Visiting Belem

Today we walk 7 1/2 kms along the water front on the Aterro da Boa Vista, or the Great Embankment, built beginning in 1855. Previously it had consisted of swampy beaches which gave rise to a series of epidemics. Now it is a popular walking, jogging and fishing site lined with modest to trendy dining and drinking spots, passing several marinas and under the Vasco da Gamma bridge. It is also a direct walk to the district of Belem where several iconic buildings and monuments are located.

The Aterro leads to the Monument of Discoveries built in 1965 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator who’s vision encouraged overseas exploration. On the plaza at the front of the memorial is a world map set in a compass rose pattern marked with all the world travels of Portuguese explorers. It was given as a gift from South Africa to note the travels of portuguese sailors around the Cape of Good Hope. Outside is a large Armillary sphere (often seen on the top of buildings). The sphere has a series of rings around the central earth with vertical rings representing the celestial meridians, the horizontal rings representing the equator, tropics and polar circles with the diagonal band representing the Zodiac, and tracing the apparent path of the sun around the earth.

Across the road and through manicured gardens are the modern Cultural center, and the medieval Monastery, Palace and Convent of St. Mary. Further down the Aterro is the Tower of Belem which was the key defense of the harbor. Equally as famous is the Belem Pastry shop, in business since 1837, and famous for their Belem tarts. It is a flaky pastry tart shell with a custard filling. For those of you who do not care for custard….suspend judgement. They are truly delicious and Tannis who would never eat custard loves them. While Mark and David head for the Tower, Tannis and Bob head for the pastry. By now it is mid afternoon and stopping for a treat has it’s usual effect of requiring a nap. So we pass up the rest of the touring to take a bus back home.

Tonight David has decided we are going to a local Hotel Mundial as his treat. I’ll let you know tomorrow how that turns out.

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