Exploring Belem and downtown Lisbon

Exploring Belem and downtown Lisbon
Despite a bleak forecast, my frenzied sun dances paid off and it was a brilliantly sunny day in Lisbon.  A toasty 16 degrees Celsius- I couldn’t be happier!  We spent the morning getting Aga ready for the bus tomorrow so she can head off to “sleep with” her Polish host in Porto. Her naive use of English ushered a day filled of teasing, Jorge in his exotic accent asking, “so you will take her, in the night, in your strong polish wrestler arms and she will call you ‘my Tarzan!'”.  When we saw that even the doves were canoodling outside the monaster, we predicted a good love forecast for Aga in Portugal’s seaside hub, famous for their wine cellars (Port wine! Get it?).

Famous Belem pastries

We started our sightseeing at Belem, tasting the Belem pastries at the oldest and world-renowned Pastéis de Belém.   Unless you’ve been to Portugal, you may not be impressed with the accolade.  But I’ve never been to a country with so many pastelerias- I’m convinced that’s all they eat.  There’s one on every corner and especially when real restaurants are shut own for the holidays, that’s practically the only option.  I liked the little tart- creamy, almost rice pudding-like, mini tarts in an almonds he’ll dusted with cinnamon nod optional powdered sugar.  Not too sweet which was nice.  After spying on their production line, we headed net door to the monastery of San Jeronimo, with the canoodling doves, precisely trimmed gardens with a music fountain which created rainbows in the sunshine and the monument to the discovers, which had excellent views of the “San Francisco” bridge and Portugal’s Cristo.  I barely knew what country I was in with all these conflicting national landmarks.  But then we took photos after mounting (yup some more jokes were made, poor Aga) the obligatory cows before heading off to Belem tower, the monument for the first trams-Atlantic flight and the Africa war monument.

Aga and I at the San Jeronomio monastery
Portugal has a bit of an identity crisis…
After exploring that part of town, Jorge dropped us by the “penis fountain” to explore the city by ourselves for the next several hours.  As with many stoic statues to commemorate good battles, this fountain looks oddly reminiscent of a male sexual orgn.  Jorge was laughing as he told us how he was bragging about the ever flowing waters of this vigilant member, overlooking the city to a Mexican couchsurfer he picked up late from the airport. They arrived at the fountain just before 11 and the water stopped flowing!  Jorge prescribed Viagra.  He’s a lawyer but he loves to prescribe things.  At 10 am, he prescribed I drink vodka for my cough and sore throat. Even though he doesn’t drink, he had some in his trunk and recommended I carry it around all day for convenient swigs for my daily doses.  I decided to stick with my ineffective cough drops but I probably would have forgotten all about my cold if i tried his technique!
In case you were curious… “Penis fountain” looking down on the city
Anyway, so the rest of the afternoon was kind of a blur, as we blindly followed the map between pink circled attractions,neighborhood and streets.  We found lots of churches, many fountains, beautiful overlooks of the Atlantic, we kept dodging cable cars (the bridge isn’t the only similarity with San Fran) and generally had a good day.
Cable car near Barrio Alto
I’ve been shrugging to find a cohesive conception of Portugal and it has been tough.  First, we’ve mostly been in tourist territory but it’s pretty hard to figure out what a stereotypical Portuguese personal looks like.  Spain, it’s easy.  Dark-hair, dark-eyes, petite (even most of the guys- I commented that I was surprised how daintily kings were portrayed on statues. I even went in a male bathroom by accident once because the stace and stature of the sassy hipped stick figure looked like a girl to me until after I got out and saw the real girl).  The first night, I was getting Jersey Shore cheesy beach vibes from the beach across the bridge, the second day in Sintra and surrounding nature was more surfer/fisherman/fairy princess vibes and today… San Francisco vibes? “Want some marijuana with your sunglasses” vibes? Very historic and usually cute but then you round a corner and you are in a dump vibes?  It would probably help if I could taste their food beyond bread (which is rather extraordinarily for bread) but dishes are meaty and fishy and not veggie friendly. Hopefully meeting locals tomorrow will better clue me in.  I was supposed to get drinks and listen to the traditional faro music tonight with a German couchsurfer but getting let back in the apartment is unfortunately surprisingly complicated.  Anyway, tchau for now!
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