Did you know that the name Belém derives from the Portuguese for Bethlehem? And that makes it a very suitable subject for this time of year, doesn’t it? Just 6km from the centre of Lisbon, it’s a distance I’d normally regard as walkable but, eager to get there, I squeezed myself onto a reluctant bus. No tram for me! My last visit to Lisbon ended in tears when my purse was pickpocketed whilst waiting for the famous no. 15 tram. This time I was determined to make it to the Jerónimos Monastery.
And when I did, the disappointment of that failed visit was completely swept away.
I’ll bring you back to the incredible beauty of the monastery later this week, but for now I think we should do some walking.
Much too soon to loiter over a pastel de nata! We need to get going to stay ahead of the tour buses. I promise you can have one or two later. It is the festive season, after all! Not sure what to make of this street art. Genius or madness?
Rua de Belém, the main street, is a strip of historical buildings dating back to the earthquake of 1755. This and Ajuda were the areas least affected by the devastation, and many of the survivors who lost their homes were temporarily installed here in tents and shacks. The King and his ministers set up court nearby and, with the construction of Ajuda National Palace, brought trade to the area. With the French invasion of 1807 the royal family fled to Rio de Janeiro, and Belém gradually evolved into an industrial zone. Tanneries, textiles, glass makers and metal stampers were among the factories established.
At the heart of Belém lies the Praça do Império, with gardens and fountain laid out during World War II, and beyond it a magnificent sweep of waterfront, culminating in the iconic Torre de Belém. As you can see, it’s a popular spot.
The tower was built in 16th century. Delicate as it looks, it was intended as part of the defence system at the mouth of the Rio Tejo, together with fortresses at Cascais– which we saw last week- and Caparica, south of the river. A UNESCO World Heritage site, as is the monastery, it has a colourful history. The two photos below are from a previous visit to Belém in 2005.
From here you can easily stroll along the riverfront as far as Ponte 25 de Abril, with any number of diversions en route.
You might think that not a lot of walking goes on. It’s definitely an area devoted to fun in the sun, but looking ahead I’m excited! The last time I was here I did not know that you could climb these structures. Not only the lighthouse, but Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
The Monument to the Discoveries, as we see it today, was formally opened in 1960 to commemorate the voyages of exploration which departed from here as far back as the 15th century. Trade was established with countries as far away as India.
You know what comes next, don’t you? There was almost no queue for the lift that takes you most of the way up.
Did you spot Michael, in the blue t’shirt, sitting patiently waiting below? He thinks it’s pastel de nata time. Just another couple of shots!
Patience should be rewarded, I’m sure you’ll agree. What a place! I was astounded. 400 seats and choc full of character. But best of all….
I don’t suppose many of you will feel like a walk on Christmas morning, so may I take this opportunity to wish all my walking friends a peaceful and happy Christmas. I have enjoyed your company so much and I hope you’ll continue to walk with me in the New Year.
Not many walks to share this week. Everyone’s busy, but spare a minute or two to say hello? As always, many thanks to readers and walkers alike. Details of how to join in are on the Jo’s Monday walk page.
Let’s start with Tammy’s interesting tour in my part of the world. Watch out for the Fisherman!
Jackie with a bit of seasonal spice this week?
Why the battlefields of the Western Front are important to Woolly :
And an excellent bit of sketching along the way, from Pauline and Jack :
That’s it for now. Hope you enjoyed it. Remember to breathe- it comes around every year. Merry Christmas!