RIDING ‘THE LIFT’ IN LISBON

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Today, we arrived at our final port-of-call, Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. We worked it out that this would be my thirteenth visit to the city, and over those previous visits, we’ve pretty much done it all (all the tours, the castle, Belem Tower, Christ monument etc), so we went ashore planning to do the one thing we had so far ommitted… go up the lift.

Santa Justa Lift dates back to 1902, and shares some DNA with the Eiffel Tower (same designer, I think…). It’s a magnificent structure, rising to seven storeys high and billed as one of the top tourist attraction in Lisbon. How could we possibly have overlooked it? That’s very simple; every time we’ve been anywhere near it, we’ve been put off by the massive queues to get in.

Today, however, we were determined to ‘do the lift’. We walked from the ship to Commerce Square, where a big inflatable white bear was posing for photos with anyone wanting a cuddle from a big inflatable white bear (presumeably there was a man inside it).

Needless to say, when we arrived at the lift, there was a long queue. So we joined it. And stood there… and inched forward a tiny bit at a time. By the time we eventually got to the lift, we had queued for an hour. I told you we were determined. An operative took the fee of €5.30 each, which had to be paid in cash – no cards were accepted. No problem… we had a €50 note, and – luckily – 60 cents in cash – the couple in front of us had a €100 note and nothing smaller. But when it came to dishing out change, the operative got quite shirty, digging around in his bag for the necessary coinage, and clearly unhappy that the punters weren’t carrying the exact money on them.

Which just makes me think… why charge €5.30? Why not just make it €5? That would make the transaction a whole lot easier, and swifter… and probably reduce some of the massive queues.

Anyway… after standing around for an hour in a queue that made us decidedly uneasy with a notable lack of face masks (although everyone was required to mask-up on entering the lift), we finally made the relatively unexhilerating two-minute transit to the top, took a few photos of the views from the Observation Platform, and vowed never to ride the lift again.

One of the things we’d been looking forward to, on getting to the top of the hill, was a look around the medieval ruins visible from below. Sadly, this was closed. There was a small square there, with a couple of street cafes, and we contemplated sitting down for a drink, but was rather put off by the fact that they were right next to steps leading down into the underground toilets, which stank rather badly. Add to this the fact that everything looked a little bit grubby, we chose to walk back down the hill instead of taking the lift again, down to Dom Pedro IV Square, where we hunted down a cleaner cafe and ordered drinks, a toastie (for me) and a sandwich (for Tracey) for a very reasonable €15.

Other than bumping into Albert the magician, and it starting to rain upon us, the walk back to the ship was unremarkable.

Everyone was encouraged to make their way up to the top decks to enjoy our final sailaway, which we shared with another, smaller, cruise ship that had been berthed behind us, Azamara Quest. The two ships did the horn thing, reminiscent of the first contact with the mothership in Close Encounters of the Third Kind; one blasting the horn a couple of times, and the other repeating it back. Exchanging a variety of blast patterns on the horn like this is always an entertaining moment.

Our final thrill of the day was passing under the 25th of April Bridge on our way out, which was described rather beautifully – and accurately – by the captain as being like the sound of a swarm of hornets..

The wind’s getting up, and it looks like we might be into a bit of a bumpy ride…

Peter Woolley

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