A Patch of Sky a personal travel journal

Lisbon: Day Three

The Day I Messed Up

The plan for day three was to spend the morning in Belém, then continue to Cascais for the afternoon. I somehow managed to both under- and over-research Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which led to some confusion and a botched visit.

We slept in on Thursday and woke to a cloudy morning with a bit of a chill in the air. I had hoped we could get on the train early to beat the crowds, but by the time we had dressed and breakfasted, it was 10 AM and I felt we were running behind schedule. Out of curiosity, we took a peek at Tram 15, but the two old-style trams we saw were standing-room only, and it looked like a miserable ride. So we kept walking to Cais do Sodré and got two comfortable seats on the train, once again using our handy Zapping cards.

We arrived at Belém and walked through the garden to the main street. A crowd was queued in front of Pastéis de Belém. I know everyone says the pastéis are worth it, but we are pretty much unwilling to wait in a line for anything, even the most amazing pastries in the world, so we kept going.

We arrived at Mosteiro dos Jerónimos to find a massive line stretching from the entrance to the road. Here is where my lack of preparation got me in trouble. I sort of figured we would just go to Belém and it would be obvious what to do. I hadn’t really understood the difference between the parts of the monastery that are free and those that aren’t; as far as I understood it, we had to get tickets and would be able to do that at the information booth across the street in the park. I asked the man at the booth where we could get tickets, and he just pointed at the line for the monastery. I tried asking if there was another type of ticket, but he just pointed at the line again, so it seemed as if there was no other option for us.

Have I mentioned we really don’t like standing in lines? We dutifully queued, but after ten minutes that saw us shuffle forward about a foot while declining the offers from the vendors selling necklaces/scarves/selfie sticks who approached every minute, and having large coach tour groups barging through… we gave up. Reader, I know we failed, but we simply didn’t have the fortitude on that gray morning to spend an hour or more in line. Instead, we just walked along the length of the building, trying to at least appreciate the intricate ornamentation of the exterior.

Gargoyles We saw the outside, at least :(

We crossed the square through another set of gardens and spent a few moments at the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, but the style of the monument left me cold. I could have spent more time looking at the mosaic map in front of the monument, but there were so many other tourists standing on it that I couldn’t get a very good view of the whole thing. We then walked up to the Torre de Belém–again, we did not queue to go inside but just viewed it from the outside. I think by now, I had resigned myself to the idea that we’d have to revisit Belém armed with better knowledge on a future trip.

We crossed the pedestrian bridge back to the other side of the avenue and walked back towards the monastery along what looked like old warehouses. Turning a corner behind the Belém Cultural Center, D saw some things projecting from a wall and said, huh, some kind of collage. As we came up right next to the wall, we could see some hunks of old car parts and metal; it looked like a mishmash of junk painted black and green. And then something clicked, and I realized that this was a work of street art I had seen in the Lisbon Lux guide. As we stepped back several yards from the wall, the jumble of materials coalesced into the surprised face of a raccoon.

Bordalo II Raccoon Street art by Bordalo II in Belem

For some reason, that brightened my mood a bit. The lines at both Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Pastéis de Belém were still long, maybe even longer. We we stopped for a café at the quiosque near the river. The clouds were still heavy, but the temperature was comfortable, so we decided to continue on to Cascais. We boarded the train again for an easy and scenic ride to the last stop.

Cascais

We took a quick spin around the streets of Cascais, and it looked like a pretty, seaside town, but I didn’t feel compelled to spend too much time in the town itself. The water looked calm that day, so we decided against going to Boca do Inferno, as I had read that it’s best seen when the waters are rough. We took a quick look at the beaches in town, which appeared to be very kid-friendly.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the promenade from Cascais to Estoril. Walking the broad, flat surface next to the beach gave us a welcome respite from Lisbon’s hills. Along the promenade, we stopped at one of the beachfront restaurants for lunch and spent a good while there just watching people out with their kids and dogs or out for a run. D remarked that he actually preferred going to the beach on a cloudy day because you end up having most of it to yourself. He is tempermentally incapable of not looking on the bright side. We lingered over our glasses of wine, listening to the waves lapping the rocks, and reading the books we had brought. I had started Pereira Maintains (Sostiene Pereira), which is by an Italian author, Antonio Tabucchi, but which is set in Lisbon in 1938 and suited my mood perfectly.

Eventually, we roused ourselves and continued on towards the Estoril station. We went through the pedestrian underpass and took a few minutes to walk around the Jardim do Estoril for a glimpse of the casino and the Hotel Palacio. We had a little fun imagining Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, and others practicing spycraft while swanning around the hotel bars in what now appeared to be a rather sedate resort town. Then we hopped back on the train to Lisbon. We sat on the other side of the train for our return, and I spotted a fox by Bordalo II staring curiously from the side of a building–now that we had seen the raccoon in person, the artist’s style was unmistakeable.

Alighting from the train at Cais do Sodré, I realized we were across from the Mercado Ribeira. Our friends had raved about the Time Out Market, so we thought we’d stop in for a snack. But we found the cavernous atmosphere a little too much for us, so we just took a quick spin around the perimeter and had a pastel de nata and café at Manteigaria. I liked it–it was warm and cinnamony–but I couldn’t see myself eating multiple pastéis a day. Maybe my sweet tooth is just receding with age.

Fado in the Street

From there, we caught a bus back to Praça do Comércio and walked back to the hotel. Preparing for the trip, I had noticed that a free concert was scheduled that night, and we saw them setting up a large soundstage when we passed Praça do Municipio. I wanted to make sure made it to the concert, so it looked like another dinner on the run for us.

D wanted to go back again to the market at Praça da Figueira to try one of the pork patties that our guide had bought on Tuesday. We couldn’t snag a table that night, so we stood with our wine and our pork patty (D) and pork and vegetable mini-pie (me) and watched the teenagers hanging out in the square. Then we headed down to Praça do Municipio. A crowd had already gathered, and it looked as if the concert was standing room only. We lined up at the busy quiosque, where we bought a couple of glasses of wine and a couple of sandwiches and were lucky enough to snag a table.

The concert that night was part of something called Cultura na Rua or maybe Lisboa na Rua, it’s a little unclear to me, and the performer was a young fadista named Sara Correia. That’s really all I knew going into it, but I did find an article in Portuguese about the event the next day.

Lisboa na Rua Concert in the Praça do Municipio

Well, neither D nor I knew anything about fado aside from what our guidebook said, but we had a wonderful night and kept turning to each other to say, “Can you believe this is free?” Even though we couldn’t understand the meaning of the lyrics, it was obvious that Sara Correia has an powerful, expressive voice, and we could appreciate that there was a range of mood represented, from mournful lamentation to more stirring, almost defiant-sounding songs. The buildings surrounding the square seemed to further amplify the sound, and the town hall lit up behind the stage made for a memorable spectacle.

Sara Correia

And so, despite my blunder and our failed trip to Belém, we ended up having another great day in Lisbon.