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Transatlantic Trip December 2023 - Days 8-10: Lisbon and Punta Delgada

Day 8 - Lisboa


Driving plan: blue to Setúbal; light blue to port
Driving plan: blue to Setúbal; light blue to port

Making my third visit to Lisbon, having been in 2018 for a multiple day stay, and then a port call while aboard the Queen Mary 2 in August, I’d had Elisa arrange for a driver for me. I’d researched, and there are 3 cathedrals within 4 hours driving, but our port call was briefer - 8 hours with arrival at 8am. Waking and getting ready, I stopped at the Lounge for a coffee and mini-croissant, then descended the stairs. As I got to the gangway, a text came in, letting me know there would be a delay due an accident on one of the two bridges crossing the Tagus.

Jody and her posse debarking in Lisbon.
Jody and her posse debarking in Lisbon.

Hugo arrived a quarter-hour late in a Tesla sedan, allowing me to sit up front. Our destination was Setúbal, which turned out to be his hometown. Crossing the suspension bridge, we clicked. He pulled up into the plaza in front of the Se Catedral de Santa Maria da Graca with enough time for me to visit the interior before the bishop began Mass to celebrate the holyday, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Front facade, Se Catedral de Santa Maria da Graca, Setúbal
Se Catedral de Santa Maria da Graca, Setúbal

The external facade is very rectilinear - the only visible curves were the two openings for the bells in the pair of towers over the front corners, and the arch for the front door. The street entrance was three steps up to the pair of opposing 8-steps to the porch before the entry. Bright with natural lighting, the side aisle walls and nave vaults are white with ornately framed medallions depicting the saints. Below the clear glass paned windows, large tile displays in blue, gold and white depicted scenes of the life of Mary. Down the nave, the eastern apse wall was an explosion of gold arches framing side altars and stepping back in reducing sized about the sanctuary. Painted in pastels, the nave columns and curved arches defined the aisles.

Small chapels formed shallow arms of a transept, the altars embellished in gold filagree about a painting or mural. The wooden sanctuary floor is raised three steps above the nave, with the high altar 5 steps up, deeper in the apse, with a simple armchair, the cathedra, before the statue of Our Lady of Grace. The ambo, carved of wood and brushed with gold, has images depicting robed saints on the sides, while a near-naked Christ preaches on the front. As the attendants brought the vestments, crozier and mitre to the vesting room at the rear, I made my exit, observing a near empty plaza out front.

Not seeing the Tesla, I began my circuit around the building. Hugo was on his phone, the car parked at the cathedral’s rear. I got in and he began a “local’s tour” of Setúbal, heading to the main square where it opened out onto the gulf formed by the Sado River, not far from the ferry port. We then went west, climbing up a hill to the Forte de São Filipe. A tunnel-like entry allowed us into this star-shaped fortification, built in the late 16th century. Once inside the walls, elaborate blue and white tiles cover the walls and curved ceilings, including the small chapel. Hugo led me up to the upper battlements, where the panoramic view overlooked the gulf as it spilled into the ocean, while opposite rolling tree-covered hills created a skyline. The modern city of Setúbal extended along the shoreline to the south. (A small café provided a much-needed rest stop!)

Down to the beachfront, the stolid walls of the fort rise high above the sand. My visit in December avoided crowds at what Hugo reports is the most popular of the city recreational spaces. Continuing the waterfront away from the city, we passed a concrete plant, a source of local ire, as the surrounding area is a nature preserve. Theplant is slowly being decommissioned. Riding through the Parque Natural da Arrábida on twisting roads, I enjoyed the peace of the natural environment as the roadsides rose and dipped.  Soon we were back on the highway, heading to the north and the shorter bridge over the Tagus back to Lisbon.

As we approached the Ponte 25 de April, we pulled off into Pragal, on into Almada. Our destination was the Santuário Nacional do Cristo Rei. A soaring concrete tower overlooking the bridge crossing and the city to the north, the crowning figure of Christ the King, arms outstretched, was inspired by the similar statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro. The parking lot wasn’t crowded, and we left the car and walked first to the chapel situated between the four concrete piers rising 82 meters to an observation desk. The chapel itself was nearly unoccupied, but a small chapel to the rear, behind a closed glass door, was a smaller prayer space where the Eucharist was in a monstrance. Along the chapel walls were the fourteen stations, modern depictions in oil.

Out to the east side, we circled around to the entry to the lift on the north face, taking those who waited out the queue 289 feet to the observation deck at the base of the 28-meter-tall statue. Statues of the Evangelists stand at the corners, and a large circular medallion surmounts the north entrance. Around the edge of the fenced off ledge a red-brick walkway allows visitors to view the monument, and revolving, the bridge and Lisbon. A suspension bridge with two piers, it is painted the same color as the Golden Gate in San Francisco (California). Off into the harbor, I spotted the NCL Epic awaiting its departure. To the south are a few buildings: public restrooms, dormitories for youths, conference facilities and administrative space.

Once across the bridge, Hugo carefully drove along the riverside as we headed back to the port. He had me back to the ship a bit ahead of schedule, so I had an easy re-entry onboard (no crowds.) Into O’Sheehan’s, I ordered a cobb salad and a Coney Island hotdog, getting a bright green froufrou alcoholic drink. (The hotdog was too cool.)

I’d hidden a duck before departing, so on my climb, I check and was still in the decorated holiday tree. Dropping the camera in the cabin, I continued my climb to the pool deck, where I found a shaded spot with some wind protection and proceeded to plow through emails. Departure was scheduled for 4pm, and we were underway about 15 minutes later. I went out to stand with an unobstructed view as we passed under the bridge (something I’d photographed in August on the Queen Mary 2, so I just wanted to experience it this time.) I heard later we had 7 meters clearance, but it looked closer from the angle I stood at.

