Sunfish are Ugly
Well, we will get to the Sunfish but before that we have done so much. When we came to leave Sao Martinho do Porto Neil had a real job weighing (pulling up) the anchor. Hanging off our chain was another anchor and a lump of concrete all wrapped around with rope. Took Neil a while to cut the rusty thing off.
Then we headed for the entrance. I knew it was going to be a bit bumpy as I could see the swells but the swell wasn’t just at the entrance. We bounced along into them for a bit and as we turned and headed south, they became easier but then were coming in from the side. Neil’s least favourite motion. After 2 days of strong winds, typically there was no wind at all so we had to motor sail. We saw no other boats going south but about half a dozen motoring north into the swell. For us, the swells definitely reduced and apart from the noise of the engine and the swells at the beginning, it was a pleasant trip. The weather was good and we were only a couple of miles off shore so the views were good too. We got to the anchorage at Caiscais around 8pm. Neil dropped the hook and we stayed in Caiscais for 2 days but didn’t leave the boat. The 2nd morning, problems with the anchor again, this time the chain had fouled on something and again hard work for Neil to raise it.
The motor up the river past Lisbon was fascinating. So much to see and it was a lovely warm sunny day and seemed to take a shorter time than the 3 hours it actually took to arrive at the Marina Parque das Nacoes.
I will do a second part to my Marina Guide and include this one but I will say here that this is by the far the most welcoming and efficient marina we have been to. The wealth of information given to us on arrival, the helpfulness of the marineros, the security, etc is excellent. I heard more than one other sailor talk about that not only are the marineros friendly but knowledgeable.
Day 1 – we just went out to the local butcher and mini-market to get something for tea and I used the laundry facilities
Day 2 – we planned to go to the Oceanarium but the queue was massive so we went to the shopping centre – Vasco de Gama – instead and had McDonalds for lunch. You can get a beer at McDonalds here. Don’t know why UK McD’s don’t do the same. Very civilised. However, I didn’t notice this until I had started on my Sprite.
Day 3 – A visit to Sintra by train and shopping centre.
Day 4 – The Oceanarium and shopping centre
Day 5 – Lisbon city
Other days – The Shopping Centre and boat jobs
To get to Sintra from here was easy. The train station is just the other side of the road to the shopping centre and trains to Sintra ran 3 times an hour. As Sintra is the last stop on the line, you can’t go wrong. It was about a 40 minute trip and cost €5 return.
Sintra is known for its many 19th-century romantic architectural monuments a UNESCO World heritage site. There are many royal palaces and castles to visit in this one town and it is very much a tourist destination. It has been described as Disneyland for adults. Not quite sure I’d describe it as such but it is very busy with day trippers. We visited the palace which is in the centre so we didn’t need to get a bus. Some of them are just outside the town itself and the Moorish castle is right on the cliff top. It reminded me of Carcassonne with the cobbled steep streets and artisan shops. We had a glass of vinho verde (green wine) along with cake and cherries doused in port at The Painters Garden sat on a terrace built up near the canopy of a tree. They offered people purple blankets if they were cold. It wasn’t cold up there as such but the wind did gust occasionally.
This was fabulous. I have never been to one before, poor really considering the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham wasn’t far from home. However, I was really impressed. The main tank is just huge and there are so many different viewing areas at different levels. Some are a big expanse of curved glass which looks into the centre, there are small windows looking into one particular area and the types of sea life in there is amazing.
There are over 450 species of sea creatures and they concentrate on raising awareness towards the conservation of nature. I was wondering how they manage to feed such a diverse range of creatures as I would expect the sharks to eat everything else. There was a video which explained this and how the Oceanarium works which was good to be included as it answered my questions. This is one of the few aquariums in the world to have Sunfish as apparently they are notouriously difficult to keep. We have seen the small flapping fins of Sunfish on the surface of the sea a few times as we have been sailing down this Atlantic coast. These are the fins that are on their sides, just behind their eyes. I had no idea what was underneath though. They can grow to weigh up to 2ton and are very ugly. The ones here were massive. The gift shop did manage to make a toy one look cute though and Neil bought me the keyring version as a memento. Can’t imagine that they’d sell many if they were as ugly as the real thing.
See what I mean, Sunfish are ugly.
They also had puffins, penguins, otters, other seabirds whose name I have forgot as well as many tanks with other sea creatures in. No piranhas though. They had a tank with sea dragons which reminded me of the Soup Dragon from the Clangers.
