Wandering through Belem

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Amber Christian
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Sunny Saturday dawned hot and humid. We are in the middle of a heat wave in Lisbon. Given the heat, we started off early today for Belem. The beauty of spending a day in Belem is how you can visit a number of different attractions without major transit time between them. As I was planning out the timing for today, I was torn. Do you ride the train from the city to the Belem stop and them start to work your way from east to west? Or do you take an Uber over all the way to the westernmost point and make your way west to East? Decisions, decisions.......

I decided we should Uber all the way at the western end of Belem at the Belem tower. We then slowly worked our way through the sights in Belem, heading back toward the city. We started our day at 9 am, and all was very quiet at this time of day. It was pleasant, the temps were reasonable, and no crowds to worry about. We meandered our way back to the Monument of the Discoveries.

One of the highlights for me was something I noticed in the concrete along the sidewalk. This is a popular fishing area. Fishing pole holders dot all along the concrete! We even saw a few in use as we walked along. Just one more reminder for us of how important fish and fishing are in this part of Portugal.

As we walked along, we felt the morning getting a lot hotter. We stopped in to some quiet, cool bliss at the Maritime museum. We were literally the only two people at the museum for most of our visit. We had a chance to immerse ourselves in Portugal's seafaring history. As we walked along taking in the museum, I had time to reflect on how exploration and seafaring had shaped Portugal. As I reflected, I thought back to what we learned in history about Portugal. We heard so much about explorers from Portugal and Spain. We also heard about France and England, of course. In my mind, they were all about equal as they were all just countries over the pond from us. I never really stopped to think about how much smaller Portugal is in land mass and population than Spain and France. And how they really had to work to carve out their separate distinct existence. I could really start to feel history coming alive as we walked the maritime museum. As we came around one corner of the museum, we entered an area with the most exquisite models of the different kinds of ships Portugal used throughout the ages. The detail on these models was incredible!

We ended up skipping the Jeronimos monastery and saved it for another day. The lines were REALLY long to try to get the free ticket to go in. Next, we headed to Pasteis De Belem for our Pasteis de Nata. We figured we should probably go to the most famous place where they originated. From my understanding, they don't let the foreigners out of Portugal without at least trying one, so we figured we better comply. Okay, that isn't really true.

We tried the egg tarts and, well, I was underwhelmed. I know someone might throw rotten eggs at me for saying this, but for me it wasn't that great. I really wanted to love it, but I just didn't. But at least we tried it!

After lunch, we walked over to a botanical garden in Belem. With so much concrete and not that many parks in Lisbon, we had a hankering for some green space. It's a nice open space. It wasn't the fanciest botanical garden we had seen, but we did have the experience of a lifetime here. What they don't tell you on the website is that they have a whole group of peacocks that live there. Seriously, the peacocks basically own the place. We were walking along and I thought, "Oh look, how cool- Peacocks". So we paused as a group of them slowly walked toward us. As they kept coming toward us I thought "Um, they don't seem to be afraid of us". I remained still. Then steadily the peacocks all started coming together as a group on the grass, pecking at something. They were about 18 inches from my ankles!

As I stood there frozen, I could see the headlines "American woman attacked by peacock flock" and realized I didn't know much of anything about peacocks. How do you know if they are going to attack? Heart pounding in my chest, I was really scared. The wait seemed to go on forever. Those beaks looked like they could do some damage if they wanted to. So we just waited, and eventually they nonchalantly sauntered off.

My hubby got a good laugh out of it. I on the other hand was deeply suspicious of the peacocks. Ever time we sat on a bench, they approached me and walked by.

Do you think it is the hat? I really wondered what was going on here. Thankfully I escaped the botanical garden without being carted off by the peacocks. Whew!

Off to our final stop of the day- the National Coach museum. I'm not much of a museum lover, as I have just been to so many. But the coach museum was really interesting. Seeing all these old ornate coaches was really interesting. And best of all, it was blissfully cool on a scorching hot day outside!

After all our touring about, it was time to head back. Right across from the coach museum is a train that goes back to the city. We could have taken the train, but at this point we were pretty hot and tired. So we opted to get an Uber, so that we could have door to door service.

In hindsight, I love the plan that I created for this day. While we didn't end up seeing the monastery this day, the rest of the plan worked out really well. It was a great idea to take the Uber to the Belem tower and work our way back. It seemed to help to ensure there were less crowds at our morning stops. The only thing I wish I had done differently is getting the Go Lisbon pass or monastery tickets ahead of time. This could have allowed us to visit the monastery that same day. The monastery website wasn't working for us to order tickets, or we would have done that. But all in all a very successful day!

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