Friday, September 24, 2010

Lisbon Day 2 - Trams, Belem

For three days we used the old trams to get to the higher and more distant spots, or to simply sit back and get a cheap tour of the city. Recommend the 12 and 25 (as opposed to the busier 28). They’re single carriage, wooden structures with a driver cranking a big handle while it clanks and wheezes its way up almost 45% gradients, while hurling round corners and hammering down hills and along the straights. It’s alike being in a big, slow waltzer. Word of warning though, the 15 to Belem and 28 are infested with pickpockets. We had an iTouch picked from inside a zipped pocket inside a bag (these guys are good) and witnessed one successful and a second unsuccessful attempts. They work in pairs. Keep wallet in tight pocket or beneath clothes or in bum bag worn on front.

Monastiro Jeronimos

The church itself is a classic Gothic mini-cathedral, with Manueline decoration, which shines like icing sugar on the outside, but is more muted inside. The apse is a later addition and its marble structure is at odds with the rest of the building. It looks like a solid, marble conservatory, bolted on to the end of the nave. The more interesting part of the monastic complex is the cloister, a Manuelian confection, of soft creamy limestone that looked wonderful in the bright sunlight. It was a quiet and beautiful place to wander.

Torre de Belem

From there we walked down to the newish, brutalist monument and along to the altogether more interesting Torre de Belem. This was more than an effective defensive fort, it was a statement of power. Don’t mess with us, as we have the resources to blow you out of the water.

Tram 28

We took the famous Tram 28 which winds its way up and round the back of the castle, then back down to town, up to Estrella, where we disembarked and walked through the park to a small café beneath some cedar trees on one of Lisbon’s many hills, nest to the Museo de Agua. Lisbon has a museum for everything. Later, dinner of spicy chicken, sangria, followed by drinks in the bar near the hotel beneath the trees.

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