Friday, December 5th, 2008
As we sailed around the corner of Cabo Raso after a fair passage from Spain, the magnificent German Navy training ship Gorch Foch sailed into view and along with the Picton Castle for few miles. She carried on towards Lisbon while we anchored at Cascais, Portugal. And just in time as the next day a northerly gale set up to blow for a couple days. Well protected from the north, we still put out an extra anchor and plenty of chain and the ship held fine. I imagine that the sea bottom hereabouts is well scarred with the furrows of ancient anchors as so much sailing naval history, aggressive wars of domination and sheer piracy during the age of sail took place right here.
Cascais is a lovely Portuguese town with charming open squares filled with attractive cafes. Painted and fired tiles are in use everywhere as street signs and decorations on buildings. Every Wednesday a big fruit and vegetable market is held with an attached fish market and butcher as well as a variation of an open air discount department store where you can buy shoes, jeans, shirts, CDs, DVDs, handbags, sunglasses, baskets, garden pots and fresh fish as well as meat.
Many crew went inland to the town of Sintra on their days free. For many the goal was to visit the castle built by Moors in the 800s, a pretty long time ago. This stone fortification is quite a grand sight and well worth the visit. It seems to grow organically out of the rugged topography and has few right angles, taking into architectural account any massive stone out cropping. Walls meander logically over the shape of the land. Views from the top turrets answer the question why build such an ambitious castle at the top of this mountain – a lookout gets perfect views of all approaches from sea or the low plains and whether from the north, south, east or west. The castle seems almost a fantasy in its layout the over all effect is quite magical.