Our first port of call was Lisbon. On our travels we like to try different ways of getting around. Here we decided to go on a Tuk-Tuk, which proved to be nothing like the ones you see in some movies.It was the upmarket electric version, leather seats etc and apparently cost about £24,000 plus £4000 for the battery. This was a fantastic way to go around the narrow streets and a fortunate choice as the taxis were on strike. The views from the vantage points were impressive as were the churches we visited, one's interior being completely covered in gold.
After getting back to the ship, we had time to go for a walk to see more of the town. It was interesting to see that one man was building stone sculptures from the rocks and people were giving him money. Another fascinating structure that we saw, was the lift to take you from the lower town to the upper one, unfortunately there was a long queue here, so we had t give it a miss.
A city we would certainly return to for a few days in future.
At Portimao, we had a choice of visiting the town or getting a coach to the seaside town of Pria-da Rocha. Fortunately, we decided to go to the coast and it was a nice change to wander along a seaside resort, taking in the different sights. It also gave us a chance to pick up a few souvenirs.
At the far end of our walk, were smaller inlets to sunbathe in and these were very pretty. As we walked back along the beach the scenery changed and here the coastline was flat and the bars all had their own sunbathing areas. Strangely, the further we walked towards the harbour, a loud thumping beat could be heard and as we came closer its volume increased. This proved to be a large concert area, with hundreds of young people dancing the day away in a cordoned off area. As well as the music, there was a large pool and other facilities. Unfortunately, we hadn't packed our disco shoes and had to get the coach back to the ship, otherwise it would have been our first rave!
In Cadiz we decided to explore the town ourselves. After leaving the ship, we came across the local tourist office. They were giving out maps of the town and we were impressed to find out that on the floor, there were several coloured trails you could follow; depending on what you wanted to see and the time you had.
We set off on the first one and found ourselves in a large square, where a craft market was being set up. After that, we were exploring several narrow streets. We finished one trail and decided to try another. Looking out for the painted lines was great fun, even if they crossed at times or were a little worn. We certainly found parts of the town we otherwise wouldn't have seen.
The architecture was stunning and we even managed to fit in a quick visit to the art gallery, showing more traditional art. Another very impressive town and following the marked routes was a good idea and one that other towns could take on board. These were very helpful and would allow tourists to enjoy their visit more.
Our final port of Gibraltar, proved to be the one that split people's opinions. We booked a tour to the Rock as this was the main attraction that you hear about before you go. This proved to be badly organised as we arrived an hour and a half before the cable car was due to start running.
Fortunately, the driver of our shuttle bus. managed to persuade them to let us go up quite quickly. On arriving, we then found the facilities weren't open as well. Here again, the staff decided to open early for which we were very thankful. As it was rather foggy and cold up at the top with a non existent view. The only thing to do then was sit and drink lots of hot coffee for a while.
Eventually, we ventured outside to see the apes. The ones near the café appeared well fed and were quite docile but as you ventured further away, they were a lot more lively. This trip was partly spoilt by the low cloud and cold, but the whole upper rock seemed run down. I know it is a ruined fortress but there was rubbish everywhere and some of the apes were just rooting through it. Although there was more to see it was hard to venture further because of poor visibility, which was a shame as I'm sure there were some quite interesting things to see.
We went back down on the cable car and once below the cloud, it was pleasantly warm. As we wandered along the main street, it felt very familiar with Dorothy Perkins, Marks and Spencer and many of the high street stores found at home. Although a tax free port the prices seemed very similar apart from alcohol which was a lot cheaper.
As the day progressed, we knew that it wasn't going to be one of those golden visits. What with the disappointing start and then when we went into a café for something to eat and ordered two pancakes, Sue's arrived first and I waited and waited for mine. Sue had eaten hers before the waitress came and told us that the machine had broken and I never got one!
We left the café and wandered to a large square, which was very lively, and decided to look for the small craft outlets advertised on the upper floor of a craft market. As you can imagine, most of these were closed, but we did have a good view of the start of a small re-enactment by the colonial soldiers.
We then decided to make our way back to the ship, which proved to be quite a difficult task. As we had travelled into the town centre by shuttle bus and leaving on foot, we had to rely on the map given to us on the ship. The area itself was poorly signposted and as I have mentioned before in previous blogs, the maps weren't very good! In our wanderings and after taking many a wrong turn, we did come across the modern port area, which was impressive and then fortunately saw the ships entertainment officer and managed to follow him!
When talking to fellow passengers, we found that some liked the idea of all the local shops and English surroundings, whereas others enjoyed other ports where there was a local feel. We were a little disappointed with the day and could only sit and wish we could have gone up the Rock later in the day, as the clouds disappeared, and maybe then, we would see why people love the town.