Here are the wikipedia and tourist links:
Zeebrugge is the port for Brussels but I don’t think we can get there. We will ride along the coast to the west and south.
Here are the wikipedia and tourist links:
Zeebrugge is the port for Brussels but I don’t think we can get there. We will ride along the coast to the west and south.
The temperature forecast read 49 degrees F when we woke up at 8am in Le Havre on Sunday–coldest day of our 44 day cruise so far. We’d have to bundle up. We both wore shorts but Marilyn wore her Alaska parka and I wore a sweat shirt when we started out at 915am. The day was overcast and I wondered if this was partly due to the Iceland volcano which was again spewing ash and closing airports in Northern Spain and Portugal as well as Scotland and Ireland. The day was also hazy, so this added evidence to my hypothesis. We had been in Le Havre during our cruise in Europe in 2007, but had chosen to take the train to Paris then, as did many of our cruise compatriots this day. We almost got lost in the cruise port this time trying to find our way out to the street, but we made it and I tried to memorize the route for the way back. We turned to the right or east and quickly came to a hotel we suspected might also have internet, so we decided to wait a little longer for the sun to warm the day and do our internet business.
The people at the Mercure Hotel were very helpful. Marilyn ordered coffee and hot chocolate while I obtained a map at the front desk. I asked the clerk to show me the way to Normandy and she said it might be a two hour drive. I then said that I was on a bike and wanted to know whether I could bike across the bridge over the Seine and that I might have to stop as close as Deauville if Normandy was really that far away. The clerk got on Google at the desk and printed out the instructions to the Normandy Bridge for me. This turned out to be almost 10 miles away in itself. Deauville was at least twice as far away. I realized I’d better be willing to stop at the bridge. While I was drawing out the route instructions on the map, Marilyn came to the counter to get the password for the internet. She had been interpreting a capital I as a numeral one and got locked out from the site. The clerk fixed this while I completed the map. We spent an hour on the internet. I had been hoping for the kind of hot chocolate displayed in the movie Chokolat—the thick, really dark stuff. I had found some at Naked Chocolate in Philadelphia and hoped to have the real thing in France. This wasn’t the same thing. They gave me a large cup of hot milk and a package of chocolate powder. I asked both the desk clerk and the barista whether they knew of this thick drink. They both claimed familiarity with the movie, but neither of them remembered the drink. Eventually, I exchanged the large cup for a small one and obtained a second package of powder. The resultant hot chocolate was very tasty but not the same as what I wanted. When the purchased internet hour expired, we returned to the bikes and began to negotiate the canals of Le Havre.
The entire port of Le Havre is fascinating. The city itself is also interesting. There has been a lot of city rehabilitation going on recently, and much of the city is now modern and attractive. The port spreads over several miles and has various distinct parts. There is the ferry terminal, the cruise ship terminal, many different commercial areas, and I assume there is a private power and sailboat harbor, although I didn’t see much of one. I did see commercial terminals. There may be a hundred large cranes visible above the horizon and there are trailer boxes stored everywhere. They seem not to be stacked four and five boxes high as I had seen in South America, but the area set aside for trailer storage is enormous. Le Havre is one of the busiest ports in the world and the second busiest in France behind Marseilles. These various commercial areas are connected by canals which themselves are separated by drawbridges. The city development has led to many posh mall and restaurant areas lined up along the canals. Walking and bike paths front nearly all of these. As a result, working one’s way out of the port involves a complicated series of rights and lefts around the canals past some really nice bars, restaurants, and other stores. Le Havre seems to be a very bicycle friendly city. Bike paths can get you almost anywhere and the cars are polite and used to driving on streets with bicyclists. The trip out of the city took a while, but it was comfortable, even pleasant riding.
At almost the last canal, after nearly four miles through the harbor, we were stopped by a crossing bar blinking red. I then noticed a large drawbridge reaching into the sky nearby and a large green ship moving through the canal in front of us. Once the ship passed, we waited for the bridge to reopen. The bridge moved slowly and the moving clouds made it difficult to tell whether it was coming down or not.
