A Different Side of Portugal – Day 6: Belem (Saturday 1st September 2012)


Introduction: This was a very long day. Don’t think this helped Laura who was still not well. After getting a tram there being and a few complications to visiting the Monastery… or at least to begin with. We were able to visit the monument for sailors, the Tower which was very impressive although a tad scary at places, and finally the Monastery. Before heading home we visited a shop which claims to be the oldest to sell those custard tarts they do. This seemed to be half a museum as well as shop, even if not intentional.

Back to Lisbon

Like normal for the majority of our days out we walked down to the ferry terminal and got the ferry to Lisbon. On this morning it was a bit of a rush as the boats weren’t as frequent and we almost had to run what usually is a 15 minute walk in order to get there in time. The other reason we had to get there a little earlier was that Laura’s pass had expired and she needed to renew. This took a little more time than expected, not because of the queue or anything but because the structure and system behind these had changed and made things confusing.

My view of my window that morning (not sure why I took these actually lol) – Towards Lisbon

Looking over the Fire Station


To Belem

From the boat we had to get a tram. This was my first tram in Lisbon. I suppose almost strange as Lisbon has them everywhere and the older ones are almost iconic and this was my 6th day in Portugal and yet my first. We got the number 15, which we seemed to share with a whole load of school children. The tram arrived in Belem just outside the famous and old pastry shop which sold the custard tarts. From here we walked only a few meters down the road to the monastery.

The tram arriving

Us on the tram

A few more photos from this journey to Belem here 


The Monastery – Take 1

Our plan was to go straight to the Monastery. We went past the main entrance and Laura commented how someone was playing a trumpet outside which was unusual and she didn’t think you could do outside of this building so close to the door. We then joined what seemed to be a very long queue and after 15 minutes or so it was apparent that this queue was not going anywhere. It all was very weird and not sure what was going. It did slowly become apparent when cars with ribbons arrived outside the main entrance. It was then confirmed by over hearing people’s conversations. The reason it was not open was because there was a wedding. We also couldn’t work out why half the wedding party was at one end of the building and the other at the other end. Then we realised they were 2 separate weddings! One wedding was finishing and the other was only just starting! The Monastery was only partially open. We weren’t sure what to do. We even discussed coming back another day but instead decided to just come back later. We were content with this the Spanish tourist apparently weren’t constantly complaining about it as if it would make any difference.

The Monastery 

The main front door (including musician lol)

The first little clue there might be a wedding here 😉

Just another minor clue



As it had just gone midday we decided it was time for lunch. Plus this is only place with food and we weren’t going to see anywhere else until we had visited everywhere else. This was one of the few times we didn’t bring any sandwiches. Thus we decided to go McDonalds. Being me I was fascinated by it all being in Portuguese.

I just loved seeing it all in Portuguese lol

And I just loved how the bins said ‘Obrigado’ on them hehe


The Gardens and Monument

We then walked through the gardens opposite to the Monastery. This took us to the monument overlooking the sea. The monument was a memorial to soldiers of different eras who lost their lives. On the floor next to it was a map of the world showing the different countries Portuguese explorers discovered and when they discovered them. It was possible to go up the monument but Laura suggested we didn’t. It would be an extra expense in time as well as money and we were already planning to go up the Tower in Belem which was a similar height and she said was a lot more exciting.

View across the gardens back to towards the Monastery

Arriving at the monument

The map of the World on the floor next to it

The Monument from the side

A close up in the bottom

More photos from both the gardens and the at the Monument here


The walk to the Tower

From the monument it was possible to see the Tower just along the coast, even with my bad eyesight… although I did at first confuse it with an old lighthouse. We followed the path up towards the Tower, after a minor detour due to a dead end and large gap of water on the way. However we did get there in the end.

