Impressions of Lisbon, Portugal (Nov. 4 - 11, 2018)

We had been in Lisbon for two weeks, but technically, we hadn’t really had the opportunity to actually see the city. The first week, Maik had to fly to the U.S. for a project installation, and I used the time to work, work, work. The next week, we left Cap’n Jack and Scout at a very cool doggie hotel called SweetPet for the week while Maik and I flew to Germany for more work and also to spend some time with Maik’s daughter.

When we returned to Lisbon early Sunday morning, we were missing the pups terribly. That was the first time in more than three months that I had been away from them even for a single day. But they weren’t scheduled to be delivered back to the marina until later in the afternoon, so Maik and I decided to take the bus into the city center and do a little exploring sans-pups.

Our first stop—Alfama.

Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo River. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, which means “hot fountains.” This little district is colorful and quaint and contains many historical attractions and tons of bars, cafes, and restaurants along its narrow streets and small squares.

During the times of Moorish domination, Alfama was the main city and later became inhabited by fishermen and the “poor”—locals consider it the “neighborhood of the poor” to this day. In recent years, the neighborhood has been invigorated with the renovation of old houses and new restaurants. One of its most frequent visitors is superstar Madonna, who is often seen in the local pubs and restaurants.

We enjoyed walking through the district, but it was a bit “touristy” for us. We climbed some of the very steep narrow streets and found a fantastic local café off the beaten path and outside of the heavy tourist zone. We went inside and enjoyed some delicious coffee and key lime pie with a pistachio crust. The proprietor convinced me to take the coffee black instead of my usual cream and sugar with a little coffee. I must admit, it was fantastic!

As we were heading back toward the bus station, all the city center streets were closed and the bus lines were closed. After asking around, we discovered why. There was a huge parade through the city with F-16 fighters flying overhead to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of World War I. The parade included high figures of the state and armed representatives from Germany, USA, France, and the United Kingdom. It was a moving, special experience, and we were so lucky to have just stumbled upon it. I love it when that happens!

We returned to Seefalke later that afternoon, just in time for Cap’n Jack and Scout’s return home. We were so happy to see them, and they were excited to see us, too!

The weather the next few days was not great. We were planning our passage to Morocco, and I wanted to explore the possibility of going to Gibraltar on the way to Morocco. But Maik explained to me about the storms that pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, which is the narrow opening into the Mediterranean. Sometimes these storms can last for several days, and we needed to get to Morocco by the end of the next week. I will explain in a couple weeks why this deadline was so important.

We continued to work on our work and also did a little boat maintenance and provisioning. There are always projects that need to be done on a boat. Meanwhile, Maik’s drone battery malfunctioned making it impossible for us to charge the drone. So Maik headed into the city to try and find a solution while I stayed in the marina and worked a little more.

Maik’s mission failed. Sometimes we wonder how people survive without a Best Buy or Wal Mart. But instead of a new or repaired battery, Maik returned to Seefalke with a new drone and had a great time the rest of the afternoon playing with his new toy.

The next day we headed back into the city and explored some of the very cool historic monuments. There are tons of monuments in Lisbon, but there were three in particular that caught our attention.

The Cristo Rei Christ (Christ the King) statue is one of Lisbon’s most iconic monuments. The statue of Christ stands high above the southern banks of the Tejo Estuary and depicts Christ with arms raised, blessing the city. Cristo Rei dates back to the 1950s. Its construction was in reverence for Portugal avoiding the horrors of WWII. It reminds me of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

The Belem Tower is a fortified tower built to be a part of the defensive system for the Tagus River estuary, providing crossfire with the Fortress of the São Sebastiāo de Caparice on the south bank of the river. The tower is surrounded by dramatic crashing waves on all sides.

The Monument to the Discoveries is especially cool and was easily my favorite. Shaped like a caravel prow, it was erected to honor the main characters of the Portuguese Discovery Age. Henry the Navigator, the Discoveries sponsor, is surrounded by kings and queens, explorers, navigators, artists, scientists, cartographers, and missionaries whose deeds granted them a place in Portugal’s history during the 15th and 16th centuries.

We took the ferry across the river into a part of the city where many locals live. This district feels like the ghetto of Lisbon. It’s older and much less touristy—and we just loved it. We stopped at a sweet outdoor family-owned restaurant. The proprietor took us straight to the “fish freezer” and recommended the fresh salmon, cod, and mackerel that came directly out of the sea just a few hours before. Then he introduced us to his father who was stationed at an outdoor grill that we think was probably as old as he was—maybe older. This grill would never pass any American FDA inspection, I can assure you. The proprietor told us his father had been catching and cooking fish for the restaurant for 46 years. The cook spoke no English, but we could easily understand his insistence that we would love this.

We chose to ignore the rust on the broken, ancient grill and simply sat down and enjoyed one of the tastiest meals I can ever remember eating. It was spectacular!

We spent the next two days working on the boat in the pouring rain and doing a little more provisioning. The provisioning is becoming more and more important as we get closer and closer to the Atlantic crossing. We have calculated that we need at least 600 liters of water and enough food for the four of us for at least two months—just in case.

We were waiting on a good weather opening for our passage to Morocco. It looked as though it would come on Monday. I was so excited I was about to burst.  For starters, I’ve never been to Africa. Also, I have always wanted to see Casablanca! Now, I’ll get to experience both.

But first, we needed to sail about 370 nautical miles across the Atlantic….