After a 15 minute wait, the bridge finally started moving and the barrier came up several minutes later. Finally we were off. Shortly, we realized the lonely street we were using was accompanied by a separate bike path. We moved onto the path and found ourselves riding alongside the last waterway, almost a mile long, and bordered by a grassy area hundreds of yards deep. This waterway parallels the Seine River and the grassy area reaches uncluttered more than a mile between the water bodies. The road was almost unused except for occasional bunches of bike riders who also use this path for their weekend rides. It was also very quiet. I saw few birds, but heard the calls of many in the trees and brush. The few birds I did see were ravens, gulls, and cormorants, but I am sure many smaller birds inhabit this area annotated on the map as a maison de l’estuaire. On the opposite side of the waterway were two enormous cargo ships being loaded. The diving cormorants seemed oblivious to their efforts.
I stopped to take a picture of the area and then noticed our destination on the horizon—the Pont (bridge) de Normandie. The haze made a picture at this distance less than ideal. We sped up and began to make time on the nearly straight rode to the bridge.
Along the way we passed many maritime businesses. The animal and plant inspection section is also housed along this road. There are several construction areas, which leads me to believe that this pristine area may soon be less than pristine. Six miles later we came to the turnoff for the bridge, more like a freeway entrance. Taking this danger as a sign and noting the advanced hour, we decided to call it a day and turn for lunch and the ship.
The trip back went quickly because the 10 knot wind was now following us and pushing. Coming into the canal area again, we found ourselves again stopped by the drawbridge. This time we decided to take the recommended detour, but returned soon to the original route. We picked a restaurant along the canal and sat down to a French meal in France. It turned out we had picked the right restaurant—one specializing in crepes. A series of waitresses eventually found us an English-speaking male waiter and we settled down for some real French food. I decided I wanted a salad like the young girl sitting at the table to my right and asked “Questce q’c’est?” Her mother opposite her guided us to the appropriate part of the menu as everyone in the restaurant turned toward us after hearing our English and poor version of French. I noticed that the table to my right was sharing a dessert crepe with three stacks of whipped cream atop ice cream and chocolate sauce—a French version of one of my favorites, waffles and ice cream. Eventually, we settled for a dish of pate, a Mediterranean salad, and a lox and crème fraiche crepe. Oh, and we got a bottle of Bordeaux—a small one.
All were excellent and the accompanying Baguette bread was perfect. I think we cleaned the plates so well they didn’t have to put them through the dishwasher. Our table neighbors applauded. We topped it off with espresso and apple caramel dessert crepe and dragged our stuffed bodies out of the restaurant to the bikes. On the ride back to the ship, Marilyn remarked that she should have wine more often when she rides because she suffered considerably fewer anxiety attacks. We got near the ship and had to ask some pedestrians if we were on the right path. At the ship we stopped to use the internet for phone calls and found they would only accept Euros of which we had none. A passenger nearby exchanged a five dollar bill for Euros when no commercial vendor in the building would do so. Then we learned that these computers wouldn’t support Skype. We got our Euros back and boarded the ship. Both of us enjoyed the time in Le Havre immensely.
The day dawned foggy and rainy in La Coruna but turned glorious before day was done. By the time we exited the gangway at 945am, the sun was peeking through the clouds and the temperature was warming up through 60 degrees. We each wore sweat shirts. The fog still hung over the hills behind the city, but the port was clear in all directions. We rode the 200 yards from the gangway to the customs building and passed through security quickly. A large four story glass front building adjacent to the pier driveway held an exposition center with a mall behind it. A few commercial ships were in the harbor to our left but the harbor to the right held mostly sailboats and yachts. The city facing the port here showed intricate-fronted four and five story buildings interspersed with a few older stone buildings like cathedrals and government buildings. The net effect was one of a clean, very attractive city.
