The first of summer 2012 was the first time I exited Spain and visited another European country. It was to next door neighbor Portugal.
We flew from Barcelona to Porto in Portugal on 20 June and arrived in 2 hours. Having read the following day that its gonna be raining the day of our arrival until the following day, we decided to go to Lisboa on the 2nd day instead of the third day. This first post will be about Lisboa.
From Porto, one can either take the train or bus going to Lisboa. The latter being cheaper was our favored public transportation. We took the 9am bus and arrived 12:30 in Lisboa. The priorities to see on my list were the Torre de Belém, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Palácio da Pena situated about half an hour away from Lisboa.
The bus station was adjacent to the metro station of Jardim Zoológico. I asked a personnel from the metro which station we get off to that goes to Torre de Belém. I asked the personnel in Spanish and he replied to me in Portuguese. Even though I didn’t understand him, he understood me and indicated in the metro map right next to us the station we get off to. I said my obrigado (thanks in Portuguese) and off we went to Cais do Sodré.
Once we have alighted at Cais do Sodré, we were told that we need to take a bus going to the Torre de Belém. As we were pondering on how to go about there, a Hop-on Hop-off tour bus came by. We decided to ask the driver for more info and since it was a sightseeing bus that tours around the city, Torre de Belem was one of its stops. So we hopped on and sat in the upper deck. It reminded me of a Luneta Ride from my childhood. I wonder if those buses are still around.. I don’t think so.
I am travelling here with Juan Francisco, pachi/pachito is his nickname though I prefer to spell his name the basque way – patxi. 😉
The hop-on hop-off includes a narrated tour. One is provided earphones and as we are approaching landmarks, a recorded audio would provide a brief history or description of the place.
This landmark in particular took my breath away.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)
This is the Eastern profile. People prefer to have their souvenir photos taken on this side because it’s the one facing the sun. The Western Profile though have the recognizable people in history (to me at least) such as Alfonso V of Portugal, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan.
Series of photos of the Monument to the Discoveries.
The above photo is a gift from the South African government in commemoration of the fifth centenary of Henry the Navigator’s death.
The torre served as a fortress to guard the entrance of Lisboa’s harbor. It was also a symbol of Portugal’s Age of Discovery having been the starting point for many of the voyages as well as the sailors’ last sight of their homeland.
We didn’t go inside cos there’s an entrance fee of €5. Pictures from the outside were enough for us.
This garden/park is called Praça do Império. Near Patxi you can see the Monument to the Discoveries which is on the other side of the road.
A few steps from the monastery is the Pastéis de Belém where the famous pastel de nata (egg tart) hails from. The recipe is from the Catholic monks of the monastery and thus became to be alternately known as Pastéis de Belém (singular: pastel) named after the area.
There’s always a long wait at the pastry shop. I would have wanted to try the pastel de nata but we just ate lunch when we passed it by and did I mention the queues were crazy?
By the time we have completed our hop-on hop-off tour (having rode both the red and blue line), we were asking the driver of the bus if he can drop us off to the nearest public transpo where we can go to Sintra to see the Palácio da Pena. They said there’s a train and the ride would take around 30 minutes but it was past six pm already and the palace closes at seven! *cry
We should have gone there first before hopping on the bus. 😦 Oh well, we did see the whole of Lisboa but this is my single most regret of this trip. I have seen the photos and they were captivating. Even if the castle were closed to visitors already we could have still gone but our bus going back to Porto leaves at nine, time was tight so I just had to let it go.
Going back to take the metro to go to the bus station this is the scene we see.
We have concluded our Lisboa trip seeing a display of Portuguese pride as they watch in the cafe/bars by the streets the quarterfinals of the Euro Cup between Portugal and Czech Rep.