Of the stops we were to make on our lightning speed sightseeing of Lisbon, the Jeronimos Monastery was just about my number one. I’d done quite a bit of research for our trip and since it was Brett’s first trip to Europe, I was on the lookout for things like this. The Portuguese were apparently known for their voyages during the Age of Discovery and the monastery was built in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator.
This monastery was populated by monks who gave guidance to sailors and prayed for the king’s soul. It has amazing European Gothic architecture, known as Manueline, with many elaborate details such as sea monsters, coil, etc.
Aside from the awe-inspiring beauty of the Jeronimos, there were several other attractions for us to see in Belem. After just barely making it into the monastery, we walked at a more leisurely pace to see the Monument to the Discoveries. The monument commemorates the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator and has sculptures of a ton of historical figures like Magellan. We didn’t bother to go inside as we are all much more interested in seeing the outdoor sites than wandering through museums. Brett was really pretty awestruck and talked about the monument quite a bit. Here’s a picture of Brett with the monument:
Justine was pretty excited to discover that when we turned to the left of the monument we saw the Golden Gate bridge’s twin! Its name is the Ponte de 25 Abril, and it is the longest central span bridge in Europe and 20th large suspension bridge in the world . It was actually built by the American Bridge company – the same company that made the San Fran Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate). Here she is with the bridge and some fishermen!
Next up was the tower of Belem. I convinced everyone that we should walk this as these things are not very far apart (we could see it in the distance). In truth, it was a really long walk, and I regretted several times that we had not taken a cab. However, once we hit up our next stop I think we were all pretty glad that we’d spent the better part of the day walking.
After Brett lost a bet on how many seasons of Modern Family there were, we were all ready for some pastries at Pasteis de Belem.
Justine did a pretty good job recounting this story, so I’ll summarize. The place is very busy – its like Mike’s Pastry in the North End in Boston, except that if you venture around the corner from the initial store opening you’ll see a massive expanse of tables and tables of people eating pastries. We didn’t do this, so naturally we stood in front and fought people for tables – eventually winning this wonderful table:
After ordering almost everything on the menu we were ready to eat our evening snack (yep, that was a snack). It was then that I almost died. I inhaled some pastry flakes while aggressively consuming my second Pasteis de Belem and couldn’t breathe. I handled this rather well (and strangely). I recognized that I was choking and could not breathe. Rather than trying to breathe or express anything verbally, I calmly gestured that I needed a drink and couldn’t breathe, with my face becoming increasingly tomato-like. Brett and Justine were freaking out, I just really needed water. Brett grabbed a waiter who also freaked out, and since no one seemed to be thinking I grabbed Brett’s beer to try to remedy the situation before I perished. Eventually the waiter arrived with a water, and I recovered.
We finished our meal joyfully, and grabbed a cab back to the city center to take in the view from the Santa Justa Elevator.