We turned to the right or north upon leaving the port and came upon a small park with statues and fountains through which we rode on wide paths which eventually led to a marked bike path which we didn’t have to leave for the remainder of the day. During 99% of this ride, the bike path was part of a 10-20 yard wide marble walking path along the water. La Coruna here is a peninsula reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean with demonstrable knobs both to the right and to the left. The bike path runs along the entire length. It appears the coast is cleanly delineated into first the commercial harbor on the south side of the peninsula with space for the cruise ships, then marinas for private ships and sailboats, then eventually into the majority of the coast as rocky coastline beneath 100 foot high cliffs and several beaches, one as broad as the entire city on the north side of the peninsula opposite the commercial port. The older part of the city lies on the land connecting the knobs to the rest of the mainland.
Several lighthouses mark extremes all along this coast. The most prominent of the lighthouses lies on the most prominent hill about 20% into the ride at the 4 mile point.
This is called Torre Hercules and is surrounded by open grassland stretching 300 yards in all directions from the 100 foot high spiral staired building dating back to the Romans.
Pablo Picasso is a big benefactor to this city and one of the large buildings inland from the bike path on the way to the Hercules Tower is a school of art funded by him. Another architectural highlight along this way is a more than half mile long jetty stretching to the north which passes through and under a thirty story high building appearing like a large football goalpost with the offices at the cross bar. I think this building is some kind of a scientific or technical maritime center.
The road rises gently 300 feet above the water over about 2 miles and is accompanied by unique ornately shaped light posts on both sides of the street. Each post contains four unique ceramic pieces, two on each side. There are more than 300 of these orange painted posts along the stretch running up the hill and almost all of the way back down the hill as the coast turns back south along a wide bay.
The back side of the old city lies at the center of the bay coastline and is fronted by the more than half mile long 200 yard deep beach which is being reseeded with clean, light-colored sand from a dredge ship in the center of the bay. The sand is stored in 30 foot high dunes while construction equipment redistributes it along the beach. On our way back in the opposite direction later in the day, we could see sand saturated ocean water streaming from a three foot diameter pipe being fed by the dredge. The buildings fronting the beach are mostly modern shops selling high end goods. The people walking along the wide path on which we rode were well dressed, many with dogs on leashes, and many also accompanied by children. An upscale nursery and grammar school is found along the beach providing a stream of uniformed well-behaved children for activities like studies of the marine environment, running games, and parental education about the birds flying over the water and the fish in the water.
We were accompanied along this path by many people riding bikes, too. La Coruna seems a very bicycle friendly city with racks at several places along the path (including immediately in front of the cruise ship pier) containing bicycles which can be picked up at one location and dropped off at another location for a small fee per day. Each bike contains a latch on the steering post which fits into the rack for securing the bike. None of the cruise passengers could have an excuse here for not seeing the city aboard a bicycle; although one pair of passengers pointed out that they lacked helmets.
We stopped at three or four places along the path up toward the tower to take pictures. One of these picture opportunities was of a fishing boat in the northeastern part of the harbor being both ridden and followed by a huge flock of seabirds.
I also remembered a picture opportunity Marilyn and I had used in 2007 when we also rode through La Coruna. This was of a large colored (I thought it was maroon red) obelisk. I spotted several towers at various points in the distance and worked to get a picture from off in the distance before we approached it along the path. I therefore stopped several times for photos; along they didn’t match my memory of where the tower lay.
We passed Hercules Tower and vowed to walk up it on our return later in the day. We turned around this point/knob and spied the beautiful beach as we headed down the hill toward the old city. We stopped about half way down and locked the bikes to the stone fence for a bathroom break at a café with internet capability opposite the water. The espresso was served with a cookie and the wifi worked immediately. What else could one ask for? The bathrooms! The bathroom was notable for its décor, both modern and attractive. I made sure Marilyn tried the ladies’ version and she agreed the bathrooms here were special.
I asked the waitress for directions to the obelisk I had remembered and she didn’t know of any such landmark. I tried unsuccessfully to describe the color, the shape, and the approximate position relative to Hercules Tower. Eventually, I found a picture on the internet, showed her, and she rushed to the window to point to the huge landmark on the opposite side of the bay. It was much larger than I had remembered and it was more blue green than maroon.
