Lisbon, Part II

In which I conclude the chronicle of my trip to Lisbon (you can also read Part I).

Friday

Meng and I got up bright and early to take the metro and then the train to Belém, farther west along the Tagus. We arrived at Pastéis de Belém, home of the original pastéis, long before the crowds and in time for a lovely breakfast. I had a small cup of thick, rich hot chocolate and most of a plain croissant, and of course we tried the famous pastéis. In terms of quality, it was about the same as the first pastél I’d tried.

Breakfast at Pastéis de Belém

We then walked to the Jerónimos Monastery and admired an ornate portal. We noticed a monument on the water and went to check it out. It turned out to be the Monument of the Discoveries, a massive tribute to the Portuguese explorers. From the north, it makes a very tall, narrow sword/cross, and from the sides, it’s supposed to look like a caravel.

The Monument of the Discoveries

We kept walking along the Tagus to the Torre de Belém, which is a sort of watchtower surrounded by water (but just off shore, accessible by a footbridge). After admiring the tower, we walked around Belém a little more before returning to Lisbon.

The Torre de Belém

In the afternoon, I met Isabelle outside the Cemitério dos Prazeres. We wandered around this enormous cemetery, admiring the tombs, many of which were carved with thistles, winged hourglasses (sometimes the wings were bat wings), and skulls and crossbones. There were many cats, some skittish, some happy to be petted.

Cemetery cats

We were resting on a bench when Isabelle realized it was fifteen minutes past closing. We wended our way toward the exit, wondering if we’d been locked in the cemetery but still taking the time to approach a black kitten. When we reached the gates, we found them closed, with us on the inside. However, a guard came out of the gatehouse and used an impressive metal key to open the gates for us.

We took the streetcar downhill and snuck through a restaurant terrace to the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa. From there, we paid to climb a metal spiral staircase to the upper deck, where we took in the views of Lisbon in all directions.

View of the Castelo de São Jorge from the upper deck of the Elevador de Santa Justa

Afterwards, we had dinner at a restaurant where the waiter brought us French menus and spoke to us in French (the establishment appeared to be able to handle five languages). Isabelle had sardines, and I had alheira de Mirandela, a traditional chicken and bread sausage.

After dinner, we went to the Lisbon Under Stars light show in the Ruínas do Carmo, a ruined church with walls and arches but no roof. The show consisted of narration, in Portuguese and English, from the point of view of the church itself, relating significant events of its construction and of Portuguese history; a musical score; projected video of dancers, musicians, and ordinary people; and at times spectacular light projections that lit up the inside walls of the ruins. Some of it was a little weird, but some of it was striking and impressive and beautiful.

Light show in the Ruínas do Carmo

Saturday

Before catching our flights out of Lisbon, Isabelle and I visited the Oceanário de Lisboa. There was a temporary exhibit called Florestas Submersas/Forests Underwater, by Takashi Amano, which consisted of tanks planted with (apparently) aquatic flora and tropical fish and shrimp. I recognized two kinds of fish I used to have in my aquarium back when I had fish: cardinal tetras and harlequin rasboras. The exhibit was lovely and a little mesmerizing.

Forests Underwater

Then we visited the whole permanent exhibit, which is structured around a central tank in which sharks, huge rays, ocean sunfish (very weird-looking), and many other fish swam. Visitors pass through different sections organized by geography (Atlantic, Antarctic, Indian, etc.). The highlights were the very vocal penguins (there were terns in this exhibit too!) and the adorable otters. I thought the Oceanário was as good as the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, except that the latter has seals and sea lions.

Ray

From the aquarium, we headed to the airport to fly to Paris.

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