After spending a couple of hours at the monastery (see the previous post) I had to move on as they were closing for the day. My next stop was to Belém Tower to catch the sunset. On my way over I noticed this little lighthouse that perfectly aligned with the sun.
Not much further from the lighthouse was the Tower (you can see it in the distance in the photo above). A couple of nights before they had quite the celebration here and the scaffolding was still up so I didn’t have a lot of great angles to play with as I took my photos of Belém Tower.
I was lucky enough to catch the sun off the side tower as it was setting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a vantage point that worked for what I had in my mind. After checking out all the angles I decided to move on and make my way over to the MAAT. The MAAT is the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology located on the other side of Belém close to the train station. Since the sun was going down I wanted to get some fun night shots of the museum and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge before heading back to the apartment.
Ponte 25 de Abril
As I walked the long road toward the MAAT I was greeted by this modern art piece lit up on dock just in front of the bridge. I”m not sure who the creator is or why it’s there but it’s definitely a conversation piece for those walking along the river.
Maat and Ponte 25 Abril
I waited patiently to get the photo above as there were quite a number of the people on the steps in front of me when I arrived. Surprisingly they all left quickly once the sun disappeared. I think they missed the most beautiful part of the day but it was a bonus for me. The MAAT is a uniquely shaped building, as you can see from the photo above, and what I loved most was the fact that you could walk a ramp up its roof to get some great views.
MAAT Roof and View
I had a great evening out here in Belém. I’m also a little sad as there is only one day left before I leave this beautiful city behind for home. But there are a couple more places I have to visit in central Lisbon not too far away from the apartment before that happens.
After spending the day with my friend Claudia I headed out on the train to Belém on the west side of town. I wanted to get there later in the day in the hopes of avoiding most of the crowds. The first place I wanted to visit was the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, an absolutely gorgeous monastery built in the 16th century.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
When I arrived I noticed a large group of people but as I got to the ticket booth I was told that was the line up to get into the church of Santa Maria, not the monastery. Whew! It turned out that I was lucky enough to come at the right time. The monastery was pretty quiet.
The monastery is a monument to the Age of Discovery, a time when Lisbon became the mercantile centre of Europe due to its spice trade with India. King Manuel I built the monastery in 1502 on the site where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent the night in prayer before leaving to find a route to India and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for their success. The taxes from the spices he and others after him brought back, helped fund the build.
Inside the walls of the monastery, I was completely in awe of the intricate stone carvings and the large cloister that lay in the middle of this large building. The hallways around the cloister are extremely ornate on both the ground and second-floor levels. The stone carvings are of coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea motifs. It was absolutely jaw-dropping.
Exploring places late in the day can create some beautiful images. Golden hour is not just for landscapes, buildings can benefit from the subtle light. Don’t just look at the light but also look at the shadows that are created. In the image below the shadows created by the ornate columns cast a beautiful pattern onto the walls and door in the hallway.
Intricate shadow on door
As closing time came I had to drag myself out of the monastery. I could have spent hours here photographing the light as it left the sky but I had to move on. In the next post, I will show you a couple of more places I visited while in Belém.
My final destination in Sintra was Quinta da Regaliera, a very interesting estate just outside the historic center of Sintra. As you walk uphill (yup that’s right, uphill – again) to the entrance you pass the grand 5-story gothic palace, giving a glimpse of what might lie in the grounds themselves.
Quinta da Regaleira
Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monterio, an eccentric millionaire, was the brainchild behind this particular estate. The grounds are riddled with secret passage and tunnels along with occult symbols and religious references.
I started slow with this water fountain. The strange fish acts as the spout for the water to flow into the two-tiered bowls.
The grounds themselves are a challenge to navigate as they twist and turn and head off into unexpected directions or dead ends. Needless to say, I definitely walked the same paths a couple of times if not more.
The one place I was looking most forward to was the Initiatic Well. My friend, Jason told me all about it, which is why I choose Quinta da Regaleira as my final destination of the day. The well did not disappoint. Entering from the top I walked down the ten stories to the bottom where it opens up to the tunnels. There is a second smaller well on the property. The wells were used for ceremonial purposes that included Tarot initiation rites. The tunnels connect the wells to one another, in addition to various caves and other monuments located around the park.
Part of the cave system on the property is the Laybrinthic Grotto. For these tunnels, you will need a light source in order to get around because once you leave the cave opening there are no lights to guide you as there are in the tunnels near the Initiatic Well.
