Home > 2011 Posts > Lisbon, Real Soon Now

Lisbon, Real Soon Now

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sailing into Lisbon at dawn is quite a treat.

Which is good, because our ship had steamed overnight from the Azores after a trans-Atlantic crossing out of miserably hot, but photogenic, Miami. Those long days at sea made my bride and I eager to get ashore in this fabled city.

Incidentally, we find long sea voyages—even on the best appointed cruise ship—quite boring. Our preference is much more to arrive at a different, interesting place every morning, especially one where we’ve never been. That’s usually how we first visit a new part of the world. Then, having found a place we like enough to revisit, we go back and stay for a week or more to explore what strikes our fancy.

But, back to that first day in Lisbon.

We’d known that the city was just about leveled by a huge, 8.7 earthquake and firestorm in 1755. Back then, it had been one of the largest and most beautiful cities in Europe. But, flames turned the place to cinders for five days, and one-quarter of its people were killed by the event.

So much for The Great U.S. East Coast Quake of August, 2011. You remember that, don’t you? Or at least the silly clucking and flapping by the Northeast Corridor media?  

Given the damage to Lisbon, we were expecting a 19th century city, much like Athens, and that’s what we found, but with an attractive Iberian flair. It will definitely be ‘back  to Lisbon’ for us soon. Then, we’ll make a driving tour of the countryside, likely tracing Wellington’s advance against the French and inspecting the many Roman ruins. As you may know, for a couple hundred years, Southern Portugal was perhaps one of the most idyllic spots in the empire.

And Port wine, can’t forget that. As an old Navy man, I learned early on that officers drink Port because of Napoleon. The Royal Navy used to drink Madiera, a Spanish wine, but, when Portugal became an ally and Spain an enemy during the Napoleonic Wars, toasting with wine from Oporto was much more patriotic for the Brits. By the 20th century we’d smoothed over all the burning Washington, D.C. stuff and the American Navy adopted the port wine tradition as well.

And now, you’ve been fed your Naval Trivia for the day. See you in Oporto!

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