Monday and Tuesday, 18 & 19 July, 2016 – Days 33 and 34 – Lisbon, Portugal

Monday & Tuesday, 18 & 19  July 2016 – Days 33 and 34  Lisbon – Portugal 

Monday, 18 July 2016 – Day 33 – Lisbon 

Beautiful day – Up early 6.45 and down to Starbucks for coffee. Finally left Days Inn at 8.45 to go in taxi to Shifnal Railway Station. Waited for the 10.13 train that goes via Cosford, Albrighton, Codswall, Wolverhampton and to Birmingham New Street where I needed to change trains. Left Birmingham New Street at 11.22a.m and arrived at Stansted Airport and onto the shuttle train to go to Gate 34 to board the plane. Flight FR1882. We were delayed half an hour before taking off at 6.10 p.m.   

Was a good 2½ hours flight arriving in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal at 8.30 p.m. Had a bit of a wait for Passport check. At 9.30 p.m. tried to find the shuttle bus but I should have been looking for an ordinary public bus. At 10.30 p.m. I finally asked a policeman and he took me to the Aerobus. After several stops, I got off at Restaurateurs square and a Michael from the Netherlands kindly helped me with my luggage and saw me into the cab to the Albergaria Insulana hotel.

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Commemorative obelisk of the Revolution of 1640

Had to take my time wheeling my case to the hotel on the cobbled street as the taxi could not drive down the street at that hour of the night as the restaurants had their outdoor tables and chairs set up. When I got into the hotel, one had to get in a tiny lift, go to the second floor to the reception area and then when you got your room key, hop back into the lift and reception would buzz you up to the required floor. This was the procedure every day when one went out.  My room (407) was quite small, but adequate and the location was just ideal to the various venues I needed to go to.

It was then into bed after an extremely long, tiring day.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016 – Day 34 – Lisbon 

Up and down to breakfast by 8.30 a.m. in the hotel and then I walked down to the Figueira Square and got tickets for Thursday and Friday Yellow Boat and Tram rides. I wandered around the square for a little while and then took the Tagus Bus Tour – Hop on Hop off  to go to Torre de Belem. We passed many impressive buildings along the way.


I got off the bus at Belém. There was a long walk through lovely parklands towards two very famous icons on the banks of the Tagus River –  the Belem Tower or the Tower of St Vincent which is a fortified tower. Name origin: torre de belém Portuguese for tower of Bethlehem and the Discoveries Monument.

Torre de Belém. Built on the northern bank of the Tagus between 1514 and 1520 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor, the Belem Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland.
It is a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument.  UNESCO says “Belem Tower was declared a World Heritage monument because ‘It is a reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world'”.

The architect, Francisco de Arruda, had previously worked on Portuguese fortifications in Morocco, so there are also Moorish-style watchtowers and other Moorish influences. Facing the river are arcaded windows, delicate Venetian-style loggias, and a statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, a symbol of protection for sailors on their voyages.

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Heading towards the Belem Tower

The Discoveries Monument was built in Lisbon in honour of the great Henry the Navigator, who led Portugal’s discovery expeditions into the New World during the country’s heyday in the 15th century. Henry the Navigator is flanked by King Afonso V, who supported the colonisation of Africa, alongside Vasco da Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral, the discoverer of Brazil, and Ferdinand Magellan, the first explorer to circumnavigate the globe.
Lisbon - Discoveries Monument by Alvesgaspar @Wikimedia.org
It was designed in 1939 by the Portuguese architect Jose Angelo Cottinelli Telmo alongside his countryman, sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida. Initially intended as a temporary structure to mark the opening of the Portuguese World Fair which took place in Lisbon in June 1940, the original structure was demolished after the exhibition, however it was decided by Royal Decree in 1958 that a permanent structure should be erected.

It is this structure, made from cement and rose-tinted stone, with statues sculpted from local limestone, which sits in pride of place today.

The project is still based on the original by Cottinelli Telmo and was inaugurated in 1960 – fittingly to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Henry the navigator’s death. It is an exact replica of its predecessor and stands at 171 feet tall. It is located in the Belem area of Lisbon, which was the starting point for so many of the discovery voyages.

Indeed, it was from Belem that Vasco da Gama embarked on his voyage from Portugal to India in 1497, and it was here too that Christopher Columbus anchored on his way back to Spain following his historic discovery of the Americas.

The Discoveries Monument is located close to the Jeronimos Monastery. The Monastery was built between 1502 and 1601 by King Manuel I in order to celebrate the Portuguese Discoveries.

In their wake come a series of explorers, writers, missionaries, a mathematician, a map maker and other key figures from the epoch. Notably the only female to be depicted is Queen Felipa of Lancaster, Henry the Navigator’s mother, who is credited with being the brain of the discoveries.

It is possible to go inside the Discoveries Monument, where you will find a museum, exhibition halls and various other rooms and areas spread out over an impressive seven floors.  At the very top, accessible by elevator, is an expansive terrace which offers breathtaking panoramic views over the district of Belem, the Tagus River and the rooftops and spires beyond. Because of the very long queues and standing in the sun, I did not go inside.

As I was heading towards the Burguerio Cafe, there is a Seaplane monument.  Gago Coutinho was an early Portuguese aviation pioneer who is commemorated in Lisbon by a monument of his biplane, the Santa Cruz.  Gago Coutinho along with Sacadura Cabral were the first pilots to fly across the South Atlantic Ocean. Their flight of 8,400km departed from Lisbon on the 24 March 1922 and arrived in Rio de Janeiro 79 days later on the 6th June 1922.

The seaplane monument here in Belem recalls this perilous voyage and is an exact replica of their Fairey seaplane. It was from this parkland the plane took off from.

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The Santa Cruz Fairey seaplane used by Coutinho and Cabral for their transatlantic flight did not have the fuel capacity to make the entire trip unaided so various stops were required along the route. The aviators were shadowed by a support ship, called the República. On the journey down the Brazilian coast a heavy rain storm caused the aircraft’s engine to fail and they were forced to ditch into the Pacific Ocean.

Realizing that something was wrong, the support boat República sent out a distress signal asking other ships in the area to look out for the seaplane. After a worrying period in the water, the pilots were found by a British freighter. The rescued Coutinho and Cabral were distraught as they had lost their plane so close to their final destination (and an incredibly long time flying!) Coutinho and Cabra after a heated negotiation a new air craft was loaned from the British with which they were able to complete their journey.

Gago Coutinho contributions to aviation were not limited just to mad cap distance flying, he also invented a sextant that incorporated two spirit levels which provided an artificial horizon. This adaptation of the traditional marine sextant allowed navigation without visual reference to the real horizon, particularly useful when flying through heavy fog or cloud.

I eventually reached the Burguerio Cafe where I had a refreshing Sangria and a Pastel de nata (the famous Portuguese Tart).

After I had a nice rest, I headed back to catch the hop-on-hop-off bus again and walked along the busy Rua Augusta from the river end of the street back to the hotel before I walked up to the Hard Rock Cafe to check on my tour for tomorrow. I then had a nice penne meal and fresh lemonade and then back to the hotel feeling quite exhausted so had an early night after an enjoyable day.

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