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Independence of the Seas – Day 12 – Lisbon

Lisbon is a place of sights and wonders, not least renowned for its trademark cable cars, along with its limitless attractions hidden inside the heart of the city and throughout. So it wasn’t long before I discovered that there was a lot more to Lisbon and Portugal than just a tiny little country I knew nothing of.

‘A whole entourage of shifty looking taxi drivers…’

Independence of the Seas didn’t stop at the regular, more expensive official port of Lisbon-instead, to save Royal Caribbean’s money (yet not ours) we stopped outside of Lisbon, in a rural dock for shipping and trading freights, not a large cruise ship obscuring the landscape. At the docks in order to get to the terminal we had to get on a special bus that drove us over the official terminal, where as soon as we left the building were met by a whole entourage of shifty looking taxi drivers, stuff-the-board-in-your-face tourguides and just random black-clad people with hats who were taking as many pictures as possible as they could of the new bombardment of tourists. Eventually we chose one of the shifty looking taxi tourguides who turned out to be not too bad, explaining in detail about all the buildings and attractions and even showing us some of the little shops that the average tourist would miss completely.

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A statue commemorated to WWII next to the Lisbon castle.

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The Lisbon castle (on a slightly jolted angle, sorry)

Outskirts

The outskirts of Lisbon are just as good as the inner parts, just less habituated and more tree than road. We visited a castle (the name I can’t find online, best guess is ‘Lisbon castle’ from Wikipedia, but of course, who trusts Wikipedia in the height of bias information and hacking?) which was still fully intact and probably served as some form of watchtower over the port of Lisbon as it overlooks and is partially embedded in the waters and rivers surrounding Lisbon. At night I’m told its grand but on the day we were there the sky was impartial and rather blank overall, a hot summers day but, truth be told we’d already had quite a lot of those in Rome and Cartagena, so if anything I might even say we were ‘adapted’ to the hot climates that are virtually impossible to reach here in dull dreary England (in many ways). We also visited one church and the café I told you about earlier, which sold delicious egg tarts much like the ones you get in China, expect this particular had been here since the 1500’s and was and still is a family run business; they have managed to cultivate all the surrounding shop space around them and have expanded in the back as well, so much so it becomes a mission just trying to find the toilets. They didn’t just do egg tarts though; all kinds of cake treats, from biscuits to bread and even almond bakewells!

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This was the bridge right next to the docks where Independence stopped-if you know the name, please tell me in the comments below or in a private email.

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Yet again, I don’t know the name for this beautiful statue-I do know it’s got something to do with Christopher Columbus, and that there’s a large marble design beneath it of the known world at that time.

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South Africa on the marble design

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Oh look-there’s Lisbon!

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We were on the taxi when I saw this beautiful pink mansion of a house with a statue at the front as we sped by. This was the best shot I took.

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Long shot of the church

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The closed entrance to the church

Fish paste

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The statue at the Rua Augusta Arch

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The Rua Augusta Arch; ‘glory rewarding valour and genius’

Our taxi tourguide dropped us off facing the Rua Augusta Arch (commemorating the 1755 earthquake in Lisbon and the rebuilding of the city in the aftermath, the Latin underneath reads: “Glory rewarding valour and genius”) in Commerce Square and promised to pick us up at three so we would get back to the ship on time, giving us ample time to explore in the heart of city and make our way up the hardly gentle slope to São Jorge Castle on the hill overlooking the whole of Lisbon.

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A Roman excavation site on one of the very steep slopes up to the castle

At first the roads were smooth, only with a slightly sloped incline and beautiful cobbled pathways. Little shops were on either side of us as we went up and numerous numbers of them sold fish paste; kind of like pate, the ones you put on French toast. I tried a little and I must say it is rather nice, it goes even better on bread and butter. My mum is some form of a seafood fanatic, her favourites being prawns, lobsters, crabs and oysters (to name but a few). But then, she’s Chinese, would you have it. Quite obviously, really.

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A typical street on the slopes of Lisbon

São Jorge Castle

As we tread higher the roads got steeper to the point where even a car on automatic breaks and with great suspension would start teetering downwards as if it were being pushed off an extremely long slide. Our breaths started coming in little gasps and eventually we were all trying to get let off the hook by stopping every two metres to take a picture of a random tree or flower basket hanging on the street, or just going into a shop and staring at things. When we got to the top we were all breathless and very happy to be there-of course, the down climb is infinitely easier than the up climb.

