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The great period of “the Discoveries” accounted for phenomenal wealth brought back from India, Africa and Brazil by the great Portuguese navigators. Gold, jewels, ivory, porcelain and spices helped finance grand new buildings and impressive monuments in Lisbon, the country’s capital city. As you sail up the Tagus River, be on deck to admire Lisbon’s panorama and see some of the great monuments lining the river. Lisbon is one of Europe’s smallest capital cities but considered by many visitors to be one of the most likeable. Spread over a string of seven hills, the city offers a variety of faces, including a refreshing no-frills simplicity reflected in the people as they go unhurriedly through their day enjoying a hearty and delicious cuisine accompanied by the country’s excellent wines.
The principal port for the city of Oporto, Portugal’s second largest city, Lexixoes is set on an artifical deep-water harbour created to accommodate vessels of all sizes. The city is famous for its many bridges and excellent port wine, blended and aged in the various lodges of the Vila Nova de Gaia on the banks of the great Douro River. Oporto is also known for its characteristic sailboats, the “Barcos Rabelos”, which used to ship Port downstream from the vineyards. Today, the famous boats are used for a race held in June every year.
Ferrol is a city in the Province of A Coruña in Galicia, on the Atlantic coast in north-western Spain, in the vicinity of Strabo’s Cape Nerium. According to the 2016 census, the city has a population of 66,065, making it the seventh largest settlement in Galicia.
The fine crystal industry is to Waterford what whiskey is to the Scottish Highlands. After 100 years of dormancy, Waterford crystal was reborn with the opening of a new factory in 1951. While Waterford is charming in its own right, it is the fine crystal of the same name that has really put the city on the map.
Today the city of Holyhead is connected to the large Welsh island of Anglesey by a causeway known locally as The Cobb, but until the mid-19th century, it was on its own separate Holy Island connected by a bridge. Its protected harbor and location adjacent to the Irish Sea made it an important port from Roman times. Its beautiful St. Cybi’s Church is in fact situated in the remains of a Roman three-walled fort, the Caer Gybi, facing the harbor. The harbor’s three-kilometer breakwater is the longest in the United Kingdom, and made the port a crucial safe haven in inclement weather for ships plying the busy routes to industrial Liverpool and Lancashire. Until the completion of the London to Liverpool railway, Holyhead held the Royal Mail contract for Dublin. Your ship docks today at a jetty that originally served a lucrative aluminum smelting operation, until the closing of a nuclear generating facility cut of the supply of inexpensive power. A waterfront Maritime Museum provides insights into Holyhead’s long history as a seaport. Visitors are welcomed at the picturesque South Stack Lighthouse, and at the adjacent RSPB nature reserve, which offers views of the sea cliffs and their abundant nesting populations of puffins, fulmars, razorbills, guillemots, gannets and other seabirds, as well as seals, dolphins and other wildlife. The Anglesey countryside also holds prehistoric dolmens including the Trefignath Burial Chamber, and a nostalgic old Welsh farmstead called Cyfellion Swtan that charmingly preserves the traditional lifestyle or rural Wales.
Hard by the banks of the Clyde, Greenock is a port for Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow. There are numerous attractions to visit, including a treasury of architectural masterpieces from the Italian renaissance-style City Chambers, to the austere University buildings and the ultra-modern Clyde Auditorium, whose nested ship-hull sections have inspired the locals to dub it “The Armadillo.” Entertainment is found in trying to understand the deeply inflected Glaswegian brogue.
Saint-Malo is a port city in Brittany, in France’s northwest. Tall granite walls surround the old town, which was once a stronghold for privateers (pirates approved by the king). The Saint-Malo Cathedral, in the center of the old town, is built in Romanesque and Gothic styles and features stained-glass windows depicting city history. Nearby is La Demeure de Corsaire, an 18th-century privateer’s house and museum.
The seaport and naval station of Cherbourg is situated along the English Channel northwest of Paris at the mouth of the Divette River. Believed to rest on the site of an ancient Roman station, Cherbourg has been occupied since ancient times and was frequently contested by the French and English in the Middle Ages because of its strategic location. Most recently passed to France in the late 18th century, the town was extensively fortified by Louis XVI. During WWII the Germans held Cherbourg until it was captured by the American forces shortly after the Normandy landings. Following a vast rehabilitation program that returned it to working condition, Cherbourg became an important Allied supply port. Today, Cherbourg is important for transatlantic shipping, shipbuilding, electronics and telephone equipment manufacturing, yachting and commercial fishing.
Crossing the English Channel from continental Europe to Great Britain, the first view of England is the milky-white strip of land called the White Cliffs of Dover. As you get closer, the coastline unfolds before you in all its striking beauty. White chalk cliffs with streaks of black flint rise straight from the sea to a height of 350’ (110 m).
Numerous archaeological finds reveal people were present in the area during the Stone Age. Yet the first record of Dover is from Romans, who valued its close proximity to the mainland. A mere 21 miles (33 km) separate Dover from the closest point in France. A Roman-built lighthouse in the area is the tallest Roman structure still standing in Britain. The remains of a Roman villa with the only preserved Roman wall mural outside of Italy are another unique survivor from ancient times which make Dover one of a kind.
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