Belem and Pastel de Nata
Trip Start Jun 06, 2014
15Trip End Jun 21, 2014
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Today's tour took us to the Belem area of Lisbon. This area borders on the junction of the Tagus river and the Atlantic Ocean and is the spot where explorers left Portugal to sail to unknown parts of the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. The most famous was Vasco da Gama, who sailed around the coast of Africa and found his way to India, in search of spices
Nearby is the church and former monastery of Jeronimos. Sailors prayed here before they left and after they returned from the sea. Construction started in 1501 and was completed 100 years later. Da Gama is buried there as well as the famous Portuguese poet, Luis de Camoes, and early Portuguese kings. The large monastery was in use until 1833 and is now a museum.
The highlight of the morning though, had to be the opportunity to eat some "pastels de nata", a famous pastry originally made here in Belem and sold throughout Portugal. Basically a tart with a phillo dough-like shell filled with egg custard and preferably served warm. To die for! The recipe supposedly came from the monks in the monastery and remains unchanged from at least the 18th century. The most famous bakery is located near the church and makes an average of 15,000 tarts a day, 27,000 on weekends
We were supposed to have taken a private walking tour of Old Town Lisbon in the afternoon but our guide took ill and had to cancel. Being creative we decided to join the "hop on-hop off" bus tour leaving nearby and explore old town on our own. We have often taken these open air bus tours in other cities around the world as they are narrated and gives one a good overview of the city. You are free to leave the bus at any of its many stops, explore the immediate area, and jump on a subsequent bus to further explore. We got off at the stop for the old fortress overlooking the city and spent over an hour wandering about the site. Working our way back to the bus stop we did not know when the next bus was due so we decided to rest our feet, eat a few Portuguese snacks and drink some more sangria! The sangria was all gone before the next bus showed up!
The group dinner was at the hotel tonight and we leave in the morning for Fatima and Porto where we will board our boat and begin our cruise on the Duoro River.