Saturday June 4th, 2011
Atlantic Ocean off the NW point of the Iberian Peninsula
Latitude 43 degrees 42 minutes’ north- Longitude 9 degrees 21 minutes’ west
We just finished making two port calls in Portugal and I would have to say we were very pleasantly surprised by what we saw in Portimao and Lisbon. We did not really expect Portugal to have such wonderful beaches with nice clean sand and lots of room to walk and enjoy the ocean. Portimao is truly a resort town with plenty of Hotels and Condos for the many seasonal visitors. This is considered the shoulder season with the bulk of the tourists coming between 15 June and September 15th each year. For our visit it was not overly crowded and quite easy to get around. We took a tour all over the city and also a side trip up into the mountains of the Algarve Region. The mountains were cool and green, although you could tell that many of the farms were no longer in production with many fields overgrown and untended. The economy in the last few years has obviously shifted down to the coast with all the new condo construction
and a tourism based business model. We did visit some ancient Roman springs that were being renovated by the government into a wellness center and spa resort. On the way back to Portimao we went thru a cute little fishing village that has been transformed into a waterfront harbor development filled with restaurants where they grill whole sardines and have lots of little shops and cafés.
Our second Port of call in Portugal was Lisbon and it is one of the cleanest and least congested capitals we have visited. It was not immaculate, but it was very nice. They have a tremendous amount of statues and memorials to commemorate the golden age of Portugal, back in the age of discovery in the 15th and 16th century when they were one of the richest countries in the world. The cruise up the Tagus River coming into the city was very scenic and we passed under the huge 25th of April Bridge which is a sister to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. As we walked around it seemed the whole city was bustling with people on the move. Everywhere they were walking, riding old street-car like electric trams, taking ferries
across the river and hopping in and out of the numerous city buses and taxis. It was a city on the move, but at the same time there were plenty of people just sitting, relaxing and talking at all the open air cafés that lined the wide promenades and pedestrian-only avenues that seemed to dominate the old part of the city. We took the hop-on hop-off bus all around in the morning and spent the rest of the afternoon walking in the old Alfama Quarter. We had a great time just taking in all the sights, smells and energy of this truly old world city which revels in its past while trying to find its place in the modern world. Everyone knows that Portugal is struggling financially and had to have a big European Union bailout, but the spirit of the people seems alive and well. No one hassled us, there were no beggars or panhandlers, and we saw only a couple of homeless people. The prices seemed much better than Italy or France. I bought a really nice bottle of Port for 4.85 euros in the local market. That was much better than Madeira where the cheapest bottle of
Port I saw was about 15 euros. The weather was nice all day and the sail away back down the river, as we left, was really beautiful.
Today, as we head northeast into building seas, the high temperature has dropped 15 degrees, the wind is blowing strong and a cold front will follow us into France. It is significant that we will land in Normandy on the 6th of June. Exactly 67 years after the D-Day invasion. Our landfall, of course, will not be that significant; but we will be remembering the troops who did land on that faithful day.
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