The soft orange glow of early dawn lights up the Tagus estuary as we sail towards Baixa, the port district of Lisbon. Cup of tea in hand I stand on our balcony listening to the hypnotic swishing of the ship as it cuts through the shimmering water, a soothing start to what will be our first day ashore on this 10 day cruise to Iberia. This has to be my favourite part of cruising; the dawn approach to port. Not only is it my favourite part but it appears to be the favourite pastime of a great number of our fellow passengers – if the line of white dressing gowns decorating the starboard balconies is anything to go by.
It doesn’t take long before the cameras appear. Still a trifle bleary eyed I put down my cuppa and shuffle indoors for my compact Fuji…my brain incapable of using anything more complex at this time of morning. Our neighbour on the adjacent balcony takes note of my choice of photographic equipment and disappears momentarily, to return with a decent DSLR. This heralds a rush of white dressing gowns into cabins and the appearance a battery of lenses the size of small canons causing the good ship Ventura to list suddenly to starboard.
The clicking of shutters is soon being drowned out by the increasing roar of road traffic, a puzzling sound, existing as it does in the middle of a decent sized river. We are approaching the sizeable Ponte 25 de Abril, the bridge connecting the Lisbon districts of Belem and Almada. Having dealt with bridges for a large part of my working life I’m astonished at the level of noise, after all it’s early Sunday morning and from what I can see there is not a great deal of traffic making the crossing. As the ship eases under the bridge deck I look up and realise where the veritable din is coming from. I can see cars through the open steelwork of the wafer thin deck. Environmentalists would be in a real quandary over this one: a massive saving in raw materials….but noisier than a Vespa convention!
A giant statue of Jesus overlooks the bridge. This is seriously scary, the required presence of a major religious figure an indicator of confidence in the crossing’s structural integrity. I suspect the locals are secretly hoping JC will answer their prayers and one stormy night descend upon the bridge deck from Hell and return blessed heavenly peace to their homes.
We sail on leaving the traffic drone a few kilometres behind. The estuary reaches its narrowest and little ferries scuttle busily past, the sound of camera clicking able to be heard once more. Unexpectedly the river suddenly widens, the views to shore lost in the palest tangerine haze of a warm early morning. The temperatures will reach the mid 30’s today so our whirlwind Lisbon tour will be hard work in the unaccustomed heat. But that will not deter us; it’s my birthday and we’re in Portugal…so it’s fish for lunch!
*Once again a reminder to click on the first photo to bring up the photo carousel*