It has been a while since we joined Restless Jo on a Monday stroll, and so I thought I’d take you on one in Belém. It is not a very long stroll, you could walk it in less than quarter of an hour, however it is rather majestic with plenty to see and to explore if you have a few hours to spare.
We began at Torre de Belém , probably one of the most well known buildings in Lisboa. The tower was built in the early 16th century as part of a defence system at the mouth of the Rio Tejo. It never quite succeeded though as a fort, and in 1589 was being described as the ‘useless castle of São Vicente’! It did much better as a customs point when foreign ships were required to pay taxes to enter Lisboa’s harbour. The Great Earthquake of 1755 shifted the course of the river and so the tower found itself much closer to the shoreline.
Although you can’t tell from my photographs on the day we visited Belém – late morning on a Saturday – there were huge crowds of tourists and locals enjoying the sunshine. We decided the view from the top was not worth the queue, and instead headed east towards Lisboa. The walk beside the Rio Tejo as you head east for Padrão dos Descobrimentos is glorious, and despite my many humphs when I wrote this post my memories of this short stroll are all good.
As well as the views there are lots of sidetracking opportunities and places for a bite to eat. Mr B’s attention of course was caught by the derrick crane at the doca do Bom Sucesso, and even I couldn’t resist taking a few photographs.
The crane didn’t keep my attention for long. There is so much more to see on and across the river, as well west to the Atlantic and north towards to Belém. Even Mr B agreed with me and his lovely sister who was with us that it was the Tagus (Rio Tejo) which was truly irresistible. Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have been sailing on one of these yachts?
When I could draw myself away from the river my eye was caught by the stone tableaux on the Museu de Arte Popular. I thought they were lovely. I have just realised though that the women in each frame are seated /kneeling. You may recall me talking about female statues last year. At best I can hope it was an unconscious design but it still makes me go humph! The Museu de Arte Popular began life as the ‘Secção da Vida Popular’, a pavilion at the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition reflecting every day life and traditions. We didn’t go in as the Tagus had a hold on us, and from what I have read since there are only a few rooms currently open to the public. Perhaps something to save for a rainy day.
The Portuguese World Exhibition was Portugal’s response to the World Trade Fair held the previous year in New York, and also was a chance for the country to celebrate its 800th anniversary of foundation and 300th anniversary of restoration of independence from Spain. The lovely lighthouse located beside the Padrão dos Descobrimentos is pseudo and like much here was created as part of the Exhibition. Over 3 million people visited the exhibition in 1940, and of course millions if not billions have visited what remains.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Monument to the Discoveries, may have been part of the propaganda stunt by Salazar, but it is a wonderful commemoration of the Iberian Explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was the Portuguese who discovered a sailing route for Europeans to India, who were the first Europeans in Brazil and Japan, and the first ones to discover the Cape of Good Hope. It was also a Portuguese – Ferdinand Magellan – who first circumnavigated the globe although this achievement he did in Spain’s name!
As well as explorers the monument remembers missionaries, painters and writers, many of whom had a significant impact on the development of navigation and cartography. There is though only one woman commemorated and she wasn’t even a native Portuguese. She was English. You can find her on the west side of the Monument – Philippa of Lancaster – who became Queen of Portugal following her marriage to John I in 1387. I didn’t spot her when I was there and so every photograph I have of the west side she’s hidden behind the globe. She is also kneeling as she looks up to her son, Henry the Navigator. Humph!!
Our walk finished a few yards from the Monument on a tram as we headed back into Lisboa for lunch. We’ll be back though as I want to go round the other World Heritage Site in Belém Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, as well as explore the palace, other museums and Belém itself. It is after all the home of Pastel de Nata. Yummy, time for afternoon tea me thinks! Before I go and make myself a cuppa let us finish our stroll by watching some modern day explorers, following in Henry’s sails and heading out into the Atlantic.