Of Sweet Pastries and "The Age of Discovery"
Today was a museum day to visit some of Lisbon's greatest historical treasures. Lisbon is a city full of museums, so with our Lisbon Card in hand which allows free entry into museums and rides on the tram and metro, we started our tour early in the day.
Our first stop was the National Coach Museum with coaches dating back to the 17th century. In most museums with royal coaches, they have been varnished and polished back to their full glory. Here it's different. They are all nicely displayed in a dimly lit room, but have had no restoration work and are dusty and faded. I wrestled in my mind to decide which is better- royal coaches on display in royal grandeur or these looking like the lights had been turned off on their use centuries ago. I don't have an answer. It must be an interesting dilemma for museum curators. The designs on many of the coaches represented Portuguese navigation and conquest.
Since 1837, Pasteis De Belem has been the place to go in Lisbon for pastries. We tried the pastels de Belem which are custard tarts with a filo crust. They are so popular they make 20,000 a day. We watched the cooks pop them hot out of the oven in their cast iron molds.
The Monastery of Jeronimos is a 16th century limestone church and monastery. The cloisters were beautiful with intricate carvings of animals. This site is so popular we waited over 30 minutes in the hot sun to get inside while women hawked veils with fish and two Americans entertained themselves by throwing a capped bottle of water at each other that keep landing on the cobblestones with a bang. The church inside is beautiful and the highlight is the tomb of Vasco de Gama.
Across the street from the monastery is the Monument to the Discoveries. It was exciting to see it because I remember visiting it when I was 14. It honors Portuguese explorers with statues with Prince Henry the Navigator in the lead. We took an elevator to the top for the views of the river.
Our last museum was Belem towner. It was the last tower voyagers often saw before leaving for their journey. We bought tickets to hike 120 steps to the top, but the line was crazy so we settled for the first level.
We hoped to ride this 1902 elevator to the upper town, but the line was too long. I remember it from when I was 14 and I thought it was just as ancient, but fun back then too.
Dinner tonight was at h3 Hamburgology which is a new concept restaurant in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and Slovenia. It's inexpensive and delicious. The idea of it is a hamburger doesn't have to be served on a bun. You can order it with a sauce or egg on it or topped with arugula, tomatoes, and shaved cheese. On the wall it said, "Scholars believe that this approach will soon become global." To date there are 30 restaurants in total. The desserts are miniature and tasty and the espresso is made with a Nespresso machine.
After dinner we walked around and admired the views. It seems as if all of Lisbon is out doing the same thing.