There is so much here in Quinta da Regaliera to see that you should plan to spend a few hours here if you can. I spent most of my time here at this estate more than the other two (Pena Palace and Moorish Castle) and I wish I had more time and energy. If I get a chance to get back I will be coming here first.
A short hike (downhill – luckily) from Pena Palace and Park is the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle). Even though I walked downhill to the castle you’ll notice in the photo below that it definitely looks more uphill than down. And if you look at the final image from the previous post you will notice that technically the castle is downhill from Pena. They just don’t tell you that it sits on another peak so you have to walk down and then back up to get to its entrance. Still its a great view from the trail as you look up at those castle walls. (Hey, I’m storming a castle…lol)
I’m convinced that the grounds and walls of the Moorish Castle are a form of torture with all the ups and downs and then ups again. This is not a place for the weak. I’m also lucky that the temps today dipped from 30ºC + to only about 22ºC. I don’t think I would have made it. Or if I did I would have been done for the rest of the day. Below is the view from one side of the castle walls to the other. What did I tell you? Ups and downs. Like a damn roller coaster except you have to walk.
From One Wall to Another
A little history: the castle was built in the 8th and 9th centuries and was conquered in 1147 by Alfonso Henriques. It fell to ruin after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake but eventually it’s restoration, by King Ferdinand II, began in the 19th century and continued into the 20th century. Today It is classified as a National Monument, part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The castle walls are quite narrow. You could easily knock someone off. Which would not be so pleasant as you would fall a couple stories down onto hard rock. And that’s the good scenario because falling out of the castle would be a far steeper drop to your death.
When you exit from the castle you have a choice to either go back out to the main road to pick up the bus or if you take a path to the left you can exit the grounds and walk straight back (downhill) into the historical centre of Sintra. I took the path leading straight into town, away from the tourist buses. This also allowed me to see some of the back streets of the town.
At the bottom of the hill I found this doorway. I have a weird fascination with doors, particularly old ones. It’s like they want to tell a story. I wish I spoke door.
Continuing the walk into town (more downhill btw) I tried to figure out my way to Quinta da Regaleira. In the end I had to stop in at the information centre to ask where the heck I was and how to get to Quinta da Regaleira. (I ended up buying a map.) Seems I would need to walk a little further out of the historic centre and most likely uphill. *sigh
A short train ride away from Lisbon is the city of Sintra. Located on the west side of Portugal, Sintra was once a summer retreat for the kings of Portugal. There is a lot to see and do here and certainly not enough time in the day to do them all. I limited myself to three locations hoping I could tackle them all in the time I had.
When the train pulled into the station I wandered out into the streets to find the local bus that would take me up the hill to Pena Palace. By starting at the top I could walk down to the Moorish castle and then into the heart of Sintra to Quinta da Regaliera. It was best not to look out the windows as these experienced drivers whipped up the hill along narrow, twisty streets.
National Palace of Pena
Arriving safely (thank goodness) at Pena the photos I had seen did not do it justice. The unique architecture and colours of Pena Palace and Park are an example of Portuguese Romanitcism. Built in the 19th century it is one of the more popular spots here in Sintra and one can see why. Reds, yellow and blues merge together to create a one-of -a-kind castle. And, of course, the views from this far up ain’t too shabby either.
Looking out over Pena
The crowds here were crazy but with a little patience I was able to get a few shots during some of the lulls. From the castle I walked down into the palace grounds. Pena Park, as its known, is very large and unfortunately I did not have enough time to explore much, but I did get some time to see a small portion of it.
Fountain of the Small Birds
This moorish building is called the Fountain of the Small Birds. Inside its structure is just that, a fountain. As for the small birds I did not see any but I”m sure they visit here during the quiet times. Heading out of the grounds I walked downhill to the Morrish castle. From its walls one can see Pena Palace in the distance. And it is quite a sight.
Pena Palace From the Morrish Castle
In my next post I’ll take you through my walk at the Morrish castle.
Today I spent some time with my friends and got a little shopping done (way too much actually but hey, I’m on vacation). It wasn’t until early evening that I decided to hike back up the mountain to Castelo Sao Jorge to catch the sunset and take some night shots of the city. I got a little lost on the way – I didn’t know exactly where the entrance was and ended up on the opposite side of where I should have gone. Luckily for me I arrived just in time for the sunset.
The photo above was taken from the viewing area just inside the castle grounds. While there was still light in the sky I decided to explore more of the castle itself. Inside the castle the glow from the sunset reflected off the walls and made everything pink.
