Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Friday, 4 November 2016

Exploring Lisbon

Today I woke ridiculously late at 09:30 after vivid dreams involving boats, driving a Landrover across boggy terrain and rescuing a strange floating ice sculpture on a rocky coast - probably St Mawes. It was all so real that even at breakfast I was still concerned about what I had done with the Landrover keys!

Mark then set about changing the oil in the new engine, which seemed to take a very long time, and I did my bit struggling to get the oil filter off, and devising a strap lever to do it.  No success there as it had been spray painted into the engine! A call to John at MarineTech put our mind at rest, as the filter is good until the first proper service after 12 months.

Then at last we could set off into Lisbon, catching the little coastal train which costs just 5 euros return for the half hour ride.   Once in Lisbon I could see just how huge the river is, with ferries to the other side travelling the same distance as crossing the Solent.  Much of the waterfront was being torn up and improved, but we soon came to magnificent buildings and the most enormous square, Placa Commercao, dominated by a great statue of Saint Vincent, I think,  with his horse trampling a nest of great snakes beneath its hooves.

Mark had been there before and guided me through little crumbling streets and alleyways, past tiny restaurants and cafes, and up flights of stairs, steeply climbing walkways and tunnels until we popped out on the terrace at the top of Alfama, overlooking a great sweep of roof tops down to the waterfront.  A little formal garden with shady parapet walkway led to a higher terrace where I could wipe the perspiration from my brow and enjoy a, much longed for, cold beer.   Mark was very patient as I set to sketching the great sweep of buildings in front of us.  As dusk fell I had to rapidly convert my painting into a night scene with all the different lighting emphasis. A second beer was very much called for to carry this through.

Lisbon's streets as in Cascais are all paved with little black and white blocks of stone about an inch and a half each side.  The patterns are lovely square edged shapes in some streets, but in larger spaces and wide streets  there is a superb pattern of alternating black and whit waves.  Seen from one angle they produce a convincing illusion that the streets are deeply rutted, and that one must be careful to avoid stumbling over the raised ridges. The astonishing amount of labour need to accomplish this iss quite mind boggling.  I picked up a couple off pieces from a damaged area, and was surprised to find that they were blocks rather than tiles, as I had hitherto imagined.

We caught one of the flock of ancient and picturesque trams and came down from the heights with a great screeling of metal wheels on metal rails as we rounded the corners.  I smiled at someone enjoying a ride in the opposite direction, as we were both videoing each other's tram passing, and as we came to a halt alongside she reached out to me and shook my hand. A brief encounter!

Thanks to arriving, euphemistically, on much more solid ground at last, I was really looking forward to enjoying some Portuguese cuisine.  We walked a very long street lined with restaurants, tugged, cajoled and importuned by the doorman of each to enter his fine establishment,  The range of languages tested was impressive, and eventually we gave in at one owned by Luis, who got us sat down and hooked with a complimentary glass of port before proffering some rather disappointing well-thumbed laminated picture menus.  Nonetheless once he presented the platter of fresh fish we settled on sole and grouper, and very much enjoyed the dishes once they appeared. I took the risk of  enjoying a half bottle of Dao white wine, which was bliss after almost two weeks abstinence.

Meanwhile Luis had triumphed over all his competitors by hooking a group of 14 Dutch tourists who settled in noisily next to us.   It was time to leave!

On the night train back to Cascais I caught up on news on my phone and, reading about the parlous state of American politics, was reminded that although Hilary was corruptly using a private email server, the other candidate seems to use another method of sending signals through the fog of campaigning.  These are foghorns which I found in a chandlery in the Isles of Scilly !

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