Monday, June 16, 2014

Adventures in Portugal: Travel tips and Exploration

Well, I've been here for over a week now and I'm still enjoying myself. Today I went to Belem again, by myself this time. I planned to see the Monastery more thoroughly. Tip number one: if in a country that doesn't have a siesta (things close down during the hot afternoon), but still gets really warm, plan to spend that part of the day somewhere cool, like a church or a monastery. They're made of stone and therefore quite comfortable. That was the plan for today.
Travel tip number two: Make sure to check the hours of the church and/or monastery before you go, if you are on a tight schedule. Thankfully, my schedule this week is quite flexible, so I was not inconvenienced terribly when I discovered that the Monastery is in fact closed on Mondays. It really wasn't a problem, though, because it turned out to be a lovely day and with the breeze, it was not uncomfortable to be outside, even at 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Tip 3: Wash clothes in the morning so as to allow for maximum drying time, if you don't have a dryer. This way you won't have to wait overnight for your pajamas to finish drying. Not optimal. With that in mind, this morning, I washed some laundry and hung it to dry. While I was waiting for it to wash, I ate breakfast and did a few sheets of homework. Then, when the laundry was done, I set out for the metro station. Tip 4: If you're planning a trip to Portugal and staying for a while, get a transportation card. It saves you a lot of money on the metro, the bus, and the train. Also, I got to take my own picture. Which turned out a lot better than my Drivers License picture. I took a comparison picture, blocking out any vital info. The one on the right, as you can tell from the dates, is from my transport card. Very handy. Anyway. That was slightly tangential. Moving along...
The first thing I did when I got to Belem was go back to Pasteis de Belem, the bakery with the very tasty baked goods. And I decided to take a picture of those baked goods, so that you can see what you have to eat if you visit Lisbon. Tip 5: You simply cannot go to Lisbon without eating the Pasteis de Belem (It's a food, the one the restaurant gets its name from). They're the custard tarts on the right, and they are made from a secret recipe handed down from the monks. The delicious toast on the left is also excellent (it wouldn't be delicious, otherwise) and the hot chocolate was very good, if not perhaps the best choice for a warm day. Worth it.
The second thing I did was walk down to the monastery. Here's another few pictures of it. The architecture seems to be basically Gothic, but it's called Manolino after the king Dom Manuel who encouraged the architects to include lots of flora and fauna representing the places the Portuguese explorers discovered. So in addition to the carvings of saints and such that you'd expect on a monastery, there's that.
This is the south door. Can you find the pineapple?
I walked over to the cultural center that's across the street from the Monastery. That, too, was closed, but they had a nice area for walking around anyway. And it had a good view of the river. Which is where I went next. From here, I've got more pictures than text. The best way to do this logistically speaking seems to be captions. So I will caption the pictures.
This is a view of the river from the sort of garden area by the modern art museum and cultural center. You'll see more of that monument thing in a minute.  
Here's a cool outdoor sculpture thing. You can even walk inside it. 

This is a statue back closer to the Monastery. There's a matching one across the park, but it looks exactly the same, except that this one had a pigeon perching on top while the other had a pigeon nesting inside.

And here's that fountain again. Fountains are cool!

This is a close-up of the fountain. It has these shields all the way around, all of them different. 

This is a monument to the Portuguese explorers. The sort of plaza has a map of the world and the monument is meant to look like a ship. It is cool.

The map has cool designs on it. Like this one. 

And this one! See the cross on the ship's sail? 

I would have taken a picture of Europe and Asia, too... but there were people standing there.

Now you can see how it kind of looks like a ship. 

And here we're looking back towards the Monastery. 

Did I mention you can go up to the top? It's a good view. It was a bit cloudy today, but I bet on a clear day you could see the whole city.

This is the whole plaza map from above. It looks awesome. 

This is a beautiful pavilion in the Vasco de Gama park. It was donated by the Thai government to the Portuguese government. 

This is a statue of that king, Dom Manuel, who encouraged that architectural style on the monastery.

Here's a close-up of the base of the statue. 

And here's more pineapple-y motifs from the column!
So that was my afternoon. Exploring is fun! Tip 6: Don't just take pictures of everything. Take time to really look at things, too. Then when you look at your pictures, you'll have memories to attach them to.