Portugal Travelog: Lisbon and Belém (Day 6)

June 28, 2013  •  Leave a Comment
Day 2 of our Lisbon trip started with another wonderful breakfast and the intention of traveling to nearby Belém to do some sightseeing. I got the bright idea (OK Rick Steves suggested it) of taking a tram the several mile trip so we used our new found geographic knowledge to make our way down to Praça da Figueira to take advantage of all the public transportation.
 
We made our way quickly to the metro station and with the help of some friendly locals, bought some day passes for travel on the busses and trams of Lisbon. Then over to wait for Tram #28 going to Belém. And wait. And wait. Several photogenic trams passed through only to continue on without stopping. Finally a giant, articulated super tram stopped and the by now enormous crowd surged aboard. We were polite and therefore ended up standing for the half hour hot box ride to Belém. We passed under the giant April 25 Bridge as we paralleled the River Tagus and finally exited the tram at the first Belém stop.
 
We found ourselves in tourist country in front of a giant structure with an even more giant line waiting to get in. We got a place in line and then I went ahead to find out what we were in line for. By the time I figured out we were indeed waiting to get into the very famous and on our list to visit Jerónimos Monastery we were already heading inside.
 
It was rather amazing.

This place has long been connected with Portuguese exploration. Vasco de Gama prayed here and is entombed here. It's opulence is in part a thank you from the King to the explorers who brought back riches to Portugal.
 
We toured the cloisters including the refectory before entering the upper choir area for another view of the main chapel.
 

 
As we finally left the monastery, it was most decidedly time for lunch. Belém however is a relatively touristy area with the good restaurants well documented and they were packed even in the mid-afternoon. We decided to keep walking back towards Lisbon proper until the tourists died away and then find the nearest restaurant. This was one of our better strategies.
 
Our lunch spot was an everyman's cafe on the street with one twist: the chalkboard special included a description in French. We dined on cod cakes with rice and beans on the side and grilled octopus. It was delicious! The place was fantastic too. 
 
Several tables away was a grandmother blessed to be taking her two grandchildren to lunch. They were more than a handful and she was constantly reprimanding and instructing them on how to behave. We gave her sympathetic glances and wished her good luck as they left together. It was a scene that crossed cultures and made us feel part of a bigger family.
 
After lunch we continued down the street past the entrance to Portugal's Presidential Palace a bit further to the National Coach Museum.

What? Yeah, the National Coach Museum. Apparently around 1900, foreseeing the demise of the horse drawn coach, Queen Amélia decided to preserve the royal coaches for posterity.


This didn't sound so exciting to me but I couldn't have been more wrong. The coaches were not only beautiful in their own right, but like any slice of life, they said a lot about day to day living during their time. When you kept in mind that these were royal coaches - the Maserati's and Rolls's of their time - it gives you an idea of what life was like during these times. On top of that the building all this was housed in was amazing. It turned out this location used to be home to the royal riding club.
 

 
After the Coach Museum we trudged back and caught the tram - much less crowded and hot this time - back to Praça da Figueira where we then waited for and caught the more historic tram #12E which took us up towards the São Jorge Castle. This tram was small, wooden, creaky and a total blast. It creaks and squeaks and jerks up the hills of Lisbon through tight squeezes and as mentioned in the all guidebooks - within inches of cars, building and pedestrians. It was a wonderful ride!
 
We disembarked near the apex of the tram's route (we hoped) and hoofed it with urgency further uphill as we were dangerously close to closing time for the castle. We arrived, queued and got our tickets to discover we had two hours more than we anticipated. Crisis averted.

 
The views from the castle grounds were astonishing. We had seen enough of the city at this point to recognize some landmarks from a brand new vantage point.
 

Looking to the East up the River Tagus.
Looking to the west and to the Praça do Comércio.
25 de April Bridge.

Praça da Figueira.

We climbed the ramparts of the castle proper. All over Portugal we noticed that the Portuguese leave responsibility for not being stupid more up to the individual than they do here in the US. Fewer handrails, fences etc. Here they did give a graphic description of what happens to the careless tourist.

 

 
We walked home from the Castle, slowly winding through the streets of the Alfama neighborhood which was a quiet, more reflective and residential area. We wandered right through the middle of a neighborhood BBQ and stopped at little neighborhood shops. At one point Meg was photographing another amazing bit of Portuguese tile work when a gentlemen got our attention. He graciously beckoned us to look at the tile work on the ceiling of the entryway to his apartment. We chatted a bit in broken English and it turned out he had visited Boston once and very much liked it. All over Portugal we found this level of hospitality and openness. 
 
We continued through the Alfama and gradually made our way back through the Baixa district and then back to our hotel. You see some kind of strange and beautiful things walking through the city sometimes.
 
 
 
Back at the hotel we ordered room service and paired it with some cheese and dried sausage we brought from Salema. Tomorrow was a travel day and this would lighten our load. Plus we were beat!
 
Another great day in Lisbon. You could spend a week in Lisbon and not see everything you want to but we covered a lot of ground in our three days there. Tomorrow it would be off to Sintra!

 


Comments

No comments posted.
Loading...

Subscribe
RSS
Archive
January February (3) March April (1) May June (3) July (1) August September October November December (2)
January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December