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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 commercial center of northern Portugal and hub of the port wine trade, Porto is a gracious, cosmopolitan city noted for its 12th century cathedral and medieval churches, picturesque narrow streets and wine lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia. It is clustered on hills overlooking a river, and is a northern European style city with granite church towers, narrow streets and hidden Baroque treasures.
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 port town of Cobh is located just 15 miles from Cork, the capital of Ireland’s southern region. Some of Ireland’s more famous landmarks are located in this part of the country, including Blarney Castle, famous for many legends, most notably the magical Blarney Stone. Some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery in Europe is found west of Cork, with lyrical names to match the picturesque valleys, mountains and coasts.Cork, a city with a heritage reaching into antiquity, is nevertheless modern, well-organized, and well aware of its role as the second city of the Irish Republic. Built on a marsh, and interlaced with winding canals and rivers, the city is divided into two parts, with well-patterned architectural development incorporating the best of the old with the new.
Penzance is a town, civil parish and port in the Penwith district of Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is about 64 miles west-southwest of Plymouth and 255 miles west-southwest of London.
Jersey is a Crown dependency. It has formal relationships with, but is not part of the European Union nor the United Kingdom. As might be expected, its setting between those two has shaped a great deal of its history. The medieval castle of Mont Orgueil overlooking Gorey Harbour is a mute testament to the shifting political tides that have washed the island, as are the elaborate works created during the German occupation between 1940 and 1945. Wineries such as La Mare take advantage of the pleasant climate, as does the 32-acre Durell Wildlife Park, founded by author and naturalist Gerald Durrell. His foundation now supports the facility, which is dedicated to preserving species at risk of extinction in the wild. Visitors are welcome to see and learn about the over 130 species they maintain, including a famous family of lowland gorillas. During your time on Jersey, you are also likely to spot an example of an indigenous domestic species: Jersey cattle, which are renowned for their high production of milk and cream.
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.
Cowes is an English seaport town and civil parish on the Isle of Wight. Cowes is located on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina, facing the smaller town of East Cowes on the east bank. The two towns are linked by the Cowes Floating Bridge, a chain ferry.
Belfast, Northern Ireland’s largest urban area is situated on Ireland’s eastern coast. To the northwest, the city is flanked by hills, including Cavehill, thought to be Jonathan Swift’s inspiration for his novel, “Gulliver’s Travels.” Belfast’s location is ideal for the shipbuilding industry that once made it famous. The Titanic was built here in 1912, at the largest shipyard in the world. Until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was reached, the worst of Ireland’s “troubles” was experienced in Belfast, which suffered almost half the conflict’s resulting deaths. Since that time, however, Belfast’s city center has emerged into an attractive pedestrian-oriented environment with street musicians and the like, and a revitalized river front.
Cut into the northwestern shore of the Firth of Clyde in Scotland’s Argyll and Bute, Holy Loch gets its name from its long association with Christian churches. In Kilmun the 19th century church stands on a site where earlier ones are believed to date to the 6th or 7th Century. At Sandbank, the Robertson’s Yard built famous wooden 12- and 15-meter racing yachts from the late 19th through the mid-20th Century, including several America’s Cup challengers. In World War II, Holy Loch was used by the Royal Navy as a submarine base, and during the Cold War from the 1960s until the 1990s the United States also used it as a base for its nuclear submarines. Nearby Dunoon, and its now-ruined castle, was the seat of Clan Campbell, later the Earls of Argyll, until they moved inland to build the castle at Inveraray. In fact, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was an occasional guest there. Popular attractions around Holy Loch include the Benmore Botanic Gardens, Inveraray Castle and Scotland’s second-largest city, Glasgow.
