the south coast of Portugal

The Algarve is a very popular destination with the British as a get-away from the gloom and gray of winters.  The crowds of people are coming in as winter looms ever closer.    We enjoy the last few times swimming for the season as this water is much, much colder than we are used to and we know we won't be braving it over the winter.    Tomorrow we are on our way with a few quick stops planned before entering the Rio Guadiana, a river that forms part of the border between Spain and Portugal. 

Our boys are growing up - this is a composite picture if you look carefully.

Friday, October 15th - Rio Guadiana Bridge

We decide a great way to see Portugal and Spain at the same time is to take the boat up the Rio Guadiana, which serves as a border for some 50 kilometers between the two countries.    The river has a current to be reckoned with so we enter the river on a rising tide in order to clear the hazardous bar at the entrance, and make it up the 20 or so miles to the Portuguese town of Alcoutim and the Spanish town of Sanlucar de Guadiana on one tide.    After passing under the rather elegant suspension bridge shown here, the route upstream is quiet, pretty and deep in the centre as well as on the outside of bends.

Heading up the Guadiana river between Spain and Portugal

Saturday, October 16th - Portugal (far side)- Spain (this side)

We anchor on the Spanish side and quickly discover just how strong the current is.  On a rising tide, our chain is stretched out as Tioga is pushed upstream.  Obviously a 180 degree shift in Tioga's position occurs on a falling tide.  We climb up to the fort on the edge of  Sanlucar de Guadiana, and enjoy the views across to Alcoutim.  Like dozens of other fortified villages that face each other across the Rio Guadiana, it is a reminder of centuries of mutual distrust. (Wide view picture)

High on a cliff in a fort overlooking Sanlucar (ES) and Alcoutim (PT)

The trees are brimming with fresh oranges that are dropping to the ground everywhere.  The guys delight in picking the oranges and squeezing us fresh OJ.  As Nik would say, 'It's like tasting the sunshine!' 

Making fresh orange juice

Monday, October 18th - Fortified Castle in Alcoutim

This evening we decide to explore the town of Alcoutim at night.  There is always a certain air of mystery at night time and it is certainly prevalent walking about castles that would probably have many horror stories to tell if they could talk!  The mood is lightened by the boys picking up rocks and recreating scenes from Monty Pythons, "The Holy Grail".  Can't you see their horses and hear the sound of their hooves as their rocks click together?? 

King Arthur's Knights in search for the Holy Grail

Tuesday, October 19th - Town of Puerto de La Laja

This day we decide to explore a little farther upstream and find this town with its now defunct iron ore storage and shipping dock.  The holding compartments for the ore are clearly visible with steep slants for it to slide down into the cargo ships holding tanks for outbound shipment.  The old train tracks for trains whom once hauled in the ore from the nearby mines are now removed and we enjoy a nice hike along the beautifully maintained trail.  This is as far upstream as we dare to venture as the river becomes narrow and unnavigable only a few miles farther up. 

Old iron ore mine - long gone industry

Stitches out

While in Lagos on the Algarve, Gerrit took an off balance step in the cockpit and crashed into the winch.  He ended up with 3 stitches in his forehead and 4 stitches in his chin. Ouch!  A doctor on the dock in Lagos showed Sheila how to remove stitches when the wound was healed.  The job went well, despite shaking hands!  We are just so glad the accident happened with a hospital just down the street.  

Sheila removing Gerrit's stitches

Wednesday, October 20th - San Lucar de Guadiana, Spain

After a few peaceful days up the river, we decide to move on as we are all anticipating Seville!   With an ebb tide to help us down the river, we make it out in one go, and anchor for the night just off the Spanish city of Ayamonte, where the mouth of the river meets the ocean.   Now we are in position to head out tomorrow for small hops along the south coast of Spain and to the mouth of the Rio Guadalquivir. 

Sunset at Sanlucar de Guadiana

Friday, October 22nd, - Halloween approaching!

Some of you folks may wonder what we do when there is no wind?  Are we purists who sit for days on end waiting for wind or do they motor?   Well, we find a good balance.   We are patient and will go down to 2 knots before the engine, but in these dead flat calm seas, no question, on comes the engine.  Gerrit even manages to get some exercise while underway as he tries out his Halloween costume.

Ninja boy can't wait for Halloween.

Saturday, October 23rd - Entrance to the Rio Guadalquivir - Seville here we come!

