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One week and half a day in Lisbon

Welcome to the land of egg yolks.

It would be a lie to say that I don’t enjoy the fact that I look at least a little threatening in this photo.

At the end of December last year, my boss looked at the travel budget and realised that we still had some cash, so sent us on a mission to find the best start-of-year conferences. After a quick search, I came up with a Tropical Ecology (!) conference, in Lisbon (!!) and in Feb (!!!- aka, when the sky in London is perpetually grey, but the sky in Portugal looks more like this:)

I spent an enjoyable Monday-Thursday at the conference, walked to and from the venue from my hotel with a morning coffee (from ‘The Coffee‘ or Romana Specialty Coffee) in hand, and even met some Tropical Ecology in person:

I don’t know, is a Peacock considered Tropical?

(It did rain a couple of times, at which point I naturally sent demanding texts to my favourate Portuguese person and she kindly arranged for the weather to be fixed).

On Thursday evening Sameer joined me, and on Friday we were supposed to start exploring.

Except I had a mild work breakdown (thanks work for all the visa stress you’ve decided to apply to my already high life stress), so I spent some hours doing work in the morning, and only got free by about luchtime.

Which was kind of fine, because it meant Lunch could be this:

I’ve been to Lisbon once before. But it was a bit of a rushed stoppover (we were going to a Wedding), and slightly awkward, because I was there with my ex who was – at the time- very freshly an ex. Big big kudos though to how he handled it, and how all the friends we ended up staying with in Madeira handled it too!

Anyway, that time around we’d mostly stayed around the city centre, and Belem – aka the district that birthed the pastel de nata– seemed too far away.

So Sameer- who had already spent a few days exploring Lisbon in his past, insisted that we start the day with Pastel.

Which were incredible.

The pastries were birthed as a way to use up egg yolks- with the whites being needed for other tasks like starching shirts. And they’re basically just a very very good egg custard tart.

Warm, crunchy, smooth and gooey, and not too sweet.

We also tried a few of the other savoury and sweet pastries. The pies were pretty darn good, but the large donut thing (which the waitress pushed on us) is a bit boring.

Opt for more Pasteis

After we had filled ourselves with all the egggy goodness our hearts and stomachs could hold, we headed for The Jerónimos Monastery.

Quick Backstory time: the monastery was built in the early 1500 near where Vasco de Gama launched his first journey, became a necropolis for Portuguese royalty and other famous portuguese people, was secularised in the 1800s, and eventually became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

OKOK, I admit that I took waayyy too many photos of the monastery, but the style was INCREDIBLE, and every wall and column had about 2000 other things to discover.

The style is gothic, which you can probably tell from those amazing vaulted ceilings.

But it’s more specifically a certain type of late gothic desicn known as Portuguese Manueline (very niche!), which ‘ incorporates maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral.

Which apparently included… mermen, monkey-dogs, a whole lot of plants and some sort of scaley things?

All up, amazing.

Although one of my favourite things was definitely the little skull faces that decorated every archway into the courtyard:

So, we spent some time exploring, and Sameer spent some time doing this:

and also this:

And we took at least a few obligatory couple photos:

Before saying ciao Tchau to the Monastery, and heading out…

…Only to very quickly head back in, this time to check out the adjacent St Jerome the Royal Church.

All up, strong churchy vibes, with some nice dramatic carved stone, plus a bit of extra catholic Bling.

ONWARDS!

We headed past various magnificent creatures…

and ended up at The Monument of the Discoveries!!

The statue is placed where ships set outwards to trade with the east during Portugal’s “Age of Discovery” in the 15-16th Century.

Which *cough cough* (from wiki), led to the transfer of plants, animals, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases, and culture across the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

What a nice sanitized way to sneak those issues all into one sentence!

Our own journey led us to ‘discover’ this clearly uninhabited tower, which we decided not to enter because the queue of tourists was very very long and both of us had left our claiming flags at home the foreign countries we live in.

Belém Tower is pretty impressive, not least because I don’t think I’ve seen a tower so clearly built on sand before.

Apparently it used to be on a small island sitting in the middle of the Tagus river (which leads into the city), and has since been moved??

(very windy)

ONWARDS!

(Henry Moore!)

Because we’d decided to buy a Lisbon Pass- which gives free and discounted entry into various museums, we thought it might be worth our while to drop into the Museum of Contemporary Art.

And boy was it!

If you’re into the more famous stuff, the museum has Yves Klein, Warhol, Mondrian, Dali and more.

There’s also a lot of cool contemporary art pieces, including the type that just requires a lot of s p a c e:

And a bunch of cool drawings.

(Btw, is it just me, or is that Shrigley guy (top middle) absolutely everywhere now?)

Big shoutout to the fact that, while we were standing near this one:

A man with a group of friends came up and just POKED IT!

The art gallery person told him off (we assume from tone- it was all in Portuguese), and he… proceeded to argue with her and basically explain that he was allowed to touch it??!!!!

We were so confused that we waited until he was gone and asked her what had gone on.

Turned out, he was the artist, and he had actually designed it to be poked!

Anyway, despite all the other many wonderful things, the best of them all was an exhibit by Berlinde de Bruyckere.

Which Sameer fell in love with.

Absolutely incredibly realistic designs mimicking flesh and skin.

If you looked closely enough, you could make out the wax they were built from.

Friggin’ incredible.

After arting ourselves out, we trotted off to the Time Out Market, to try some more Pastel de Nata (not as good as the Belem ones) and eat some cod croquette and various other seafood delights.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that this sweet is not even trying to look like anything more than an egg yolk filled with sugar.

Seriously egg, the walnut hat is not fooling anyone.

As night crept up, Sameer forced me on an uphill walk, which led to a downhill stumble (and a fairly bad ankle twist: I went DOWN!)…

.. and we ultimately ended up at the Red Frog Speakeasy.

Which was a pretty nice way to end the day.

Oh and if you perhaps recognise the top, it’s this one here:

I guess the whole ‘Portugal’ thing explains the beautiful colourful tile work from that post!


Feb 12-16, 2024

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