Afterward, we tried to buy aspirin at a Farmacia nearby but decided the pills were much too expensive. Then Marilyn remembered she needed eye drops to relieve the dryness resulting from her laser keratotomy many years ago. We needed the type without the redout capability. You can imagine the show as we tried to explain with our meager Spanish. They showed us four options. When I tried to explain that we needed the stuff for “after laser surgery”, I found out they didn’t get my words for laser or surgery. When I tried to liken a laser to the light from the lamps in the ceiling, we got nowhere. Eventually, I learned they knew laser only when it was pronounced with a short”a” sound and the accent on the second syllable. For about 10 minutes they thought I was asking whether they could do laser surgery from this shop and tried to direct me to an ophthalmological hospital. When I tried to emphasize the “no redout” characteristic, they thought I was looking for colored liquid drops. Eventually, we straighten it all out and went to work on the price. Eventually, we learned that the drops ranged in price from 3 Euros for 15 ml to 20 Euros. We chose the cheap stuff and then went to work on how to pay, since we had not Euros. I thought the said they wouldn’t accept a credit card so I tried dollars. No go! I returned to the credit card and they eventually pulled out a credit card machine. We completed the transaction and went on our way laughing about the event.
We also remembered a restaurant from 2007 where we ate tapas. This was near the obelisk, but I couldn’t spot it from across the bay. Once we rode to the other side of the bay, I spotted the place about 400 yards from the obelisk. We rode to the obelisk for several pictures before returning to the restaurant which was actually called Argo and had some Greek heritage. We took pictures similar to the ones we took 3 years ago.
We ordered Spanish beer and wine and four orders of tapas. The wine order got mixed up about my use of “cupa” for the container. The waiter brought beer in a glass and beer in a bottle. But he happily exchanged the glass of beer for a glass of wine. We had Chorizo, squid, croquettes, and meatballs, all excellent. The place looked just like it did three years ago, but the surroundings were very different, much more built up and much better landscaped. For the previous trip, we had circled the town in the opposite direction and suffered along many hills. From across the bay, we could hardly believe we had actually ridden the almost-mountainous route we could now see.
The ride back was even better than the ride out because the sun came out and the day turned beautiful. The light blue of the sandy bottomed bay was exquisite. The waves crashing on the rocky part of the coast was exciting. And the bike riding was easy. This is a ride not to be missed. I recommend it to everyone. We talked about adding La Coruna to the list of places where we might spend two or three months. La Coruna is a wonderful vacation city. I am sure we could do this ride every day, stopping each time at a different restaurant, spending hours each day watching the ocean and the birds, and spending more time at the sites like the Picasso displays, the monuments, and working on our Spanish.
The wiki and travel links are here:
La Coruna is one of the largest cities in Spain and was the launching point of the ill fated Great Armada in 1588. The seafaring tradition is commemorated in the Hercules monument north of the port. We will ride along the water north of the port past the tower and continue along for up to two hours. We visited La Coruna in 2007 and saw the tower as we rode from a different direction over many hills. We will try to avoid the hills tomorrow.
Vigo is a blue collar city. The cruise line didn’t find many things to do in Vigo and sent most people far and wide around Galicia. We found Vigo to be very interesting because we were interested in seeing people and their culture rather than things.
The ship gave us 10 hours in Vigo but we only used seven of them, with at least three spent on the internet and eating. Nevertheless, I think the city provides a lot to see and I’d come back. I think the cruise ships don’t recognize what the city has to offer. We spent an hour riding around the city going out and another hour riding through the city on the way back. If one were willing to focus on the blue collar benefits of the city, it can be very interesting.
We got off the ship around 945am and immediately found wifi to be available in the terminal waiting room. Marilyn and I had a hard time getting used to the 6 hour time difference with the east coast and especially the direction of the change, since we were used to handling a five or six hour difference in the other direction in Hawaii. We spent an hour getting up to date on email and calling those in the states who wouldn’t mind receiving a call at 430am their time (Marilyn’s mother) and leaving a few messages. The internet turned out to be unreliable, so we left to start our ride.