Well, we have finally made it to the river that will take us about 90 kilometers inland to the city of Seville.  We arrive late in the day with about an hour of sunlight left and it is just before high tide so we can once again safely clear the entrance bar.  The safe channel is clearly marked with red and green buoys and it is very narrow with no room for error.   We continue upstream a few kilometers and then anchor for the night out of the channel just off a red buoy.  Now we are in position to begin early tomorrow morning at the beginning of a rising tide and take full advantage of the upstream current to try to make it to Seville in one day. 

Approaching the entrance of the Guadalquivir - many underwater hazards.

10:26 am - Sunday, October 24th - Upriver climb to Seville

We are underway by 7 am with a slight falling tide still against us.  After about an hour, a thick, pea soup fog descends upon us.  On the radar we can see huge ships approaching but don't actually see them until they are less than 2 boat lengths away!   Feeling out of our comfort zone navigating new waters with no visual, we decide to drop the anchor outside of the channel, right beside a green buoy.  After breakfast, the fog has lifted and we get underway feeling much better about being able to see the shipping traffic!  The current is very strong in our favour and we are cruising along at 10 knots in some sections. 

Heading up river with the tide pushing us along.

3:32 pm - Lock at Seville

We seem to make it upstream in record time and are happy to find the lock, allowing us to enter the tide-controlled Port of Seville, still operating.  It is a mini Panama Canal with a whole lot less organization. 

Port of Sevilla locks - the port is tide controlled

 After numerous calls on the VHF radio to request proper procedures, we are finally waved into the lock.  After slowly maneuvering into the lock just in front of the container ship shown here, the canal handlers lower us down a 'waiver of liability' form to sign before they will even take a line from our boat.  With their release of all faults in hand, we are tied to the canal wall and raised a whopping 4-5 centimeters before the lock opens on the other end. 

Tied to the canal wall

7:55 pm - Puente de las Delicias - Our final bridge

Once clear of the lock, we pass under a huge spanning bridge and are in the heart of the Port of Seville shipping area.  Our final bridge into Seville is a lifting bridge and it does not open until 8 pm.  We tie to a cement dock just before it to wait the 3 or so hours.   Just before 8pm we pull back into the channel with every one of our navigation lights blazing, call the bridge tower on the VHF radio to arrange definite opening, and Voila...traffic bows before Tioga as we clear the bridge. 

Lights of Sevilla - we're just about "home"

Monday, October 25th - Sevilla - Our City for the next 6 months!

Tioga is now securely tied to the dock at Club Nautico Sevilla.  We have traveled a long way since leaving the west coast of Canada and are all very excited about being stopped in one place for a long time.  

Sevilla! for the winter - a break!

Check out Log 29.  We plan to take Spanish lessons, explore the area, enjoy a regular school schedule, get boat projects done and find some time to meet new friends and relax...finally!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Log 27 - Lisbon, Portugal and surrounding areas

This log covers September 23rd to October 5th, 2004 where we are super excited to be exploring ancient Europe. So Amazing. 

Saturday, September 25th - Castelo de Sao Jorge high on the hill above Lisbon of today

So we completed our Atlantic crossing landing at Cascais, just outside of Lisbon.  Legend has it that Lisbon was founded by Ulysses, but it was probably the Phoenicians who first settled here 3000 years ago, attracted by the fine natural harbour and the strategic hill where Castelo de Sao Jorge now stands.  Lisbon has had more than its fair share of glory and tragedy: the opulent days of great Portuguese navigators; gold discovers in the 17th century; and a massive earthquake in which its extravagance crumbled, never to be regained.  Portugal's entry into the European Community in 1986 finally cemented stable government and is now allowing Lisbon to reclaim a place on the European stage. 

Castelo de Sao Jorge

Inside Castelo de Sao Jorge

We begin our sight-seeing in Lisbon at St. George's Castle.  Perhaps that is St. George himself with the big sword! (Or maybe King John I).  

Knight with a big sword

We wind our way through the extremely narrow streets up to the castle.  Within the massive battlements are beautifully maintained grounds complete with turrets and sentry guard posts.


From it's Visigothic beginnings in the 5th century, the castle was later fortified by the Moors in the 9th century, sacked by Christians in the 12th century, and used as a royal residence from the 14th-16th centuries-and as a prison in every century.    Though what remains has been considerably reconstructed, it is still very impressive.   The inner area is now the focus of an archaeological survey. Roman and Islamic remains are anticipated. 

Back in the historic center of Lisbon, this square, formally called Terreiro do Paco (Palace Square) after the royal Palacio da Ribeira that overlooked it until the morning of the great earthquake on, November 1, 1755, would have greeted most visitors arriving by river or sea in bygone days.  The huge square still feels like the entrance to the city, thanks to the bronze equestrian statue of Dom Jose I and the grand Arco da Victoria, the grand arch in the background opening onto the main street of Rua Augusta.

