Sunday, May 21, 2017

Early October 2016 - Lisbon, At Last

Lisbon is a wonderful, small, old city, with fading glory from prior wealthy periods and overseas conquests.  The Portuguese were the first european overseas explorers and conquerors.  There are fantastic monuments to see from the water and from shore.  
Belem Tower
Monument of the Discoveries wrapped in scaffolding unfortunately.
Lisbon is now Portugal's capital, main port and largest city.  It's compact and lively, and a popular tourist destination.   It was mobbed.
But wonderful sights to see
 Centuries' worth of elaborate buildings ....
Like many european cities, cycling is popular, although Lisbon is very hilly. 
          Rossio Theater
Free bike self-service repair station...

Cascais and Sintra

Lisbon is several miles up the Rio.Tejo.   But out at the mouth is the fashionable yachting and beach town of Cascais (pronounced Cash KI Eesh).  There's a spendy marina, but the weather was calm enough we could stay in the anchorage, which is open to the south, for a few days.

It's a busy and fun holiday town, set among cliffs with great, cheap, train access to everywhere else.  It was awesome.  

Nearby is the fantastic historic castle town of Sintra.  There is a very old 12th century Moorish fort on a hilltop to clamber over.  Both castles have fantastic views over the landscape and far out to sea.

 And a flamboyant 19th century castle inspired Neuschwanstein, in Germany, I think by the same architect.  We took a convenient bus up there.  Of course the whole place was swarming with tourists.

 The place is so extensive, it's hard to photo
more fancy tile

We also see scout troops from time to time.
A super fun day in the sun

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cruising the Central Coast of Portugal, Small Towns

On our route south, in mid-September, we stopped at several charming small towns.  Some were up big river estuaries, others were just perched on the coast with breakwaters and jetties and tiny marinas.  We had mainly sunny weather with light winds.   Our stops were Aveiro, Figueira da Foz, and Peniche.  We cut a wide arc around Nazaire.  There's a deep underwater canyon that causes ginormous waves famous among surfers.

Aveiro is set in a large estuary and has canals snaking through the old town.  We arrived at the harbor entrance just as a big fishing boat festival parade was barrelling down on us, loaded with merrymakers, flags flying, horns honking.  A marine policeman on a jet ski helped us through.  Then we motored through a sailboat race.  There was lots of current, so tying up our 42ft boat in a 44ft spot on a long dock was a challenge.  But we made it with help from the friendly folks already there.
Aveiro Gondolas
 All over Portugal, many of the old towns have elegant buildings clad in colorful tile.
City Hall

Royal Language School, sounds posh

  And imaginative combinations

Waterfront church/lighthouse combo

Side Trip to Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Gentle Reader, After a long hiatus, we'll resume our blog, starting in September 2016.

From the beautiful coastal village of Muros, Galicia, NW Spain, we took a short bus trip to Santiago de Compostela.  But first, I stopped at an ATM.  Bad move - late on a Friday afternoon, after the bank closed for the weekend, the ATM ate my debit card.  And we needed to leave Sunday and kiss the card goodbye.
Hence a new travel and cruising rule:  Only use bank ATMs while banks are open, to have some chance of recovery.  We get by OK with spares, but the "no drama" philosophy corollary requires  "prevent easily preventable problems"
OCC cruise leader's boat Malvina
 Anyhow Santiago was fantastic.  Crammed with camino walkers and devoted pilgrims (sometimes on knees), and raucous regional festivities, it was a real contrast to the calm and quiet normal cruising life (up until then).  Of course, at first there is the beautiful old architecture...

 and lavish decor from New World exploration plunder...

Outside, pandemonium ....
Really loud, but no amplifiers
Fantastic costumes
Horses appeared to be completely deaf, took no notice of the racket going on around them

Meanwhile, there were fashionably dress wedding goers on a back street, a contrast from the more ruggedly dressed camino walkers.
More fancy clothes


and bands of bachelorettes for future weddings

Cruising the Atlantic Coast of Portugal - Part 1

In mid-September, we crossed the border from beautiful Galicia, Spain, into Portugal, still in the company of the small OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) East Atlantic Rally (6 boats)..  The coast flattens out and the scenery is less dramatic.  However, we visit a number of pleasant coastal towns en route to Porto and Lisbon.

Most are shallow estuaries requiring entry in calm conditions.  Prices are even lower than Spain.
Our first 2 stops were Viana do Costelo and Povoa de Varzim, very similar towns and ports.

From Povoa de Varzim, we took a short bus ride to Porto.  It's a fantastic town to visit, but very crowded and seems smothered by visitors.
Porto Skyline

Lavishly decorated old Stock Exchange

And of course, Port wine warehouses

Saturday, December 3, 2016

September 2016 - Galicia, NW Spain

We were sorry to leave France, but it was time to move on.  The 336 nm route runs SW across the Golfe de Gascogne (aka Bay of Biscay in English).

This body of water is known for very rough seas due to it's shape and location, the shallow shelf that extends outwards, so that big ocean swells really pile up when they run into it.  And there are various coastal currents that change with the tide, So there were a few unknowns to be prepared for.  Therefore, we chose our crossing time with great care.  Winds were light and seas were calm, so it was a moderate and easy two day passage. 

We made landfall in a quiet bay in the Ria de Cedeira.  The scenery is spectacular mountainous high cliffs, with lighthouses and misty clouds blowing over.  It was hard to get a good photo, so I borrowed this one from a land trip site online.
Cabo Ortegal

We hopped along the coast to La Coruña to meet some other boats from OCC, the Ocean Cruising Club.    La Coruña is the site of the Tower of Hercules, a lighthouse built by the Romans and added to over the centuries. Unfortunately, it was foggy....  

At the base of the tower:  Minute Man or Don Quixote?

The coast has many rias, or bays that were great anchorages with charming small towns along the way.  One of several stops was Finesterra, a village on a point that many pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela visit, after Santiago, if they feel like walking another 50 miles or so.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

August 2016, continued - La Rochelle

Like many coastal river ports, defensive towers were built in ancient times.
August 21st - Continuing our route south, the rocky islands and inlets gave way to lower and sandier shore and islands, with few good sheltered anchorages.

After a couple days, we arrived at La Rochelle, the end point of our French cruise.  It is a major sailing center and a busy tourist destination.  We splurged on the marina for a week+ and used our bikes to run over to the picturesque and busy old town.  At the marina, there was a well stocked mini market, a superb boulangerie/patisserie and lots of good restaurants.  Oh yeah.... it was great.  The weather was hot during the first few days, but very comfortable at night.  
Lantern Tower

The marina holds 2,000+ boats, but most aren't very big by US standards, so the marina itself is fairly compact.  Here is a fleet of 30+ 1-design boats for big group outings, team building and the like.  As you can see, there wasn't much wind that particular weekend.

The French are very gung-ho about sailing:
Sailing school sign

 There is lots to see and do in the charming town:
the Municipal Market, after closing  

Waterfront Restaurant
Full of tourists, and seemingly hundreds of restaurants

something for everybody

We were really sorry to leave at the end of the month, but it was time to move on.  We were planning to joint an OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) cruise in La Coruña, in Galicia, in NW Spain.