These last few weeks, I have been chronicling my trip to Portugal last Spring. The trip started on a Monday in late May with a visit to the medieval town of Monsaraz, and the wineries of Esporão, and José de Sousa. Tuesday started with a trip to Cartuxa, and Wednesday morning we found ourselves at Dona Maria, and Thursday, we started at Herdade do Mouchão, and finished at Herdade de Malhadinha Nova. After the press trip was over, a spent a few glorious days in the capital city of Lisbon.
After exploring the Alfama and the Barrio Alto neighborhoods, and another day exploring many of Lisbon’s sites, I headed out to Belém, the District to the West of Central Lisbon and is considered the traditional home of the early Portuguese explorers.
Leaving my Alfama neighborhood, I stopped to watch the local bike event, which I am certain they staged for my benefit.
Being a few kilometers from my apartment, I opted to take one of the frequent trams that run from the city center out to Belém. While it was not expensive, it certainly was a popular route for both tourists and locals—I spent the entire trip (about 30 minutes or so) standing, often pressed up against a sweaty body or seven as the trams were packed to what had to have been a violation (on a couple of different levels).
The Tram leaves from the Praça do Comércio, where they were giving Segway lessons. Since I consider the Segway one of the scourges of the modern era, I am sure this was also for my benefit.
The tram stop for Belém was just a short walk from perhaps the neighborhood’s most popular site, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, a Monastery that was funded by the 5% tax that was levied on spices that entered Portugal during the Age of Exploration.
Almost as impressive as the monastery itself, was the line to visit the structure that stretched the length of the building and across the street. I am not a fan of lines. At all. Thus, no pictures of the interior.
Instead, I opted for a refreshing beer, yes beer, from the strategically placed cart in the park across the street.
Across from the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was the impressive Padrão dos Descobrimentos on the bank of the Tagus River. Built in the 1940s to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death. Only 5€ to enter, it offers the best views of Belém. The nearly 2 hour wait to get in, however, prevented me from taking in those views.
There were also plenty of selfie-sticks, another scourge upon modern human existence (although full-disclosure: I own one [sent to me as a sample], and they are quite fun).
Next was the Torre de Belém, a fortress that was originally in the middle of the Tagus (Tejo) River, but the flow of the water gradually shifted and it is now along the bank. There is a replica of the structure a hundred meters from the actual building, which was quite popular…
…perhaps due to the fact that the line to enter the tower was at least an hour wait. Perhaps needless to say at this point, I did not go in.
Instead, I opted for a glass of wine from the cart strategically placed just a few meters from the end of the line.
There was also an impressive line to buy the Pasteis de Belém, the famed makers of Pastels de Nata, the Portuguese desert pastry of eternal goodness.
You bet your sweet bippy I suffered through that line and bought some….
They were so good, that I woofed them all down before I remembered to take a photo (hence the stock photo here). I opt not to mention how many I bought, employing my fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.
A casual lunch of freshly caught cod (I think), along the river, with a fantastic bottle of Esporão Antão Vaz.
Then it was back to Alfama, to climb a few more stairs…
…have more sardines and a lovely Dona Maria Rosé…
…and catch one more Fado show before heading back to Houston early the next morning.