Dom Jose I and the grand Arco da Victoria

Monday, September 27th - Atlantic Crossing Party

When we were in the Azores, we had met numerous cruisers going various directions.  With some of the cruisers 'going our way,'   we had set up a communication schedule for boat 'check in' on the crossing from the Azores to Lisbon.  We were one of the last to leave the Azores, but once all were safely across, we hosted a huge potluck celebration.  On board were the crews from s/v Chinook, s/v Peregrine, s/v Nai'a, s/v Haven, and of course the crew of Tioga.  Friends back home, a toast to you from us and some of our new friends out doing the same thing we are and to our successful Atlantic crossing!

Atlantic Crossing - Class of 2004

Tuesday, September 28th - Age of Discoveries Monument, Belem

Today, we set out to see some of the sights in the district of Belem.  First is the 'Age of Discoveries' monument symbolizing a memorial to Portuguese sea power. It was inaugurated in 1960, on the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. It is shaped like a stylized ship and crowded with important Portuguese figures. At the prow is Henry the Navigator and behind him navigators like Vasco da Gama and such.

Discoveries Monument, Belem

Inside we see the movie, 'Lisbon Experience', and have a quick 15 minute view of the incredible history to Lisbon. The movie depicts many centuries of takeover after takeover, but what sticks mainly in our minds is the massive earthquake at 9:30 am on All Saints' Day, November 1, 1755. Residents were caught inside churches as 3 major tremors hit, followed by devastating fire (kindled by the thousands of votive candles) and a tidal wave that submerged the lower town. At least 13,000 people perished in the tragedy.

The site of the monument most famously marks the place from which the great explorer Vasco da Gama set sail on July 8, 1497.  He completed a two year voyage on which he discovered a sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope, setting into motion a fundamental shift in the world's balance of power.

Vasco da Gama

Torre de Belem (The Tower of Belem)

Well, we're now into buildings only found in fairy tales and chess games!  This hexagonal chess piece is perhaps Portugal's most photographed monument. 

The Tower of Belem - A giant chess piece

 It was built as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbour but, unfortunately the shoreline slowly shifted south, and the tower now sits out in the stream of the River Tagus. 

Tower now surrounded by water

We enjoyed the climb up the narrow, circular stairs to the top floor, and then quickly viewed each floor on the way down. The turrets and guard posts each boasted their own views of Lisbon and surrounding area. 

The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos - Monastery in Belem

From the Tower of Belem, we cross over to Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.  King Dom Manuel I ordered this monastery to be built in memory of Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India and, while he was at it, arranged that its church be made a pantheon for himself and his royal descendants, many of whom are now entombed in its side chapels.  The building is built on the site of the riverside chapel in which da Gama and his officers had kept an all night vigil before departing on their historic voyage.  It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St Mary of Bethlehem - hence the district's name Belem.   Work began  in 1502 and before completion towards the end of the century, it became a combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Classical architectural styles.

Monastery - a hodgepodge of architectural styles

As we walk through, we view the tombs of past kings and queens.  They would have a crown on top of the tomb, which was in turn held up by marble elephants.

Tomb held up by marble elephants

It was also very clear for us to distinguish the various architectural styles, the lines between them were very distinct. 

Inside the monastery's cathedral

Monastery Cloisters

We then ventured to the central courtyard of the monastery's cloisters. The monastery was populated by monks of the Order of St Jerome, whose spiritual job was to give comfort and guidance to sailors, and of course to pray for the king's soul.  The cloisters were a peaceful place where the monks would go to rejuvenate and meditate.  The architectural work done here is considered the jewel of the manuline style….absolutely stunning.  Click on the image for an even closer view.

Take a close look at the detail - amazing!

Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum)

Our final stop of the day takes us to the National Coach Museum which is one of the best collections in the world of horse drawn coaches from the 14th - 19th century. There are coaches for every occasion; wedding coaches, baptismal coaches, burial coaches, all illustrating the staggering wealth of the old Portuguese elite. Our favorite was the 'Exchange of Princesses' coach. It was used when the princess of Portugal was taken to Spain's border to then go off and marry a Spanish King, while the coach then picked up a Spanish princess whom returned to marry a Portuguese King.  Ahh, the stuff fairytales are made of!!

