On our way to Lisbon, or Lisboa in Portuguese, we drove past some very pretty scenery and enjoyed the countryside. We spent an evening in Evora, Portugal. Evora is a walled town and had a festival going on. Since we were both exhausted, we did not attend the festivities but did enjoy the music which we could hear from where we were parked for the night. We were parked right outside the town walls. We imagine that, like us, travelers have been doing this since the walls were constructed.
Enroute to Lisbon, we stopped at 7 AM for breakfast and both had some great soup and beverages for a total of 3 Euros. Jill had a bean and vegetable soup, and Jose had bean with chorizo and ham soup.
Our approach to Lisbon was over the "25th of April" bridge - so we got a great view of the city as we crossed over the bridge. We then went directly to our campground since we were eager to begin our explorations of Lisbon. We stayed in a large municipal campgound in a large park in Lisbon, with convenient bus transportation to the city center. Our first task was to get tickets for the public transportation. We took the bus from our campground to the central transportation station at Cais do Soidre and had the good fortune of finding a friendly Metro ticket person to explain what our options were. We got our tickets and headed for a suburb of Lisboa called Belem.
In Belem, we immediately went for a light lunch of pasteis de Belem at a Cafe by the same name. The Pasteis de Belem cafe was founded in 1867, has been serving their famous pastries ever since, and is the place to go for those delicious little custard filled pastries.
After lunch we visited the Monasterio do San Jeronimos, and since it was Sunday we got in for free. Designed in the Manueline architectural style by architect Juan de Castillo, it was commissioned by King Manuel I of Portugal to mark the successful return from India of Vasco de Gama. This magnificent monastery can be considered one of the most prominent monuments in Lisbon and is certainly one of the most successful achievements of the Manueline style (Portuguese late-Gothic). The innovative Manueline architectural style is unique to Portugal and synthesizes aspects of Late Gothic architecture with influences of the Spanish Plateresque style, Italian urban architecture, and Flemish elements.
Belem is Lisbon's most monumental and historical district. It was from here that many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyages of discovery: Prince Henry the Navigator and the first overseas expedition to conquer Ceuta in Morocco, Bartholomeu Dias to round the Cape of Good Hope, the first voyages of Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama to discover the sea route to India, and Christopher Columbus stopped here on his way back to Europe after discovering the New World.
While in Belem we walked over to the historic Belem tower. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be both part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus River and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. We took a few pictures, and also took a quick look at the war memorial located near the tower, with a large wall commemorating those who have died in defense of Portugal over the years.
We also visited the Monument to the Discoveries in Belem, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. It represents a three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures such as King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, poet Camões holding verses from The Lusiads, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, following Prince Henry the Navigator at the prow holding a small vessel. The only female is queen Felipa of Lancaster, mother of Henry the navigator, the brain of the discoveries.
At the monument, we saw a video about Lisbon and went to the top of the tower for a great view. We were fortunate to speak with some friendly staff members who gave us some dining recommendations. We were eager to find out if the restaurant that we had chosen in the Cacilhas area was a good local favorite. We did find out that they considered that restaurant to be expensive and that there were other alternatives in the same area.
We ended up heading over to Cacilhas via ferry later in the evening and had a nice seafood platter and arroz con mariscos. We ate at a cute little restaurant decorated with memorabilia and photos of Fado artists. Fado (Portuguese: destiny, fate) is a music genre which can be traced to the 1820s in Portugal, but likely with earlier origins. It is a music style typically characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. In general fado is a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain structure. Amália Rodrigues, Carlos do Carmo, Mariza, Mafalda Arnauth, and Cristina Branco are amongst the most famous individuals associated with the genre. We did not get a chance to hear live fado while in Lisbon, but we enjoyed the recorded fado in this little restaurant while we dined, and also heard it elsewhere during our visit to Lisbon and the surrounding towns.
The following day, we went via bus first to Belem for some pastries for breakfast, and then into Lisbon center. We mostly walked around the various sections of downtown Lisbon, took the historic Santa Justa lift up for a nice view of the city. We also road the quaint furnicular to Barrio Alto, and rode some other historic trams about town. We had dinner in the Alfama district (Jose - veal, potatoes and rice); Jill bacalhau and potatoes) and then headed home.
We spent the next day getting caught up on laundry and internet.