After about a half hour of aural suffering of the DJ’s exuberant mix, I stopped working the phone and headed inside where it was warmer. To the solo lounge, I hung out with folks, chatting over my drink and some snacks I’d picked up in Marseilles, until a group of us left for Shanghai, the Chinese food restaurant on Deck 6. I ordered the sweet and sour soup, pork pot stickers, and kung pao chicken spicy. The soup was tepid but delightfully spicy. The pot stickers were hot, tasty, particularly with the dipping sauce. Unfortunately, the chicken was bland and cool. There’s a picture of the 5-spice chocolate cake, but I have no notes or recollection.

Dinner at Shanghai: menu, kung pao chicken, pot stickers, 5-spice cake
Dinner at Shanghai

Back to the cabin to back up the camera and phone, update the journal and do some reading.


Day 9 – at sea


The second sea day for the trip, fortunately bracketed by stops in ports. I went to Taste for breakfast, ordering eggs benedict, mixed juice, tea and a banana. Seated with four women, Candy and Betty, and Eileen and her companion from San Jose, CA. As I was finding, sitting at a larger table usually resulted in food meant to be served hot was usually closer to room temperature, and the eggs were barely warm.

With my dinner at Cagney’s on Day 6, I knew that I needed to book my remaining specialty dining meals before we hit the long stretch of sea days. I stopped by the reservations desk as I crossed deck 5, and booked two nights at the French Le Bistro and one at the Italian La Cucina.

There are no further notes for the day until my dinner at Le Bistro, but phone pictures give me a hint. Late morning, I headed to Deck 7, hoping to walk laps, only to find the walking track was a looping path along either side of the ship, between windows and the rescue vessels. I did three loops. Then I headed into the Epic Theater for the talk by three officers who explained “How to run a floating hotel.” Lunch at Taste of chicken noodle soup, wedge salad and fish and chips.

At Le Bistro I was seated by myself, having changed from a t-shirt to a collared polo shirt and sports jacket. Apparently, one additional sartorial requirement is closed toe shoes, which is not an issue for me. I immediately sent off for my open bottle of CdP, as I noted that they charged $9 for a glass of Beringer’s white zinfandel. (A bottle retails for that in the States.) Allowed two starters, I asked for the steak tartare au Couteau (with the last glass of CdP,) escargot à la Bourguignone (with a glass of the Tini sauvignon blanc from Emilia-Romagna); the main was the Carré d’Agneau Rôti et Souris d’Agneau aux Saveurs Marocaines (with a bottle of Il Boro “Super Tuscan”, a syrah-sangiovese blend of Salvatore Ferragamo IGT.) For dessert, the Marquise au chocolat with a glass of the Ramos Pinto collector’s reserve port.


Day 10 – Ponta Delgada (Azores)


Heading down to breakfast at Taste, I found myself without my phone, my journal or my cabin key. So after a solo breakfast of huevos rancheros, I stopped by the customer service desk and got a replacement key and climbed back to the cabin to gather my stuff together and then head to the theater gathering place for a shore excursion. Backpack and camera, along with my coupon, I still managed to forget both my reading glasses and my morning supplements.

The tour was called “Island Views, Tastes, and Horses” with a 10:30 start for 7 hours (per the online offerings before sailing.) On board, we met at the Epic Theater at 10:15, and there were 41 of us, 2-3 having mobility limitations (which impacted the entire tour.) We left for the top of the caldera and a view of the reservoir, which were limited due to heavy cloud cover and fog.

After a damp stop for pictures, we descended into the forest. With some of the tour members, I got out and climbed into the drizzle, up a walkway and to a waterfall where hot spring pools had been established. The falls were cool, having creamsicle coloring. The vegetation was, from my perspective, a combination of forests along the California coastal range and Florida, albeit there is no real terrain in the Sunshine State.

Our next stop was Ribeira Grande on the north side of Sao Miguel, the second largest town on the island. As we approached milder slopes, a geothermal plant filled a field. Back off the bus, we walked through the quiet town, pausing before the church, in the town square, and at the walls overlooking the surf.

After about a half hour, we boarded and headed to the Quinta do Pico da Cruz in Pico da Pedro, a B&B and equestrian farm. There we visited the stables (as it was still drizzling) for a demonstration of the handling skills of the Lusitanos horses. The owners were our guides, with their adult sons on horseback or handling the wine and cheese tasting. A red and a white local wine from Faria’s Vineyards were served with 4 local cheeses.

Reboarded, we headed to our final stop, a pineapple plantation. We heard the description of their specific technique for getting a sweeter fruit, and had the option of trying a drink of juice fortified with alcohol. A. Arruda's shop loaded with crafts, gifts, clothing and souvenirs caused many to trade their euros in, and left clutching bags.

We headed back to the ship, arriving about 4pm, with enough time for a nap before activities in the solo lounge began.

Once the crowd cleared out, and I had been in conversations while sipping and nibbling my French crackers, I left with Nir, the Israeli, for Manhattan for dinner. Carrot and ginger bisque soup, chopped Greek salad as appetizers and General Tso’s chicken for a main. None of these matched my bottle of wine, so I had a glass of house pinot grigio. I had the cheese plate to finish. Meanwhile, Nir, who is kosher and on a keto diet, had three steaks.

Book: Cathedrals to the Glory of God
Cathedrals to the Glory of God

You can purchase your own copy

(or have me send it as a gift) of

Cathedrals to the Glory of God

by clicking this link:


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