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  • Writer's picture Jana

Belem-bound, Home to a Monastery, Gilded Coaches and the Birthplace of the Famous Pasteis de Belem.

Today we visited Belem. Belem is a parish within the municipality of Lisbon, best known for landmarks that harken back to Portugal's seafaring past, including the 16th Century Tower of Belem, the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument, the Gothic Jeronimos Monastery, and the renowned Pasteis de Belem, which purports to be the birthplace of these popular custard tarts, so prolific in Portugal.

Once again, Garin mapped out our day, down to the second. We had a few snafus, here and there, but for the most part, everything went off without a hitch.

The weather was glorious once again, 72 degrees with an unceasing ocean breeze throughout the day, which made our rigorous sightseeing schedule just a bit easier. Although we still needed to take frequent breaks and get off our feet. Luckily Garin, our taskmaster tour guide, allowed us some respite time.

Since we only had a light breakfast before heading out on our almost nearly 90 minute journey to Belem (door-to-door), we immediately headed to Pasteis de Belem to pick up some custard tarts to fortify ourselves for the morning itinerary.

The Monument of the Discoveries is a monument on the Tagus River, where ships departed to explore and trade with India and the Orient. The monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. There was an elevator that took us all the way to the top of the 170 foot monument for a fabulous 360 degree view. The red bridge in the distance, named the 25th of April Bridge, was built by the same builders as the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, but has an eerie similarity to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Next we were off to the Belem Tower. Belem Tower, officially the Tower of Saint Vincent is a 16th Century fort that served as a point of embarking and disembarking for Portuguese explorers and as a gateway to Lisbon. We saw it from the outside, but unfortunately the lines were so long to get in that we decided to forgo seeing the interior. We were a bit disappointed (Garin most of all since he had studied up on it and wanted to take us on the official tour), but we moved on without incident.

We dined at Belem 2 a 8, a charming restaurant serving local favorites. The Cheese and Ham platter looked much fuller before the crew starting digging into it before I could snap a photo. Miles is officially addicted to the fried cod cakes in Portugal and asks for them at every restaurant we go to.

The Jeronimos Monastery is a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jeronimo in Belem. The monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manualine style of architecture in Lisbon. The construction of the monastery started in 1501. Despite its vastness, it had an incredibly peaceful and godly feel as you wandered around.

Even at a Monastery, this finds a way to have fun. I hope God didn't miind?

Miles asked if he could take a few minutes to pray for Granny and Catherine asked if she could light a memorial candle in Granny's name as well. Lovely moments.

The National Museum of Coaches is located on the Afonso de Albuquerque Square in Belem and has one of the most vast collection of historical carriages in the world. They were superb! After viewing these coaches I decided that I was definitely born the wrong not to mention class. I would have been perfectly content living as nobility, driven around in my lavish gold carriage!

After seeing the coaches and my realizing that I was never going to be noble nor own a coach, I settled for gelato. We indulged at one of Lisbon's most famous gelato stores, Santini's. We shared a grande bowl of four flavors; Cream, Lemon, Cherry and Fruits of the Forest. I can see why this place has lines down the street. Delicioso!

Right as we arrived to the street our apartment is on, we were met with this surprise.

The Lisbon Gay Pride, officially known as Arraial Lisboa Pride, lively and is a colorful celebration that takes place annually in June. Lisbon Pride first began in 1997, and it has since evolved into Portugal's largest LGBTQ event, attracting roughly 70,000 pride enthusiasts each year. As soon as we arrived back to our apartment we watched the parade go by from our balconies. Crowds marched by for well over an hour singing, playing instruments and chanting, all dressed in the most colorful array of outfits and getups I have ever witnessed. We were riveted. We certainly wouldn't see this out our window in Hidden Hills!

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