602 – Thursday 19th January 2017: Belem Tour
A short drive to Belem. This is where the Age of Discoveries took place … adventurers and navigators set sail from here. It is a relatively small area to walk and has its own atmosphere. The pix tell their own tale.
Outside the Military Museum and monument to fallen Portuguese soldiers, we were in time for the Changing of the Guard. They have a strange march which looks like they are wearing imaginary snow shoes and planting poles.
An iconic sight … the Torre de Belem. Commissioned by King Manuel I it was built as a fortress to guard the point of departure for many of the explorers and navigators. The exterior was really quite stunning with rope carved stone and open balconies. It looks as if it floats on the Tagus, but was actually built on a small island. The water is contained so that water remains creating the illusion of it floating even when the tide is low. Shame so many overly pressuring sales people … I really have no need of a selfie stick.
The interior is austere and given over to cannon.
Our first view of the Monument to the Discoveries. And the 25th April bridge, originally called the Salazar .. not only roads were renamed after the 1974 revolution.
Built in 1960 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. He leads the ship and Vasco da Gama is the third in line. Salazar commissioned it … he tried to resurrect the concept of the Golden Age of Discovery and fought pointless and prolonged wars to try to hang onto the Portuguese empire.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. One of the Lisbon must do’s. A monument to the wealth of the Age of Discoveries. Commissioned by Manual 1 around 1501 when Vasco da Gama returned having discovered India. It was built from pepper taxes … literally the import taxes charged on pepper and spices. The left hand wing was the dormitories and now houses the National Archaeological Museum. And further left is the Maritime Museum.
Lunch before going around the Monastery.
A real WOW factor as you enter the Cloisters. These were completed in 1544.
View of the Church of Santa Maria with its huge octagonal pillars. Much more impressive than the Cathedral which we saw a few days later.
Inside the rectory the walls are tiled with C18 azulejos.
We bought some of the famous Portuguese custard tarts and ate them watching the sun go down. The tarts are believed to have been created by the Monks from the Monastry before the C18th, so they are often known as Pasteis de Belem. During Medieval times, the convents and monasteries produced large quantities of eggs. The egg whites were used to starch clothes such as nun’s habits and to clear wines … leaving a glut of egg yolks. So the monasteries produced custardy confections. These original items were definitely a step up from others we’ve tried … and we’ve sampled a few!