*Spanguese= Spanish mixed with very, very, very little Portuguese
In celebration of Día de Andalucia, we got another puente (bridge) to celebrate the holiday! So my friend Rachel and I headed to Lisbon, Portugal for a long weekend! First things first, we had a hard time figuring out how to actually get to Portugal. Our options: fly, bus, rent a car, or BlaBlaCar. Well, flights were too expensive for such a short distance, bus times were terrible, Rachel was the only one who could drive manual (Dad I can see you rolling your eyes at me and saying “I told you so…”), so that left BlaBlaCar. What is BlaBlaCar you ask? It is a carpool website where people in Spain (or other countries) post their travels by car if they have seats open. It ends up being very cheap, round trip we paid 50 some euros, where the bus would have been 65 euros. So a nice Sevilliana named Selene drove us to Lisbon for the weekend.
Once we arrived to Lisbon, we stayed in an AMAZING apartment with this amazing view from it:
After a great nights sleep, we started the morning as the Portuguese do: Pastéìs de Belém. This magical bakery has been around since 1837, and the original recipe comes from the monks in the Jeronimos Monastery that is down the street from the bakery. In Lisbon, this monastery sold these patstries to make extra money from their left over egg whites. Once the monastery was closed in 1820, the recipes were kept secret. The former religious clerics, in order to keep producing the secret and distinct recipe, therefore patented and registered the confection, while contracting the Antiga Confeiteira de Belém, Lda. (the cafe pictured below) to produce pastries based on their original recipe. The secret was transmitted to five master pastry chefs who guarded this original recipe, which later passed into the hands of familial descendants. Here you will find Heaven in a form of a pastry called a Belém.
Once we had cleaned out the bakery of all their Beléms we headed to the Jeronimos Monastery where these pastries were first created. In 1496, King Manuel petitioned the Holy See for permission to construct a monastery at the entrance of Lisbon, along the margins of the Tagus River. It was after the arrival of Vasco da Gama (his body is buried there), a year later, bringing with him samples of gold he discovered, that the monastery became a representation of Portuguese expansionism, and that the church became a house of prayer for seamen leaving or entering port.
King Manuel I selected the religious order of Hieronymite monks to occupy the monastery, whose role it was to pray for the King’s eternal soul and to provide spiritual assistance to navigators and sailors who departed from the beach of Restelo to discover the world. This the monks did until 1833 (over four centuries), when the religious orders were dissolved and the monastery was unoccupied.
Down the road from the monastery is the Tower of Belém. This was built on the Tangus River to as a defense mechanism for the ceremonial entrance to Lisbon. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. One fun little fact about this tower, is that it has prison cells that held many political prisoners during the time Spain ruled over Portugal.
On our way back towards the center of the Belém neighborhood we ran into an interesting monument for all the Portuguese explorers and discoveries.
Next stop, the Castle of St. Jorge. This beautiful Moorish castle sits on the highest part of Lisbon. Since we had already had our one tram ride (it cost us a whole 2.80 euros!!!) we decided to walk up…with many breaks in between. The first fortifications in this area (it’s a pretty cool place to put a castle! You can see the whole city!) have been estimated to have been built in 40 B.C. when the Romans lived there. It wasn’t until the 10th century that the Moors rebuilt the castle to it’s current state today.
Some fun facts:
-The Christians wouldn’t have been able to storm this castle if the knight Martim Moniz hadn’t noticed that one of the doors to the castle was open. He prevented the Moors from closing the door again by throwing his own body into the breach: he sacrificed his life but, in doing so, allowed Christian soldiers to enter. The taking of the castle helped Christians forces maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.
-It wasn’t until the late 14th century that the castle was actually dedicated to St. George. by King John I, who had married the English princess, Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.
-As Royal Palace, the castle was the setting for the reception for the navigator and national hero, Vasco da Gama, who had returned from discovering a maritime route to India.
-During the Spanish rule of Portugal, the castle was converted to a prison and barracks for the military…this was after the famous 1531 Earthquake and the numerous attempts to rebuild the castle, so it wasn’t in the best of shape.
While we were wandering around the grounds within the castle walls, we found this gift:
One site that ended up being a surprise was this:
This is the Elevador de Santa Justa. The Santa Justa Lift was designed by Raul Mesnier du Ponsard, an engineer born in Porto to French parents. (hence the French design). It was built to help transport people up the many, many hills in Lisbon.
Finally by our apartment is the Se Cathedral. The Se Cathedral of Lisbon is one of the oldest buildings in the city, originally constructed in the 12th century shortly after the reconquest of the city. I wish I could say more…but it’s just another old church.
Here are some sweet highlights of the trip:
Lisbon was a pleasant surprise for me. I fell in love with the city and it’s architecture. The people are also very friendly (just like in Spain!). It also helps to have amazing desserts that you can’t stop eating…I have plans for the Spring to take a trip to Lagos, Portugal which is located in the southern part of Portugal. I can’t wait to see what it has to offer! Up next is a blog about our day trip to Sintra, a small city located outside of Lisbon!