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Cunard Queen Victoria 2014
Christmas Cruises - Part 1
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There is usually a stop somewhere down the West coast of Spain or Portugal on ones way to or from the Mediterranean. Cadiz is an interesting town, and it is also the port for tours to Seville. It was our third visit and we knew it was an excellent town to walk around, and within easy reach of the cruise terminal. On our last visit on the Queen Victoria in 2014 we went to Seville so this time we decided to concentrate on the town, as we did in December 2013 on the Queen Victoria Mediterranean Delights Cruise.
Cadiz is said to be the oldest inhabited town in the western world, with 3,000 years of history. It is a major port, and is near to Jerez for exporting sherry and brandy. Seville is 80 miles away. Cadiz is a compact city, and is almost an island because it is circular with a narrow join to the rest of Spain. The old town is easy walking, and the Plaza de Espana is just outside the dock gates. There are recommended walking tours, each painted a different colour on the pavement, and the orange one is along the city walls, through the Alameda de Apodaca and Alameda Marquis de Comillas gardens, and along the Genoves Park to the Castle of Santa Catalina, then along the Playa de la Caleta sandy beach to the Castillo de San Sebastian. We followed this path in 2013.
We intended a shorter walk because of the weather and had two targets: the Torre Tavira and Market, and the Cathedral. The walk began indirectly, by starting at the Plaza de Espagna, then to the Plaza de Mina with the Museu Provincial and the Museum of Manuel de Falla and bookshop, and finally to the Plaza San Antonio where we looked into the Church of San Antonio. We joined the blue footpath, which led into the narrow streets, passing the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri. By now there were groups with shopping trolleys, and we followed them towards the Market, joining the purple route near the Almeda cake shop which we remembered from 2013. The prices of the special Christmas cakes were high - the smallest on display was 49 euros, so we tried a couple of their Tarta de Pestinos, the local honeyed Christmas biscuits at a euro - we always like to learn from local specialties. The cake shop was opposite the Torre Tavira. In 1778 it was the highest lookout point and was the official watchtower. From the top of the tower there is a 360 degree view and it was clear there are many watchtowers in Cadiz, by memory 129, and most houses have rooftop terraces. There is also a Camera Obscura.
The market hall was interesting but we did our cheese shopping in the Carrefore supermarket where small whole cheeses were for sale and others were vac-packed. There was still cheap Cava at under 2 euros a bottle, and some nice reserva and gran reserva riojas at 8 or 9 euros. Following the purple line led directly to the Cathedral which was built between 1722 and 1838 so is a mixture of different architectural styles. The high altar is in the form of a tabernacle, supported by paired columns. The statue of the Immaculate Conception dates from the 17th century. The choir stalls predate the construction, dating from 1702. The crypt was the first part to be built, between 1722 and 1730. It is made of oyster stone, a local stone excavated from the sea and containing lots of shells. The Chapel of Bishops contains the remains of all the prelates. The famous composer Manuel de Falla was born in Cadiz in November 1876, but died in Argentina in 1946 and was returned to be buried in the crypt. It was 1130 on Sunday and the Mass was just finishing as we arrived. However it was followed by a ceremony which involved awarding brooches to a large number of people, of student age. It reminded us of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards but we asked two Tourist Information Offices about it afterwards, and neither knew what was happening. It was not going to be possible to tour the cathedral, or the crypt, while all the ceremony was taking place. Outside groups of demonstrators had arrived and were standing on the steps with banners. We have no idea what had caused their demonstration, or whether it was linked to the ceremony within.
We moved on before we became embroiled in something we did not understand. It was not far to the Town Hall and the Plaza de San Juan de Dios with its pretty Christmas decorations. A final detour, following the purple line towards the Church-convent of Santo Domingo, brought us back past the Palacio de Congresos, and within sight of the ship. After dinner there was plenty of time to explore a very deserted ship before going to check in for our Theatre Box for the 10.30 performance of Dance Passion. We had Box 3, having been just too late to book Box 5.
Lisbon is the largest city and chief port of Portugal. The city lies on the northern shore of the Tagus River, about 8 miles from the Atlantic. We have been to Lisbon several times before on the QE2 and comprehensively explored Lisbon City and the Waterworks Museum in 2001 and on the Lisbon visit in 2005 took a tour along the banks of the Tagus on the scenic coastal road and into the area known as the Portuguese Riviera to the 18th-century Palace of Quelez. In 2007 on the QE2 we walked to the Belem Area including the Maritime Museum and in 2010 saw the Cathedral and Roman excavations. In 2013 on the Queen Victoria we took a train to Cascais, situated on a coastline with small picturesque beaches and peaceful fishing-boat-bobbing waters.
