Marcia Levin has been sailing on Cunard’s Queen Victoria on a transatlantic cruise.
I have been to Lisbon three times on port visits. The first time I wanted to go from the port to the center of town and couldn’t get a cab to take me where I wanted to go. Second time, my husband and I purchased a tour, my husband didn’t feel well that day so I did the tour alone. I retained very little, worrying about my husband back on the ship.
But the third time was a charm.
A sister city to San Francisco, surrounded by the same lush green hills, Lisbon is a mix of old and new, of medieval, Moorish and contemporary architecture . It sprawls over seven hills and its orange bridge was built by the same firm that created the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
I chose a ship-sponsored shore excursion called coach and tram: A coach ride into Lisbon’s Estrela section plus an old-fashioned tram ride through different sections of the city, up hills and down.
The coach parked near the Estrela Gardens and the baroque church Queen Maria I built in the late 18th century. At the church we transferred to an old tram, one means of getting to the historic city center. (Other means are three funiculars and one elevator.) Streets in old Lisbon are so narrow two people cannot pass on the sidewalk.
Lisbon is the westernmost capital in mainland Europe and located where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Statues of early kings dominate many of the pretty squares that make up the city and a monument of Jesus Christ (Cristo Rei) stands on the left side of the river. He overlooks the city with open arms – much like the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro — and was built after World War II in gratitude for Portugal’s being spared destruction during the war.
Portugal became a republic in 1910. The country’s last king, Charles the First, was murdered in 1908.
Earthquakes have done serious damage over the years accounting for many newer builds situated among old buildings. Many newer buildings feature tile facades as those in Brazil.
The old section of Alfama features antique iron lamps and ornate balconies.
The city is crowded and hectic. Graffiti artists have had a field day throughout the older parts of the city, but many of the tile-covered buildings still look good.
The old tram was a bit like a roller coaster, up and down the hills into Lisbon’s various quarters. Port wine and local pastries were served to passengers before we disembarked back at the church and had the opportunity to visit the lovely Estrela Gardens.
Back on the coach we ride to Belem, past magnificent houses, embassies and gardens (no graffiti here) and onto the park dominated by the symbol of Lisbon, the Tower of Belem.
The Tower was built on what was an island in the middle of the Tagus River between 1515 and 1521. It is a five-story building atop which sits Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, a beacon for safe homecomings.
The river’s course changed many times and now the Tower finds itself on the Tagus’ north bank.
Lisbon boasts several museums including the Museum of Ancient Art and the Gulbenkian.