Towers, Turtles, TilesJune 6 in Portugal
A bit of a lie in, a decent breakfast and then off to find a tram to take us to Belem. We walked down to the river front and picked up a (sadly modern) tram to Belem, we rode all the way out to the tower.. And a bit oast. Belem as a suburb looked middle class and prosperous, the first houses we've seen. The tram route took us past pastel de nata Belem where they were queuing out of the door. When we reached the tower it was impressive but again a long queue for a small building, we skipped going in and headed towards the mosterio dos jeronimos instead. On the way we came to the 1960s Salazar monument of the explorers with its ott crowd of crew and Vasco de gama. We'd seen it on the Janina /Alistair program and it is quite a sight. In front of it is a mosaic compass rose with a map of the Portuguese discoveries in the centre. At the monument there was a lift to the top which gave us great, if rather cloudy views across the river and across Lisbon. From there we schlepped over to the monesterio where the queues were stupendous. There were an awful lot of coaches parked outside. We decided that the smart move would be to come back at the end of the day today or tomorrow when the cruise crowds would probably be gone. Instead we hopped back on the tram heading for the Museum of the Oriente housed in an old bacalhau warehouse. This was a good if rather disturbing museum. We concluded that Japan / China stuff didn't seem too exploitative compared with say India or Africa where the damage was so great. There were some really good pieces. I was particularly taken by the trade prints of the tea trade and the screens showing encounters between the Europeans and the Japanese /Chinese.
Next stop the tile museum Inc its panoramic view of pre-earthquake Lisbon. We had some minor transport difficulties but eventually found ourselves on a bus heading to the tile museum. When we arrived the first stop was the cafe which was lovely but had glacial service. We sat with our drinks in a shaded courtyard with turtle pond before heading into the museum proper. This was a converted convent which now houses an array of tile samples. I was very taken with some of the early ones with their rather grumpy looking faces. There was a restoration department with a vast array of tiles awaiting attention, it looked like professional jigsaw construction without a picture.
On the way round we ended up in the convents original church which had sufficient gilt and art to reawaken all my Catholic Church prejudices... Poverty... Pah. The highlight has to be the 1755ish panorama which has a large space all to itself on the top floor.
Then back via bus to the riverfront and the walk back to our hotel. A brief recharge of our batteries and we headed out for food. This times recommendation was to take the lift opposite the top of our street where we're would emerge near a taberna. Good food but doleful staff didnt make it feel like the most welcomeing experience.Read more