New Mañana Today blog

Welcome to all readers of the previous version! As some of you may have noticed, I have been having software difficulties of late, specifically related to uploading photos. Considering that Mañana is just beginning her greatest ever adventure, it was a bad time for her blog to go wrong! So I have launched a new one and hope it will turn out better.

For new readers’ benefit (if any!), Mañana is a Malö 36 sailing yacht, built in Sweden in 1999. She spent her first few years in the Mediterranean, until acquired by us in 2014. We are Alastair and Maria, co-skippers, and Mañana is registered as a British yacht. Here’s a picture of her:


Having left what is probably Portugal’s most expensive marina at Vilamoura (see Birthday Treat) we sailed across the border into Spain. We spent a night in the rather sad port of Mazagón, whose marina has clearly been ravaged by recession (closed and abandoned shops, half the berths unused). Then onward to Cádiz, where we berthed at Puerto América. This is in the main docks, so huge ships pass quite close; this is P&O’s Arcadia turning outside the marina entrance!

The plan was to spend three days on tourism activities, revisiting Jerez and Seville (by train from Cádiz) and exploring Cádiz itself (for the first time). We started with Jerez, where the sherry comes from. The town has a fine railway station:

The historic central area is pleasant; here you see a distant view of San Miguel’s church (fine baroque interior, no 🍺). 

Following on from our port tour in Porto, we visited the Gónzalez Byass bodega, where they make Tío Pepe and Croft Original, among others. We had a long tour followed by tasting of the sherries and eating of tapas. The site is so large that part of the tour is by road train! There is a small vineyard on site, too. Some pictures:

After the bodega we went to the Alcázar, or fortress, which still retains a small mosque and Arab baths from the time when Andalucía was held by the Moors. 

The next day we discovered Cádiz, on foot, and were particularly struck by the Roman Theatre, the Cathedral and the monument to the 1812 Constitution:

Finally, Sevilla/Seville. We started at the Plaza de España, site of the 1929 Hispano-American Expo:

Then another Alcázar, this one a royal palace and very large. We were amused that they insisted on us getting the pensioner rate for admission – only €2 instead of €9.50!

We didn’t have time to visit the Cathedral or climb the Giralda Tower – an old watch tower up which the Moorish guards rode on horses (it has a ramp rather than stairs). But we’ve visited both before. Here’s a picture of the Giralda anyway:

Back to the serious sailing next, which will be a relief to readers who think I’m working for the tourist authorities! A strong easterly wind (the Levanter) has caused us to alter our plans, as sailing to Gibraltar against it would not be practical. So we shall probably go from here straight to Madeira. Watch this space!

Birthday treat!

Yesterday (Monday 14 August) was Maria’s birthday. As a birthday treat, most women might choose to be taken out to dinner or perhaps to a show, something like that. Not Maria. She wanted to climb Mañana’s mast, using some new equipment! I agreed to help, and up she went:

Unfortunately, although the new device proved effective for going up, Maria was unable to get it to come down – she was stuck, like a kitten up a tree! She had to climb out of the stirrups (which left her hanging upside down – pity I didn’t get a picture of that bit!) and I then lowered her on her safety line. No harm done…

More conventionally, I made my esteemed wife a lemon drizzle cake:

It was a bit of a challenge, as Mañana’s oven is very hot and rather uneven… still, it’s the thought that counts!

While we are on the subject of food, here’s a picture of a ‘nata’, or pastel de nata – the Portuguese custard tart. This one was sprinkled with cinnamon just before I ate it. Now we have moved on to Spain so no more natas – we’re back in the land of churros!

To the Algarve where it’s hot!

No posts from me since we left Cascais (for Lisbon), but we’re now in the Algarve. We got here in two stages, with some days off in response to weather warnings from the Portuguese Met Office. Our first stop was at Sines (pronounced ‘Sinsh’ – oh those Portuguese!), the only proper port between the Tagus and the Algarve. Sines is noted as the birthplace of Vasco da Gama, whose tomb we saw at Belém. Vasco was born in the castle:

Sines is a beach resort, unknown to the British but popular with locals. Nice beach:

We used some of our down time to sand down some cracked varnish on two teak panels in the cockpit. There was sawdust everywhere, especially as a strong wind blew into the boat! Here’s Maria painting one of the panels with Teak Wonder afterwards:

When we eventually got away from Sines, after the wind and waves had abated, we headed south again, 60 nautical miles to Cape St Vincent (where Portugal’s Atlantic coast ends), then east into the Algarve. Here’s the Cape:

Even when round the Cape, it’s still about four hours to the first proper port, Lagos (pronounced ‘La-GOSH’). We arrived quite late, but in time for the lifting footbridge to be raised for us. Things without masts can just limbo under it!

