Got up this morning around 8.30am and went out on the balcony for a quick look. The weather was mild and dry. The Queen Victoria was slowly manoevring up the River Tagus en route to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, or as the Portuguese call it, Lisboa (say Leezh-boa). We had last visited here in 2010 on the Maiden Voyage of the Queen Elizabeth, so we were keenly looking forward to exploring once again.
I didn’t go up to breakfast this morning, preferring to make the most of the tea and coffee-making facilities in the cabin, so Trevor went to the Lido on his own. As we got ourselves ready to go ashore, we met up with Billy and Carole and made our way to Deck A to disembark. We didn’t have any excurions booked today, prefering to explore on foot and do our own thing.
As we went down the gangplank in search of the shuttle buses to take us into town, we saw that the Queen Victoria was moored on the same side as the P&O giant Iona; their bows were facing each other but I was too close to be able to get them both in a photo together.
The last time we were here in Lisbon, the Queen Elizabeth was docked almost underneath the famous Ponte de 25 abril (25th April Bridge), a large suspension bridge that spans the Tagus and within walking distance of the distinctive landmark Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries). However, this time we were much further up the river so we would have a different part of the city to explore.
It took the shuttle bus about 20 minutes to drop us in the city centre, near the tourist information. It took a long time to go a short distance, mainly due to the one-way system and the traffic. We said it would have been quicker to walk. 🙂
A Christmas market looked to be opening in the square, and we decided we’d have a look on the way back. Meanwhile, we followed Billy and Carole, who remembered coming to this part of Lisbon on a previous visit, and soon we came to a long street paved in a mosaic tiles, each side of which contained lots of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars.
In particular, we were looking for a bakery or café to buy some of the famous Portuguese egg custard tarts, called pastel de nata. Billy and Carole had never tried one before. Even though we can now buy them in Britain in places such as Lidl in-store bakery and the Co-op, you can’t go to Portugal without trying one there! 🙂
We soon spotted a bakery with a tempting display of pasteis de nata (plural) in the window, selling them in boxes of six for 5.50 euros. I was going to go in to buy a box, but the general consensus was to find a café so we could enjoy one each with a coffee or even a beer or caipirinha. 🙂
As we walked along the wide, pedestrianised thoroughfare, many of the bars and cafés had set up groups of tables under canopies outside, with large TV screens mounted so that people could watch the World Cup games. Every time we passed one of these and a game was being shown, Trevor and Billy would stop and have a look. We then came across a place that had a TV screen inside, and as it was now around 11.00am we thought a custard tart and a drink would go down a treat. We each ordered a tart and a cup of coffee; we couldn’t have any beer or cocktails yet because it was outside licencing hours. As ever, the tarts were delicious and I was almost tempted to have another one in view of the fact that I hadn’t had any breakfast; I resisted this time.
Back out on the street again and looking in the shops, we came across a branch of Kiko, that Italian cosmetics company. I’ve used some of their products in the past and really liked them, so we went inside as I needed some foundation. The attraction was that there was a special promotion on; buy any three items and get another three items for free! Wow, that seemed a good deal. 🙂
I spent some time and selected my foundation, as well as a palette of blushers, an eyeshadow quartet, an eyeliner pen, some mascara and some lipstick – a complete face-full in fact. The whole lot came to 44 euros, definitely a bargain. Well pleased with my purchases, we left the shop and caught up with B & C who were browsing further down the street.
Towards the end of the street there was a distinctive arch which Google told me was Lisbon Triumphal Arch, leading out to the Praça do Comércio, or Commercial Square.
Commercial Square was amazing; we were surrounded on three sides by distinctive yellow arched buildings, looking out onto the River Tagus on the fourth side, along a long street on which a flow of traffic passed, and the famous Lisbon red and yellow trams rumbled along. In the centre of the square was a statue of a man on horseback; this was King José I, created by the sculptor Machado de Castro (1775). The king on his horse is symbolically crushing snakes on his path.
Soon we arrived back at the Christmas Market which was now in full swing. The weather was cloudy, but mild, and was anything but Christmassy. In any case, Christmas was still over a month away and we would see more appropriate Christmas Markets on our next cruise to northern Europe next month. 🙂
Spotting a stall selling that Christmas Market staple, mulled wine, we each decided to indulge in one. We saw some people leaving the stall with waxed paper cups containing the hot spiced wine; the cups were the shape and size that you would get if you went into Greggs asked for a large Americano coffee.
When we ordered the mulled wine, the chap asked if we wanted small, medium or large – assuming the ones we had seen were Large, that was what we asked for. However, he then proceeded to ladle the glühwein into 750ml plastic beakers!! 750ml – that’s a wine-bottle size! They were HUGE, and loaded with sliced orange and lemon. We certaibly hadn’t expected that and, if we’d known, we would have settled for a medium or even a small size. They took a long time to drink and luckily must not have contained a lot of alcohol, otherwise we would certainly have known about it. 🙂
Afterwards, we decided to start making our way back to the ship. Billy and Carole went off to get the shuttle bus, but Trevor and I decided to stay and have a few drinks, hopefully the Portuguese beer Sagres for Trevor and caipirinha for me. We also said we’d walk back to the Queen Victoria as it was only about a mile away. We soon found an attractive little restaurant/bar that was offering cocktails for 7 Euros (a complete bargain compared to the eye-watering drinks prices on board) so we went in and took a seat. Trevor ordered a Sagres but they didn’t have any (what?!) so he had something else. I enjoyed a delicious, authentic caipirinha, the Brazilian cocktail consisting of muddle lime, sugar, ice and cachaça.
As we didn’t have to be back on board until 5.30pm, it was certainly no hardship to stay for another drink each… and then another one. 🙂 We had had a very pleasant day today. What a historic and interesting city Lisbon is! We never get tired of it; there is always something new to discover.
It took us about 20 minutes to walk back to the dock. As we made our way up the gangplank of the Queen Victoria, we realised that this was our last port of call; the next time we’d set foot on terra firma would be in Southampton. 🙁
As we hadn’t had anything to eat since our pastel de nata earlier on, we went up to the Lido for some lunch, then returned to 5123 to enjoy a post-cocktail afternoon nap. 🙂
We didn’t do a great deal for the rest of the day. We looked at the daily programme to see if there was anything we fancied doing; I thought Cunard might have been running a game similar to Where’s Wally? but instead of trying to spot Wally, you tried to spot the captain or his senior officers instead. 😉
We just spent the time pottering around in our cabin, then I got showered and changed and ready for dinner. Down in the Britannia Restaurant, from our table at the window, we watched as the Queen Victoria got underway again; the captain’s voice issued forth from the loudspeaker to say that we would probably have another rough crossing going back up over the Bay of Biscay again; we had two full days at sea to look forward to. 🙂
In the Royal Court Theatre, tonight’s show featured soul singer Roy G. Hemmings, formerly of the group The Drifters. He was accompanied by the excellent ship’s orchestra and we really enjoyed his performance a lot. He sang many of The Drifters’ old songs and the audience clapped and sang along. It was great.
Afterwards we went along to the Golden Lion where an Irish folk duo, Cula, were playing a selection of lively, traditional Irish songs. The pub was packed out; they must have been popular. Another great way to pass the time.
Back in our cabin, we went out on the balcony as the Queen Victoria ploughed her way through the Atlantic Ocean, which was already fairly choppy. After reading for a while and catching up on the latest World Cup footie scores, we settled down to sleep and looked forward to what tomorrow would bring.