Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 6 in Lisbon, Visit to a small castle & Belem

Today began early, my Russian hostel mate kept her promise, she woke me up.  At around 8:15 am, I heard, Lynnae, let's get up and have breakfast.  I wear earplugs in hostels to mute the background noise, but I heard her talking, I told her I would meet her at breakfast, I needed a few minutes to brush my teeth, etc.  I got up, and about ten minutes later met my hostel mate at  breakfast, surprisingly, I was not tired.

I showered and got dressed after breakfast and we left the hostel for the Palace just after 9 am.  I still have not located the name of the palace we went to on the internet, and I threw away the brochures we were given during our visit.  We took the metro to the stop closest to the Palace, got out and asked for directions. The workers at the metro station had no idea where the Palace was, they pointed us in what they thought was the direction, we started walking.  We asked a woman along the way, she pointed us in the opposite direction.  Then the woman we asked for directions saw two bus drivers, she directed us to speak to them, they will know, she said.  The bus drivers did know, we resumed our walk and arrived at the palace about 15 minutes later.

Lynnae on Pedestrian Bridge on way to Palace
We first saw the Palace as we approached the pedestrian bridge, the Russian told me, this is a small Palace, I could see that from where we were standing.  About 5 minutes after crossing the bridge, we were the Palace, it was small, I would not describe as a palace, a mansion maybe.  Perhaps, the use of the word palace has to do with the history of the building, when it was built, I do not know. What I saw was a two story house, it did have some ornate decorations, but compared to what I have seen in Europe, it was no palatial.

Lynnae in front of the Palace
There was only one option to see the inside of the palace, a guided tour.  The tour was conducted in French and English, I think the majority of our group were French speakers.  The guide asked me if I spoke French, this happens to me often in Europe, I said no, so the tour was conducted in both languages.  The tour was comprehensive, by the end I was waiting for it to be over, the guide was good, an expert on everything in the house, I think the tour being conducted in two languages also made it longer. She explained the royals who had lived there, the different battles portrayed on the tiles on the walls, it was interesting, but I was happy when we finally reached the outside area.  We were not allowed to take pictures inside the palace. 

Outside the Palace, Chapel area 

For me, the gardens were the best part of this palace, they were beautiful.  There was no guided tour of the gardens, which was nice, we got to walk around on our own.  My Russian hostel mate took pictures of all the signs of the Zodiac displayed on the outer walls, they were all decorated.  There were ducks swimming in the pond, one attacked the Russian while I was taking a picture, we laughed.  We did not spend a lot of time in the garden, it was hot today. 

Palace Gardens 

Lynnae by the Palace Lake 
When we finished touring the Palace and its grounds, we started to head back to the metro, our next destination was Belem, a city just outside Lisbon.  When we got halfway to the Pedestrian bridge, my  Russian hostel mate realized she forgot to by a book about the palace, she is a book collector and likes to buy guides to the places she visits, she says so she won't forget them.  I waited for her outside, when she came back, she said the man in the bookstore said Belem was a long way, he suggested we take a taxi, would cost around 8 euros.  She asked what I thought, I said it sounded like a good idea.  The palace called a taxi, and we took it to the Jeronimos Monastery, we ended up paying 5 euros each for the taxi.

Lynnae outside Jeronimos Monastery 

The monastery was interesting, not all the rooms were open, but we walked around both floors.  My Russian hostel mate bought a small guide for the monastery and after we walked through it, she checked to see if we had missed anything.  We had, there was a statue and a room we had not visited, she told me there was a Russian proverb about overlooking an elephant, and we had overlooked the elephant by missing some of the monastery's important sites.  We also went to the chapel, a free part of the monastery, and saw the tomb of the explorer Vasco de Gama.

Lynnae in Monastery Courtyard

Lynnae with Vasco de Gama's Tomb
We walked to the tower of Belem after touring the monastery.  The tower was further away than it looked on the map, but we had a nice walk along the Tagus river.  We stopped and looked at Belem's Monument to the Discoveries, the monument celebrates Portugal's age of discovery.  After stopping at the monument, we continued our walk along the Tagus River, until we reached a dead end.  We had to change our route a little to get to the Tower of Belem, but we did not waste too much time. 

Lynnae at the Monument to the Discoveries 
We stopped for ice cream on our way to the Belem Tower, we deserved it after all the walking in the hot sun we had done.  Our first reaction seeing the tower up close, it was smaller than we expected.  We started our tour in the bottom part of the tower, where the defensive canons were located, and then climbed to the top.  The tower seemed a lot taller as we walked up the narrow stairways to the top. The tower had an interesting red light green light system to control traffic in the narrow stairways.  We had to wait until the light was green to either ascend or descend the stairs, the system worked and the foot traffic moved efficiently.  From the top of the tower we could see great views of Lisbon, especially the Golden Gate Bridge and the Jesus statue.

Lynnae & Defense Canon in Tower of Belem

Lynnae in Belem Tower's Political Prison 

Lynnae at the top of Belem Tower
We took the electric train back to Lisbon after touring Belem tower. It took us awhile to find the train stop, we thought our metro cards would not work but they did.  My Russian hostel mate speaks Spanish and some Portuguese, she asked a man on the train which station we should get off at for Lisbon's center, he told us we would get off at the same stop as him.  Good thing she asked him, I was ready to get off the train a few stops before, at the plaza near the Tagus River.

The rest of the day I relaxed at the hostel,  spent most of my time in the TV room, chatted with some other people from the hostel too.  

Day 6 in Lisbon Photo Album

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