One More Cathedral – Around the World Day 20

An example of Renaissance architecture in the Jerinomos Monastery

I had one more day left in Europe before I had to take a huge leap westward and a whole new continent as I circumvented the globe. So what do you do in Europe if you have just one more day left; you find a cathedral you haven’t been to yet, and you tour it? I thought I was finished touring cathedrals and they were all starting to blend together with their gothic architecture and there similar chapels, but that was before I made it to the one at the Jeronimos Monastery. The monastery is found in the Belem section of Lisbon, and before I went there I thought I had been to the touristy parts of town, but I was wrong. This place was the most touristy. It had the place where the Belem Tart was created. It is a simple desert with an egg custard that they sell warm and just melt in your mouth. It also has some of the oldest buildings in Lisbon right along the water front because they survived the 1755 earthquake.

Jeronimos Monastery’s cloister

The monastery was one of these buildings. It is the burial site of some of Portugal’s most famous kings, poets, and explorers. It does have a couple of chapels, but it isn’t as cluttered as some of the other cathedrals I explored in my time in Europe. Part of the reason was because the building supports by Renaissance architecture, which uses less columns than gothic architecture thereby giving the place a more open and airy feeling to it. The designers of the cathedral wanted to maintain this openness, hence the reason they did not add all of the chapels along the side of the church. The monastery also has this same type of architecture which gives the columns more freedom to be expressive with their designs. The whole place had different carvings on its columns and rain-spouts making it a great place to visit. I spent a lot of time looking at the different carvings and seeing what other surprises the building had in store for me.

Monument to the Discoveries

There were many other places in this part of town that I could visit. One of my favorites was the Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries). It is a huge tower that sits on the edge of the Tagus River. It is designed in the spirit of the old structures of Europe and looks like it could belong to any one of them with it stones and statues of important Portugal figures looking out to sea, but the reality is that this building was inaugurated in the 1960, and it gives you an idea of what these buildings would look like when they were first constructed. There is an elevator that will take you the top of the tower, and gives some of the best views of not only the city, but of the Atlantic Ocean as it stretches out towards the Americas. It is not that big of a patio on the top but there is enough to see up there that I found myself up there for a half an hour.

The Belem Tower

The last site that I thought important to visit was the Belem Tower. It was getting late in the day and there was a long line to get into the building. I had already spent a lot of my day standing in line, and did not feel like do it again, so I just wandered around the building and enjoyed the park that sits on the edge of the structure. The story goes that this was the last place that Vasco da Gama visited before he took off on his journey around the Cape of Good Hope to find a passage to India. It is another structure that survived the earthquake, making it one of the oldest buildings left in the city.

The Wind Rose at the base of the Monument of the Discoveries

The last day had me running around trying to get in those last bits of tourism, and by the time I laid down in my bed, I was ready to sleep because I was going to have a long day ahead of me tomorrow as I continued to travel west. And as I am leaving behind Europe on this leg of the journey, and I am happy that I have been able to come here for another visit, but am also ready to go back to that part of the world that I feel most comfortable with and has the people I love.

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In God’s Cathedral – Around the World Day 18

I got to know a little more of Lisbon by exploring a different neighborhood than I did last time, the Bairro Alto. Even though I really enjoyed the Affama neighborhood, I thought that this one had more character and there was a lot more to see here. The most memorable one was the Carmo Convent. I was able to see it from my vantage point at the Sao Jorge Castle because it sticks out like a blemish on a teenagers face when you scan the city. It is the ruins of an old cathedral that sits in the middle of town begging for people to visit.

Basically, back in the day, this cathedral was the center of the Catholic Church in Lisbon, but on November 1st, 1755 a terrible earthquake hit the town, leveling many of the structures there, this one included. It also caught on fire, and all that is left is this husk of what once was a great cathedral. The city of Lisbon has turned the insides into a park, leaving the remains behind for anyone to tour if they find themselves in this corner of the world. All of the people who were buried there still remain, and the rectory has been turned into a museum with a collection of great art from all over the world. Viewing this art work made me contemplate the nature of art and how it holds up over time.

