As we neared Ponta Delgado on the island of San Miguel in the Azores, we knew there was a 95% chance of rain. So we donned our hooded rain jackets and walked ashore, grabbing a local map at the dock.
The rain was coming down lightly as we made our way to the ancient fort, now a military establishment with a museum of all things military including an impressive array of weapons, clothing, medical equipment and even musical instruments. From there we visited the Chapel of our Lady of Hope, one of three beautiful churches in the town centre. Despite its plain exterior this particular chapel displays an incredible amount of ornate gold in its nave and the walls are covered with murals in the fabulous blue and white tiles synonymous with Portugal.
The weather had deteriorated further but on we went through narrow laneways that are laid with cobblestones and past cafes, souvenir and general merchandise shops, a library and a couple of colourful flowered parks. We knew of a modern shopping centre that promised to be dry so we asked for instructions and then climbed the hill to the Park Atlantico area. The shopping centre is similar to Eastlands in Hobart and has a wonderful food hall, so we stopped for lunch, dried out and caught up on our emails and the blog with the free WiFi. I might add that we had delicious and filling Chinese noodles for lunch. I even bought a product from The Body Shop store at the centre.
Back out in the street, we zipped up our jackets and walked back down to the dock. The footpaths are extremely narrow and quite precarious with cars passing parked cars along the narrow roads. We had to stand back and breathe in on a couple of occasions. We stopped for coffee at a local café near the waterfront; great coffee and only €1 a cup! Back to the ship we came, dried off and had a very light dinner. Rachael Russell from Liverpool in England is an amazing soprano who sang opera and musical numbers. Afterwards we danced the night away in the Grand Foyer to rock music from the 60s and 70s and then finished the evening with a spot of jazz in the Ensemble Bar. What a day!
Another sea day and then it was Lisbon. We sailed beneath the beautiful 25th of April Bridge on our way into port - both it and the Vasco de Gama Bridge are impressive structures that span the enormous river. Two new friends, Sue and Rod from South Carolina, joined us on a hop-on hop-off bus around the many sights of Lisbon, and because it is such a big and hilly city we were pleased we hadn’t chosen to walk! Our tour included the King Edward VII Gardens with spectacular views across the city to the river, the Monument of Discoveries, the Belem Tower and various churches. After a couple of hours on board we stopped for lunch at one of the many cafés in one of many malls and then found our way to the Castle of St George, an impressive and very historic fort that crowns one of the many hills.
But it wasn’t just the fort that was amazing, it was how we got there. First we took an elevator from a non-descript building. When we reached the 5th floor we walked across the road and through a supermarket to a second elevator which took us up another 7 floors. From there we walked about 500 metres up hill to the entrance of the Castle where we visited the museum and then the castle. I climbed to the top of the ramparts and did a complete circuit whilst Jim, Sue and Rod stayed below, captivated by a group of theatrical students performing acrobatics in the trees.
From the castle we walked slowly downhill, back to the ship. This was partly because of the uneven cobblestones and narrow roads. But it could also have had something to do with our stopping at O Cantinho da Rute, a tiny tapas and beer bar where we had ‘afternoon tea’. I was determined to try the famous Portugese Custard Tarts so we each had one with our port/beer/wine/coffee combinations. And they were delicious!
Back at the ship we dined and then headed into ‘the Murder Game’ where groups attempted to solve a murder whilst interviewing the various suspects under the watchful yet hopeless eyes of Inspector Clueless. Lots of fun.
Another day at sea and the highlights were a talk and big screen slideshow on Paris, dinner at the wonderful Qsine, three games of Scrabble - in which Jim once again triumphed, a wonderful juggler/comedian named John Nations and the Motown Show where we enjoyed amazing music, watched talented dancers and then took to the dance floor until nearly midnight.
Ponte Delgado Fort
Chapel of Our Lady of Hope
Narrow streets of Ponte Delgada
Park Atlantico Shopping Centre