On my last day in Lisbon, I only had the morning to explore so I arranged for a taxi to take me to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, known in English as the Monument to the Discoveries. The weather was beautiful and I wanted to spend my time near the water. The monument, situated on the northern bank of the Tagus River, pays tribute to the Age of Discovery in Portugal during the 15th and 16th centuries. I assumed (incorrectly) that the person at the front of the monument was Vasco de Gama. Yesterday, I had seen that he was buried in the church across the street. However, Henry the Navigator was the lead character (I’ve never heard of him), so apparently I need to brush up on my Portuguese history! The monument was impressive, especially against the beautiful blue sky.
After looking at the monument, I walked along the river to the Belém Tower, which we had seen yesterday. It looked especially pretty in today’s lighting. The last thing I did was take a 40 minute water taxi ride back to the “Big Yellow Plaza.”
Once there, I caught a regular taxi back to my hotel. The driver waited for me to get my luggage, and then he took me to the airport. I loved my time in Portugal and it was a new country to add to my travel list, but I was getting excited to meet Pierre in France. This has been (and will be) quite an amazing summer. Germany, Portugal, France…and then back to Germany!
After visiting the Tile Museum, Sussie, Christina, and I said our goodbyes at the Castelo de São Jorge. They flew home today, but they wanted to see the view from the castle before they left. Our time together flew by so quickly, and I had a lot of fun with them. Without much discussion, our travel vibe seemed to really mesh. Explore, relax, drink…repeat. I’m looking forward to the next Girl’s Vacation with them!
After they left for the airport, I strolled around the grounds of the castle for several hours. Built in the mid-11th, this hill top castle had a different role than other castles built at the time. Its purpose was to house military personal, rather than a residency for royalty. The views were magnificent and the castle itself was interesting.
I had a vague idea of where I was, and I knew that I was at a “high point,” so with that little bit of knowledge, I started walking “down.” I had read that if you don’t know where you are in Lisbon, follow the trolley lines downhill. Before long I started to recognize my surroundings from our jaunts on the previous days. After leaving the castle, I walked for about two more hours, just putting one foot in front of the other and having a great time!
The National Tile Museum was one of my favorite things that we saw when we were in Lisbon. Housed in the former Madre de Deus Convent, the museum showcases tiles (azulejo) from the second half of the 15th century to the present day. The museum holds the biggest tile collection in the world.
I absolutely loved it and I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves–
Alex dropped us off at the Time Out Market which is an eatery near the Praça do Comércio. The Time Out Market is a huge food hall featuring 35 kiosks offering regional specialties for food and drink. It was really crowded while we were there, so we opted for ice cream, which we could eat as we strolled around, instead of trying to find a table.
After we finished our ice cream, we walked over to the Praça do Comércio, a gigantic plaza, which was once the royal palace of Lisbon. The plaza is a busy place, but it gets even busier when you pass through to the shopping streets located right behind it. We wandered around for the rest of the afternoon. We walked in and out of stores, looked for the Hard Rock Cafe so Sussie could buy her husband a gift, and we had another round of Ginja.
As we finished our wine, we decided that we would take another Tuk-Tuk ride to see the sites. Just as we decided what to do, a Tuk-Tuk shot down the road in front of us. Recognizing the driver, Christina called out to him. The timing was perfect, we had seen him about an hour earlier and asked him about pricing, but told him we weren’t quite ready for a ride yet.
The driver, who we later found out was named Alex, was a talkative guy from Brazil who was now living in Lisbon. Although, I knew where he had said that he was from, I was sure that I heard the distinct sound of a New York accent mixed in. I asked him about it, and he confirmed that he had lived New York for years! First as an exchange student in upstate New York and then university and work.
Aside from the Belém Tower, one of the other places that we wanted to visit was the Pastéis de Belém, which is said to have the best custard tarts in the Lisbon area. The only problem with going there, however, are the hoards of people who line up every day for the opportunity to try the best-of-the-best. Alex, like all of the other Tuk-Tuk drivers, has a special “jump to the front of the line tag” which allowed us to buy our treats without standing for hours in a long line. Yeah! (And the tarts were really good!)
Located near the pastry shop, the Santa Maria de Belém Church is a site that shouldn’t be missed. The exterior is spectacular, but make sure to see the inside as well. There isn’t a fee for entry, but we did need to wait about 10 minutes in line, because they control how many people are in the building at one time. The church and the adjoining monastery and Belém Tower (pictured below) are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
We decided to start the day by checking out Lisbon’s well-known flea market, Feira da Ladra, which is located in the Campo de Santa Clara, a public square near the National Pantheon. It’s open every Tuesday and Saturday and has been in operation since the 12th Century. In the market you can find anything from old dolls and broken tiles to cork products and crafts (and everything in between). We also found an incredible tile store as we were walking around. Tile is heavy to carry…but that didn’t stop us from buying! I also found a pair of earrings that are made from espresso capsule pods. How do people think of things like this ? I must have the creativity of a slug!
After wandering around the flea market we continued to explore the area, and we found a little shop with a sign that said, ” Old Secret Pass to Pantheon.” I stopped and looked at the sign, and the store keeper asked, “Aren’t you going to ask about it?”
I took the bait, “Okay, tell me about the secret passage.”
He told us that the street that we were standing on didn’t exist de real hundred years ago, and that there was a “cut through” to get to the Pantheon which was now their shop.
He invited us in and showed us the cobblestone flooring which was part of the passageway, and he showed us an old wall, which has been left exposed to better see the old construction. He also told us about the earthquake of 1755, a brutal event that in combination with subsequent fires and a tsunami, almost completely destroyed Lisbon and the surrounding areas.
We looked around the store and we noticed a little ceramic dish that was made to look like a man. The shop keeper asked if we knew the story behind the odd man, and we told him that we didn’t
The character was named Zé Povinho and was created by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, a Portuguese artist known for his illustration, caricatures, sculpture, and ceramics designs. He created the popular cartoon character in 1875 as a representation of the working-class people of Portugal. Ze’ is a kind and friendly man to his peers, but he mocks and ridicules the elite class and government who rule by tyranny and injustice.
Zé Povinho is a popular character in Portugal and the ceramic dish depicts him giving a version of the “F@#k you hand motion on the front. When you turn the dish over, it’s clear to see what he thinks of those who try to control the working-class. We enjoyed the story, and the salesman sold three, as we each wanted one.
We followed the passage way through the store and ended up in a little restaurant that had outdoor seating and a great view of the Pantheon.
We’ve been eating well in Portugal. When we were in Sintra I had traditional Portuguese Cod cakes for lunch, and when we got back to Lisbon that evening, we opted for Italian. We went to a place near Christina and Sussie’s hotel called, Mercantina. We all ordered one of their specialty pizzas. I’ve eaten a lot of good pizza in my life, but this pizza was amazing!
In addition to cheese, ham, and arugula, the surprise topping was pistachios, if you can believe it! Pistachio is my favorite flavor of ice cream…but pistachios on a pizza? I just had to try it, and I’m glad that I did. After giving it a big of thought, it actually does make sense because nuts and cheese go well together. (And with wine—of course!)