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Published: April 9th 2016
Today the group headed out to the Belem district of Lisbon. Our first stop was the Belem Tower. Rising out of the Tagus River, the Belem Tower is one of the greatest symbols of Portugal’s Age of Discovery.
Apparently there is a statue of a rhinoceros coming out of the Belem tower, commemorating the Rhinoceros given as a gift to the King of Portugal. The rhinoceros was used for entertainment and when the King got bored with it he tried to ship it to Pope Leo X as a gift. Unfortunately, the ship carrying the rhinoceros sunk off the coast of northern Italy. The rhinoceros and crew died in the wreckage.
After the Belem tower, we headed over to the nearby Discoveries Monument. The monument romanticizes the Portuguese exploration movement. On either side of the ramp of the monument there are a total of 33 figures from the history of the Discoveries.
An underground tunnel from the Discovery Monument led us to the Jeronimos Monastery across the street. We made a quick stop at Pasteis de Belem, a famous café where Pasteis de Belem or de nata were created by the catholic
monks at the Jeronimos Monastery. The place was crowded but it was worth the wait because my espresso and Pasteis de Belem was delicious. We even went for a second course!
Then it was off to the Jeronimos Monastery. The monastery was founded by King Manuel I to commemorate the success of Portuguese overseas voyages. It is created in Manueline style, which features motifs from the sea including a ceiling of ropes and knots, sea creatures and ships. The monastery holds the tomb of famous explorer Vasco de Gama, the first European to reach India by sea.
We walked around the monastery for a bit, admiring the roped ceilings and sea motifs on the columns. Then it was off on the bus for a tour of Cascais and Sintra.
Our first stop was the picturesque coastal town of Cascais. There was not much to do there except grab something to eat, hit the boutique stores and the small beach. We spent a couple of hours in Cascais before we headed out to the Sintra, known for is many romantic architectural landmarks.
After stopping at the most western point
of Europe, we arrived in Sintra with only an hour and a half to look around. Our tour guide pointed us in the direction of the attractions and we were off.
I researched Sintra before I went on the trip and I really wanted to see the Pena Palace, an incredibly colourful castle located high up on the hill. We had to take the tourist bus to get up the hill and only had enough time to run around the outside before we had to head back down to catch our bus back to Lisbon. I definitely would have liked to spend more time in Sintra.
When we got back to the hotel we had a couple of hours to get ready for the night out. We headed over to a traditional seafood restaurant for dinner. It was our last official meal with Mario, our bus driver. The food was alright. It was not as good as the restaurant that we went to the day before. There is only so much seafood you can eat before you feel sick. By the end of the meal I was feeling sick and I think that I
vomited most of the meal out. The group, then waved goodbye to Mario our bus driver before we boarded a ferry for Lisbon. We headed over to the street known for its many bars. Sipping Mojitos, bar hopping, partying on the street with the locals and listening to live bands, it was possibly the best night out of the entire trip.
After the bar hopping, we headed back to the hotel while other Contiki travelers headed out to a local club. Our time in Lisbon had come to an end. It was a great city and I wished that I had more time there. I would definitely have to come back to this great city in the future.
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