Portugal, Day 2: Belém

So the title may be a bit misleading, and I apologize if the accentuation doesn’t remain consistent, as I know how to add the accent on the é when using my iPad but can’t consistently remember it on my Bluetooth keyboard.

Belém (which I will be replicating with the copy function) is a bit outside central Lisbon, but home to some of the bigger sights. It’s also an area that is mostly closed on Mondays, and with tomorrow being on of those, and not wanting to cram everything into a Tuesday, we figured today would be the day.

Our Lisboa Card got us on the 15E streetcar, which took about 45 minutes give or take to get down to the Belém district. With today being easily chunkable into sights, figured it would be a good time for titles.

Torre de Belém

Listed by UNESCO and built during the Age of Discoveries, this is probably the most-photographed place in Lisbon. From the outside, it’s a total stunner. On the inside, it’s also quite beautiful. I’m going to put a big caveat on the recommendation here, though. If you don’t like lines, and seeing views of a river aren’t for you, then you’re probably better off just getting a picture from the outside.

Because it is stunning. The line, though, is pretty substantial, and even though it was “free” with the Lisboa Card, I can’t tell anybody that there was a “must-see” item on the inside. There was a cute carved rhino on one of the towers. That was about it.

There is a sign indicating that the tower can only hold 120 people, which does make it nice when you get inside, but considering how long it takes to get inside, maybe they could slide the needle up a bit more?

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Standing at 56 metres and meant to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death, the carved limestone monument gives you a slightly better view of the river and the nearby Mosterio dos Jerónimos. That’s… about it. Nice breeze and climb, though.

Os Jerónimos

We had a home-breakfast this morning (see; Nespresso, croissant and yogurt, bought from the local grocery store) after a LONG sleep-in, so we committed ourselves to a good lunch, and we definitely found it. Os Jerónimos served us up a fantastic set of grilled seafood and seafood stew, good beer and wine, and at a not-horrible price. Great atmosphere, great team, you can literally sit at the bar and see your fish picked off of the grill. Energy, recharged!

Mosterio dos Jerónimos

Just to note, working the “copy” function on the iPad hardcore to get the proper accents.

This place has been listed near the top of the “must-see” places in Lisbon in most places I’ve seen. Did not disappoint. Dedicated to St. Jerome, who was dedicated to praying for sailors, the monastery was built during the time of St. Peter’s Basilica, about 500 years ago, and looks stunning. Unlike some religious structures that splash colour everywhere, this one mixes an almost-austere carving style in to beautiful stained glass to create something truly special. Entrance to the church is free, though there is a sacremento that you pay an extra 1.50 for, which depicts scenes in St. Jerome’s life, including one where the devil switches his “good books” for bad ones, and a subsequent dream where this is revealed, where the pictures end up looking more cute than frightful if you’re reading the English translations. Beautiful place, though.

Museu Colecção de Berardo

Originally a free gallery, you know get a discount for having a Lisboa card, which was totally worth it for what you see. Modern art by Miro, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Pollack, Picasso, and several other artistic bigwigs, plus temporary exhibitions.

At this point, having checked out some of the big sights of Belém, not having been used to the sun due to Canadian Winter, and still recovering from jet lag, we started to make our way back via bus, stopping at a couple places before we got back.

Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

Beautiful art gallery on the ride home, featuring a pretty diverse collection, notable for things like the Namibian screens, which were actually the Japanese depictions of the Portuguese when they arrived in the Far East. There’s also a Bosch triptych and works from several prominent Portuguese artists. For a stop on the way back, it was a good one.

Pink Street

Once the Red Light District, Pink Street almost looks like it’s been remade for Instagram. In fact, the minute we got there, a tourist asked if we could get her picture, to which we agreed, so long as she got ours. The road was painted pink in 2011 in an attempt to turn the neighbourhood around, with brothels closing and cafés opening, including one where we stopped for beer, wine and cheese.

Rio Coura

It seems like Lisbon isn’t going to run out of cozy seafood restaurants anytime soon, and this was the second one we hit today. Great grilled seafood and wine at a decent price, and the locals seemed to be eating there, too.

So, Day 2 has been a good one, as I sit here typing with a light wine buzz and the need to go to sleep soon. Tomorrow, we’ll be checking out the sights that aren’t closed in the centre, seeing what kind of buzz this city has. Can’t wait.

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