08.05.2011 - 08.05.2011 25 °C
I awoke to nightmares in my bed this morning, this often happens when the temperature rises above 35 degrees in the room I am sleeping. It’s like the inside of a humidifier in dorm rooms at night. Tonight I am going to turn on the air conditioner for sure, and when someone turns it off I am going to get up and turn it on again! Breakfast at the hostel is awesome! There is a lot of food and coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice is 50 centeuros a glass! We updated the blog and planned our day.
We decided Sunday was the best day to visit the museums and monasteries we wished to see because everything is closed here on Monday. We also decided that taking the tram to Belem would be a nicer alternative to the suburban train. We walked to the tram stop mentioned in all the books, a 1/2 a block from our hostel. It was packed with people waiting for the same tram, we stood in line for 10 minutes until the first tram came, it was also loaded with people. As a result no one got on and we stayed in the exact same position.
Well never mind that, we aren’t the kind of people to just wait. We decided to follow the tracks to the very first stop so we could get on the tram there. We made a few wrong turns before we figured it out, but we got there. Of course there was a mob of people there too, so we waited for the 15 minutes it took for another tram to come, and just before the doors closed the conductor let us on. (I should also note Shane almost got in a fight trying to get on this tram as we were getting pushed and shoved in every direction fighting for out place in line!) There was no more space to stand on the tram as we boarded, so I squeezed in beside the conductor in this front seat. I had unobstructed views of the road in front of us, just like him. It was such a cool experience! The man had this really weird handle that he tuned in half circles back and forth, sometimes he did more than a half circle and sometimes just a few degrees. It was connected to a large metal compass like thing. It was really loud and clicked a lot. The only guess I have is that it had something to do with the gears.
We got off at Jeronimos Monastery in Belem, which was beautiful and because it was Sunday we were able to get into the cloisters for free. We had arrived at 11am and it was quite busy. We explored and ate our fruit. I had mentioned to Shane a few times in the last weeks that I would like to be in a beautiful old church while service was on, so we decided that this was as good a place as any try. At 11:40 we got into the church and took a few pictures.
We sat in the back row and waited patiently for the 12pm service to start. Shane interlude - As noon approaches, a monotone announcement comes on telling people to be silent. In several languages. The noise persists, and even into the service people are still acting touristy. As the service starts there are still people loudly whispering. And worse. They are snapping photos with their loud cameras. Some are even using flash. FLASH!!!! We aren’t especially religious, but we are at the very least respectful. There was a small part of the beauty of the whole thing lost to the disrespectful gaggle of tourists who chose to remain during the mass, but left their manners outside. -Thanks Shane!
The music was absolutely amazing, it gave me goosebumps a few times. We moved after about 15 minutes about 10 rows ahead where we wouldn’t be bothered by people coming in. At 12:30 four children came and sat down a row behind us, all alone. At 12:35, 6 children and one adult came and sat one row in front of us. At 12:35 6 children and two adults came and commandeered the row we were sitting in. That makes, if you were counting, 16 children in three rows. Most of the children in the church were respectful but there was approximately 20 children five and under that were really loud. Their parents let them run around the isles and hang off the beautiful stone pillars. They screamed and chattered and made up games and played with their toys. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was like a toddler free for all! The children beside us walked all over the benches, they screamed for their mothers and at each other, they walked and hung off the benches in front of us. They poked at each other and giggled. All the while the readings and praying and sermon were going on. If we visit during mass again we will most definitely not be so shy and sit much closer to the front where we can focus on what is going on. All things considered it was still a very good experience.
Right after service we walked to Pasteis de Belem, a place known for it’s pasteis de nata, but is very much a tourist attraction by itself. We got there just as the line was dwindling and had very little of a wait before understanding what all the hype was about. The natas were a-maz-ing! That’s all I can say, you need to book yourself a bee-line ticket to Lisbon to experience the magic for yourself. We each devoured two each standing right outside the restaurant leaning on a railing to just to keep our feet underneath us.
We waited for the tram to take us back to to Lisbon and while were waiting an old couple saw Shane’s pack with a Canadian flag. I noticed them trying to sound out the word “Canada.” They were getting close and Shane confirmed it for them, that opened the flood gates and the woman couldn’t be silenced! She was talking and very expressive with her hands. Almost exclusively though sign language she communicated with us. She was saying how old she was (79) and her husband (80) and how long they had been married (60 years!.) She said that he didn’t listen to her anymore (he tuned her out) (or looked at her and rolled his eyes and slept!) It was awesome! She told us that the tram came right where we were standing (we had been discussing this just before) We were highly entertained and laughing quite a bit. We boarded the next tram, but realized when we got on we didn’t have the exact change the machine requested so we just didn’t pay, us rebels!
We stopped for lunch at a place just down the road where we had an awesome pork and clams dish and a glass of cerveza. After lunch we took the metro to Museu Calouste Gulbenkain, named for the person who donated a large part of the collection at the museum to the city. The museum was really really cool! Because it was Sunday the museum was free so we splurged and bought the audio guides. Just a note to say here that we LOVE audio guides and they greatly enhance the experience of any museum. There was an awesome collection of 16-19th century paintings which is a favorite of both Shane and I. We took our time enjoying the museum, stopping once for coffee, where Shane decided to leave me for the sexy sugar girl on all the sugar packets we get. First though, he had to cut out the male figure in the pictures before he could get to her.
After the museum we found (and got lost finding!) Versaille cafe, a very old style cafe with crystal chandeliers and plenty of atmosphere. We ordered two more pasties de nata and two cafes. The natas were very good here too, all though notably more sweet and chilled instead of warm. The metro led us back to our hostel where we ate sandwiches and filled up on beer and wine.