Friday, May 14, 2004

PORTUGAL Day01//27.Apr.04 - From Porto to Port: Around Lisbon & Belem

From the window seat, I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city as the plane circled to land at Lisbon's International Airport. With the clear blue sky, our blond local guide, Christina should have been at the beach instead of ushering this group of Malaysian to lunch. The Portugese restaurant is situated next to Eduardo VII Parque, a green area named after Portugal's famous fado singer and populated with olive trees. Whether or not the bowl of olives situated at the centre of our lunch table comes from the nearby park, I would never find out. But it went immensely well with the compliementary nectar sweet Port wine. The restaurant had big windows, which allowed me to gaze out at the tranquil sight of people eating al fresco, no doubt cooled by the body of water from the nearby pond and its solitary fountain. There were even ducks gliding lazily across the pond. It was altogether a different kind of bird that was served at our table. Roasted chicken with potatoes and saffron rice followed by diabetically sweet portugese caramelised custard to end lunch.

Portugal was once a formidable maritime country, therefore, the Tower of Belem (Torre de Belem) built in the 16th century during the height of Portugal's naval glory still remains as the symbol of this country. Other than the unique stone-carved knots of rope design found decorating this tower, the tower seems almost diminutive compared to the huge and modern Monument of Discovery that features famous personalities (Henry the Navigator being the star of the lineup) of Portugese past. In front of this monument is another point of interest i.e. an old world map (in the very sense, as Malaca was spelt out where Malaysia should have been) made of tiles and highlighting Portugal's geographical conquests. Aside from these brick-and-mortar attractions, there was a 1922 airplane that was displayed, its significance is that of being the piloted by the first non-stop transalantic flight from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro.

Our next visit was to the Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos). It was here I learnt about Manueline style of architecture. Its namesake King Manuel I ordered the monastery to be built to commemorate Vasco da Gama's voyage to India. It also serves as the ideal place to house the tomb of this famous explorer's remains. This tomb, along with the entire building is evident of the unique Manueline style which incorporates elements of the Portugese's seafaring discoveries. Stone carvings of palm trees from south america, bananas, japanese blossoms, vitamin C rich artichokes (eaten by sailors to deter scurvy) decorated the facade and interior of this 1502 monastery. We ended the tour of this remarkable building taking group pictures at its expansive cloisters, made especially for the monks to socialise and relax. We too needed to R&R after the long plane ride, and a good half day of exploring Lisbon and Belem. Thankfully, the next stop was dinner and back to the hotel.


At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suggestion... ppt. summary of key highlights :)


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