The tiny island of Staffa, part of the Inner Hebrides, is celebrated for its stunning geology. Vikings named it Stafyi-øy meaning ‘stave island,’ as its rock formations reminded them of the vertically placed logs used to construct their houses. Staffa is made up completely of hexagonal columnar basalt. Sixty-five million years ago, erupting lava cooled quickly, forming these distinctive shapes. Hexagons are most often associated with honeycombs in beehives, however, they are also characteristic in volcanic formations. Over time, a weakness in the rock was eroded by fierce Atlantic waves, creating legendary Fingal’s Cave. It was once known as ‘The Musical Cave’ for the wonderful sounds of the sea water reverberating against the sides of its large cavern.
The island was first promoted by Sir Joseph Banks, who was Captain James Cook’s naturalist in 1772. In the 19th century, Jules Verne, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the artist JMW Turner and 19-year old Felix Mendelssohn also visited Staffa
Tiny, tidy Tobermory welcomes you to the Isle of Mull, largest of the Inner Hebrides. The colorful town is curved around its harbor, and the Mull Museum is a good place to start discovering more about the island, as well as its maritime and crofting background. Iona Abbey is an atmospheric relic of ancient times, with a Gothic and Romanesque nave. Nearby Duart Castle is one of the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland, the seat of Clan MacClean. The central keep was built in 1360. Glengorm Castle is scenically situated overlooking the sea and the distant Outer Hebrides. Retire to the small Tobermory Distillery, one of Scotland’s earliest, for a taste of single malt whisky, then keep an eye out for a glimpse of the magnificent white-tailed sea eagles recently re-introduced on the island.
Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, was founded by Vikings in the 9th century. But the Hebridean culture goes back much further, as testified by the circles of standing stones that are found on the island, and shards of pottery dated from at least 5,000 years in the past. There are remnants of various historic periods to be seen here, including traditional blackhouses, an ancient design, some of which were incredibly still in use into the 1970s. Lews Castle, which overlooks the town, is a more modern copy of a Tudor manse, which was built by a former owner of the island. Latta’s Mill, a 19th century overshot water mill, has been reconstructed and operates as an attraction. The main occupations on Lewis are fishing, farming, and production of Harris Tweed, a traditional cloth named for another nearby Hebrides isle.
Warmed by the Gulf Stream as well as by highly active thermal hot springs and volcanoes, Iceland is somewhat misnamed. While it is a stark and barren country with three huge areas of glaciers, one theory is that early Norsemen sought to mislead other potential settlers by giving a pleasant name to fierce, inhospitable Greenland, and a forbidding name to the imminently habitable Iceland. Irish monks and hermits established themselves here in the 8th century, but left a century later when the pagan Norsemen arrived. Europe’s first Parliament of General Assembly, the Althing, was established in the year 930 and still functions as the legislative body, although it was suspended by the Danes at the end of the 18th century and not reconvened until 1843. Reykjavik was the site picked by the island’s first permanent resident, Ingolfur Arnarson in 874, and is home to more than half of the island’s total population. The world’s northernmost capital, Reykjavik is proud of its virtual lack of air pollution. Both electrical power and home heating are derived from the geothermal activity on the island. The city’s large swimming pools are always warm, and in the countryside exotic fruits such as grapes and bananas are cultivated in greenhouses made cozy with the help of underground hot springs.
The Westfjords in northwest Iceland is a remote and sparsely populated peninsula of steep, tall mountains cut by dozens of fjords. The lack of flat lowlands suitable for farming played a key role in keeping this region wild and sparsely populated. The raw and untamed natural landscape around Ísafjörður is characterized by a subarctic environment. A colorful show of blooming tundra wildflowers carpets the mountain slopes and valleys during the short, cool summer.
Vigur Island, second largest island in the Westfjords region, is one of the most renowned areas in Iceland for viewing nesting birds en masse. The area’s cliffs host an astonishing wealth of nesting birdlife, while the occasional arctic fox can be spotted patrolling the edges of the bird colonies in hope of an easy meal.