A Small Doorway
Climbing up to walk on the castle walls I found some beautiful archways to photograph.
Arch with a View
As night fully descended and the castle grounds were about to close I was able to get one last shot of Lisbon.
Beyond the Castle Wall
A short adventure today but tomorrow I’ll be getting on a train and heading outside of Lisbon to explore Sintra, the summer playground for the previous kings of Portugal.
I ventured out a little further today to the streets of Bairro Alto and Estrela. I set off just after breakfast to see as much as I could before the heat became too hot to bear. Walking uphill into Chiado and then back down towards Bairro Alto and Estrela I found myself at the Basilica da Estrela. Venturing into the church I snapped a shot of the interior before quickly exiting as it seems that mass was about to begin and I didn’t want to disturb those in attendance.
Basilica da Estrela Interior
Across the street from the Basilica is the Jardim da Estrela. This park provides a haven from the sounds of the bustling city just outside its walls. The central point of Jardim da Estrela is the green wrought-iron bandstand decorated with elegant filigree and where, I hear, musicians play during the summer months. Seems I’m a little late to the party (or possibly just too early) as no bands were playing today.
Bandstand in Jardim da Estrela
The park has numerous exotic plants and trees, ponds and various sculptures for visitors to enjoy. My favourite part of this park was a small pond where a statue of a girl sits in the water. I’m not sure if she is feeding the ducks or just gazing into the water to see her reflection.
Statue in Duck Pond
Exiting the park on the opposite side from where I had entered, I headed back downhill (didn’t I already do that?) and continued to explore the streets of Bairro Alto and Estrela. As usual, I find the funniest things when I explore. Today I discovered a door with dog door handles (or possibly wolf?). Where does one get door handles like these?
Walking back uphill (does it ever end?) I came across another park, Praça do Principe Real which sits at another high point in the city where you can look out over the rooftops of the city below. In Praça do Principe Real there is a large cedar tree whose branches rest on a trestle and casts its shade on the benches below it. A nice break from the heat the sun beating down on you.
Praça do Principe Real
There are so many treasures here in Lisbon and just not enough time to see them all. I could spend weeks and months here just exploring. Luckily I still have a few days left to try to see more. Tomorrow I go back to Alfama and explore Castelo Sao Jorge.
Built on the slope overlooking Baixa stands the ruins of Igreja do Carmo, whose roof gave way during the earthquake of 1755 which left only its walls and the chancel standing. This beautiful structure is now a museum with many artifacts located inside the chancel. Since 2018 they have been hosting a special event called Lisbon Under the Stars. And tonight my friends and I are in attendance to enjoy this event.
Lisbon Under the Stars is “an immersive journey into the history of Lisbon told with visual effects, music and actors”. The ruins are transformed with images projected 360º onto the walls of the Carmo telling the story of Lisbon from over 600 years ago leading up to modern day.
Greenery of the Carmo
Lisbon’s history is told in both Portuguese and English, alternating between the two as the scenes around change over and over again as the story enfolds. I have never seen anything like it before.
Stars inside the Carmo
Learning about Lisbon’s history in the way was not only entertaining but extremely informative. It’s an experience I would recommend to anyone who gets a chance to be there when they host this event.
Lisbon Under the Stars
During my walk yesterday I noticed an impressive colonnade that I needed to photograph. I got up early this morning while the streets were still quiet. There were a few people walking through on their way to work but patience won out as I was able to get the shot I wanted (below).
Praça do Comércio colonnade
Only steps away from the colonnade is the Praça do Comércio, known to locals as the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square), where the statue of King José I towers over those that visit here. The square was once the site of the royal palace for 400 years. To the north is the Arco da Rua Augusta, an impressive archway leading to the main shops and restaurants of the area.
Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square)
After spending some time at the square I walked back to the Alfama region to see Sé. This gorgeous cathedral was built back in 1150 for the first bishop of Lisbon, the English Crusader Gilbert of Hastings. Sé is short for Sede Episcopal, the seat of the bishop. I was lucky to get here at a time when the sun was in the prefect position to add some interest to my photo.
As I walked aimlessly through the meandering streets of Alfama I came across a fun sight. Turning a corner I noticed this balcony where its residents had recycled their old jeans to use as planters. Something a little different that I wouldn’t expect to see here. Or really anywhere.
As my stomach rumbled and it started to get hot out it was time to head back to the apartment and see what my friends were up to.