Being in Europe, I have seen a lot of art. It is kind of what you do while you are out here. Some of it has really stuck with me because of its magnificence, and I am always surprised at how it is collected in museums, palaces, and cathedrals. Every time I think I have seen it all, something else pops out to surprise me such as this mosaic of John the Baptists at the Church of Sao Roque. At first I passed it off as just another holy painting, but upon further inspection I realized that it was a bunch of tiny stones put together to create this masterpiece. Where else but Europe would I be able to see something like this.

But as I toured the neighborhood more I found that art did not need to be collected in only these places. It was all around me. I went into the Cervejaria Trindade because it was an old monastery that was turned into a bar, and had the only porter I have found since I have been out in Europe. Of course, I had to try it. But the bar also had a collection of old painted mosaics all over their walls that dated back to when the place was one of worship and reflection. It is a tribute to the people of this great city that they would keep this artwork for people to enjoy centuries later even if it wasn’t in a place where I would expect to find it.

I started to wonder if art was all around me no matter where I went. Of course there is a lot of graffiti on the walls of the city, and some of it is just a waste of spray paint, but there have been a few that I have been impressed with. There are the simple vendors with their collections of painted scenes that they are trying to sell to make a quick dollar. And then there are the people who get creative with their artwork. I would have never thought of knitting a colorful cozy for a children’s bike and then displaying it from my patio for the whole world to see, but if I really looked for it, these were the kind of things I could find on my stroll of this part of the city.

It is what I really love about being out in Europe. Everywhere I look there is someone expressing themselves through their art. Some of it will last through the centuries, and some will pass away with the times, but it is all around me. It is why I am always looking around me to see what other exciting thing I can see. It is all under the same roof that is left behind of the Carmo Convent, and it is the whole collection of this art that makes up the city of Lisbon.

Things to do in Lisbon – Around the World Day 17

The capital city of Portugal, Lisbon, is the last stop of my European part of the trip around the world, and the first twenty-four hour were spent hitting the tourist spots. Some of them I went there because that was the thing to do as a tourist. Some of them I went there because that was the thing to do.

As soon as I arrived in Lisbon, I had enough time to drop off my bags and take the ten minute walk from my apartment to the Comercio Square. This is not the big touristy square that everybody needs to see on their visits to Lisbon, but it is where everybody was on this night. Portugal was playing Uruguay in the World Cup, and this was a win or go home game. The Portuguese were a little upset that it was on Saturday night because they thought they would have been the winner of the round robin play. To celebrate the game though, the city of Lisbon had set up a massive three story television so the whole town could come together to watch the game. There were numerous beer booths, and venders selling all kind of food. And even though Portugal lost the game, it was the perfect way to watch the match, and the best introduction to the city.

The next day started off by wandering the windy streets of the Alfama neighborhood. This is the oldest section of the city that survived the 1755 earthquake, and walking through its skinny streets reminded me of what it would have felt like to live during that time. There were thousands of decorations, and many beer booths all along the streets out here as well, and at first, I thought it was because of the World Cup, but later I found out that St. Antonio’s Day was the weekend before. He is the patron saint of Lisbon, and they have a huge celebration from that event. The decorations were just the hangover just waiting to be cleaned up, and it was nice of them to leave them up for me, so I could see what fun I had missed by being a week late.

The walk through this part of the city took me to the top of the highest hill in the city where sat Sao Jorge Castle. This is a military structure that was first built during the 7th century B.C. by the Moors, and then added on to by Romans and Christians over the centuries. It is a great military fortress designed to withold a long siege. It was not created so a king could live in the ground even though it was later adapted for that purpose. It shows you what a military castle would have been like, and it had some amazing views of the city. Everywhere I turned there was another example of the perfect picture.

After a long day of hiking through the city, there was only one place left to go, Time Out Market, for dinner. This is a long hall that reminded me of a modern day mead hall. The sides of the hall were lined up with small kitchens where I could choose from various kinds of food. They also served wine and beer, and once I got my meal I found a place at one of the long tables to enjoy my food. It brought me back to the community of Lisbon which seems like one of the important things about this town, and the main reason I am enjoying it so far. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of days have in store for me when the first one was so exciting.