Looking to the tower in the distance

Looking back from where we had just come from 

An old lighthouse we went past on the way

A quote written on the floor which Laura did try to translate for me

When we realised we had hit a dead end but so close to where we wanted to go


The Tower

We perhaps took a detoured route there slightly as Laura was still unwell and wanted to stay in the shade as much as possible. Once inside we slowly worked our way up. The bottom floor was a series of cannons all pointing out different directions. The plan was by the position this the beginning of the river Tejo and where it meets the Atlantic so it was to stop invaders getting to Lisbon. In the centre of this area was a small courtyard with a staircase on the other side in the main part of the building. We went down to the basements which had the function of both an Arsenal (storage of munitions) and dungeons for prisoners. Upstairs was a kind of platform with little turrets in the corner for archers, etc. Inside the main building there was a further 4 floors and literally like a tower with a small spiral staircase joining them. Some were simple rooms. Others had tiny turrets leading off each corner with a small corridor a normal sized person would have to squeeze through. The information signs and set up was about a different subject area on each floor. Also on each floor was a balcony or something similar. One I found particularly scary as there were holes in the floor with no grid or mesh over it.

Approaching the Tower

The room with all the cannons

Looking down one of the floors in the tower down to main open space and courtyard below that

The scary balcony with the unprotected holes with a massive drop

Me in one of the tiny turrets at the top of the tower

A lot more photos from the tower here 🙂 


The Monastery (Take 2)

After finished the Tower we left and had the long walk back to the Monastery; this time with more luck. There was no queue and everything was open. We walked around the cloisters which had so much decoration and sophisticated carvings; you would take it all in if you look really carefully. Around the cloistered area were a few interesting things too. Like 13 doors leading down one side. This turned out to be for confession. On the other side of that wall was the church, so the monk or priest would enter this side and the confessor the other side. There was also a monument and grave for Fernando Pessoa (who seems to have featured a lot through this trip). Laura particularly was interested by this as she learnt a lot about him before at school. I was a little confused by the varying names on the sides, and discovered that this was because he wrote under different names.

From here we went upstairs. On both the lower floor and the upper floor there were a few rooms. They varied from large halls and rooms dedicated almost to people. There was one floor which we spent a particularly long time in. It had history related to Portugal, Europe and the whole world. It was summed up in the middle with a long timeline throughout the ages leading up to the modern day. One side was in Portuguese the other was very kindly in English. The last room upstairs was ‘the upper choir’ looking down on the church part. On our way out we went into the church part itself.

The entrance to the church part (next to where we queued)

The Cloisters 

A kind up of close up (won’t do it justice though)

Fernando Pessoa’s grave


Looking over the church from the ‘upper choir’

The little doors for confession inside the church

A lot more photos from the monastery here


The Pastry Shop

As we headed to the tram again to go home it only seemed right to get some more of the custard tarts. They claimed to be the oldest shop. The queue was so long! And this was just for the take away section. We did consider to sit down inside, but there was no space. From the outside the shop looked tiny but it turned out was massive with passages leading further and further back with room after room with seating. The shop also seemed to act like a kind of museum. There was old tills and other machinery on display. In one part there was a large window where you could actually watch them being made.

In the end we just joined the queue to take away and bought 6. The plan was to eat them a little later.

Outside the entrance to the shop

Inside and the queue for take away

An old till on display in one of the corridoors of the shop

Watching the custard tarts being made

A couple more photos from inside the shop here 


Going home

We wanted to get the old tram of the 15 as there were many on this route. We just missed one due to getting the custard tarts. We let 3 new ones go past and then gave up. When the next arrived we just got that one and was done with it. On the boat we had one of these custard tarts. In fact they didn’t last too long because we had a further 2 for pudding (/desert) as part of dinner.

In the evening Laura fell asleep early. She was ill and only just starting to seem to recover, thus bed to bed early. I ended up staying up with Laura’s Mum and Grandmother watching the Portuguese equivalent to ‘You’ve Been Framed’.

The old tram I wanted to get but we kept missing 😦

Us on the ferry home, eating some of the custard pies we bought 

One thought on “A Different Side of Portugal – Day 6: Belem (Saturday 1st September 2012)

  1. Pingback: The England – Portugal Exchange – Review (Friday 17th August 2012 to Friday 7th September 2012) | The New Me - Life After Uni

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