Lisbon, the city of Vasco Da Gama
The medieval yet modern architecture with moorish red roofs, the bustling busy streets, yellow trams, iconic egg tarts, the steep roads and friendly locals make one fall in love with the city
All I knew about Lisbon when I arrived there were the trams of the city and Vasco Da Gama. But upon my arrival, the melange of medieval-yet-so-modern architecture with the moorish red roofs, the bustling busy streets, those yellow trams, the perfect sunshine on my face, those delicious egg tarts, the steep roads and very friendly locals made me truly fall in love with Lisbon. The perfect place to start a tour of the capital of Portugal is Belem District which is by the Tagus River just beside the Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries), which was built in 1939 to honour Portuguese navigators. The monument is shaped like a caravel (Portuguese ship) and the figure of Henry the Navigator is on the edge. On either side, there are 33 Portuguese heroes including navigators, scientists, painters, poets, authors and kings. Just below the monument is a compass with a world map in between to show the various discoveries made by them.
Vasco Da Gama has his place. Another very familiar structure is 25 De Abril Bridge which is named after the revolution of April 25, 1974. When you see the bridge, it looks an identical twin or European version of the Golden Gate Bridge and can be seen from many points in the city. As you keep walking along the Tagus, another very tall and grand structure to see is the Torre De Belem (Belem Tower). This is the most iconic structure that the city identifies with. Just a few minutes’ walk from the tower is the Jeronimos Monastery which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most visited spots in Lisbon. This white and grand religious structure was designed by Portuguese architect Diogo de Boitaca to commemorate the return of Vasco Da Gama from India. Many people visit the Santa Maria Church in the same premises to pay respect to his tomb. Lisbon is world famous for its iconic egg tarts. The story begins right here at the Monastery where the monks who lived started the business. The monks would use the egg whites to starch clothing and were left with the egg yolks. They started making these delicious flaky egg custard tarts and selling them next door at the Belem Bakery, selling Pasta De Natas which are caramelised flaky tarts with egg yolk cream filling, sprinkled with cinnamon on top. The bakery sells over 10,000 pieces a day and the line to enter could take between 40 minutes to an hour to clear.
The main city centre of Lisbon is Praco De Comercio, which means the commercial plaza of the city. I was here on a Sunday afternoon and a wine festival was on, with all kinds of port wine, cheese, cakes and jams. This was taking place on Rua Da Augusta, the main street here. The entrance to the street is marked by the majestic Augusta Arch built after the massive 1755 earthquake. It took 98 years to build this monument. It’s worth paying 3 Euros and getting to the top to get lovely views of the typically red, yellow, brown and blue house roofs that dot the city’s skyline. As you walk along the main stretch, there are lots of shops, cafes, bakeries and souvenir stores, giving you a very local flavour of the city. I took a ride up the Elevator De Santa Justa, which goes 45 metres high to offer breathtaking views of the city. Lisbon is synonymous with great food, and one exceptional place to eat absolute gourmet cuisine is the Ribeira Market or Time Out Market. The chocolate counter and French dessert counter are not to be missed, neither the eclairs. My favourite was the apple cinnamon glazed with lemon cream. What a burst of flavours! Have you ever tried an icecream salad? I got to have one there. It was a berry, aragula and goat cheese salad with honey walnut ice-cream, drizzled with some honey dressings. Some tastes linger in the mouth forever. We all have had salmon and tuna tartare but in Lisbon, you get beef, crab, shrimp, sea bass and even many veggie and fruit tartares too.
The food in this market is surely very unique as compared to anywhere else in the world. I will now come to two of my most favourite spots in Lisbon. As we all know, Portugal is famous for its tiles. So one place I highly recommend is the National Museum of Azulejos. Here, everything is made with tiles, including the cafe and bathroom. The church inside the museum is a marvel to the eyes. There are some things which are a bucket list and Cabo Da Roca is surely one of them. About an hour’s drive from Lisbon is the western-most point of Europe. From here you can see the Atlantic, beyond which the next piece of land is only North America. When I posted pictures on my Instagram, I had my friends joking, asking me to swim across the ocean. Be sure to carry a jacket along as it’s very windy. Lisbon has so much more to offer. In the three days I was there, I felt I’ve just scratched the surface of the amazingly charming city