A supervisor of Spanish security gave us directions to our destination of Baiona but warned us that the ride might be fraught with traffic and a few hills. She ran up to us later to suggest we try a visit to Bouzas, a beach area a little bit closer which also had the only bike paths she could remember in the area. We decided to try Bouzas for now and to decide after we had seen it whether to try for Baiona, 15 miles away.
The port area in Virgo is very new and open with a modern three story mall inside the area. It opens onto moderately busy city streets in town center. Our turn to the right took us quickly into the commercial port area. I found this extremely interesting. The first sensations are from the smell of fish as one rides through the fishing port and the packing houses for this, the largest fishing export port in Europe. These lie immediately across from service business offices and restaurant/bars. I believe anchovy fishing and packing are very big businesses here. I would have liked a visit to see the inside of the fish packing facility.
One then passes into the shipbuilding and repair district spread over the next 10-20 blocks. On the right lay fishing boats in port and building after warehouse for ship fitting industries, some small and some large. We passed at least one large container ship under construction and almost a dozen smaller ships, some in dry-dock for refit and others being built new. I’d have liked a tour of a few of these. Across the street lay dozens of shipbuilding support small businesses ranging from welding supplies to metal grinding motors and paint. Many of these were housed in modern glass front buildings. I saw at least one office for salvage businesses. In front of these buildings were parked hundreds of Audis and Citroen sedans along with Volkswagen, Honda, and Toyota subcompacts. Even more in abundance were motor scooters, parked neatly in rows of hundreds or more. The streets themselves were not wide, but the traffic also was manageably light and the drivers gave us plenty of room. We had to negotiate a dozen traffic circles but quickly learned to stay on the outside and to be brave when our time to exit came. Traffic lights at this time of day were set at mostly blinking yellow and we had to stop only two or three times for red lights. Again, traffic lined up calmly around us at the lights and I never felt threatened. I looked back frequently to ensure Marilyn was negotiating the traffic satisfactorily and found her keeping surprisingly close to me. I even speeded up, thinking she was having trouble staying far enough behind me.
We took one wrong turn which took us into the Bouzas port area rather than the beach area. This area, too, was very industrial and very new. The buildings were modern, well spaced from one another, and indicative of an industry which might have a competitive advantage over that of other countries because they could take advantage of modern methods and equipment. We saw many workers along the way too. They seemed generally young and diligent, appearing well dressed and cropped. Correcting our error, we headed up a modest incline on something like a superhighway which turned toward Baiona further up the hill and into a tunnel. This solved our question of whether or not to try to get to Baiona (Not!) and we turned back down the incline to find the beach and bike paths of Bouzas. Immediately after negotiating the traffic circle taking us away from the tunnel, I could see the bike path paralleling us on the other side of a fence. We rode to the bottom of the hill and turned to the right twice to find the bike path entrance. This was found on the right side of a narrow bay ending at the road we were riding on. We entered the bike path and rode for the next 2-3 miles on the path as it skirted the north side of the bay. A walking path lay between the bike path and the water. Children play areas appeared at 3-4 places along the path accompanied by adult exercise areas with some exercise devices. The path moved under the highway we had negotiated earlier and then rose to reveal a vast expanse of parking spaces nearly filled with new automobiles and trucks. This was part of the enormous auto assembly plant which provides many jobs for Vigo. I think there is another assembly plant on the other side of town. I then realized how many auto delivery tractor trailers I had seen on the roads. I think the Vigo assembly plants were busy. The bike path continued completely around the plant and changed into a walking path for the last half mile. Walkers, runners, and occasional bike riders were to be found every 50 yards or so. I stopped at the end of the path for pictures when the path came up to a locked gate in the fence. I was astounded when another biker approached and continued at high speed onto the18 inch wide rocky path next to the fence continuing from the gate. Opposite the fence was a 30 foot high rocky 45 degree slope leading to the bay. He stopped hurriedly twenty yards down the path and managed not to tumble into the water. After stopping for 10-20 seconds to view the lack of a path ahead, he turned around and took off back down the path in the opposite direction.
