2012 May 2 & 3 – Days 52 & 53 – Lisbon, Portugal

We were berthed in Lisbon for two nights.  However, our first day shore excursion – a river cruise on the Tagus was cancelled due to heavy rain.  The ship’s Shore Excursion desk had been told we would be using covered boats but found out that morning that we would all be in open boats and so they cancelled it.  Consequently we spent the day relaxing on the ship. Several times during the day the rain quit and we considered going into town to walk around but then the rain would begin again.  Laziness won out over getting wet and we enjoyed a quiet day on board. It wasn’t raining during the sail-in on the morning of May 2 and we spent some time on deck as the ship made its way to the port.  The 25 of April Bridge connects Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the left bank of the Tagus.  The bridge was inauguated on August 6, 1966 and is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco due it similar appearance. (It was built by the same company.)  The bridge was originally called the Salazar Bridge but soon after the Carnation Revolution in 1974, the bridge was renamed the 25 de Abril Bridge, commemorating the day the revolution occurred.  There are now six car lanes on the mail level and two train tracks on the lower level. Lisbon is built on seven low hills on the north side of the Tagus River.  It is considered one of the most enjoyable cities in Europe due to is cultural diversity, laid-back feel and old-time architecture.  There are tree-lined streets and Art Nouveau buildings, mosaic pavements and street cafes.  Many of the cities attractions are within walking distance of each other in the central city area.The second day in Lisbon we enjoyed a look at some of Lisbon’s beautiful Baroque-style architecture and decorative tiles.  Baroque flourished all over Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, during a time that Portugal enjoyed tremendous wealth from the discovery and exploitation of mines in Brazil.  Some say Baroqe is the art of embellihsment, other say it is the art of extravagance.

We drove past several buildings that were decorated with lovely tiles.  Portugal has used tiles extensively for centuries, both on exteriors and interiors of buildings.  Paint flakes and fades, and adobe drys and cracks in the intense heat of summer and the constant winds off the water, but the tiles endure; staying bright and clear for hundreds of years. We visited the Basilica da Estrela, which has marble of various colours on the walls and floors.  The church was not nearly as ornate as many of the Roman Catholic Churches we have seen on this cruise.  It was built in the late 1700’s.  The priest was not happy to have our group arrive.  He quickly put a rope across the front of the church to cordon off the altar area and he hovered nearby all the while we were there; making sure no one went anywhere he felt they shouldn’t.

The patterns in red, grey, and white marble made for lovely floors and domes.

We had left the ship at 8:15, driven more or less directly to the church, and by the time we left there the tile museum, which was our next stop was still not open.  To kill some time the bus driver took us on a panoramic tour of Lisbon.  This worked out well for us since we had stayed on the ship all day the day before.  The National Tile Museum is housed in a former convent, Madre de Deus (Mother of God Convent), so the building was as nice to tour as the tiles.  The museum displays tiles from the 11th century to modern day.

One hallway was a gallery of more modern-day tiles and other artwork.                            In this area the tiles are cleaned, sorted, and catalogued.There was a small church in the museum – formerly used by the nuns of the convent – that was extremely ornate with gilt-framed artworks edge to edge on every surface – including the ceiling. The pièce de resisténce of the collection was the 73 foot-long multi-tile panel portraying the skyline of Lisbon from the riverbank.  Made in the 1700’s, the panel became of major historical significance after three quarters of the city was destroyed in 1755 in an earthquake and tsunami (one half of the population died in the tragedy).  In this tile panel there is a permanent record of what the city looked like at the time. The sun was shining for our sail-away at 1 pm, but by evening the ship was once more  rock n’ rolling on the ocean waves The Monument to the Discoveries, built in 1958.  It represents a somewhat romanticized idealism of Portuguese  expansion and exploration.  The original was displayed at the Portuguese World Exposition in 1940 and later demolished.  This, larger cement and rose-tinted stone one was built on the northern bank of the Tagus River. We enjoyed a day at sea before we reached Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.  We only had two ports of call remaining before we headed back across the Atlantic to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and the end of our Mediterranean and Black Sea adventure.

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