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Didn’t I tell you so?

The castle was absolutely stunning, a fine piece of Spanish history. We explored at first the surrounding parts of the castle and then the inside, looking through the whole place. We then proceeded onwards back down the hill but from the West side instead of the South (I think.), getting on a rather squeaky elevator to save us the struggle. (Smirk)

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A long shot of the surrounding landscape of Lisbon-if you look closely, you can see the bridge in the distance!

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And if you noticed that little pillar in the distance, here’s a close up shot of it-do you get it now?

Fans

After we got down to the foot of the hill once again, we aimed ourselves in the general direction of a special restaurant our taxi-tourguide had told us about, in the shopping centre of Lisbon. I was lazily flinging my fan around, a beautiful blue wooden one with red and green flowers entwined around vines. It made a good sound when you opened it, too. I had gotten it from an empty shopping centre in Cadiz, at the very end of the tour bus line.

Lunchtime!

When we finally managed to get to our destination we found it rather empty, and surrounded by many other little local restaurants all desperately vying for our attention, including one little restaurant on the opposite side of the street to the one we went too, where a rather sorry looking waiter offered menus to passers-by. His master, however, looked rather shrewd with a pinched, blanched face, holding a bottle of wine but not drinking it. Our restaurant was a lot more hospitable than the empty one on the other side of the street-I forget the name (it’s probably on a napkin somewhere in some pocket, wet through and scrunched up in a tight little ball. There’s one such of its type in my jacket pocket right now-empty though.), with brightly fluttering orange and red flags and canvases and checkered table covers. The waiters were becoming and even on friendly terms with other nearby restaurants, including one with bright blue hues for flag colours with sly looking waiters.

We had fish soup, paella, sea bass with polenta mash and all kinds of fish dishes, as well as peach tea on the side once again. Afterwards we left and took a brief walk up one of the many sidewalks next to the heart of the city, visiting a few of the shops including a sweet shop inside the tube terminal, where a rather bad half-robbery occurred, where I may or may not have eaten a large tennis ball coloured sweet which turned out to be a very annoying piece of gum. Eek.

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I didn’t take this picture…

Magneto

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The city central, complete with gushing fountains and statue.

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Some of the streets close to the one where our restaurant was

As we started running out of time we proceeded to walk towards our rendezvous point at Commerce Square, where we had agreed with our driver to meet up at around 2PM. It was essential he got here in time as otherwise we would be late to the ship and maybe even miss it, so it was only with great reluctance that we stopped in another little shop in order to buy dozens of cans of different kinds of fish paste, prawn paste and one fish magnet with the fish wearing little woolly hats and looking all bemused and rather doge.

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These guys were chilling out on one of the rooftops with saxophones and keyboard, complete with yellow and white balloons as they tuned out.

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Best. Design. Ever.

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And of course-what would be a trip to Lisbon without seeing their famous trams?

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As we passed by these two guys they started up a jaunty tune whilst singing-the banjo and violin actually worked pretty well. Nice job!

When we got to Commerce Square we were only five minutes early, so we then all began staring anxiously for his large taxi that we could have spotted out of the heavy flow of traffic that was speeding by. Two groups of taxi companies on stand nearby kept bargaining with us but we tried to ignore them as we kept waiting: first ten, then twenty minutes past, and at around half past two we realised he wasn’t coming. Angry and flushed we got into one of the nearby taxi companies car, who had horrible deals and made us pay lots of money just to drive ten minutes to the terminal.

Finally arriving at the ship in the docks we grumpily got on board and didn’t say a word about what happened, all going our separate ways to get ready for supper. Thus concluded our rather tumultuous day in Lisbon (sometimes I do wish we didn’t act so tourist like.)

News and Announcements

Not got much to write about in the news at the moment, apart from the fact that it’s DECEMBER! Christmas will soon be upon us (well, at least for those sticking to the Northern Hemisphere this winter) and if you’re not stocking up for Christmas (haha) you’ll probably will be soon. Happy holidays folks!

Also, it’d be great if you could check out my Trip Advisor posts which I do as a kind of side-line blogging, rating attractions, restaurants and other whatnot. The link to my profile is here; please take a moment to have a look at some of them!

~Written by Moonlight Walnut (aka Elayne Snowhawk)

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