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.
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.
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 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 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.