In addition, there was a temporary exhibition which was also fabulous called Forests Underwater designed by Takashi Amano. Takashi is a landscape photographer who has explored forests all over the world. He introduced Japanese gardening techniques into the design of the planted aquariums. It was very beautiful. What I really liked was the fact there was a bare patch in the display. It wasn’t necessary to completely fill the space. There was some harmonious music playing and raised seating areas. The idea being you could sit and enjoy quietly. However that was never going to happen with scores of people passing through chatting and kids running up and down the seating area. Neil thought the experience could of been enhanced by listening to the music through headphones to zone out the background noise. Some facts: the aquarium is 40m long and 2.5m wide and used 4 tons of sand, 25 tons of volcanic rock from the Azores, 78 tree trunks from Scotland and Malaysia, 10,000 tropical freshwater fish from 40 species and 46 species of aquatic plants.
After the Oceanarium we continued to the shopping centre, as we were half way there. Because of the problems with refrigeration, we have been buying fresh meat and produce as we are using it. I picked up in my galley what looked like a perfectly good red pepper and my fingers went straight into it. Yuk. I did a bit of girl shopping but only so Neil didn’t feel bad as he had bought a new man bag and a tablet case the day before! The shop was called Natura and did floaty stuff a bit like East in the UK and for those of you of a certain age from Leamington, a bit like Octopus and smelled the same too. They were doing a buy 2 get 1 free offer across everything in the store (except scarves). I didn’t spot the sign but Neil pointed it out to me – the fool. I was then in there for ages and bless him he stood and waited for me. I originally only had one thing but the girl insisted on helping me find other stuff. Naturally, when I had two items I really liked I had to look for a third or a waste of a saving (is that a saving?). Anyway I got 2 fine cotton tops and a maxi dress. So I saved by spending. Womens logic is great. One of the Marineros here, Antonio said it is the same with Portuguese women they think they are saving money when spending in a sale. The bag it came in was interesting, see picture.
Also the shop where Neil got his tablet case from i loved. It’s called “a loja do gate preto” and was cat themed. They did kitchen stuff, bathrooms, cushions, bedding, tablet cases obviously, glasses, candles …… I desperately am trying to justify a new set of cutlery which is ornately designed and has the cat logo on. Not sure I can. We need Jake back to chuck a bit more away so then I need to buy another set!
No rest for the wicked as they say and we took the bus to Lisbon old city, Commercial Square. Again transport from the marina was easy. The bus stop was very close and went straight to the square and cost €1.30 each, each way. We had seen the square from the boat and was very impressed with the size and the archway leading to Augusta Street behind. As we had motored in I commented on how clean the buildings looked. The old stone churches and basilicas looked really clean considering the age of them. As we went through the archway to Augusta Street, which is the main shopping street, I met Captain Jack and had my picture taken.
We wandered up the street looking up at the architecture of the old buildings and it opened out into Rossio Square where there were two big fountains. We sat down for a beer at Cafe Nicola and stayed for some lunch just people watching. People kept coming up and taking photos of the front and I wondered why. Turns out it was a very famous cafe where literary and political meetings were held when it opened in 1929. It maintains part of its past in its art deco façade.
There seemed to be endless ways of touring Lisbon. On foot, open top buses, an amphibious vehicle, small buses, horse and trap, trams but my favourite was the TukTuk. There were loads of them in different designs and styles. Some only sat 2/3 in the back others were designed for 6 or even a limo style one for 8. They looked fab and they had been drawing up outside Cafe Nicola. We decided to take a tour in a TukTuk. I wasn’t going to walk up the steep hills and this was a great way to see the old city as a few of the streets only TukTuks can get down as they are so narrow. A couple of them were only just wide enough for us to fit through. Jorge our driver gave us a good tour and wasn’t too chatty or pushy when it came to “trying” the local cherry liquor or ports – obviously locals with an agreement with the TukTuk firm to get sales.
I loved the TukTuk and have added one to my virtual home in Portugal. We were tatting on the internet looking at cheap property to buy in Portugal and you can get a ready to move in 2 bed, 1 bath property with 4,000m of garden in the country for £24k. In fact, if you want a doer-uper then £15k is not unheard of. So naturally, in my head, I am living in a house with an allotment and selling my excess fruit/veg from my TukTuk at the roadside. Boy do I have an imagination.
We had a great day in Lisbon and barely scratched the surface on things to do and see.
We are still at the marina and it’s likely that we are going to stay an extra night to our planned 7 nights as the wind is forecast to increase quite a lot and being on an anchor won’t be as comfortable as staying put. Not far now to the turn at the bottom and then we will be in the Algarve. We have arranged for the local supermarket to deliver our shopping the day before we leave. We’ll go in the morning and do our shop as normal through the till, they then box it up and for €5 will deliver it to the boat a couple of hours later. This is great as I’d like to stock up on some heavy stuff such as pop, beer, wine, milk, tinned veg etc and saves us trying to carrying it. My little cart on wheels I bought from Lakeland earlier this year, won’t survive on the Portuguese cobbled streets.