We also turned around and negotiated our way back to the beginning of the bike path. This time around, I realized that we passed the football field for one of the local professional soccer/football teams. I also realized that the narrow bay area next to us was replete with boat harbors housing 15-30 foot power and sailboats. Fishing and recreational sailing are also major pastimes here. I also spied another path with walkers and bikers on the opposite side of the narrow bay/inlet. We drove around the small beach at the end of the bay/inlet and rode up the path. At one point the path gave way to an area where the beach cut into the land here and the path had significantly fallen away. We had to walk the bikes past this point and continued to walk the bikes for 200 yards past stairs leading up to high-rise buildings atop the hillside. We stopped at a children’s play area and locked the bikes while we sought bathrooms in the commercial areas at the bottom of the high-rises. One of the businesses turned out to be a coffee shop and tapas restaurant.
We used their bathrooms and found out they had wifi. We decided to order espresso and the complementary chocolate croissants and complete our internet business over the next hour and a half. The connection was unusually fast and Marilyn even used it to download the podcasts for her iPod which she hadn’t seen for 5 weeks. We also tried three of their tapas, one of wurst, bread, and cheese, one of ham and cheese croquets served with lettuce salad dressed in balsamic vinegar and one of seafood baguettes with a beautiful and spicy orange tomato dressing.
Upon finishing the tapas and business, we headed back toward the ship back down the path and the beach area at the end near the street. Marilyn was astounded to see one of the four women on the beach walking topless down toward the water.
I opined that this was common in Europe and people here were not embarrassed to be seen half naked and managed to avoid gawking while missing the several people in my way on the path. We turned onto the streets and negotiated our way back to the ship over the next half hour through afternoon traffic. Again, I emphasize that I never felt threatened by the cars and trucks although the roads were busy. The frequently-stopping busses, autos parking, and commercial vehicles double parking left plenty of room for us to get past and then ride for most of a block before the vehicles behind us could get past those same obstacles.
Once at the ship, we decided to seek wifi in the port mall. The three outdoor restaurants turned out negative but the gelato establishment on the third floor was a jackpot. I had gelato, Marilyn had wine, and we set up our internet connection quickly. One odd thing occurred. I unsuccessfully tried first a credit card, then dollars to pay the $6.5 Euro bill. A gentleman behind me offered to pay the bill (He was also a cruise passenger), then first refused but eventually accepted my demand to accept my $10 bill in trade. Aren’t people wonderful?
Wiki and travel sites are seen below:
Vigo is a dcity of 250,000 persons (450,00 metropolitan area) in Galicia in Spain. There is a small portion of road along the seafront both east and west from the pier. We will ride first north until the end of this road and look for sites within reach of the bicycles without too much of a climb. Then we will turn south past the port and try the rest of the path.
Lisbon was wonderful! The day dawned clear but cool as the ship docked around 9am. We finished breakfast, found our bikes, and got off the ship by 945am to a clear area adjacent to the ship at the pier.
We rode and walked to and through the cruise passenger terminal and found our way past a few tour busses to the driveway and eventually to the street. On the way, I used my newly learned Spanish with two young women who identified themselves as locals and learned that Avenue de Brasilia could be found by riding through a park adjacent to the four lane road rising entrance to the freeway skirting the coast in this area. Once reaching the end of the park 200 yards away, we rode in a driveway-like area toward the east. I stopped to take a photograph of a store in a shopping center to our left along the coast which was called Hawaii. We then interrogated two landscape workers fixing a water line and found Ave de Brasilia was right here. I crossed the area where they were working and one of them helped Marilyn across—very nice fellows. We rode on this four lane road for a half mile before spying a walking path on the left and maneuvering through the sparse traffic to reach it. One hundred yards down the sidewalk, I spied a biker riding closer to the water and maneuvered through a parking lot to join him. Here, I found a broad walking/bicycle path right along the water. We found that this path ran for more than five miles along the river except for a few jogs around small yacht basins. This is an almost perfect path for riding and seeing this modern part of Lisbon.
