Thursday, July 9, 2015

3 Continent Adventure: Lisbon, 2015

 May 29, 2015

The first sight to greet us is the soaring 25th of April Bridge which spans the Tagus River, with Christ the Redeemer statue on one side. This bridge was named for the date in 1974 when a bloodless revolution restored democracy by overthrowing the regime of Antonio Salazar

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25 April Bridge

The coastline is quite stunning as we pass by the Belem Tower, a 16th century fort which sits at the edge of the Tagus River. This was built to defend the harbour and was originally used as a lighthouse. The Monument of the Discoveries, the Central Tejo, the 19th century power plant turned into an electricity museum; and the state-of-the-art Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown which is a facility for biomedical research.

Belem Tower
Monument of  Discoveries & Jeronimos Monastery

Central Tejo
Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown

We were delighted to be offered a tour of Lisbon by a local, Miguel. Miguel & Elena picked us up from the pier at 9:00 am and our tour started in the Baixa Quarter or lower town. The magnificient “Black Horse” stands in the Praca do Comercio facing a triumphal arch which leads into the Baixa. This is the modern hub (financial district) of Lisbon with its banks, upscale boutiques, street vendors and Mediterranean style architecture. We stopped for coffee and indulged in the famous, delicious pasteis de nata (or Portuguese tarts) in one of the street cafes. 

Black Horse

Praca do Comercio Gates

Praca do Comercio

Then it was on to Rossio Square with its twin fountains brought from Paris in 1890. Rossio is the liveliest square in the city, where people stop to sit and relax at outdoor cafes. On either side of the square are two baroque fountains and in the center is a monument to Dom Pedro IV (the "Liberator: or "Soldier King").


The Rossio is also home to the Dona Maria II National Theatre, a neoclassical building built in the 1840s. Rossio Train Station, an ornate Neo-Manueline building with horseshoe arched doorways built between 1886 and 1887. The Cathedral & Apse of the Carmo Convent, damaged in the 1755 earthquake, which is now a museum; and many other beautiful buildings. Narrow winding lanes and stairways enhance the charm of this quarter. 

National Theatre Dona Maria II
Apse of the Carmo convent & church

Rossio Train Station

We stopped at the Lisbon Cathedral, the oldest church in the city constructed in 1147. The Sao Domingo Cathedral which has survived fires and earthquakes was dedicated in 1241 and was at one time the largest church in Lisbon. After a huge fire in 1954, all the interior ornaments and tapestry were completely burned down. The church was never reconstructed entirely, so it shows all its opened bruises. The high altar, with red marble columns support the sculptural composition of the Holy Trinity.

Lisbon Cathedral

Sao Domingo Church

Then through the Alfama District which is the oldest part of the city. This is the city’s medieval Moorish district which is a maze of narrow streets, the tiny Santa Luzia Church and white-washed houses decorated with lovely tile work and wrought iron balconies. The views from the Alfama are quite stunning. Overlooking the Alfama is the Castelo de Sao Jorge or Castle of St. George.

Igreja Santa Luzia

The Castelo de Sao Jorge fortification was built by the Moors in the mid 11th century and was the last defensive stronghold for the elite who resided on the Citadel. Stunning views of Lisbon and the Praca do Comercio from the castle.

View from the Castle

The castle also has a unique camera system, invented by Leonardo da Vinci, called the Camera Obscura. This is an optical system of lenses and mirrors which provides 360° detailed views of the city in real time. 


Lunch was at Lamore de la Sol where we experienced traditional Portuguese cuisine – a local fish called Dorado, a cod dish cooked with eggs, bacalhau and “Jewish” sausage which was actually deep fried sausages filled with chicken. All dishes were excellent.

From there we drove to the Belem Quarter where we entered the Monastery of Jeronimos. This is a huge, magnificently carved building with a chapel founded, by Prince Henry and a cornerstone laid by King Manuel in 1502. The chapel contains beautifully carved statues and seafaring symbols, stained glass, ornate arches, and fine Gothic and Renaissance architecture, the tombs of Vasco da Gama and other explorers. This monastery was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s epic journey to India around the tip of Africa. The monastery also houses the Maritime Museum.


Tomb of Vasco da Gama

Then it was on to the Monument of the Discoveries built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.

We also passed by the Lusitânia, commemorating the first transatlantic flight by Portuguese aviators from Lisbon to Brazil in 1922.

We couldn’t leave Lisbon without one last taste of the famous Pastéis de nata (Portuguese tarts). These were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jeronimos Monastery. The most  popular pastisterie in Lisbon is the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. This pastisterie was originally owned by the monks and was later sold in 1837 to the new owners, whose descendents own the business to this day. There was a long line up for take out orders, we were lucky to get a seat in the pastisterie for a quick bite and an order to take with us back to the ship.


with Miguel & Elena

Lisbon was truly a delightful surprise.

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