Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Lisbon, Portugal (Double Tree by Hilton – Lisbon, Fontana Park)

After breakfast I got ready for my visit to the Belem Tower which is located down the river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. But first, a trip to the post office to mail a letter to the U.S.

I was very surprised that it only cost .85 Euro to mail the letter. I guess the person at the post office counter was having a slow day and showed the stamp she put on the envelop and said it is a place I should visit. But I was amazed at the price of the stamp. I’ve had to pay three times that amount in other countries; but I wasn’t complaining.

To get to the Belem Tower, I needed to take the Metro to the Cais do Sodre station which was one transfer away from my departing station of Saldanha. When I left the station at ais do Sodre I immediately was drawn to a large building across the street. As I got closer, I could see it was a market and went inside. I first saw the large open public market that sold fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. On the other side was a large food court that served, for lake of a better word, everything under the sun.


As I was leaving the market, I took a picture of tile-work by the main doorway. I could take pictures of various tiles all day long, but limit myself to that which I find of greatest interest.

Now, how to get to the Belem Tower? After checking Google, I saw that the 15E would take me there. Now to find the stop where to catch the 15E. I went over to a transit stop across the street and saw that the 15E stopped there so I waited. Before long the 15E showed up and I got on. I forgot to mention that I purchased a transit day pay which gives me the option of taking any Lisbon public transportation for one day (Metro, trams, bus). As I was riding along I decided to check Google Maps to see if I was heading in the right direction, and I wasn’t. At the next stop I got off and walked back to my original starting point and walked across the street to the transit lines going the other direction.

The 15E tram going in this direction was very full when I boarded but found a spot where I could stand and hopefully some of these people would get off along the way to give me some breathing room. Since we were headed towards some of Lisbon’s most popular tourist attractions, there were people from several different countries. There was a French-speaking woman who kept asking which stop would take her to a particular attraction. She asked one of the conductors, both in Portuguese and Spanish, then her friends, then people standing around her. It was interesting hearing so many languages and that people spoke several languages, including English, depending on who they were talking to.

After 25 minutes or so of being packed in, as one person said in French, sardiniere. Yes, we were packed in like sardines. we arrived at our stop. I quickly read up on the Belem Tower, which is named after the quarter of the city where it stands. “Belem” is the Portuguese word for Bethlehem. The tower was built between 1514 and 1520 as part of the Tagus river defense system.

To get to the tower, which is on the other side of the freeway and intercity train tracks, I had to walk up and over on the pedestrian viaduct. The tower seemed larger once I started walked towards it. Amazing how good of condition it is after all these years. You’d think that constant exposure to weather and the tides would have worn it down. I took pictures from two different angles.

Just beyond the tower you can see where the Tagus river enters the Atlantic.

Nearby the tower was a display of a sea plane cast in stone. It was a replica of the plane which made the first South Atlantic aerial crossing in 1922.

Walking towards Lisbon, I took pictures of the Belem faux lighthouse (an ornamental lighthouse for decoration only and was never actually used as a lighthouse)

Nearby was Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) which roughly marked the location where many ships from Portugal’s “Golden Age of Discovery” were launched. The monument has figures of those who were famous in their day for extending Portugal’s influence around the world.

I eventually walked towards the Belém Palace, or alternately National Palace of Belém. From that I gather, the palace is still used for official business which is probably why formal military guards can be seen at the entrance.

Across the street is the Afonso de Albuquerque Garden and the statue of Afonso de Albuquerque.

Nearby is the National Coach Museum, in its new building as of 2015. Since this is known as the largest exhibit of its kind in the world, thought it would be interesting to tour. From looking at the pictures I found on the internet, I knew there would be many coaches, but was not expecting so many on display. They were like works of art on wheels. I took many pictures as I walked through the exhibit.

The last place I wanted to see was the Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos). A very large monastery that now contains a couple of museums. Almost difficult to get into one picture. I was especially impressed with the main entrance.

Across the street from the monastery is the Imperial Square. From Wikipedia: “Measuring three hectares, this is by far the largest Portuguese Square. Designed by Cottinelli Telmo and Vasco Lacerda Marques in 1940 for the Portuguese World Exhibition, it has remained unaltered ever since. In 1956 it lost the two pavilions on its eastern and western ends, and was only closed down on the western end again in 1992 with the construction of the Belém Cultural Centre, where the Pavilion of the Portuguese in the World once stood. The Imperial Square still preserves the monumental and luminous fountain from its original construction, as well as the ponds on the south end, and a group of sculptures representing mythical sea horses.”

Since this was my last stop today, I boarded the 15E that would take me back to the nearest Metro station. On the way back to the hotel I stopped by my favorite Chinese place and ordered Chow Mein and Shrimp.

It was getting late after updating my travel blog and was in bed soon after. I had a couple of small bowls of Special K before bed.

Tomorrow, since the weather is expected to be mostly cloudy, there is a church I wanted to see in the historical section of the city and to visit the main train station. The ticket I purchased online that will take me to Porto on Sunday never showed up in my email and when I called the train’s customer service line I was told to purchase another ticket. I’ll work this out with someone at the station before buying another ticket when I already purchased one.




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