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.
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.
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.