Today was our 22nd wedding anniversary, so it was quite a treat to be spending it in Lisbon, the historic capital of Portugal.
There is so much to see and do in Lisbon, and the beauty of it is that you can explore quite a large area of it on foot from the port, as everything is in close proximity. As the ship sailed into port it went underneath the spectacular “25 de abril” suspension bridge over the River Tagus. The constant drone of the traffic over the bridge was rather an invasion on your peace and quiet; it sounded like an angry swarm of bees. Nevertheless, the weather was fine and we were looking forward to exploring this fascinating city once again.
On disembarking Queen Elizabeth we strolled along the river bank, where there are lots of fashionable cafés, bars and restaurants. It really did look as though it would be a lively and fun place to be at night, but at this time of the morning there wasn’t a lot going on. We decided we would walk along to that most famous of Lisbon sites, the Monument to the Discoveries. This is a large monument shaped like a sailing ship and containing statues of each of the famous Portuguese explorers, lead at the front by Henry the Navigator. Portugal, although a small country, has an long and fascinating history as a country of maritime explorers and, like Britain, owned a lot of overseas territory at one time.
On arriving at the monument we paid our five euros each to go inside and take a lift to the top floor, where you can come out onto a gallery and have a fabulous view of the city. We also watched a 20-minute movie detailing a brief history of Portugal up to the present day. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and has lots of interesting old castles, forts and buildings. Not bad considering the city was devastated by a massive earthquake (9 on the Richter scale) in 1755 and had to be rebuilt.
We walked around until our legs ached and we’d worked up a good thirst for a Sagres, a popular Portuguese beer. We then bought some postcards to send and found a bar. We decided also to try the yummy local custard tarts called pastel de nata; they are absolutely delicious and it is difficult to stop at just one! 🙂
While we were sitting there enjoying our beer a little girl came up to us (I think she was the proprietor’s daughter) and started chattering away; it was obviously in Portuguese so we couldn’t understand her. We pointed to ourselves and said to her “English”, so she then saw us as an opportunity to practise her English and was ever so formal, using phrases such as “How do you do?” and asking us our names etc. It was so cute, particularly since we found out she was only five! How many five-year-olds in this country can speak any foreign words?
As we strolled along the waterfront on the way back to the Queen Elizabeth the bars and cafés we had passed earlier were now open, and one of them had its cocktail list chalked onto a board outside. One of the drinks was caipirinha, my favourite cocktail made from Brazilian cachaça rum (a sugarcane run, as opposed to sugar molasses), crushed limes, sugar and ice. It is so fruity and refreshing, especially on a hot day such as this. It is also easy to forget it’s quite strong in alcohol; try standing up after you’ve had two or three of them and you’ll know about it!
Once back on board the ship we had our lunch, then had a leisurely look around the ship before taking our time to get ready, as tonight was another formal night.
In the evening the entertainment was a classical violinist, Nicola Loud, who had won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Award. She was very good, although her personality was a bit gushing and over the top. Chac’un a son goût, however.