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Like a World War II machine gunner, I hunker down in the sidecar of the motorcycle.
You see, during the war in Europe, the Americans retrofitted motorcycle sidecars with machine guns so the soldier passenger could exchange fire with the enemy.
Motorcycle sidecars were also used in the war to transport supplies and patients and run messages to the front lines.
But, my wife, Kerry, and I decided to focus on the more adventurous machine gun history during our Bike My Side motorcycle sidecar tour of Lisbon during a port stop of our 11-day cruise on the Holland America Nieuw Statendam from Copenhagen to Rome.
The machine gun is long gone when we take turns riding in the sidecar of a sleek, black, Chinese-made 2020 Chang Jiang motorcycle while the other hangs on behind driver Jorge Vasconcelos.
It’s the coolest way to whip through the narrow streets and alleyways and along the freeway in the Portuguese capital.
“Sidecars just make people feel good,” says Jorge.
“There’s the nostalgia – sidecars had their heyday in the 1930s and 40s – and it’s such a special way to see the city. Plus, can’t you tell everyone is jealous of us with the way they point, smile, wave and take pictures.”
Kerry and I revel in our unique perspective from the sidecar, sitting like babies in a stroller, our asses only inches above the cobblestones and pavement as the motorcycle speeds along.
We’ve traded the WWII-issue leather helmet and vintage goggles for a modern bubble-head helmet with visor.
It’s all the better for taking in the stunning scenery as we wind our way from the cruise ship terminal along the seaside Avenue Infante Dom Henrique and into the Old Town, up one of Lisbon’s Seven Hills to the Lady on the Hill viewpoint.
From here we are treated to the eye candy of Lisbon’s sprawl of terra cotta tile rooftops, the meandering of the Tagus River and the imposing Saint George Castle.
It’s also where Jorge tells us motorcycle sidecar tours are his “fun, retirement job” after 40 years as a shift sergeant and diver in the Portuguese Navy.
During his tenure he spent a month in Halifax in 1984 helping check the anchors and hulls of tall ships.
Back on the motorcycle and in the sidecar, we rattle over the cobblestones past the National Pantheon, St. Vincent Church and the Electricos streetcars that ply the steep slopes.
The streetcars give Lisbon a bit of a San Francisco-ish air.
And it’s not the only nod to the Northern California metropolis.
A bridge that looks exactly like a combination of the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges in San Francisco – and was built by the same United States Steel Export Company – spans Lisbon’s Tegus River.
After a glide through Lisbon’s ancient Moorish neighbourhood with its distinctive buildings clad in patterned blue-and-white tiles, we make a circuit of Liberty Square, pass the glassy apartment building where Portuguese soccer mega-star Chistiano Ronaldo lives in the penthouse and end up at Edward VII Park where hundreds of thousands gathered in August to catch a glimpse of the Pope while he was in town.
We zip by the pink Belem Palace of the president, the grand Jeronimos Monastery and the waterfront Monument to the Portuguese Discoveries before Jorge deposits us back at the Holland America Nieuw Statendam.
The cruise on the 2,666-passenger, 975-foot-long ship was the perfect way to see Lisbon and four other ports – Dover, Porto, Cadiz and Barcelona.
We have adventures in numerous European hotspots and only have to unpack once since the ship is essentially a 14-storey floating luxury hotel.
The Nieuw Statendam takes us from port to port in style while we eat, drink, swim in the pools, play pickleball, take in stage shows and sleep in comfort onboard.
When cruising we always fly Air Canada and rely on its convenient multi-city booking to fly into one port and leave from another.
In this case, via a quick, quiet, comfortable and fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner into Copenhagen and out of Rome on the Boeing 777-300ER.
When flying to Europe, we also like to upgrade to Air Canada's Signature Class so we have one of those pods up front with a lie-flat seat so we can sleep and arrive refreshed and ready to take on the continent.
Kerry and I have also made a tradition of spending a pre-and-post cruise overnight in the best hotel in the embarkation and debarkation cities.
In this case, the luxurious, Moorish-style palace Nimb in Copenhagen and the sumptuous 18th century palazzo Hotel de la Ville in Rome.
Check out BikeMySide.com, HollandAmerica.com and AirCanada.com.