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Trip Report A fun day in Belem

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We were two couples traveling together in Lisbon, May 2012. We took the Carris bus over to Belem from Marques de Pombal area. It was easy and there was no need to go into the touristy area to catch the tram. We got off the bus at the first stop in Belem which put us a few feet away from the Coach Musuem. As we entered there was a sign which said that there were tours in English until 12 N. We got there at 12:20PM. Just as we were looking at our watches, a pretty young girl spoke to us and said she would be glad to give us the tour. Nice! The tour was quite enjoyable. The guide's English was quite good. It was fun to piece together some of the historical facts we had learned from our day in Sintra and our walking tour with the Lisbon Walkers. We were wow-ed by the coaches- especially the ones given as gifts and the ones intended to show the political clout. Amazing. I had never considered coaches as a form of propaganda to the masses. "Look, look here and see my power, my importance, my wealth!" I guess in today's world, the equivalent would be one of those $250,000 cars none of us normal people can afford. And, interestingly- there was a coach with bullet holes from the assassination of King Carlos and his son. It was very reminiscent of JFKennedy. We probably spent nearly two hours there.
Then we walked along the same street to a quick photo op of the sentries in front of the Palace. When we were there the sentries were standing in front of their guard boxes with their eyes at half mast. Onward to the St Jeronimos church in the Manueline style. Be aware that there are gypsies and nuns trying to sell stuff before you get into the church. And, you have to practically leap over the beggars. All three factions are trying to get some coins. We looked all around inside the church. It is massive and there is much to look at and photograph. Afterwards, we went into the little garden. The gypsy women were in there, too, pestering people to buy stuff they may have stolen or not, according to my Spanish friend. A sharp shake of the head will keep them away. We paid the entrance fee for the the Monastery. Boy, that first view when you walk in just takes your breath away. We took photos, went upstairs to the extensive timeline display, sat in the grass, and just wandered for probably another hour or more. Don't miss the confessional box. I am just guessing, but it looks like the sinner has to be kneeling on the stone floor to talk into the floor level box which contains the priest.
At this point, we wanted a snack and a brew so we continued down the same street and crossed over to the Cultural Center. The Cultural Center is a huge building with wide open "plaza" type areas. We walked up first flight of stairs, across an open area, up more stairs and across another open area---(we passed artisan shops which we meant to go back and see, but did not) and finally we found the cafeteria on the left. I knew there was a cafeteria but I did not realize that there was a lovely outside area with tables and chairs and a perfect view of the Navigators/Discovery Monument, the bridge, and the Christ statue, too! We had a sub type sandwich and a beer. Then we relaxed with a Port and a gelato. This is the life. Those of us who are sun worshippers sat in the sun and those of us who are shade people relaxed under an umbrella. Lovely day with a slight breeze. I would have thought that this place would be packed with people but not so. There were mostly students with their heads tucked into laptops and a few tourists.
We finally decided to move so we went back to the front of the building, crossed the green space going away from the Monastery, and found the stairs going down under the broad main street toward the river. We crossed over to the other side and visited the monument. It is really lovely. Every face is fascinating. The little stone plaza has a lovely pattern. We probably spent 15 or 20 minutes photographing the area and watching the activity on the river.
Continuing on, we walked along that side of the boulevard toward the Belem tower and eventually one of us needed a bathroom stop. Fortunately, the Altus Hotel and Spa was conveniently located just for us. I knew they had a cafe and bar but they also had an outside area with leather loungers and waitstaff. We had another beer and soaked in the luxury. Yes, the beers were more expensive but it was a nice upscale resting spot. Most of the other patrons looked to be locals on dates or stopping by after work. Very quiet and very nice. By the way, they have black toilet paper in the rest rooms. Too funny.
We continued our way toward the tower then saw some vendor sheds which were still open. So we had to go and see what they had. I bought one of those typical Portuguese roosters which was also a bottle stopper and pourer. It will look cute on my stove side balsamic vinegar bottle. Of course, by now we decided to stop at the last little cafe and patio. To be fair we had to try their beer and empanadas. We stayed until they closed at 2030hrs while some of us wandered down to the tower and back.
Finally, the day was fading, and we walked back toward the coach musuem area after crossing up and over the main bouelvard on a pedestrian bridge. We found our bus stop going back to Marques de Pombal and caught the 727 bus back home. A lovely day.

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