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!

Friday, October 1, 2004

Log 26 - Last of the Azores and the Conclusion of our Atlantic Crossing

Travel makes one modest, you see what a small place you occupy in the world.  

This log covers August 26th - to September 23rd, 2004
where we finish off exploring the beautiful island of the Azores and conclude our Atlantic crossing as we head to main land Europe!

August 26th - Punta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel

We safely arrive at Punta Delgada on the island of São Miguel after a complete thrashing over night.  The surge from a storm is coming right into the marina, causing all the boats to lurch and grind right at the dock!  We end up tearing out our spring line cleat as the surge literally sheers off the thru-bolts.  Oh well, just another thing to add to the job list.   It is another place to explore and we are glad to be here.  The classic yacht in this picture now belongs to us - just kidding - belongs to the ex-president of Philips Electronics (Netherlands), one of the world's biggest electronics companies and Europe's largest.  We get to spend a little time aboard with her Indonesian crew.

A classic ship gently rocks in Marina Ponta Delgado

Colorful house on Sao Miguel

São Miguel, the largest island of the archipelago and its commercial and governmental center, is also known as the Ilha Verde, or the green island, due to the abundance of pasture and forest covered peaks.  It was once two islands as evidenced by the two large volcanic massifs at each end and the low central area that emerged later from the sea following further eruptions.  There are four large caldeiras (volcanic craters) on the island with the oldest rocks dating as far back as four million years!!  That's old.

Local fishing fleet.

There are also numerous beautiful little villages on the ocean with local fishing fleets.  What a well maintained and colorful fleet.

Friday, September 3rd, - Bus trip to Furnas

Hike to the hot pools.
Today we catch a 9:00 am bus to the town of Furnas, about a 2 hour bus ride away.  Furnas is known for a beautiful lake as well as numerous hot thermal pools and springs. We have been told of a quaint little hot pool that only the locals appear to use.  The valley that collects the warm water is filled with Yam plants so it is a hike through tall, lush greenery, and the pools are awesome.

One of Furnas's numerous hot springs - nice massage

The water is crystal clear inside a small hot pool set partially inside a cave and we gently cook in it with ferns everywhere.   Just across the path is this small waterfall which massages our backs. Apparently, people have been coming to these hot pools for therapies for hundreds of years.

Terra Nostra Gardens
Later, we walk to the Terra Nostra Garden, now named after the hotel built in 1935 and who purchased the neglected gardens shortly thereafter. Originally, the gardens started in 1770 with a thermal swimming pool as it's centre-piece. The brown water results from high mineral content. 

Lily pad heaven.
The park consists of paths among boundless beautiful trees, ponds with goldfish and formal flower gardens.  Our day is over too quickly.

As fast as a donkey-drawn wagon
The bus ride home is slowed considerably as our driver patiently waits to pass this horse and wagon on the narrow rode in front of us.  This is one of so many wonderful reminders of bygone days here on the islands, something I am not so sure would be so tolerated on our busy roads.

Saturday, September 4th - Gypsy Kings!

Victor Cruz political rally
Well guess what?   It is election time and the same 'buy your vote' practices seem to happen no matter where you are in the world.  The current president of Portugal, Victor Cruz,  is sponsoring a huge event just across the street from the marina.  Free food, drinks, hats, t-shirts, pens, flags, you name it.

Gypsy Kings- Live!
And, the entertainment for the night is the famous flamenco guitarist band, 'The Gypsy Kings'.  We've been listening to them for most of their career, so what an unexpected treat!

Thursday, September 9th - Sete Cidades - Seven Cities

Another bus trip today lands us at Sete Cidades, a town built in the base of the volcanic caldeira that began some 29,000 years ago.  Apparently the caldeira collapsed 22,000 years ago and legend alleges that seven cities were buried.   We get off the bus at the rim of the crater and begin our magnificent hike along the rim up to the Vista do Rei viewpoint.

Start of our Sete Cidades exploration

We will walk around the ridge to the right all the way to the end.
It's a dirt road with spectacular scenes of the lush pastoral farm lands inside the crater to the left and the Atlantic ocean to the right.  Once to the viewpoint, we have clear views down to the 2 lakes inside the caldeira.  The Sete Cidades volcano contains a 5-km-wide summit caldeira, occupied by two caldeira lakes called,  Lagos Azul (Blue lake) and Lagos Verde (Green Lake).

At the view point, as we look down upon the lakes, we tell Joel and Gerrit how the two lakes were formed. The daughter of a great king fell in love with a shepherd in the valley.  When her dad learned of the romance, he forbid them to carry on as he had already promised her hand in marriage to a prince from another valley in return for a rich endowment.  They met one last time and the tears from their eyes - her's blue and his green - filled the crater floor.  And though they were never to meet again, their tears formed the lakes and are joined together for eternity, or so the legend goes.