Marina Lagos was a bit of a culture shock! It has lots of bars and restaurants, unashamedly aimed at British ‘bucket and spade’ holidaymakers from local holiday apartments etc. It is very busy, and you can get fish and chips until 2230 (we did). There are crowds of young people, dressed to impress in little black dresses… and lots of overweight middle aged people in shorts and t-shirts, accompanied by their children or grandchildren. Here’s the marina by day (Mañana extreme left). 

Incidentally, one of the interesting things about the Portuguese diet is their fondness for salt cod. Originally, the cod had to be treated thus to get it back from Newfoundland, but now they still eat it. It’s in every supermarket, and can usually be smelt from two aisles away! I don’t fancy it, myself, but I am very partial to the local custard tarts (‘natas’)! Here’s the fish:

Oh, and did I say? It’s very hot here – over 30 degrees C today. Noticeably warmer than Lisbon, but we’re not complaining!

Around Lisbon 

We have had two days exploring Lisbon; on Friday the city centre, and today the historic district of Belém. The train from Cascais arrives at Cais do Sodré:

The dome behind the trains belongs to the Mercado de Ribeira:

This is interesting, in that half of the building is a traditional market, but the other half has been designated a Time Out Market. This bit mainly comprises an upmarket food court supplied by Lisbon’s top chefs, who also do cooking demos in a show kitchen. 

Our more obvious sightseeing included a range of churches and interesting buildings. Here are some. First a house in the Chiada district with interesting tiles (azulejos); secondly a view to the cathedral (distant on right) with the Tagus river extreme right; third the interior of St Anthony’s church – he of Padua, but he was from Lisbon and merely died in Italy; and lastly the Rua Augusta Arch, celebrating the rebuilding of the lower town after the earthquake of 1755. 

Like Porto, Lisbon is hilly, and various means have been installed to help. The first picture is a funicular tram, the second a lift from the Eiffel design house (goes straight up and down). 

In Belém, the main attraction is the Jerónimos Monastery, with intricate stonework in cloisters and chapel:

Finally, the monument to Portuguese explorers and the Belém Tower, a 15th century fortification. 

By Fig and Pen to Cascais 

No news from us here since we left the Douro, but we’ve been quite busy! We had a long day sailing from Gaia to the attractively-named Figueira da Foz, known as Fig Foz for short. I didn’t take any pictures of it, but it has a nice marina with good showers (important), a washing machine (which we used) and a very fine produce market. We spent a day on domestic tasks (as we do from time to time – including DIY boat maintenance jobs).

From Fig Foz, we sailed to Peniche, not because we particularly wanted to visit this busy fishing port, but because of its strategic location. In Peniche we had to tie up alongside some Swedish people we’d met at Fig. A friendly marine policeman came aboard to look at our papers. All night long the fishing boats whizzed in and out, ignoring the 3 knot speed limit and making the yachts rock wildly!

So after a single night of rock n’ roll, we sailed on yesterday, eventually reaching Cascais in the late afternoon. From here, we plan to visit Lisbon by train. Cascais is the western terminus of the coast line and Lisbon is about 30 minutes away, calling at Estoril, Parede (remember that, BCB readers?) and the Torre de Belem (ditto). Meanwhile, while having another domestic/victualling day today, we have explored Cascais a bit. It’s an out-and-out tourist resort, next to Estoril, but it’s very clean and neat. It’s also very hot! Here are some pictures. The first is part of the town centre, the second is one of the smaller beaches (you can see masts in the distance; this is the marina where Mañana is). 

Between the town and the marina stands a citadel, the oldest part of which was built in the 1400s. Here are two shots of it. We hope to start exploring Lisbon tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about that in due course. 

