We began the day with an enormous buffet breakfast served in the dining room at the hotel. The hotel has 400 rooms so it is a very large dining room and the buffet has a bit of everything to offer. They cooked eggs any way you like them, waffles, ham, sausages, bacon, breads, pastries, cheeses and cold cuts, fresh fruits, cereals, muesli, juices, coffee, teas and much more. They also had a pianist who played a grand piano during breakfast.
Next was a four-hour guided panoramic and walking tour of Lisbon including Lisbon’s famous Belem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Belem Tower, officially the Tower of Saint Vincent is a 16th Century fortification that served as a point of embarkation or disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. The beautifully ornate, four-story seaside tower is about 40-feet wide and 100-feet in height and located on the bank of the Tagus River. It was built in 1519.
We stopped to see the Monument of Discoveries created in 1940 for the Portuguese World Exposition. It was made of wood at that time, but was so popular that in 1960 it was reconstructed to mark 500 years since the death of Henry the Navigator. When it was rebuilt it was constructed with concrete and rose-tinted Leiria stone. The monument includes a portrayal of 32 navigators, warriors, colonizers, missionaries, chroniclers and artists. This monument is not far from the Belem Tower along the Tagus River.
Jeronimo’s Monastery is a gorgeous Portuguese Gothic style structure built in the early 1500’s. Inside the monastery lies many famous tombs including that of Vasco de Gama, born about 1465 and died in 1524. We stopped to taste the famous local pastry, the Pasteis de Belem. This custard filled puff pastry with the perfect blend of lemon and cinnamon is the most popular sweet in the country. The first recipe is believed to have been created in 1837 by the monks of the Jeronimo’s Monastery. This recipe is kept a secret and therefore only at the Fabrica Pasteis de Belem can you find the original Pasteis de Belem. They sell about 42,000 of the delicious treats each day as the locals and tourists line up to get some of these sweet treats. Other similar pastries around the country are called the Pastel de Nata which are equally delicious.
The city streets of Lisbon are all built on hills so there are many staircases, elevators and funiculars to take you from one level of the town to another. Many of the sidewalks and pedestrian plazas are paved with two-inch square, black and white stone pavers. These small paver stones are laid in beautiful patterns. The streets are lined with small cafes that spill out onto the sidewalks and plazas so you can sit and enjoy a coffee, a pastry or a meal. Famous designer shops from around the world can be found here as well as an enormous department store, the Corte de Englis where you can purchase anything from a Tesla to your groceries.
After our tour Kent decided to return to the hotel and rest while Mark headed out into the city streets to explore with Ric and Kevin. We stopped at a local’s lunch spot for a sliced pork loin sandwich on soft white roll with au jus sauce. We later ran into a fellow traveling companion who wanted us to check out a donut shop called Crush Donuts with what they claim are American style donuts. The donuts were raised donuts larger than most you would see in the US and with much more ornamentation. Between the four of us we tried a peanut butter and chocolate donut and a pumpkin donut. The peanut butter was full of flavor and topped with roasted peanuts but the pumpkin donut fell short. While it was dipped in an orange sugar glaze it did not taste like pumpkin at all.
For dinner Kent and I went to a small Italian restaurant a few doors from the hotel for a salad and Portuguese style pizza. The Portuguese pizza came with chorizo sausage, onions, olives, cheese and a raw egg partially cooked right in the middle. It was all good and filled us up until another buffet breakfast in our hotel.