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Day 7: Lisbon

Today we had a whole day to spend in Lisbon. We started out by retracing our steps from yesterday evening around some of the streets in the upper town.


We also succeeded in finding some squares which we hadn't seen yesterday, such as this one which is home to Lisbon's town hall (I think the photo has come out a bit blurry because it was so incredibly sunny!)


From the upper town we walked back down towards the waterfront and along to the Praça do Comércio.


We walked through the archway and then began exploring the streets of the lower town. There were some really beautiful buildings; some with tiles...


..and some without.


From here we climbed upwards a bit towards Lisbon's cathedral. Another cathedral that looks like a castle!


We were hoping to climb up to the actual castle which we can see from our apartment window. As we made our way through the streets, I was excited to see some of the old-fashioned yellow trams which still run on the steepest routes in Lisbon. They all looked extremely crowded, though!


As we passed through this square, we looked up and realised we could see the ruins of the Carmo Convent, which is just round the corner from our apartment. The convent was destroyed during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and has never been fully rebuilt.


We passed the beautiful Rossio railway station again...


...and round the corner from it found this rather unusual theatre, which seems to have a botanical garden as part of its facade!


From here our route was more steeply uphill.


This part of Lisbon is called the Alfama, and it's the oldest area of the city.


There were lots of beautiful buildings, many with very elaborate tiles.


We climbed as far as the castle walls and were hoping to go inside.


Unfortunately, the queue for tickets was horrendous and looked like it might involve an hour or so of waiting. Much as we like castles, it didn't seem worth it for that, so we decided to just enjoy exploring the neighbourhood instead.


Yesterday I felt like the tiled buildings in Porto were more impressive than the ones in Lisbon, but every street in the Alfama seemed to have a new surprise :) Some of the tiles were historical...


...while some were religious...


...and some were just wonderful patterns.


After walking through the narrow streets for a while we emerged at an unexpected viewpoint over the city.


From here we were able to see the monastery of São Vicente de Fora and the Church of Santa Engrácia.


We were also able to see an enormous cruise ship, which I suspect might be the reason why the queues for the castle were out of control!


We had been going to get lunch at this point, but now that we'd seen this part of the city from afar, we wanted to explore in more detail.


First of all we found the enormous monastery, which was originally founded in 1147, although this church dates from the eighteenth century.


We walked through an archway beside the monastery and into a busy square where a market was in full swing.


The Church of Santa Engrácia was just around the corner from there.


This church is well known in Portugal because construction started in 1681, but the building was not fully completed until 1966.


It was definitely time for lunch by this point so we set off into the lower town again.


We decided to play it safe today and opt for Italian food :)


We did a bit of book-shopping after lunch and then went back to the apartment to cool down and get out of the sun for a bit. Later in the afternoon we ventured out again, intent on visiting the Lisbon suburb of Belém. Belém is quite a way outside of the main centre of town, so we needed to take a train there. We thought we had this all figured out, but when we got to the station things went a bit wrong. We bought tickets and sat on a train which looked to be going in the right direction and which was due to depart in a few minutes. We sat and sat and sat and it didn't go anywhere. There was no audible announcement (in our carriage at least) but everyone else on the train obviously knew something we didn't, because they suddenly all got up and deserted it en masse. We then had to try and find another train bound for Belém, which was difficult when the only departure boards indicating the destination of the trains was in the main hall of the station, which we couldn't access without invalidating our tickets... It took a while, but eventually we found another train and were on our way to Belém.

The reason we wanted to visit Belém is that for a small suburb it has lots of interesting monuments. Just outside the station in Belém is this park, featuring a statue to Afonso de Albuquerque, who once ruled Portuguese India.


The pink building which you can see in the background is Belém palace, which is home to the president of Portugal.


Round the corner from the palace is a beautiful botanical garden which has an enormous avenue of palm trees...


...and some rather unusual ducks.


We walked around the botanical gardens for a while and then went to admire the Jerónimos Monastery.


It's hard to convey how huge this monastery is because it's barely possible to fit it all in one photo!


Monasteries were abolished in Portugal in the nineteenth century and so the building is now used for other things.


For example, the EU Treaty of Lisbon was signed in the monastery in 2007.


From here we walked right to the far side of Belém because I wanted to see one of the area's most iconic buildings: the Belém Tower.


The tower was built in the early sixteenth century as part of a defence system on the river.


When it was originally built it was situated on a small island in the river. After the 1755 earthquake, however, the course of the river Tagus changed and the tower is now right by the shore.


It's a very elaborate building and we enjoyed looking at it :)  Now that we'd seen the tower, there was only one more big Belém sight to tick off our list: The Monument to the Discoveries.


This enormous concrete block was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary since the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, who played an important role in early Portuguese exploration.


It's quite a striking monument, with both sides showing a different procession of figures, all connected with Portugal's history of navigation and exploration.


It was nearly 7pm by the time we'd finished seeing everything, so time to head back to the apartment. As we turned around from the monument, we realised we had a fantastic view back towards the monastery.


We've had a great time in Lisbon today; it's a really beautiful city, and there's so much to see that we've walked nearly 12 miles (and climbed 106 staircases!!!).

Edited by Clare

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