By the time we arrived in Marrakech, it was starting to get dark. Because the streets twist and turn in so many directions, Mr. Selfish and I had some trepidation about how we were going to get dinner that evening. While we were waiting for a map from the hotel staff, Mr. Selfish heard a family speaking American English. I hadn’t heard American English in ages, so it was a sweet comfort to my ears. I immediately started speaking to them and asking them about where they were going to dinner. Fortunately, they invited us to follow them to dinner.
The other fortunate coincidence was that part of the family was currently living in Lisbon, Portugal. Mr. Selfish and I accordingly asked them for recommendations since we were going to Lisbon right after Marrakech. Their best recommendation was the egg custards at Pastéis de Belém. Although I haven’t eaten many egg custards, I found these to be utterly delicious and creamy. They were really fresh since the place does a great deal of business.
If egg custards are not your thing, there are a lot of attractions in Belém to visit. First, we went to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, which is a monument that was built in 1960 to celebrate Portuguese discoveries. It is supposed to represent the prow of a ship transporting important figures in Portuguese history. You can also get a wonderful view of the exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as the Cristo-Rei statue which is a replica of the Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro.
Second, we went to the Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém), which is an UNESCO heritage site. You can buy a combination ticket for the Torre de Belém and Jeronimos Monastery (which we will discuss below) for only 10 euros, which is definitely worth it. The Torre was built in the early 16th century as a military fortress along the Tagus River for the municipality of Belém. It was built out of a particular type of limestone, which is rare and local to the area.
Finally, we visited the Jeronimos Monastery, which is also an UNESCO heritage site. Construction on the monastery began in 1501. Portugal often holds grand ceremonies at the monastery, including the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007, which was the basis for the reform of the European Union.
The inner courtyard of the monastery was beautiful. The lighting was perfect, and the carvings were so intricate and detailed. In fact, the monastery was built in the Manueline style, which is a richly ornate architectural design that includes complex sculptural themes incorporating maritime elements and objects discovered during naval expeditions, carved in limestone.
We also went into the Church of Santa Maria, which is connected to the monastery. The church was also built in the early 1500’s and is noted for its six 25 metre-high octagonal columns. When Mr. Selfish and I were visiting, an organist was playing Christmas music inside.
If you are visiting Lisbon, you should definitely spend a day in Belém. The egg custards on their own are worth the trip, and you can see the wonderful sights as well.