A Pedacito of a Day in Lisbon, Portugal
I only had one day in Lisbon but thankfully, upon arrival, we felt immediately immersed in a new world. The architecture surrounding us was so unique; it felt clean and structured, yet ornate, purposeful, and story-like. I'd later find out that the style was called Manueline. We were going to savor every moment in this city.
We walked along a blue and ivory swirled pathway on the Tagus River, where we stumbled upon different monuments. For a significant amount of time, I walked with my face down, gazing at the pathway beneath my feet; the small, stone-like pebbles that constructed the path made me think of the Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard of Oz.
The walkway felt almost royal, incredibly clean, and unexpectedly modern. I took a mental note; maybe there was some way I could incorporate this into my future home.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or the Monument to the Discoveries, celebrates the Portuguese Age of Exploration and Discovery. Maybe you had the same question as me. I thought to myself — Why is everyone leaning on each other, like they're pushing up a hill? It didn't match my mental picture of “exploration” or “discovery”.
With a little research, I found out that the statue features 33 of the figures that played a role in the history of the Discoveries; also, it's located where the brave ships would depart to trade with India and the Orient. Finally, the name made more sense.
We kept walking to stumble upon another monument, Belém Tower, which was magnificent. And as you can see, we weren’t the only ones who thought so. A crowd gathered at the base, admiring the clean yet ornate Manueline architecture.
It's a common symbol of Europe’s Age of Discoveries; it was a ceremonial gate in which Portuguese explorers boarded and de-boarded ships. I admired Portugal's appreciation for adventure; not every culture highlights discovery and exploration like they do.
I took the above picture for my dad, a commercial pilot, because I knew he'd appreciate it. This monument symbolizes the first transatlantic crossing for Portuguese aviators. They started in Lisbon and made it to Rio De Janeiro using three different planes.
Although this wasn't the first transatlantic flight of all time, it was the first flight to test artificial horizon technology; knowing the amount of time artificial simulation my dad uses daily, this was definitely a monumental point in history.
Next, we stumbled upon Jerónimos Monastery. At this point, I was deeply in love with the Manueline architecture; encountering this structure felt like hitting the jackpot. It took one hundred years to build this Manueline-style palace. It housed monks whose main purpose was to pray for the king’s eternal soul.
They also offered spiritual assistance for the sailors and navigators leaving to explore the new world. This building, in addition to Belém Tower, has earned its title as UNESCO World Heritage site.
This was one of the best walks of my life—crisp air, beautiful architecture, and the water, all in the same place. We could’ve stayed here all day, just for the scenery. However, there was an even better place to soak it all just across the street.
Praça de Império lies next to the monuments. It’s a city square and park, perfect for basking in the Manueline architecture. The fountain really made the place feel royal, but I couldn't capture its entirety through my iPhone. Here's a better view, thanks to the world wide web.
After all of that excitement, we were getting hungry. We found the perfect snack.
Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg tart. I don’t usually eat baked goods, or anything unhealthy, but for the sake of adventure—I couldn’t say no. It was worth every bite. The egg custard was so creamy, the crust so flaky, and the light cinnamon sprinkling was divine. I could’ve easily eaten at least two, maybe three, so make sure you buy a few.
Finally, it was time for the beach. We stopped at the grocery store to grab some fruit and red wine to make Sangria. Mounds of tangerines filled the produce sections, so we bought more than a dozen of those.
We ended up muddling them in the bottom of plastic cups and pouring red wine on top. It wasn't the most elegant, but it was surprisingly delicious.
I wish I could name the beach. All I know is that we wandered down to it from a grocery store. It must've been a good beach for surfing because surfboards bobbed around everywhere—from a passerby on the sand to professionals in the water.
It was so busy that some people even knocked their boards together by accident, hopefully not causing any damage. Anyways, we spent the day enjoying our drinks, watching the surfers, and playing some beach volleyball.
My friend Candace and I were so inspired by the architecture, the beaches, and the overall great day—that we began to feel really grateful to our parents. They helped us financially get here and had been supporting us the whole way. We learned that obrigada means thank you in Portuguese, so we wrote it in the sand and on signs and sent them photos.
That night, we also bought little locks to thank our parents at “Locks of Love”—a red metal sculpture covered in locks that spelled out L-O-V-E. We bought a lock for a few dollars each, wrote down the name of someone we loved in permanent marker, locked it to the statue, and then threw away the key.
I wrote a little 'thank you' to my mom and dad and sent more pictures back home. The money was donated to a local charity, although I can't remember which. I’ve tried to look up more information on the sculpture, but couldn't anything online. I wonder if it’s still there.
We discovered so much in Lisbon—from a historical walk, to storytelling monuments, to my new favorite snack, to a random beach, to love traditions, and finally—to a newfound appreciation for our parents. There must be something in that Portuguese water; it was all quite the adventure.
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