Unless you were busy being born these past few years (and I’m not talking about Bob Dylan’s “being born”, I’m talking about popping out of a womb), you know how much the COVID-19 Pandemic changed our lives. In a nutshell, it sucked ass. Among the death, fear, hysteria, depression and political division it left in its wake, it kept us from doing one of the things most of us love to do – travel.
I hadn’t left the country since a January 2020 trip to Guadalajara, Mexico with my daughter. And we love to travel. Not to mention my personal “Places I want to Visit Before I Kick the Bucket” list is pretty damn long. So with the cooling of the pandemic, it was finally time to get on a plane and go somewhere again. And after waiting so long, it had to be an epic trip.
Now my video production business pretty much drops dead after the first week of December which leaves me with an open month to plan a long getaway. The last one being an 18 day Christmas trip to Spain in December of 2018. I was considering a return trip to Spain (Madrid > Toledo > Cuenca > Valencia > Barcelona) but getting to my family in Galicia, Spain in time for Christmas was going to require an additional flight (and who really wants to be in an airport a day before Christmas Eve?).
Then I looked at nearby Portugal. Mild temperatures, plenty of amazing attractions to visit (17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and only a five+ hour drive to my family in Galicia from Lisbon (and plenty of cool cities in between). So, after a couple of weeks of mapping out our trip and “crunching the numbers”, I purchased our tickets from Miami to Lisbon. Three week itinerary. After almost three years without leaving the country, it was finally on.
And after almost four months of editing the several thousand photographs I took, it was finally time to share them. Late? Yes. But it’s right on time for those looking for a summer vacation travel destination, no? So SUBSCRIBE HERE to not miss a future post (you won’t be sorry).
On the evening of December 13th, we flew out of Miami International Airport on a TAP Air Portugal flight and landed in Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport the morning of the 14th. Picked up my rental car (an automatic BMW 3-series) and checked into the 5-star Palacio do Governador hotel in the Belém District of Lisbon (after three years, I wasn’t cutting corners). Belém lies 5km to the west of central Lisbon, situated on the northern shore of the Tagus River. The plan was to see the more laid back western Lisbon first before heading up to our next city (Sintra) before returning to the heart of Lisbon for New Year’s Eve.
Now, I had been enjoying a 58 day streak of international travel without a single rain out. Alas, that all changed on our first day in Lisbon (and would be a continuing theme for our trip) but on a very sunny and bright day two, we managed to get to the first (of many) attractions on my very detailed travel itinerary, the Torre de Belém.
Belém Tower is a 16th-century fortification located in Lisbon that served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. This photograph was taken during the early afternoon of day one – right before the rains came and chased us back to our hotel for the remainder of the day…
Day two was the complete opposite of day one, bright (brutal) sunshine which made photographing the tower a challenge…
The tower was designed by military architect Francisco de Arruda, named “Master of the works of the Belém stronghold” by Manuel I and in 1516 he began receiving 763 blocks and 504 stones for its construction. In 1983, the tower was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Jerónimos Monastery (more on that later).
I asked this young lady who was visiting from New Mexico if I could take a photograph of her…
…in return for a photograph of us with my iPhone.
Standing 170 feet tall, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) is located on the northern bank of the Tagus River (just a short walk from the Torre de Belém). It was built in 1939 and celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was designed by the Portuguese architect José Angelo Cottinelli Telmo and completed by António Pardal Monteiro after Telmo’s death.
The head of the monument features a statue of Henry the Navigator holding a model of a carrack (a three or four-masted sailing ship that was developed in the 14th to 15th centuries in Europe, most notably in Portugal)
On either side of the ramps of the monument are a total of 33 figures from the history of the Discoveries…
Near the monument, there is a Compass Rose with a diameter of 50 meters, drawn on the ground. Inside it, there is a map of the entire world, showing the routes of the Portuguese navigators. And yes, Miranda was able to locate Florida.
The Jerónimos Monastery is, along with the Tower of Belém, one of the most visited sites in Lisbon. It was erected in the early 1500s near the launch point of Vasco da Gama’s first journey. In 1880, da Gama’s remains and those of the poet Luís de Camões (who celebrated da Gama’s first voyage in his 1572 epic poem, The Lusiad), were moved to new carved tombs in the nave of the monastery’s church. Unfortunately, the church was not accessible to visitors as they were preparing for a service (the photo above is the line to get into the mass).
The stunning two-level cloisters were designed by João de Castilho, one of the premier architects in Portuguese history. Each column is differently carved with coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea motifs, evocative of that time of world exploration at sea. Besides the Jerónimos Monastery, Castilho worked on three other World Heritage Sites in Portugal: Convent of Christ (Tomar), Batalha Monastery and the Alcobaça Monastery (all of which we visited).
In the Chapter Room, there is the neo-gothic tomb of romantic writer Alexandre Herculano (1810-1877).
The refectory was built in 1517/18 by Leonardo Vaz and his team of master builders. With its multi-ribbed, low vaulted ceiling the refectory exemplifies the principle style of the Manueline period. Below the thick stone ropes, the walls are covered with azulejo tile panels dating from 1780-1785.
Over the heating chimney hangs an oil mural, “Adoration of the Shepherds”, attributed to António Campelo (late 16th century), which was restored in 1992.
The ornate side entrance to the monastery was also designed by Juan de Castillo. This shrine-like portal is large, 105 feet high and 39 feet wide, extending two stories. Its ornate features includes an abundance of gables and pinnacles, with many carved figures standing under a baldachin in carved niches, around a statue of Henry the Navigator, standing on a pedestal between the two doors.
After our visit to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, we headed to Lisbon’s most popular art museum, the Museu Coleção Berardo which was about a 6 minute walk away. Now most of you know I’m an art museum nerd so as I am wont to do, I dedicated an entire post to the museum – and it really deserves its own post. Check it out HERE
Glad you’re enjoying the posts, my dear friend. The city of Mérida in the Mexican state of Yucatán is where I’m looking to go next. Also might get a dental implant in Cancún while I’m there 🙂
The one thing that I like about my retirement is that I can read your postings and imagine myself in all the beautiful. Breathtaking g places that you have taken your followers. any plNs to go to other cities in Mexico?