Monday, February 18, 2013


Gentle readers, the Lisbon tales are nearing their end, I promise.  Today's post describes our third-last day in Lisbon, in which we visited Belem, a western suburb of Lisbon.  The biggest attraction in Belem is the Torre de Belem, built in the early 1500s as a defense tower for Lisbon.  It was originally located in the middle of the river, but much of the land has been reclaimed so it's close to the shore now, although still surrounded by water at high tide.  It is touted as a prime example of the Manueline architectural style.

On one of the lower decks.

The Tagus, framed by a window. 

An ideal place to enjoy a gin & tonic.

This is a famous rhinoceros

View from the top

The thing to do in a tower is to climb to the top.  The Torre de Belem has a single spiral staircase, with minuscule, smooth stone steps, a tight curve, and no handrail, for two-way traffic.  If you think spiral staircases are scary in general, imagine trying to squeeze past people going in the opposite direction, in a space tighter than a confessional, with one misstep sending you plunging straight down with nothing to grab, other than the legs of other people who would then fall on top of you.  

I hate to invoke my history as a trauma nurse, but AS AN EX-TRAUMA NURSE, all I could think of were the many different ways my neck would break if I fell down those stairs.  Going home in a halo vest is, arguably, worse than going home in a body bag.  There was no one on the stairs as I entered to make my last climb to the top level, so I made a quick turn around and a beeline for the lowest level where I fretted about the necks of Jon and the kids, who made it safely to the top and back.

After the tower, we walked to the Monastery of St. Jerome, another Manueline structure, which includes a church and the monastery.  The monastery encloses a lovely peaceful quad.

King Manuel seems to have had a thing for stone ice cream cones.

After the monastery, we explored the church.  We had had by this time, a little too much Manueline architecture.  If I were to do this day over, we'd probably skip the monastery and go to one of the less serious Belem attractions, like the National Coach Museum.

We took the number 15 tram back to Lisbon--about a thirty minute ride, and were home by mid-afternoon, exhausted.  The girls and I did visit the Museum of Decorative Arts later that day, but I'm saving that for another post.  Ciao for now.


  1. I enjoy climbing towers like that, but going down those spiral stairs always puts me in a near-panic state. I'm always sweating and nearly-asthmatic by the time I get to the bottom. But still, I always, always, always go up and try not to think about the going-down part.

  2. Magnificent!
    I've never ever regretted climbing to the top of old churches, towers or castles. The view is always worth it.

  3. I'm enjoying your Lisbon posts. Having not done too much traveling myself, I have to live through others.