The path along the river is well paved and marked both for walkers and bikers. Here in the river, one can see seabirds fishing, sailboats practicing their tacking, large sail-powered tour boats taking people out to the river exit to the ocean, and some freighters loading and unloading grain at a terminal one mile across the river. Along the river were hundreds of fishermen using long spinner-equipped poles to catch small sunfish, and hundreds or even thousands of other walkers and riders—a few cruise passengers and many more other tourists. Looking back, one could see NCL Sun nearly under the famous high Lisbon Bridge to the south side of the river and the huge cross atop the hill. Opposite the river lies a more modern part of Lisbon with universities and schools, many museums, a few older churches, and a varied residential area rising into the hills in the distance. A transit railroad parallels the river here along one of four separate rail lines. The stations are modern and clean. Ferry andtourist boat terminals also line the river, also very clean and modern.
One can see much public building including museums, roads, and stations. Perhaps this is part of the problem Portugal finds itself in with its economy. The building may have gotten a little ahead of the financing. Our conversations at dinner on the ship with citizens of other EU nations also revealed they had a very generous pension and unemployment insurance program alongside similarly generous health benefits. A Belgian passenger revealed he received 3 months vacation per year, free health care, and expected to receive a 1300 EU pension at a relatively young age. Some adjustments may be necessary, but this didn’t take away from my admiration of life in Lisbon. This 500,000 person (2.5 million in metro area) city is one of the wealthiest in the EU. Marilyn mentioned during the ride that she might consider adding Lisbon to our list of places we would consider as temporary two or three month homes sometime in the future.
We passed at least four yacht harbor basins along the way to our turn around point beyond the new construction for an art museum beyond the Belem fortification. On the way back, we had to make way for a large tractor trailer removing a new 50 foot hull to a customer somewhere else along the river. The river was busy with sailboats, too. During lunch, we saw two much smaller sailboats being pulled along the path in a trailer by a single man each. Boating is obviously a very important business and pastime here in Lisbon. I saw no commercial fishing boats, though, although I am sure that fishing is an important economic factor here in Lisbon.
We passed a huge modern art museum along the road and considered spending some time there but decided to continue on some more and try it on our return if we had time. Unfortunately, the port visit to Lisbon today was a relatively short one and we had to return to the ship by 330pm. We passed a military history museum along the river and a large monument dedicated to aviation over the past 100 years. This area was guarded by camouflage-dressed standing guards complete with swords standing in small guard shacks. More similarly dressed soldiers, both male and female, circulated in part of this building. Commonly, we saw small cannons lining the walkway and decorating various public buildings along the path. We saw no military ships in this area of the river either.
Then we came to a large four story high castle-like facility along the river and decided to stop and walk around inside. This was the Belem fortification constructed in 1547. We entered along a newly-built bridge, although the building had its own moat area and was now almost surrounded by water as the tide was rising. A fisherman waded in a shallow pond next to the building. We paid 10 EU for two of us to enter although we could have received a 50% discount had we noticed the discount for seniors. Considering its age, the fortification was amazing. It was constructed of limestone blocks in vaulted archways at least 15 feet high for each floor. The windows were shuttered. On the first floor, we found a dozen windows filled with cannon which were obviously not from the 16th century, although I could imagine older cannons they originally contained.
Fifty uniformed children, 4-6 years old, sat listening raptly to a young woman lecturing them about the building’s history using oversized four foot square picture diagrams of ships and soldiers with their weapons. These were obviously very smart children because they even understood the lecture in Portuguese. Their teachers sat behind them and escorted them skipping to the lavatories when requested. We tried a few of the special tiny guard closets looking out to sea and land at the corners. The stairs upstairs were a real trip. The spiral staircases stood less than 3 feet wide and maybe 80 inches high with triangular steps less than three inches deep on the inside. Only one staircase served the building, so visitors going up had to deal with others coming down. Since there were more than a few hundred people in the building, these interactions were frequent. We became very close with many people here. The stairs and walls were worn smooth from use. The views from each floor were different and the open areas outside were also unique with rectangular lookouts on the second floor and pyramid capped columns at the top. It was pretty cool inside the building too, although the second floor held a fireplace. Nevertheless, I could imagine this to be an uncomfortable ordeal for its defenders 400 years ago. I thought about dueling swordsmen fencing up the spiral staircase but realized there was no way one could have room for such maneuvers. I would be surprised if any soldiers ever fought their way into this fortification; although a siege or attack from the outside with cannon might have been more successful.
