Tag Archives: Portugal

L = Lisbon

A to Z Ports: Lisbon, Portugal

The port of Lisbon is very popular with cruise ship lines. Most ships will dock at Doca de Alcantara, which is near the 25th of April bridge, which is very similar to the San Francisco Bridge. There is no reason to stay on the ship with all that Lisbon has to offer!

Most ships spending the day in port will offer a shuttle to Praca do Comercio near the pedestrian area of central Lisbon. This is a very central location and easy place to find transit to other areas of Lisbon. Two trams are of special notice, if you have limited time in Lisbon, Tram No. 28 is a old-fashioned wooden tram that goes to the Castelo de Sao Jorge and Tram 15 goes to the Belem area.


Here is my past post about Lisbon.



Mystery Cruises #AtoZChallenge


So, why would someone pay to go on a mystery cruise; get on a ship and head to ports unknown? Since I love to cruise, this sounded like an interesting opportunity to sail into, well, mystery! I’ve now done two of these cruises and both on the Braemar.  I really like this ship. It is a smaller one and feels like family. It is very easy to sail solo and meet lots of friends on this ship.

On the first cruise, we sort of knew where we were going. The passengers were given a choice and we voted for one port or another — but we did not know where we were going until we got there! Here are the ports we visited:

Porto, Malaga, Barcelona, Valencia, Cartegna, Cadiz, La Coruna

The second mystery cruise was truly a mystery — one that would include only maiden ports (ports where our ship had never visited). It was very strange not to be able to plan or research the ports we were going to, nor to be able to know exactly what to pack — for warm or cold! The cruise was early May, so it was hard to plan for everything. It started in Dover and we waited to see if we would turn to go north … or south (or if we could even trust that, in the night, the ship would change directions!). As it turned out, we continued North and thus we began a cruise that went to Norway, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.


The ports included:

Larvik, Hundested, Nyborg, Fredercia, Wismar, Lyskil

Would I go on another one? It would be hard to keep me away!



O is for Oporto


Oporto, Portugal is probably best known for it’s special port wine. Unique boats transferred the grapes from the fields to the wineries that lined the banks of Oporto. You can visit many tasting rooms. The area along the river is a great place to stroll and sample wonderful wines and food.

You can read more of my adventures in Oporto.

Oporto, Portugal

The first choice that won on our “Choose Your Own” cruise on the Braemar, was Leixos — the closest port to Oporto, Portugal. We docked at the closest pier, which was still a 30 minute drive or Metro ride from Oporto — but it was right next to a beach. The local Hop On, Hop Off bus added a stop at the pier — good business for them and easy way to get into the centre of town. And I was able to actually follow a plan for a nice walking tour.

Leixos Beach and port

I started my walking tour at the Torre de Clerigos — one of the tallest landmarks in Oporto and from here, all the streets led down to the river.

Torre de Cler

Torre de Clerigos

Next, I headed to the Sao Bento Train Station. It is a beautiful building that has some marvelous azulejos, the blue and white hand-painted tiles that are found all over Portugal. These covered large walls in the station and told the history of Oporto.

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Then, I wandered down some of the streets near the train station, including Rua de Flores. This area has a lot of cafes, shops and second-hand stores.

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I finally got to the Placa de Henri the Navigator. Next to this plaza is the Palacio de Balsa and the Igreja de Sao Francisco.

Henri the Navagator

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I continued making my way towards the Ribera, the area near the Duoro River. It is a really nice walk, lined with cafes and a great place to watch the different types of boats that sail along this stretch of the river. You can also see the Gaia area, which is where many of the port houses are located.

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I headed towards the Ponte de Dom Luis I — a two level bridge that allows for cars and pedestrians on the lower level and the metro and pedestrians on the upper level.  The views from the upper level is amazing, but may not be for people who are not good with heights. There is a funicular that aids in getting you to the upper deck on the Oporto side and an elevator on the Gaia side.

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Once in Gaia, pick your favourite port house — or try them all!  Most of tours and tasting rooms. Or, just sit at one of the outdoor cafes and enjoy good food and port. That’s what I did.I stopped at Taberninha do Manel and had a lovely light lunch of small empanadas (one beef and one seafood), a bowl of a Portuguese traditional cabbage and potato soup and a glass of port (tawny 10 year-old) — all for 10 Euors!


I decided it was time to head back to the ship, so I hopped back on the bus, and got to see more of Oporto before returning to my home on the sea.

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Choose your own cruise highlights

I have lots of stories and photos to share about my latest cruising adventure. As I posted earlier, it was a cruise where the passengers choose which ports we would visit.  So, where did we go?  Here is an overview of the cruise:

From Southampton, we sailed 530 nautical miles to Leixoes, Portugal and a visit to Oporto.

Oporto, Portugal

Next, we sailed 521 nautical miles to Malaga, Spain

Malaga, Spain

After another 530 nautical miles, we visited Barcelona!

Barcelona, Spain

Another 182 nautical miles latter found us in Valencia.


And another 182 nautical miles brought us to Cartagena, Spain.

Cartagena, Spain

After 366 nautical miles, we arrived in Cadiz, Spain.

Cadiz, Spain

We sailed back up the Iberian Peninsula for another 522 nautical miles to La Coruna, Spain.

La Coruna, Spain

Then, we headed back another 368 nautical miles to Southampton. More detailed stories are coming about each of the ports as well as a bit about sailing on the Braemar. It was an amazing trip!

“Choosing” a new adventure

I’m heading out on my next adventure — and this time, I really do not know where I am going.  Ok, I have a clue about where I am going, but the actual stops — that will be up to myself and my fellow passengers to decide.  You see, I signed up for the Fred.Olsen “Choose your Own” Cruise.  Here are the things I know.  I will be on board the Braemar, which is docking on October 10th in Southampton. Then, we are heading to the Iberian Peninsula. After that, the passengers choose where we go!

Here is a list of our choices:

I think this is going to be a fun adventure, so stay tuned for stories about my next trip!

A Charming Day in Funchal

It was a perfect day in Funchal on the island of Madeira. I started my day near the centre of town where there is a collection of buses and a cable car that takes you up to the town of Monte.  I decided to make that my first stop. The ride in the cable car provides a great view of Funchal and ends at one of the many formal gardens that are so much a part of this island.

Funchal Cable


A short walk on a cobble street brought me to one of the most important churches. There is a special festival celebrated on August 8th for Mary that occurs at this church.

Monte Church

This church is a very simple church that contains the tomb of the last Hapsburg Emperor. The views from this outside this church are also spectacular.

View from Monte

Next to the church was a wonderful garden that reminded me of a very special garden of a very special place in Sonoma, California. While I was wondering through the garden, I came upon a pond with two swans — and I got some amazing pictures of these beautiful birds.


Monte garden

Also near the church was one of the strangest ways I’ve found to travel down a hill — a toboggan that goes on pavement! It is a wicker basket that holds two people and there are two men that get it started then steer it down the hill. The ride takes about 20 minutes — and it a bit scary as you are steered through the streets.

Monte tobaggan

Tobaggan ride

Once back in Funchal, I got on a bus and took a tour of the city and headed to a little fishing community. We passed by groves of bananas, gardens (one dedicated to Santa Caterina), and churches. Everywhere was green and lush.

Once back in the city central, I headed to the main market where you can find fresh food, fish and flowers sold by women in traditional outfits.  You can also find crocheted handicrafts.

Funchal Market