The ferry was ancient and rusted. Momentarily I wondered whether I should dare my weight upon it. It creaked at the waterside, rocking knowingly to the rhythm of the river.
The journey to to Cacilhas was €2.55 for a round trip (ida e volta) which is a serious bargain compared to some of the boat trips being hawked at the port. Whilst some may like the glitz of the more expensive cruises around the bay, I wanted to experience the crossing as a Lisboeta.
I caught the ferry at Cais de Sodré. To get there turn right at the end of Praço do Comércio (facing the river) onto Av. da Ribeira das Naus. Follow the road up until you reach Praça do Duque da Terceira; it’s just just a few minutes walk. Cais de Sodré is there on your left. Once you arrive, walk right through past the train terminal to the end where you can buy your ticket to Cacilhas. There’s a ferry every 10 minutes or so and the journey itself lasts 10 – 15 minutes on the water.
Ferries are usually quite busy as not only do you have tourists making their way across to the Christi Rei statue, you also have local people making their way to and from work. This is one of the main reasons I enjoy the ferry more than the cruises as it’s another way of taking part in local life.
I found space to sit however; nestled against the window surrounded by two elderly Portuguese ladies, a mother and child and a German couple. As the ferry made ready to leave I found myself wondering whether this had been a good idea seeing as I have the worst sea-sickness ever. I have been known to go green on a canal boat! The engines revved and the water rolled beneath us and as the banks of Lisbon’s north shore receeded I managed to convince my stomach that there was no cause for alarm. Delighted, I found myself enjoying the trip.
Whilst the windows are a little grimy, the further the ferry goes, the better the view of Lisbon’s shores. As you reach the middle of the river, your eye can stretch from Belém Tower to Alfama and the Sé. You also get a fabulous view of the Ponte 25th de Abril too. Whilst the famous bridge is another way of crossing the river, there is something wonderfully romantic about a boat – the slight smell of corrosion of water upon metal, the oil of the engines, the rhythm of the waves…
I had no plans when I reached the other side of the river. I just wanted to take in the view and wander. Initially as we disembarked, a mass of woman selling fruit, vegetables and imitation watches beseeched us to buy. I side-tracked the throng and turned left to walk along the waterside. Hardly a few feet later, I found a seat beside the river where I could simply sit and gaze at Lisbon from a different vantage point. After pausing there for a while, I changed my mind about walking further into Cacilhas favouring a long walk beside the water instead.
Walking back on myself, I made my way along the river side, past jetties with old fishing boats moored and run-down warehouses. I stood for some time simply drinking in the panorama, tasting the slight salt on my lips and the heat of the sun reflecting of the water. I had one of my moments that I sometimes have in Lisbon, an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to cry with the love I felt for the beautiful city that lay on the opposite shore.
Many come to Cacilhas to visit the giant Christi Rei monument that echoes the one found on the mountain overlooking Rio de Janerio in Brazil. Perhaps it is the sense of pilgrimage that hangs over this place that moves me too. If Christi Rei is the point of your trip by the way, there is a bus outside the ferry port at Cacilhas that will take you all the way to the monument.
Time was short however as I had made my decision to ride the ferry a couple of hours before meeting someone for coffee. Rather than explore further, I caught the ferry back, letting it rock me back into the arms of Lisbon. The vast monument and Cacilhas are mysteries for me to explore another day…