Very grand coaches

Thursday, September 30th - Our family friend 'Nik' arrives

Since leaving Calgary, we have been trying to find a mutually convenient time and place for our old neighbor, Nik, to come spend some time with us.  He is able to get to Lisbon, which will allow him to travel with us into the Straits of Gibraltar and up the Rio Gualaquiver to Seville, Spain.  Three boys on board creates a unique dynamic and they are always looking for something to do.  Here, they build a raft with the duct tape and 40 plus empty water bottles our friends on s/v Chinook gave them.  Gerrit could stand on it, but Nik would sink it, big difference in size!

What to do with three kids and 40 water bottles...

Friday, October 1st - Train Station

With time rapidly running out on our three month visas for Portugal (we landed in the Azores on July 8th), we begin to watch weather and look for a good weather window to head south.  Currently it looks like an early next week depart.  We have time for one last trip to downtown Lisbon for some final sights.  We come upon this old building that now houses the train station.  The horse shoe archways are a dead giveaway of the Arabic influence of past days.

Very typical Arabic designs on the train station

Sunday, October 3rd - Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra

We were told if we could only make one day trip from Lisbon, it must be to see Sintra.    For 500 years the kings of Portugal chose Sintra as their summer resort, and the nobility built extravagant villas and surrealist palaces.  The Sintra mountains are rich and beautiful and are essentially the heart of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park , which is the most westerly point in Europe. They are the only area in the world to have been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site both for their cultural interest an their natural beauty.

Moorish castle high in Sintra's hills

Within the town of Sintra, we catch a bus up the steep, winding road to the ruins of Castelo do Mouros (Moorish Castle), which overlook the town.  This amazing castle was first built by the Moors but captured by Christian forces under Alfonso Henriques in 1147. We could not help but think of the Great Wall of China as we viewed the battlements snaking over the craggy mountainside to and fro from various turrets. 

This castle was composed of many cisterns (wells) thus it had the capacity to sustain siege as it had its own water. We all totally enjoy clambering about and marveling at the stunning views of the countryside as we imagine the peril invaders would have to endure to try to overthrow such a strategic location. 

View of the valley from the castle.  Look at the other villas...

Palacio Nacional da Pena, Sintra.

After a quick bite to eat, we catch the bus further up the steep hill to Palacio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), a bizarre building with extraordinary architecture. 

According to history, King Dom Manuel I was hunting on the hill one day and caught sight of Vasco da Gama's fleet sailing up the Rio Tagus estuary having completed their first voyage to India. There was already a chapel built there but the King ordered a convent be built there to give thanks for the success of the expedition. Three centuries later, on the remains of the 15th century convent, Prince Consort Ferdinand built a palace, complete with all the fantasy and romanticism typical of the period.

 The palace is said to remind people of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, though it is older and considered more beautiful. It rises up from the rocky hillside like a natural extension of it and the views are spectacular. The interior is mind-boggling with a real sense of mystery where many of the decorative elements are said to have underlying secret meanings. The rooms are said to have been left just as they were when the royal family fled on the eve of the revolution in 1910. As we walked through, we tried to imagine the life of the rich and wealthy families complete with royal coaches being pulled up and down the narrow pathways. Truly an amazing place.

Maybe Disneyland copied Sintra's Pena Palace??

Sunset on Sintra Valley
On the way down, we stop for a rest and a snack before catching the bus back into Sintra. It is very busy and we are amazed at how the bus driver could maneuver the massive bus through the narrow streets lined with cars. At one point, he nudged a mirror but that was it! Back in Sintra, we head to Pizza Hut…what adventurous local eaters….it was really good though for our hungry, tired bunch. Unfortunately, we miss our 7pm bus home so we must wait until 8:25pm for the 40 minute ride back. At least we get to view this magnificent sunset of the valley. 

Sintra Sunset - what a great day

Tuesday, October 5th - Fouled Anchor!

All week long Sheila has been concerned of a fouled anchor as the scraping sounds vibrating through the anchor chain are none like we've heard before.  Well, sure enough our chain was wrapped around this massive chunk of rock.  With the help of fellow cruisers anchored beside us, we manage to raise and unwrap from our chain the foul debris.  We are very relieved to be raising the anchor in a calm flat anchorage, it could have been bad if we were trying to raise our anchor because of a wind shift causing waves to roll through the anchorage.  That could have resulted in our windless (mechanical anchor raiser) being torn off the deck!

Fouled anchor - natural or man made?

Underway again

We leave the Cascais anchorage around 2pm with an overnight sail planned.  If things time out, we'll be going around Cabo de Sao Vincente, the most southerly and westerly point of Europe, at first light, and we'll be into Lagos 24 hours ahead of an ugly weather system fast approaching. 

Nik takes the helm as we depart Lisbon

 Catch you in Log 28  - The Algarve of Portugal!