Lisbon to Belem and Back Again

Day 3: Lisbon & Belem

Our third and final day in Lisbon was not the success I had hoped. I suppose I struggle with accepting that every site I research and excursion we set out on will not be perfect, at least not for us. Still working on it. Also still working on combating jet lag, but the only solution I’ve found works is time and time is precisely what you don’t have on a traditionally Western one week jaunt. But I digress…

I woke up very early- set the coffee up, gathered my essentials together. It was a Tuesday, so we found our way to the Feira da Ladra (Thieves’ Market), a flea market twenty or so minutes away. We turned the corned to face Panteão Nacional and behind sat the market. I envisioned something a bit more grand from its reputation of being one of the best in Europe (where did I read that?), but nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing the bric a brac strewn about. The coffee kiosk in the Santa Clara park was closed until ten, so we busied ourselves for a while with the outdoor exercise equipment we’ve come to love in many European cities. Meanwhile, a beautiful view of the ocean greeted us below.

We took the windy, never direct streets all the way to Chiado where we arrived at the Carmo Convent. We both loved this place- a shell of its former self, a convent rebuilt partway after its destruction from the earthquake that almost wiped the city out. The front of the building is regal, strong. Once inside, the walls themselves are ornate, decorated with carvings and statues. But look up and all you see is sky; it is roofless, open to the elements, heaven, however you wish to interpret.

At precisely 11:30 we arrive at Das Flores, a tasca, basically a low key restaurant, near to the convent. We are the first ones there which is often a little uncomfortable. We order and in minutes the entire restaurant is packed full with people who work nearby. I enjoy observing as the waitress knows just what to bring each, predicting their wants based on routine. I enjoy this element of Portuguese life: very simple, good, and inexpensive food that allows you to go out for not much more than a meal at home. This place is everything I hoped it would be, not to mention serving wonderful lamb chops.

From the Cais do Sodre station, we hop the speedy train to Belem in search of pastries and the famous monastery. We arrive to very pretty town perched on the river…along with hoards of other tourists. Nevertheless, we line up with the others at Pasteis de Belem and Luke gets his requisite pastry. He tries not to overreact about how good it is, but I know. I get a coffee at a food truck next to the monastery. The vendor asks if I am French; I am not even sort of ashamed to admit this made me smile broadly.

Once inside the cathedral part of the  Jeronimos Monastery (which is stunning, by the way), we realize a visit just is not going to happen. A cruise ship had bused a seemingly never-ending group of Ipad-as-camera-wielding people to the site and we could hardly move without getting bumped. We agreed to skip it, despite its must see status. Instead, we rest in the sun awhile then head over to grounds of the contemporary art museum, the Monument to the Discoveries and the marina. This is a beautiful town with very beautiful people, a group of which we spot at the front of private yacht clubs enjoying mid-afternoon cocktails.

Back on the train after an inner conflict over whether or not to continue on to Cascais (absurdly ambitious), and we arrive in town twenty minutes later and make our way back to the apartment, making a pit stop at the Loja das Conservas, a gourmet canned fish store that we just can’t help but indulge in (especially my sweet husband, see below).

A hodge podge of a dinner is made, a mix of leftover wines finished off. We decide to take a walk after dinner, maybe to the Ginjinha shop for a few mini cups of the potent cherry liquor raved about by many. We find it and the party on the street in front of it made up of its patrons. I line up, dig in my bag…no wallet.

I am hyper vigilant about protecting my belongings (not that a slip can’t happen) so I can’t imagine theft. Just forgetfulness and fatigue. It is time to go back. We arrive back at the apartment (my wallet is on the table), me feeling a pang of defeat from the day and knowing this feeling is unwarranted.

Travel- a very pretty passion that tests the overly rational like myself. I know when I book the trip one week is not hardly enough to settle in, get over jet lag, and truly enjoy our time here, but against this voice is the one saying just go! And so we do. And the thing with listening to this voice is that you can’t ignore her when you arrive. You have to give in to the unpredictability, the opportunity to do something entirely new, foreign to you, and drink that up, not question every little thing. Still working on this, too.


Addresses to know:

Das Flores
Rua das Flores 76, Lisbon, tel. 21 342 8828

Convento Carmo
Largo Carmo

Loja das Conservas
Rua do Arsenal 130

2 thoughts on “Lisbon to Belem and Back Again

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