We had originally planned a much more ambitious day yesterday, hoping to round out a week of work, class, bureaucrazy, and apartment furnishing with a day of sightseeing.

However, a mid-morning trip to the gym took care of that plan, as the weightlifting class we did laid us both out more or less for the rest of the afternoon. So far our attempts to go to classes together have been less than successful — the yoga class I took Gabe to put us both to sleep, and the weightlifting class he took me to yesterday… well, that also put us both to sleep, but not until we got home and discovered that neither of us could move!

I was definitely not in the right space for this particular class either. I was already jumpy when I got to the gym, and then to have fast music and unintelligible commands belted at me at high volume while trying to figure out a system of weights and a step that I’d never seen before… well, it didn’t help matters much. But I stuck with it, if only for the principle of the thing, and I survived. Barely.

So Gabe took a nap after lunch, but after reading for a bit, I decided to get up and spend some time organizing our kitchen. Because why sleep when you can organize?! Strangely enough, it now seems to hold a hell of a lot more when everything is arranged nicely in containers! (Yes, I know. I’m sad.)

And thus our afternoon excursion turned into an evening one instead. We took a new and fancy air-conditioned tram (a far cry from the rickety old ones we’d taken the week before!) down to Belem, an area in the southwest of Lisbon, past the Golden Gate-type bridge. Of course by the time we got there, we discovered that most of the touristy places (museums, botanical garden, and the famous monastery) were closed, but we remained undaunted and walked around a bit. Only a bit though, because by that time the heat, our workout, and my lack of a nap had caught up with me, and I was not moving very quickly.

We did spend some time sitting by the river next to a gargantuan monument commemorating the Portuguese explorers, watching the world and the boats go by. I remarked that this monument summed up a lot of the Portuguese mentality for me, because it often seems like they are perfectly content with the knowledge that their hey-day came and went over 500 years ago, and they have been happy to rest on their laurels ever since. Fittingly, it was a very impressive monument, although Gabe had to fight the urge to climb up to the prow of the explorer’s marble ship and pose along with them.

We also wandered through the Belem Cultural Center in search of bathrooms, and from there, we saw a gigantic and very incongruous cruise ship sailing out to sea. We then walked along the outside of the monastery — which somewhat resembled a cruise ship itself, at least in terms of color and sheer mass — and through the impressive chapel inside.

The highlight of the entire day — and perhaps the entire week — came next, and totally as a surprise. Just as we’d decided to seek somewhere out for dinner (even though it was only the shockingly early hour of 7 PM), we walked by the world-famous pasteleria near the monastery. Earlier in the afternoon, it had had a line literally out the door and into the street, so we had decided to skip it. However, now there was almost no one inside, so we decided to give their famous pasteis de Belem a try.

And OH MY GOD were we glad that we did. Gabe ordered one, and as soon as we had each taken a bite, he signaled to the waiter to bring us another. It was incredible: heaven in the shape of a small pie, with warm custardy filling inside a crispy, flaky crust, and powdered sugar and cinnamon added to taste from the shakers at each table. Really, it was a mind-blowing experience. I usually pride myself on my willpower, but I could have eaten an entire platter of those things without even blinking.

According to their (very slick) website, the pasteis de Belem are a secret recipe for the more widely found pasteis de nata, which we have seen elsewhere but never tried. (I can feel a taste test coming on! Any volunteers?!) They have been sold exclusively at this very pasteleria since the 1830s, when the monastery, threatened with closure, had to bring in some extra income. Now they sell thousands of the things every day, and I can completely understand why. My God. They were a thing of beauty.

I would’ve taken a picture of ours, but we ate them too fast! They look like this (thanks Wikipedia):

Of course the dinner we ate afterwards could only pale in comparison, but we enjoyed it nonetheless, and shortly thereafter made our way home to rest our aching bodies. Of course the rest of the city was just waking up and going to dinner as we arrived home for the evening, but then… that’s Lisbon.

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more about “Belem“, posted with vodpod
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