Lagos Azul (Blue lake) and Lagos Verde (Green Lake).  

On totally clear days, from our vantage point one is supposed to clearly be able to see the blue lake and the green lake.  Our day is slightly overcast so there was a color difference, but not a distinct one.  These lakes are claimed to be one of the scenic highlights of the entire Azores for a reason!

Japanese cedars.

We take 'the path less traveled' down from the rim to the town.  It is a steep narrow trail deep in tall Japanese cedars and lush vegetation.  Glimpses of the lake and town appear here and there and finally after some directed bush whacking and a few scratches we make it to the water front and finish off our walk towards the town. 

Delivering the cream can to town

What a beautiful site...this island just keeps giving us more.

Hamburger and fries??

After a fabulous day of hiking, everyone has a huge appetite on.  We find the only restaurant in the village and, with considerable pressure from the boys, decide to stick to a safe order of hamburgers with fries.  Well, this is what we got....there are four hamburger patties, each with a fried egg on top, a pile of french fries, a salad and rice, all on one plate.  I guess we should have saved those buns that were brought with the drinks to make a hamburger bun!  It is very different but hunger smoothes out any objections and it is great!

Neat picture of a church

As we walk to catch our bus home, we come across this neat picture.   Once back at Tioga, the next days are spent preparing for our crossing to the European mainland.  We really must get going.  It is getting to be late in September and we need to get going before the winter storms begin to roll down from the north and our 90-day Portuguese visas expire.

Saturday, September 18th - Message in a Bottle
Wednesday, September 15th we finally manage to make a clear break from the islands with Lisbon in our minds.    Joel and Gerrit spend a morning creating a note to seal inside a bottle.

Boys toss out messages-in-bottles
Our log book notes they were launched at 1:59 pm at N 38-52.95 and W 19-23.97.  If they don't get run over by a ship at sea or totally smashed on rocks when they hit land, Joel and Gerrit are hoping for a reply one day.  With the distance currently to land and the effects of wind and current,  it could take years!!   Oh, notice the dead flat calm seas - it's like this a heck of a lot more often than any kind of storm!

7:31 am Thursday, September 23 - Land Ahoy

Gerrit watches for land fall
Dawn arrives after a totally awesome sail through the night complete with tunes on the Walkman as we are close enough to land to pick up local radio stations and Chris has found a great one.  On her morning shift, Sheila spies mainland Europe through the haze and Gerrit confirms it with the binoculars as soon as he gets up.   "Land Ahoy!"

10:58 am - Safely across shipping lanes

As we approach to within 10 miles off shore, we must cross two major shipping lanes, one going north and the other south.  These shipping lanes are about 1.5 miles wide each and contain many huge ships proceeding at very high speeds.  We pause to let one ship go, make a short 'security' call on the VHF radio to alert the ships of our small boat proceeding to cross the lanes and off we go.  There is a hint of fog so Sheila is at the helm and Chris on the radar calling out and ranging hazards before they can be seen with the naked eye.  We breathe a sigh of relief once across, and once again get caught up in the sight of land.

Safely across the major European shipping lanes

12:10 pm - Dropping anchor into European mud

Dropping anchor on the European mainland

It takes us a little while to clear the ocean and get into the bay at Caiscais, a suburb of Lisbon with a protected anchorage.  We will stay here for our visit as it is a short train ride to  Lisbon and surrounding area.  This photo was taken by our friends on s/v Nai'a, moments before we drop our anchor.  You can see the anchor off the roller at the bow of Tioga, ready to go down.

12:26 pm - Care Package Delivery

Care package - fresh bread, veggies and cold beer!

Within minutes of dropping our anchor, our friends on s/v Nai'a deliver us a care package filled with fresh bread, fruits and vegetables and cold beer!

Hannah from s/v Nai'a and Gerrit...fresh food :)

 Other cruisers sure do know what is important after being at sea!   We invited them aboard to drink the cold beer with us in celebration of both families' accomplishments.  Though at a different time than us, they too crossed the Atlantic this year. 

12:55 pm - The Crew of Tioga

It is hard to describe how we were all feeling.  Landing in the Azores was a huge feat with a great sense of accomplishment after being at sea for 26 days, but the feeling of completing the entire Atlantic crossing seemed ever so much more powerful.  Not many people can say they sailed across the north Atlantic ocean.

We crossed the Atlantic Ocean and feel GREAT!!

Our route from the Azores to Lisbon
Well, here's the summary of the final eight days of our trip across the Atlantic.  It was a long way to go, but now as we write up these logs, it feels like another life from long long ago...

Join us in  Log 27 where we get to do some serious exploration of Lisbon and area.  We've made it to Europe!