We got up to see the last of the journey up the Tagus river where one passes some of the best know sights. First comes the Tower of Belem which is a five storey fort which some say looks like a giant chess piece and is one of Lisbon's most recognised landmarks. The masterpiece of Manueline Architecture was built on what was once an island in the middle of the Tagus between 1515 and 1521, since medieval times the river has changed course and the tower is now on the North bank. Then one passes the Discoveries Monument which was constructed for the 1940 exhibition but was erected on its present site only in 1960 - it is built in the shape of the bow of a caravel. Led by Henry the Navigator, stylised over-sized figures look out on the Tagus. The 16th century Jeronimos Abbey of Santa Maria and the Monastery is set back a little from the waterfront. Henry the Navigator built a small chapel on the site at the time of the great voyages of discovery and it is thought that work on the monastery began on the initiative of Manuel I, in 1502, and was finally completed in 1572.
We expected to again berth near the Bridge of 25 April, and had planned to walk back to visit the monuments, monastery and in particular the museums we had passed on the way in as they are usually free on Sunday. So it was with surprise that we passed the usual berth, steaming on towards Lisbon town. Our new berth was beyond the main square, in the cruise terminal of Santa Apolonia, described as the Dock of the Jardim do Tobacco. It was our first visit there and an easy walk into the centre, but a tram ride back to Belem. This gave a fresh opportunity - it had been many years since we last visited Lisbon town, and although it was a Sunday and many shops would be closed, it seemed better to take advantage of our new berth. Next visit we may be back down by the Bridge.
We walked along to the main Square of Praca do Commercio which is the usual drop-off for the shuttle buses from the opposite direction - it is also called Black horse square because of the black statue of Jose I. It has three sides of classical arcaded buildings, with the fourth side open directly onto the Tagus river. One corner has a seasonal typical conical silver metal christmas tree. There was a palace here before the earthquake of 1775, and the Triumphal Arch built afterwards and leading to the Rua Augusta has panoramic views from the top.
Narrow pedestrian streets with pavement cafes lead to Don Pedro IV Square, and the National Theatre. On the left is the interesting Moorish facade of the Rossio Railway Station, with a very useful Starbucks for purchase of coffee beans - despite being a big international chain, Starbucks produce the best Decaffeinated Espresso we have found so far. Trains were running every 30 minutes to Sintra and we will explore these in future. The area was temporarily car-free because there was a race around Lisbon, and many people in shorts and trainers wearing large numbers were arriving at the Praca das Restauradores. We could only just glimpse the obelisk monument in the distance. After a free coffee and wifi with our purchase of beans we set off towards the Lower Town and the Church of San Domingos.
Looking upwards it looked easy to climb up to the Castelo of San Jorge, and from the map it was not far beyond the cathedral. We had hoped to spend time in the cathedral and get an update on the archaeological research in the cloisters but the ticket office was closed on Sunday. Following the tramline and continuing to climb reaches the Miradouro Santa Luzia with good views over Alfama.
The entry to the Castelo of San Gorge was just above. Our visit had to be hurried because there was weather approaching and we had to return to the ship shortly so we could not afford the time to shelter. So we were unable to visit the archaeological site which has houses from the 11th and 12th century and the ruins of the Palace of the Counts of Santiago. And we could not wait to visit the Camera Obscura. Although the tours were every 30 minutes, the next ones were in Spanish, then English and Portuguese. So we had too long a wait. However there was plenty of time to stroll around the gardens, admiring the views towards the Tagus, and then cross the bridge to explore the castle. It was built in the 11th century, and uses the natural slopes of the land as part of its defences. It retains 11 towers, the most outstanding being the Tower of the Keep, the Tower of the Riches or Tumbling Tower, the Palace Tower, the Tower of St Lawrence and the Tower of the Cistern. The towers are joined by a walkway on top of the walls.
It was quicker to walk down the hill than it had been to climb and we had time to visit the Church of Santa Maria Madelena, and found there was an exhibition of the Turin shroud and a computer generated and full size reconstruction of the body of the person who had been wrapped in the cloth, presumed to be Jesus.
The final highlight was the facade of the 16th century Casa dos Bicos with rows of pyramidal stones, occupied by the foundation of Jose Saramago. Opposite was one of the old tobacco warehouses now painted in a cheery red colour. We reached home just ahead of the weather giving us a nice picture of the Queen Victoria under the threatening skies.
Queen Victoria departed at 1400 from Lisbon, and the evening was formal. We had enjoyed lunch in the Verandah and had booked dinner there for the evening. The lunch menu is $15 whereas dinner is $24. The two menus have some overlap with the starters and desserts, and we like to try different options. Pauline had snails and Pete chose the smoked beef. His plate came with a glass dome; when it was removed there was smoke everywhere but we were not quick enough with the camera. For main course, Pete had the Pork, a huge succulent chop, so big it came sliced. Pauline's lamb, cooked rare in the french style, was again excellent. The pictures below have been brought together from several dinners to show some more of the other choices.
A chance to recover and write up ending with the Gala dinner where we both had Beef Wellingtons with an extra half Lobster to make it a surf and turf. The Gala Dinner always ends with the Parade of Chefs and introductions to the main players on the stairs. Pauline took this memorable picture of some of the Chefs in a lighthearted mood. We were also presented with all the menus from the first half of our cruise
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