Today was the first official day of the Odysseys Unlimited tour. Our first stop was the Palace of Queluz which is a Portuguese 18th-century palace. One of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe, the palace was conceived as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Braganza, later to become husband and then king consort to his own niece, Queen Maria I. It served as a discreet place of incarceration for Queen Maria as her descent into madness continued in the years following Dom Pedro’s death in 1786. Following the destruction by fire of the Ajuda Palace in 1794, Queluz Palace became the official residence of the Portuguese prince regent, John VI, and his family and remained so until the Royal Family fled to the Portuguese colony of Brazil in 1807 following the French invasion of Portugal.
Our next stop was the Jerónimos Monastery which is an absolutely beautiful monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome near the Tagus river in the parish of Belém. The monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. It was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
The picture of the pastries shows the “official” pastry of Portugal – pastel de natas – which are found all over Lisbon. They are custard filled pastries. Our guide Fernando treated us to “the real thing” Pasteis de Beléms which are pastel de natas from a bakery in Belém where the pastries originated (evidently the others are tasty imposters.) They were still warm and totally delicious. We actually got to eat them at the base of the Belém Tower, so it was quite official.
The Belém Tower is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. It was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style.
After the official tour, we had the afternoon free to explore Lisbon. We walked through several of the major squares in Lisbon and then headed toward the Time Out Market for a late lunch. We spent quite a bit of time there as the selection was amazing and it was hard to make up our minds. Bill and Linda had pork cheeks on potato mash and Don had scallops on black risotto with squid ink. Not your normal market fair.
Fortified by food, we started an up hill journey (Lisbon is a lot like San Francisco) to visit a convent that was supposed to be quite beautiful. The next to the last picture shows what we found. As we were walking, we were passed by all these emergency vehicles which evidently were going to the convent and the surrounding buildings. They had evacuated a city block, so no convent for us. We then had to walk back down the hill to catch a cab. No problem though because we got a beautiful view of St. George’s castle as we were walking down (last picture).