Sunday, March 6, 2016

28 Tram and Belem

Walking down to Restauradores Square to get my metro card refilled with the intention of taking the 28 tram for a ride around the city I found myself joining the crowds lining the square to watch as children marched past, I am not sure what they were doing or why they were marching but they just kept coming. I was quite impressed with their rhythm but was still confused as to who they were and where they were going.

The marching band following after the young troops, I headed across the road taking in the closed Avenida da Liberdade and all the people walking across it.

Thinking the parade or whatever it was, was over I popped into A Padaria Portuguesa, a chain of bakeries across Lisbon. I decided to get a coffee and what looked like a sandwich made from something called God's Bread of Pão de Deus. I had no idea what it was and looking back I would not have ordered a ham and cheese pão de deus as it was like eating ham and cheese with a slice of cake. Not for me. I don't know who thought of this combo. It might be good on its own but I wish I had known that it was a sweetbread.

While I was ordering inside, I realised too late that there were now horses heading around the square. I could only watch from the cafe as the horses galloped past. I wish I had been able to see more of the horses, too bad.

Now my ride on Tram 28, Lisbon's famous tram, I walked to Martim Moniz Square and got in the line to wait my turn to ride. Passing the time by playing some games on my ipod, I moved along as tram after tram arrived until finally I was able to board. I snagged a window seat and sat back to enjoy the ride. Pickpockets are a danger on the trams so one should be aware of their belongings as they ride.

My tram was bound for Estrela and I sat back and looked out the window as the tram rambled through the areas of Lisbon. Hopping off the tram when I reached Estrela, I walked into the gardens. There seemed to be a little market going on and I picked up my first souvenir, a small little coin purse that had to do with The Little Prince.

Wandering out of the gardens I found myself on route to another gelato shop I had marked down in my notes. Gelataria Nannarella, R. Nova da Piedade 68. I found the place with little trouble and eyed the flavours listed and tried to make the hard decision of what to order. I got a small cone for €2 and ordered the lemon and pinapple gelato. It was so delicious.

Enjoying my gelato, I wandered over to the Assembly of the Republic which is where the Portuguese parliament is held. A very pretty building. I snapped away, eyeing the two guards at the top of the stairs before deciding to climb the stairs. Rain was starting to sprinkle as I munched on the last of my cone. I snapped a photo of the graffiti face on a building close by before trying to figure out what the two headed statue was up to and what it represented. It made me think of Game of Thrones.

Leaving the parliament building behind, I followed the tram tracks along the road. Not wanting to wait around for one, I kept walking and found myself in Chiado once more. Not sure if I was hungry, not sure what to do with the time or myself. I decided I would take Sandeman's Belem tour. I had yet to go to Belem this trip so I decided I would go there with the tour and hopefully learn something new.  Arriving at Largo de Camões around 2, I managed to find the red umbrella that generally represents Sandeman's tours. Talking to the guide, I found out I was in the wrong spot. She was very nice and walked down to Praça do Comércio with me. We chatted about some things and I wish she had been my guide for the Belem tour but at least I got a nice chat with her.

Now in the right spot for my tour, I handed over the money for the tour and joined the group for the English tour. We met our guide Yuri who was very nice and friendly as all guides should be. We went around introducing ourselves and where we were from but I forgot most peoples names and nationalities seconds later. There were a few more Canadians in this group but I didn't get to speak with any of them. I actually really only spoke to one couple who were in Lisbon on holiday from Amsterdam. They were both really nice and I might bump into them at the aquarium tomorrow.

Strolling from Praça do Comércio to Cais do Sodre train station we boarded the next train bound for Cascais, getting off at Belem and following Yuri. He told us all about the Portuguese royal family that started the age of discoveries and how they shaped how Portugal dominated the world in discovering new lands. The guy on the top of the statue is Afonso de Albuquerque, a general and explorer of Asia. Behind him is the Palácio de Belém where the president of Portugal generally lives. Yuri told us that he might not live there because he doesn't like pink. Just kidding, apparently it is too flashy and the new president is more down to earth.

Out next stop was the Jerónimos Monastery, the 500 year old church. We went inside to the free section of the church looking around and admiring the R2D2 shaped apse that Yuri pointed out. Apparently there was an elephant hiding in the room but I seemed to have missed it. Since it was the first Sunday of the month the normally paid part of the monastery was free but we did not have time to go inside sadly as that was not part of the tour. I am glad I enjoyed Belem the last time I was in Portugal as the monastery is very interesting and beautiful inside.

Crossing through the Jardim da Praça do Império, we headed towards the Padrão dos Descobrimentos or the Monument to the Discoveries. It was erected in 1960, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, who stands at the front of the monument with other important people related to the discoveries including a few members of his family. You can go to the top and enjoy a view but sadly I was not able to get up there and when the tour was over I forgot to come back and go up it.

Heading along the waterfront as we walked towards the Belém Tower, there seemed to be a batmobile? made out of a tuk tuk in one of the ponds. Very strange.

The tour ended in front of the tower and we all sat around on the steps in front of it enjoying the sunshine and the tower itself which was created to guard the port of Belem.

Walking along with the tour group, I split off from them to pop into the Berardo Museum. The museum is free so I had put it on my list of things to see and with the tour over, I headed inside. Wandering around the museum I realised that it was mostly modern art which sadly I sometimes find hard to enjoy. I prefer portrait paintings and landscapes much better. Not feeling too bad, I headed out of the museum after exploring most of it.

Making my way back towards the Monastery, I headed for the Pastéis de Belém but the line outside of it was just too long for me to wait. I am not a pastel de nata critic and I had one the last time I was in Belem. I will make sure that I get a few tomorrow to enjoy. Heading back to the train station, I managed to meet back up with the tour group. I guess it took them as long to get their pastel de nata and walk to the station as it took for me to walk through the gallery. Boarding the train as the sun started to set, it was a good end to a nice day out.

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