Yesterday morning we climbed onto a crowded city bus and set off to explore one of Lisbon’s most impressive landmarks, the Jerónimos Monastery. Built of sandstone in 1502, the monastery overlooking the Tagus River was populated by 100 monks of the Order of Saint Jerome, whose spiritual job it was to give guidance to sailors and to pray for the king. Monks occupied the monastery until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1833 after which the building became state property. It was then used as an orphanage/school for the Casa Pia of Lisbon (a children’s charity) until around 1940 and is now a major tourist attraction.
After leaving the monastery, we walked about a block to the the famous Pastéis de Belém, an amazing bakery with 400 tables that appear to be constantly in use as locals and tourists alike sample the delightful pastries and treats. We were there for the egg tarts, the Pastéis de Belém that gave the bakery their name. We were first introduced to this Portuguese delicacy in Macau about 10 years ago. The Lisbon bakery began making the original Pastéis de Belém in 1837 following an ancient recipe from the Jerónimos Monastery.
After indulging, we strolled along the riverfront first passing by the Monument of the Discoveries. Inaugurated in 1960, the 52 metre monument commemorates the Portuguese age of discovery and the five hundredth anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, who discovered the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde.
Just beyond the monument stands the Belem lighthouse and a little further on, the Belem Tower, another high place for us to climb. 93 winding stone stairs took us to the top! Originally built between 1514 and 1519 to defend the city, over the years it has been used as a prison, a customs post, a telegraph station, and a lighthouse.
That brings our quick visit to Lisbon to a close. Today we flew to Rome. More about that in future posts, but there is so much to see and do here that it may be a few days before I’m back at the keyboard to share our adventures with you!