Porto, O Porto

Despite what you might imagine, and the IATA code for the airport being OPO, nobody round here calls Porto ‘Oporto’. Maps, road signs, bus timetables and the local populace all agree. Our arrival in the River Douro on Thursday was somewhat inauspicious in that we had to find our way in completely blind! About an hour out, we encountered dense fog. Aided by our GPS plotter and radar (without which we couldn’t have attempted it) we avoided anchored ships (which we couldn’t actually see) and approached the port breakwater very gingerly. When we finally saw the substantial light tower on the pier end, it was no more than 20 metres ahead… Once in the river, the fog cleared!

That evening we went out for a large meal of locally caught grilled fish, then on Friday we set out to explore Porto and Gaia, the latter being the community on the south side of the river. We were moored on the Gaia side, so first we crossed the river by ferry:

These strange local boats, which remind me of Chinese sampans, are based on the ones that used to bring the wine down the Douro to the port houses in Gaia. Once on the north side, a vintage tram took us into Porto’s historic centre. 

We looked at a range of historic buildings, of which Porto has a good selection. These included the treasure house and church of the Third Franciscan Order, the old market and the (rather austere) cathedral. San Bento railway station (not so historic) provided some nice tiling in the booking hall:

Here you see a monument and medieval tower in the cathedral square:

Getting around Porto involves a lot of climbing hills, and the next picture (taken from the top deck of one of the bridges, some 60 metres up) shows you why. The river, although near the sea, runs through a deep gorge where Porto and Gaia face each other. The photo is of Porto – at the bottom you can make out a couple of the old wine transport boats. 

On the Gaia side, seen here, it’s all about port. The premises of the port producers stretch as far as the eye can see – famous names like Croft, Taylor and Sandeman. 

This is the bridge in question (Don Luis I):

We got a free port tasting as a consequence of taking the cableway down to Gaia waterfront after lunch. But wanting to do things properly, we opted for a guided tour of the Sandeman establishment, founded by a Scot in 1790. Here’s our guide (dressed as a Sandeman logo!) with some barrels of tawny port:

And here’s the tasting we got at the end (one white, one tawny):

Very nice! Today we went back to Porto by bus, to see some of the things we missed yesterday, then by tram across the Don Luis I to a big shopping centre in Gaia, where we restocked with victuals. I recommend Porto as a good place for a weekend break, if you don’t mind hills – and there are cheap flights here by Ryanair, EasyJet et al. The flight path goes right over the Douro Marina… but fortunately not all night!

First port in Portugal

Having left Baiona yesterday morning, we sailed south and over the border into Portuguese waters. Maria and I had only previously been to Portugal once – for a long weekend in the Lisbon area with Bisham Concert Band, many years ago… We played in the middle of the main street in Parede, under an assumed name (I know not why) before appearing at an indoor concert with our usual title! It was fun!

Back to the Grand Voyage: our first port of call in Portugal was Viana do Castelo. As we approached, there was some doubt as to whether we’d be able to enter – the waves were breaking and the wind gusting over 30 knots. As we rounded the breakwater, we found ourselves among dozens of windsurfers and kitesurfers going like streaks of lightning! But up the Rio de Lima we found shelter, so all was well. 

We moored on a pontoon in the river, run by the local marina. Just behind us is an interesting double-deck iron bridge (road on the top deck, railway underneath:

It’s known as the Eiffel Bridge, as it was designed by Gustave Eiffel of Tower fame. 

Today we explored Viana and found it a lovely small town, with a prosperous air compared to some of the Galician towns we visited. On top of the hill is a basilica modelled on the Sacré Coeur in Paris (with a handy Pousada nearby – the Portuguese equivalent of a Parador). Here’s the basilica:

We got there by means of a funicular railway, which (you may know) has one car on either end of a cable, so the weight of the descending one helps the one going up. Here’s a video I took going down, including the bit where the two cars pass:

You can see the river at the bottom of the hill, where Mañana is moored. 

Other nice buildings in the old town include the Chapel of Misericordia, with nice tiles and frescoes, the House of Verandahs (left of picture) and the old town hall (right of picture with Norman arches). 

In the afternoon, we fitted in a retired Hospital Ship, built here in the 1950s, whose job was to support the fishing fleets out in Newfoundland. Here’s Maria on deck:

It was so hot that even I was in shorts! Finally, here’s Mañana where she remains as I write:

Tomorrow we are hoping to head south for Oporto, to see the Port in its natural habitat! 🍷🍷 – cheers!