The queue wasn´t too long, but had it been a Saturday or Sunday, it would be down the road...
|Rows of pastry boxes ready for sale|
|A sprinkle of cinnamon and icing sugar...the wafer thin pastry, melt in the mouth custard...yummmmiiiii!|
|From the bus you can see the queue on a Saturday morning. Across the street the Jerónimos Monastery|
There was a sugar cane refinery and small shop next to the Monastery of Jerónimos, and when in 1834 the convents were closed in Portugal, the workers and clergy were expelled. To make ends meet, someone from the convent started selling pastries in that shop. Although Belém was considered to be a fair distance from Lisbon in those day, due to the visitors visiting the Monastery and the Belém tower, the pastries started becoming well known, and in 1837, the original factory started operating by making the Pasteis de Belém, with the original secret convent recipe. Today, they are still made the same way.
You can buy them in packs of 6 to take away or take time to enjoy the atmosphere by sitting down in one of the various rooms and order a cup of tea or coffee to go with the pastries. You can buy similar pastries in all cafés and bakeries all over Portugal, known as "Pastel de nata", but the pastry is not as fine or crunchy as the original.
Our sweet craving filled, we cross the park and large avenue to see the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).
Located along the Tejo River by the spot where ships departed in the 15th and 16th century, it celebrates the Portuguese age of discovery.
This monument was originally constructed in a smaller version, as a temporary monument in another place in Lisbon, for the Portuguese World Fair of 1940. That original structure was then demolished in 1943.
In 1958, the construction of a a permanent monument to the discoveries was approved, and the enlarged version of the 1940´s building was finished and inaugurated in August 1960.
This monument was one of several projects built nationwide to commemorate the 5th centenary anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.
In 1985 an observation deck, auditorium and exhibition hall were added to the top of the structure, with public access via lift or stairs, offering views of the river and the Belém area, including the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, which date from the same Age of Discovery.
|Henry, the Navigator at the helm holding a caravel|
Looking like the prow of a caravel it has a 52mt high slab, with ramps at either side joining at the
river´s edge with the figure of Henry "The Navigator" at the helm. On either side are 16 figures from the Portuguese age of discoveries, including kings, explorers, artists, scientists and missionaries.
Each figure is designed to show movement to the front (the unknown sea).
In front of the monument is a square with a 50mt diameter Compass rose executed in marble of various colours, gifted by the South African government. It includes a 14mt wide world map, showing the routes the Portuguese caravels took during the discoveries.
|Marble map showing places where the Portuguese landed during their discoveries in the 15th and 16th century|
|Marina in Belém with the Discoveries Monument|
|The bridge over the River Tagus from Lisbon to Almada|
It´s a suspension bridge connecting Lisbon to Almada on the south banks of the Tejo river. It was inaugurated in 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999. It is often compared to the Golden gate bridge in San Francisco, but it was built by the American company that built the Francisco-Oakland bridge. It has a lenght of 2,277mt, with 6 car lanes in the upper platform and 2 train tracks in the lower platform. Even though another bridge has been built over the Tejo river, it´s still heavily used with more than 150,000 cars making the daily trip, and more than 160 trains cross the bridge daily.
Next stop, not too far from the Discoveries Monument is the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower).
It was commissioned by King John II as part of a defense system at river mouth and as a gateway to Lisbon. The king died in the meantime and it was King Manuel I, who twenty years later ordered the construction of a military fortification on the southern margins of the river.
Concluded in 1519, it was built in the Manueline style, from limestone with a 30mt, four story tower.
In the 1990´s restoration work was started with reinforcement of the structure.
Studies indicate that the tower was constructed on a small island near the banks of the river opposite the beach. As development extended the shoreline, more and more of the northern bank crept southwards into the river, and the tower eventually became integrated into the riverbank. It can now be reached across a short drawbridge.
|Replica of the plane used by Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral to fly over the Atlantic|
Back to Praça do Comércio, we walked the short distance to the Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift). It´s a beautiful neo-classical ironwork elevator that connects the Rossio area to Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church), 45mt above on one of the Lisbon hills. It is opened daily from 7am to 11pm, costs 2,80E (free with your Yellow bus tour ticket or bus day ticket). If you travel by metro, take the green line to the Rossio station.
