12 June 2017
We indulged in a slow morning at the AirBNB before heading out for a walk and some sightseeing.
Our first stop was a church right next to where we had been staying in the district of Estrela. The saintly statues on the outside were eye-catching, but the inside turned out to be quite ornate as well. The wordily dubbed Royal Basilica and Convent of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus began construction in 1779 under orders from Queen Maria I of Portugal. Sadly, by the time it had been completed less than ten years later, her young son (and the reason for building the basilica) had passed away from a bout of smallpox.
On such a pleasant morning we couldn’t pass up a wander through the park – the Jardim da Estrela, which held a lovely wrought iron gazebo.
Across the street was the famous British Cemetery. Several centuries ago there was a growing population of British expats, but due to conflicting religious beliefs, they were not allowed to bury their dead in the city. Some were even buried in the seashore. In 1654 a treaty was signed with Oliver Cromwell and the Portuguese king allowing British people to express their religious beliefs, leading to the cemetery and onsite church being built. The cemetery was very small, with close-set plots and weeds and hedges sprouting up.
Henry Fielding was one of the most famous buried here. He was a writer (including scathing political satires for the theatre), and with his half-brother founded the Bow Street Runners, London’s earliest form of a police force according to many. Fielding moved to Lisbon to seek a cure for his ailing health, though died after only two months in the new city. According to http://www.findagrave.com, his ill health was due to “his commitment to justice and humanitarianism”.
After the cemetery, we made our way into town to visit the mercado. This covered market was split into two sides, one with fresh produce and one with food stalls for lunchtime snaffling. Many of the stalls were smaller versions of successful Lisbon restaurants. A branch of Santini Gelato was here, and (even though we had visited just the day before) was very tempting.
Leaving the others to peruse the market options, I popped around the corner to Vegana burger, where I ordered a bean burger with grilled mushrooms. I was a bit disappointed that the sweet potato fries were not fries at all, but crisps. Regardless, the meal was delicious, and I followed it up with an Oreo peanut butter slice from Ao 26 a little way up the hill.
It was wooaaaaw amazing and decadent. So peanuty and biscuity.
Once we had all eaten our fill, we caught a bus to the district of Belem and went straight to the monastery.
The line for the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos was long, and we had to stand under the scorching sun, but luckily the queue moved fairly quickly.
Construction had begun all the way back in 1501, and built atop a church that was already on the site. Funded by taxes on trade from Africa and Asia, (equivalent to 70 kilos of gold each year) it still took a hundred years to complete.
The purpose of the monastery was to house monks who would pray for the king, as well as provide counsel for sailors. I imagine, depending on the king’s propensities, that these two functions may be very similar in nature: “O Lord, Thine that are Mighty, please let The King recover from His Gonorrhoea quickly”…”Hark sailor, it would be in your best interests to refrain from activities that result in gonorrhoea”. (Side note: in ensuring that I spelt “gonorrhoea” correctly (remind me what I’m doing with my life), I had to Google it, and thus discovered that it comes from the Greek ‘gonos’ meaning “semen” and ‘rhoia’ meaning “flux” or “flow”. Charming. As you may be postulating, “diarrhoea” also comes from the Greek for “to flow through”. Double plus charming.)
Inside was a grand cloister – huge and beautiful with amazing archways and vaulted ceilings and a courtyard in the middle.
The monastery was disestablished in 1833, and turned into a church.
As is fairly typical in these old churches, there was a very creepy Jesus statue on the wall, but the rest of the chapel was quite pleasant.
Afterwards, we got a historic Pastel de Nata from a traditional bakery and went to the post office. The post office worker was friendly and wished us a nice holiday.
We then left the village and crossed under the railway tracks to the coastline to see the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a statue built in 1940 to commemorate 500 years since the death of Henry the Navigator.
Though we were able to see the Tower of Belem, we should not have assumed that we would be able to get there without the aid of a map. By the time we realised we had walked onto the wrong bit of the promenade and would have to double back, we were weary and hot, so gave up as we could see it from afar anyway. The tower had served as a fortress and a launching point for explorers in the Age of Discovery. Built in the early 16th century, it was originally placed on an island in the Tagus river, but over time more shoreline was claimed for expansion and the tower now sits on the northern bank of the river.
In need of a rest, we took a bus back home and chilled the afternoon away. For dinner, we took a short stroll to Cantinho Lusitano where we supped on tapas, olives and bread with pumpkin jam, with an excellent rosé to top it off.
Desiring a sweet treat, we skipped down the road to Gelataria Nannarella and each ordered a gigante sized cup, which could fit four flavours. They were huge. Unfortunately the special of the day, pineapple, was sold out, but I made due with lemon, strawberry, peach, and raspberry sorbet – super delicious and fresh! The bin in the park was overflowing with gelato cups, so evidently many others had the same brilliant idea that we did.