We walked beyond the fort onto the continuation of the bike path alongside new construction of a dramatic building likely to house a museum of some sort. We passed a dozen fisherpersons (at least one woman) and even played with a poodle belonging to one couple who were preparing a barbecue for some of their catch. Eventually, the path ran out as it entered the newest construction and we decided to turn back and seek a restaurant for lunch.
On the way, Marilyn needed to use the rest room and we stopped at the WC sign adjacent to the last military museum. Marilyn walked inside to find a room guard requesting payment of a half Euro. This was a problem since we had no Euros. Marilyn shivered with discomfort as we tried to convince the guard to accept a credit card (no luck) or dollars. At first he said no dollars and Marilyn thought he might accept American coins—also no luck. Eventually, Marilyn’s plight was brought home to him and he agreed to accept a paper dollar. We paid and he offered no receipt. I suspect he will keep the dollar for himself rather than try to explain to his superiors about the transaction. But Marilyn was satisfied. They even had paper, plenty of it.
We passed two or three modern restaurant buildings before we tried the restaurant at the nearest yacht club. This building was 30 years-or-more older than its neighbors and the second story restaurant lay at the corner of the building separate from the yacht club entrance. Three rooms served common diners, smokers, and more astute diners. We chose to sit in the room with the more astute and found ourselves joined initially by only two men at a nearby table. This was not inexpensive but the experience was unique to us and special for Lisbon. Fish here was a specialty and the diner was able to choose his own fish from a case filled with chopped ice and at least 10 kinds of fish. Upon choosing Besugo (bream), I was allowed to approve the particular two fish brought to the table by the waiter before he took them back to have them grilled. The waiter brought a tray of specialties to the table, including sardines, red and green pepper salsa, and squid; but we knew we would have to pay extra for these and we indicated, like our nearby fellow customers, that we didn’t want any. He took them away. Another bowl also contained five different kinds of bread, though, and we sampled this liberally. The raisin bread was delicious. I think this cost us 2.5 EU. We ordered a small bottle of the house wine which was delivered and opened by the waiter. Ten minutes later, the waiter returned and placed a cold sleeve over the bottle. Others began to fill the restaurant and we watched as they chose a variety of fish, sometimes individual whole fish, and sometimes a chunk cut off larger fish. Nearly everyone ordered the fish grilled. Our meal arrived soon served with two fish on one plate accompanied by two other plates, one containing acorda, a mashed potato-like garlic flavored cilantro-topped gruel, and the other containing small roasted potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. Marilyn prepared our individual plates while I carved the filets off the bones of the fish and tried to remove as many small bones as I could. The taste was superb. The view of the river was exciting. The overall effect was magic. Despite the almost-$50 lunch, I’d return here again and again. Apparently, this opinion was shared by many others in Lisbon as I found all tables filled and 30 patrons waiting for tables in the foyer when I left to use the restroom. We finished by sharing a coconut topped caramel flavored pudding-like sobremesa dessert with chocolate sauce on the bottom—unique and delicious. This was accompanied by two espressos served with cinnamon sticks and dark chocolate on the side. I highly recommend this restaurant, identified on my credit card receipt as Rest Ass Velo Centro. And the waiter was also very helpful as he supplied the Portuguese names of everything while we searched our Spanish-English dictionary.
We headed back to the ship and this time avoided the actual street and saw the front of the Hawaii establishment, a restaurant, along with a dozen other restaurants along the water for especially attracting cruise patrons. They all looked satisfied. We worked our way through the Portuguese customs and joined a long line of cruise passengers waiting to board the ship. Again, we encountered dozens of passengers asking about the bikes and suggesting they would try it next time they sailed. I don’t think we will forget Lisbon for a long time. I think we’ll return.