Exploring the City of Explorers: Lisbon, Portugal


I have been to Lisbon on two occasions.  Once as a via air visit to meet up with my wife and daughter who were stopping there on a cruise; and the second time as a port of call on the return leg of my recent Canaries cruise.

Lisbon is a fabulous city, and one steeped in history and linked to exploration. The exploration ties are seen in the prominent place of Vasco da Gama’s crypt in Jeronimos Monastery and his cenotaph at the National Pantheon.

The Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) adds to this celebration of exploration and honours Henry the Navigator and his successors.  There is also a memorial to Gago Coutinho and his biplane Santa Cruz.  he was the first pilot to fly across the South Atlantic, a journey of 8,400 kilometres in 1922.


Lisbon’s history is not all outreach and expansion, however. The city was famously destroyed by a great earthquake in 1755.  The church, Igreja de São Domingos still shows damage from this quake and from another catastrophic fire.

Lisbon has some wonderful fountains and squares and the cobblestone pavements are beautifully laid out.  There is a Hop on Hop off service which takes visitors to all of the mentioned sites, as well as past the April 25th Bridge, and the Christ the King Statue.  There is also a very good Hard Rock Cafe, which has earlier opening hours than found in many other cities.


The city’s churches, cathedral, and the monastery offer not only beautiful architecture to explore but a visible reminder of the Christian heritage.

Basilica 2

Lisbon is a great city to explore, and one which I hope to visit again.


Canaries Cruise: Sailing on Santa Maria de Colombo

One of the high points of my holiday was the opportunity to sail on the Santa Maria de Colombo.  This is a replica of Christopher Columbus’ flag ship on his 1492 journey of discovery.

Arriving at Santa Maria

Arriving at the Santa Maria (the MV Columbus in background)

We set off on our 3 hour (or so) tour of the coast of Madeira, and it was great to experience the sense of sailing on a vessel of this type.  There is a very small free-board, and spray, even on a calm sea came over the railings.

Santa Maria 7


We hadn’t been out long when we came into contact with bottle-nosed dolphins, and we spent some time watching them before once again moving along the coast in route to a quiet bay, where passengers were able to have a short swim in the Atlantic.

View from Santa Maria


After this we began the return journey to Funchal under sail.  As we went tastes of Madeira wine and slices of Portuguese honey cake were served.

Madeira Wine and Honey Cake

Madeira and Honey Cake

There was a bit of “everything” for those on board.  Sailing, scenery, dolphin watching, swimming, and taste treats.  The Santa Maria also has a ship’s parrot in the galley (bar), and the ship’s dog wanders about making himself comfortable among the passengers.

Santa Maria Parrot 2

Ship’s Parrot


While many of the children (and some of the adults) take this as a cruise on a pirate ship, it is in fact a ship of exploration.  It is that historical detail that fascinated me.  The details of the rigging, and the religious iconography of a late medieval sailing ship were wonderful to explore.


This is a highly recommended excursion for anyone visiting Madeira.  It offers it all.


Link to the Santa Maria’s tour page.