The Lift was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, an engineer born in Porto, to French parents, who was an apprentice to the great architect and civil engineer, Gustave Eiffel. Building started in 1900 and the lift was inaugurated on the 10th of July 1902. The original lift was powered by steam and converted to an electrical motor in 1907. (If you happen to visit Lisbon, visit the lift and you will be able to buy a special postcard with a commemorative stamp).
There are two elevators whose cabin interiors are lined with wood, brass, glass and mirrors, and each carriage can carry up to 29 passengers.
Once you get out, there is a viewing platform above, reached via a narrow spiral staircase with great views over downtown Lisbon. You descend via another spiral staircase at the other end of the tower.
In 2002 the Elevador de Santa Justa, as well as the cable railways (funiculars) of Lavra, Glória and Bica (in Lisbon) were classified as National Monuments.
|Intricate iron-work tower with viewing platform at top|
|View from the top - the Saint Jorge Castle can be seen above another one of Lisbon´s hills|
|Castelo de São Jorge - Saint Jorge Castle|
|View of Rossio Square in downtown Lisbon, with statue of King Pedro IV and the National Theatre (with central columns)|
|The delicate filigree and iron work on the narrow spiral staircase to the viewing platform|
|Lovely iron work balcony on the viewing platform - view over one of Lisbon´s hills|
As you step out the platform you come onto the bridge that leads to the Carmo Square, going past the Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church), a Gothic church, whose stone roof over the nave collapsed during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. It was never rebuilt as a reminder to Lisbon´s residents of the horrors faced during the earthquake, and only the pillars and arches survive untouched until now. This church now houses the Archaeological museum.
|Coming out of the Lift into the ruins of the Carmo Church (note the little café on the left corner on lower lift platform)|
|The arches and pillars that remain (photo from Wikipedia)|
A huge fire destroyed this area in August 1988 burning over 18 historical buildings, and after the Earthquake of 1755, this was considered the second greatest disaster in Lisbon. Its reconstruction to replicate the 18th century buildings took over one decade, but the area is now one of the most important commercial areas of downtown Lisbon with traditional shops as well as multinational chain stores, and is also a very cosmopolitan area popular with tourists.
|Rua Garrett with the Chiado shopping centre|
|Some of the most popular cafés in the Chiado area - A Brasileira with the statue of the writer Fernando Pessoa|
Stop by the most popular café in the Chiado district - A Brasileira - (the Brazilian), founded in 1908 by Adriano Telles, who used to import genuine Brazilian coffee. After the establishment of the Republic on the 5th October 1910, the people had once again the liberty of meeting and free speech, and this café was then the meeting area for artists and writers of the time. From 1925 it started to exhibit paintings by some of most important Portuguese artists who frequented the café.
In 1980 a bronze statue to one of its most frequent visitor, the writer Fernando Pessoa was inaugurated, representing the writer sitting at a table at the café´s esplanade.
Don´t miss a trip on one of Lisbon´s old trams still in operation in the most touristic routes.
Try the route 28 tram , it takes you past the Estrela Basilica and the Parliament (São Bento), but it´s the eastern route that has more tourist appeal (direction Campo de Ourique), taking you to St George´s castle (see photo from the the Santa Justa lift), narrow streets of Alfama and Graça districts, the Miradouro Santa Luzia (the highest viewpoint in Lisbon), Saint Vincent church, the National Pantheon, where some of the country´s most iconic figures are buried.
Some of the streets are so narrow and steep, that the only trams able to do this route are the old yellow trams. Due to crowding during certain times of the day and the number of tourists using this route, be careful of pickpockets on this tram line.
|The narrow streets of some of the suburbs, taken from the 28 Tram - the 25th April Bridge can be seen at the back|
Sadly a lot more was left unseen, the city is big and there is a lot of historical buildings and monuments that add up to centuries of wonderful history. So I will have to return one day to discover more.
Hope you have been enjoying my series about my overseas holiday, and just like me have learned something about some of Portugal's amazing monuments.