Surprising Portugal

We have visited only two places in Portugal, which was Porto and Lisbon, plus we have followed approximately half of Portugals coast line. Not enough to tell about? Perhaps not. But still, we leave Portugal’s main land with lots of vivid impressions.

Surprise number 1 is the town of Porto, where the famous port wine is traded. The colorful little old town houses at river Duoro and the bold bridges across the river invite to use the camera around every corner. Uphills, long building fronts with richly decorated stone carvings line up along wide avenues. The town is dotted with many Churches, courageous modern architecture, and lots of green. We stayed at the Duoro Marina and visited the town at the first day of the RedBull Air Race. I wouldn’t have thought so, but I started to like the crazy guys who do all kinds of fancy things with their little aircrafts. They race above the river, in between the town buildings, at 400 km/h.

Surprise number 2 comes as we round the the sister capes Cabo da Roca and Cabo da Rosa. First we find ourselves in fog, then we run into gale wind forces which form around the two capes. Shortly after Cabo da Rosa when reaching the (wind) shadow of the capes, temperature is suddenly raised and one needs to relieve himself from three of four layers of clothing. Sea is now flat and a gentle light wind carries marvelous scents from the flours on land over the sea. We came out of a mess and into a new world within minutes only.

Surprise number 3: It was targeted for more than one year that we could meet our parents in Lisbon, after their hiking holiday in Galicia. However and until few days before, it isn’t clear at all whether or not they can make it, due to some special circumstances. Finally it works out and it is so great to be with them for some time. Having been away from home for a long time, each personal contact becomes a very special moment.

Surprise number 4: YESSS, finally KID BOATS…;-)!!! It took two month to bump into other kid boats with kids of similar age. Now they are here and we are, too. For all three families its great that the horde of kids can play with each other and enjoy themselves. All of them show each others boats, they have fun on the playground, at the table tennis, or in a movie session on one of the boats. It seems that we will meet a couple of times during the next weeks, perhaps even month!

Surprise number 5 is the fantastic Park of Nations area of Lisbon. It encompasses a vast area including the Marina, an Oceanum, a Science House, outdoor parks, creative water fountains, playgrounds, museums, business places, apartments. The mile long seaside area provides stunning views to the Ponte Vasco da Gamma. 25 years back, this was a rundown dock area. Everything was made new for the EXPO 1998. Different to other EXPO places, this one was built to last for future. It does, and they keep and maintain everything very well.

Surprise number 6 was that same Parque das Naçoes offers us such a rich environment that (you won’t believe it!) we don’t feel the need to explore the old town (and we know it’s worth it from a visit one decade before).

Any other surprises? Yes, as we are there, famous singer Madonna announces that she will move here residence to Lisbon. That’s at least what we understand from local radio stations. Yes, it is a place to be!

More surprises: Quite unexpectedly, Portugal becomes the most expensive country on our trip so far. Some maintenance and repair isn’t cheap at all, particularly the parts are more than double price, compared to Northern Europe. The VAT of 23% also was not very helpful. Labor on the other side is very cheap. Then we went to the sports shop to stock up functional wear plus a Stand Up Paddle for Caribbean seas!

Once again, we as sailors cannot talk about Portugal without mentioning King Enrique the Seafarer and his visionary investments into sea expeditions, half a millennium ago. Within a few decades, they encountered the coast of the African continent, then the route by sea to India and beyond. What an achievement, in those early days of offshore navigation. A huge memorial at river Tejo tells stories of great seamanship, boldness and glory of the conquistadors and flourishing Portugal as such. Saying this, one should not forget poorest condition on some of the ship, including hunger, sickness, and death.

Now we are about to leave the European Continent as well, with best navigation tools available, some knowledge gathered, feeling ok to go, still not forgetting that we are still a bit greenhornish as we do that first time.