Meridians and Parallels:  Let’s Go Sailing

Join Chris and Jackie Lambertsen and their two cats, Nevis and Saba, in Portugal during September and October, 2003.


Porto and Lisbon, Portugal

Our first port in mainland Portugal was Leixoes, the alternate marina and commercial port for Porto since the Rio Douro has silted over the years.  The resulting sand banks cause dangerous conditions for all traffic when there are heavy swells.  We decided to anchor immediately adjacent to the marina offices in Leixoes and take the excellent bus service to and from Porto for a day’s sight seeing tour on Friday, September 12th.

Our efforts were rewarded as we toured the city of Porto in the morning and the “across-the river” city of Vila Nova de Guia, home of the famous port merchants, in the afternoon.  Our love of the Portuguese mosaic boulevards and azulejo tiles from the Azores was once again revived.

The city of Porto (left) is built across hills.  So, while the distances seem small, the effort to explore the city is great!   The day after, we both felt like we had run a 10K race .

The highlights of our morning in Porto, whose English name Oporto means “the port”, include a visit to the beautifully tiled main train station and Palacio da Bolsa, the local stock exchange.  In the early 1830’s, the Portuguese royal family gave the local wine merchants a convent which had recently been destroyed by fire to use as their central place of business.  To  acknowledge Porto’s status in world trade, the merchants spent 80 years up-fitting the building.   The result is a dramatic show of wealth, and therefore power, impressive as a counter-balance to the display in cathedrals.  The building and it’s original furnishings is still used for business meetings, dinners, and celebrations.

Our next journey was to walk across the Ponte Dom Luis bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the port merchants aged and then shipped their product abroad.   Many of the port merchants offer a casual or formal tour of their facility which includes a museum chronicling the history of their company and free tasting of several of the current ports available.  We chose Ferreira as our first stop.  The story of the family’s struggles during their developing years is noteworthy.  The founder died and his young widow grew his 5 vineyards into 29 before her death.  She also took care of her farmer tenants by building schools and hospitals for them.  She was tall in character and short in stature at 4′ 11″ tall!

We only spent one day in Porto before sailing overnight south to Cascais,  a suburb of Lisbon, where we could anchor the boat safely and travel on the commuter train to Lisbon whenever we liked.  In Lisbon, we toured the city on the Tourist Bus and visited the Portuguese tile museum, the Fado museum, the Maritime Museum, the archaeological museum, the Tower of Belem, and the Monument of the Discoveries, pictured left. 

Since Chris enjoys jazz, we made a special effort to understand Fado, Lisbon’s urban blues.  We were rewarded with a great evening of dinner and music is one of the leading Fado restaurants.  Our CD collection has now increased with five different styles of Fado, both song and guitarists.  Our favorite is Amalia Rodrigues, Portugal’s greatest diva.  Sometimes sounding like an opera singer, sometimes like a bird, always interesting, and always catchy.  We hum her tunes daily .

The biggest surprise that Lisbon held for us was a new form of theatre called “interactive theatre”.  Held in a refurbished convent in the center of the oldest section of Lisbon, the play “Alma” told the story of Alma Mahler, one of the most controversial women of the last century.   The price of admission (50 euro or $60) paid for 4.5 hours of entertainment including a cocktail party for Alma’s 124th birthday, a buffet dinner, and aperitifs after the play. 

The play was presented in three separate tracks with the audience following the actors from room to room.  Often the audience became part of the scene.  One of the actors handed Jackie a torch to hold until he needed it later in the scene!  The dialogue was spoken in Portuguese, French, and English.  Sadly, we understood about a third of it.  But the experience was invigorating and we both would return! 

It was a bit disconcerting to Jackie to have dinner in a cathedral over the stone marking the burial of a nobleman in 1761. 

On Friday, September 26th, we took the bus to Sintra, the summer playground of royalty prior to 1910 when the Portuguese Republic was established.  Nestled in the Sierra Mountains overlooking Cascais, the area is abundant with stately homes, museums, and Moorish forts and palaces.

During our day in Sintra, we toured the Palacio National, famous for its oven chimneys and Sala des Brasoes with huge azulejo walls portraying hunting scenes of the period; Castelo dos Mouros, built in the 9th century by the Moors and captured by the Portuguese in 1147; and Palacio da Pena, a very ornate structure originally built by the Moors and later restored by the Portuguese royal family.  During the revolution, the queen of Portugal lived at Pena until the family’s exile from Portugal..

Sintra is built among a mountain range, so we used a daily bus ticket to move between sites, still a challenge to hold on!

Unfortunately some fires in Portugal still burn as the result of the unusual summer heat and the reckless actions of either campers or arsonists as pictured from the Moorish Castle on the right.

Our time in Portugal has been centered around Cascais, which we have truly enjoyed.  Cascais is part Fort Lauderdale, part Beverly Hills, part Beaufort, NC.  Beaches, bars, upscale shops, and many, many sidewalk cafes and restaurants.  The largest and most expensive marina in Portugal provides the hub for transient yachts.  We anchor off and park the dinghy in the marina daily as the town docks are unsuitable for visitors.

The first few days in each new port are frustrating until we discover where to provision, access the Internet, dine, phone, and access local transportation, either bus or train.   After we secure this information, we settle into a normal, comfortable life style.  Life is a challenge until then.  We are beginning to look forward to settling into a location and lifestyle during the winter months.

Updated Pages:
bullet Port Summary

New Pages: 

bullet Voyage 0310
bullet Voyage 0311
bullet Porto, Portugal
bullet Cascais, Portugal
bullet Lisbon, Portugal
bullet Sintra, Portugal
bullet Alma:  Interactive Theatre