Like most Icelandic towns, this one on the northwest coast was started by fisherman and whalers. The name means ice-fjord. It is a perfect place from which to explore the cultural and economic staples of Iceland. An excursion to Sudavik reveals a town started by whalers and nearly destroyed by an avalanche in 1995, now rebuilt out of the path of further slides. Its lovely church was donated by whalers, as well. The own also holds a center for the study of the indigenous arctic foxes. The Maritime Museum in Isafjordur illustrates the lifestyles of the early inhabitants, including many implements of their trades, and also a wall of accordions, one of the few forms of entertainment on bygone days. Another option is a boat ride to nearby Vigur island, a nesting site for many species of seabirds, including eider ducks, whose down is yet another example of local economy based on the surrounding seas.
The immense scale of the peaks around this village dwarfs anything built there. Still, the tall white steeple of the church juts up with a spirit of endurance and perseverance that matches the character of those who make this arctic outpost their home. It also echoes the shape of icebergs floating in the surrounding seas, shed from the immense icefields that cover much of the island.
The largest town in South Greenland with over 3,500 citizens, Qaqortoq was founded in 1775 and still reveals some examples of colonial-period architecture. There is not infrastructure to support shore excursions here, but guests can explore the town and its museum, or possibly arrange a visit to a nearby hot springs. Like other towns in Greenland, there are also possibilities to buy examples of traditional Inuit arts and crafts, including items crafted of bone, soapstone and wild-harvested furs.
St. John’s is the most easterly point in North America and closest point of land to Europe. Due to it strategic location, St. John’s has been vitally important for centuries to explorers, adventurers, merchants, soldiers, pirates, and all manner of seafarers, who provided the foundation for this thriving modern day city. Explore this, one of the oldest cities in North America, and a city unlike any other. This “City of Legends” is cradled in a harbor carved from granite, and surrounded by hills running down to the ocean. Quaint side streets of a thousand colors are home to friendly faces that wait to greet you.
Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a French archipelago south of the Canadian island of Newfoundland. Sparsely populated Miquelon-Langlade island contains the Grand Barachois lagoon, home to seabirds and seals. The busier Saint Pierre island has a distinct French atmosphere, with a cathedral and the Musée Heritage, which celebrates regional history. An island nearby, Île-aux-Marins, features an abandoned fishing village.
The great fjord of Saguenay cuts deep into the slopes of the Laurentian Shield, cited as the oldest rocks on earth. On either side, domes of rock are furred with forests of conifer and hardwoods whose fallen foliage gives the fjord its tea-colored hue. At the head of this spectacular waterway, the newly-created Port Saguenay provides easy access to the natural splendors of the Laurentian forests, a favorite year-round playground of the Quebecois.
Founded in 1608 as a fur-trading base by Samuel de Champlain, Québec has a long and exciting history. In 1759, the English defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham and helped determine the outcome of the French and Indian Wars, which under the Treaty of 1763, established British supremacy in Canada. The joie de vivre and panache, however are totally French, as are the cuisine, language and heritage. The first buildings were close to the St. Lawrence waterfront and are known as Lower Town. Most hotels are on a hill that rises steeply from the river in what today is called Upper Town. Québec is still North America’s only walled city north of Mexico. Handsome old structures throughout the city are fine examples of classical French architecture. The towers and spire of the imposing Château Frontenac Hotel, built by the Canadian and Pacific Railway in 1892, lend the city an aura of the Belle Epoque.
Trois-Rivières is a city in the province of Quebec, Canada. The riverfront Boréalis museum traces the history of the local paper industry. Nearby, the Centre d’exposition Raymond-Lasnier displays contemporary art. Quebec Museum of Folk Culture explores the cultural life of the Québécois. Adjacent is the Old Prison, dating from 1822. The Forges du Saint-Maurice has artifacts from Canada’s first iron-working community.
Montreal, an island city of approximately three million people, claims to be the largest French-speaking city outside of Paris. It was here in 1535 that Jacques Cartier, the first European to explore the St. Lawrence River, founded a small settlement on the island. This settlement failed, so the official founding date of the city is May 1642. In modern days, Expo ’67 and the Summer Olympics of 1976 brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to Montreal. Major conventions, film festivals and cultural events are held in Montreal, attracted by the city’s extensive facilities, fine hotels and excellent dining.