Heavenly pastries

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The Jerónimos Monastery in Belém.

I will be completely honest – I didn’t even realise until about halfway through writing the post that the title worked on multiple levels! Don’t worry, all will become clear in a bit.

 When I went to Lisbon, I didn’t really make any plans. I decided I’d just get there and then go with the flow, so to speak. There’s lots stuff to do in Lisbon, so this is a fairly easy way of doing things. And there have been trips in the past where I have loads of things I want to do but never get the chance to do, which means I leave ever so slightly disappointed.

Not this time.

I got back to the hostel and spoke to the staff there about going to Belém. I only had one thing in mind going there, but I ended up with a list of things to see there. I also ended up with company, because three of us were separately, but simultaneously, planning to go to Belém.

So I set off with Erica and Amjad to the Praça do Comércio to catch a tram. As you head out east, some weird thoughts start popping into your head… I’m on a tram and I can see the Golden Gate Bridge… am I sure that I’m in Lisbon?

It turns out they have a bridge that looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m not sure how much confusion it causes, but it looked nice anyway. It was also right next to a small replica of “Christ the Redeemer” in Rio.

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In Belém looking back towards the “fake Golden Gate bridge” and a dark and moody sky.

The first thing we needed to do here was get some food. Nothing too extravagant, just something small for lunch. This is where Pão Pão Queijo Queijo (literally “bread bread cheese cheese”) came in. Obviously I only had a small sample size but, as far as I’m aware, they make the best sandwiches in Lisbon. Please pay no attention to my opinions though, because I was only here for a few days!

Once we sorted food, we walked over to the nearby monastery. I’m not really sure how it compares to others because I haven’t really got a benchmark for it, but it was pretty big. We did go inside, and stared in awe at the grand medieval looking interiors… with Bose speakers attached!

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One of the few photos I took from inside the monastery.

After this, we headed over to the riverside and took some more photos of the bridge.  I feel at this point I should mention that the bridge is actually called “Ponte 25 de Abril”, although it was named “Ponte Salazar” until 1974 after the dictator of the same name – the last dictatorship in Western Europe.

Obviously a trip to Europe isn’t complete without some form of culture. Near the monastery was the Centro Cultural de Belém, so we thought we’d pay a visit. It turned out to be an art gallery… a modern art gallery! We spent about an hour wandering around alternating between appreciating the work, pretending to understand it, and childishly sniggering at the “art”.

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One of the many rooms in the gallery.

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Ah… I see what you did there!

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Aww! 🙁

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Okay, I think we’ve been here long enough!

After spending some time here, we left before the sun was due to set. It’s just as well really because we weren’t sure if one of us had just walked over an inconsequential piece of slate, or one of the exhibits!

We wandered over to the tower to get some sunset photos. It turned out to be quite busy and full of tourists!

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There’s about ten times as many tourists stood behind me!

We headed back towards the centre, but it wasn’t possible for us to pass the stall on the side of the path selling Ginjinha. It’s a cherry liqueur famous in Lisbon, and it’s probably best served in a chocolate cup.

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We continued to head back, past the Jerónimos Monastery which, by this point, was looking even prettier now that the sun had set.

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But we didn’t stop anywhere else on the way back. We had some important business to attend to…

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I’m perfectly happy to say that this shop sells hands down the best pastry-based thing in the world – pastéis de Belém. They were originally made in the Jerónimos Monastery nearby until they sold the recipe to a sugar refining company. They opened this shop in 1837 and have been making them to their secret recipe ever since.

I don’t think words can really do them justice – you’ll have to try them yourself and see. I made a point of not having any pastéis de nata until I made it here, and it was well worth the wait. I brought way too many of them but, in a more accurate way, nowehere near enough!

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…

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 And with that, it was time for us to head back. We wandered out of Pastéis de Belém and to the tram stop across the road, and waited what felt like significantly longer than we waited to get there. Eventually, a tram did arrive though, and it was one of the old style trams, which was even more reminiscent of San Fransisco.

Since the tram stop for our hostel was on the Praça do Comércio, we walked out and saw how pretty it looked with the Christmas decorations up. I haven’t even had dinner yet, but it already feels like it was the perfect day. I guess we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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This is what Lisbon’s Christmas trees looked like all across the city – they’re waaay better than the abomination that Cardiff City Council are calling a tree!

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You can even go inside the tree!