At the mouth of the Tagus River

Trip Start Mar 01, 2014
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24
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Trip End Apr 05, 2014


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Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Belem sits at the mouth of the Tagus River and this is where many ships sailed away from to discover the trade routes. It is Portugal's former maritime glory and where we went today to see the Monument to the Discoveries. This massive (170 ft. high) angular monument was built in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. It commemorates the mariners, royal patrons and all those who participated in Portugal's Age of Discovery. In the shape of a boat, with carved statues on both sides, Henry stands at the bow with a ship in his hands along with other famous navigators, cartographers, painters, poets and kings. There is also a huge compass cut into the paving stones, a gift from the Republic of South Africa. It shows the routes of the discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is very impressive. My photo does not do this justice, I quickly snapped it and my battery died. 

A little bit down the way is the Torre de Belem, a fortress built in the middle of the Tagus River in 1515-21. This was the starting point for the navigators. The exterior is decorated with shields and rope carved in stone. The watch towers are moorish like. You enter this fortress on a gangway. I know the shoreline has changed/reclaimed over all of the passing years but you still sense you are in the middle of the River. It is misty and spray from the water dampens the gangway. Old photos show raging waves with ships tossing around with curved wind laden sails.

On a vacation, I have never been reminded so much or maybe I have never remembered so much about the explorers from my education. I must have enjoyed this wonderful subject. I love rehearing the stories of these trade routes to Africa and India. Remember Vasco da Gama and Magellan, yep they left from here.

We followed the coastline to get here today. From sand dunes and low brush to beautiful boardwalks and beaches, boardwalks connect one town to the next. You could walk for miles. We watched fishermen in their weather beaten ancient looking boats, bring in their catch, unloading and carting tubs full of many varieties, all shapes and sizes to an auction house near the piers. The auctions take place each evening. The ugliest - the eels (espada). They look disgusting with their very large black eyes and tiny sharp teeth. The smallest are sardines, just coming in to season, but apparently best in summer. Tuna is probably the largest. Bass, mackerel, octopus, squid, mullet etc. etc. etc. I really can not stand the smell of fish and writing this, frankly In my head, I can smell it and it stinks in here. Get the Fabreeze!  Tony loves fish and will try any of it. He though, was a little shocked when I told him the Portuguese name for eel. He thinks he had it and thinks I am playing with him a little. I AM not....he is off to do some research on his food bills!

We went to an authentic East Indian place for lunch, very good and good fun. This restaurant The Marsala is ranked in the Top 10 for this area.  The waiters were awesome, friendly, helpful and quite comical. Here they say Indiana food. We enjoyed a treat of pappudums with three dipping sauces, tandoori, mint and mango, an assortment of appetizers that included (excuse my spelling and lack of proper names) samosas, pakora, Bhajti an onion thing and a breaded piece of spicy chicken. For our main course at the waiters suggestion was a spinach and paneer dish along with a very spicy lamb and tri colour pepper, onion type of stir fry, all scooped with the best naan bread. Tony had extra hot sauce and very hot little green chili peppers. I managed the heat very well as it was. The creamy mint yogurt type sauce was a wonderful match for the lamb when your mouth just started to get a little too hot! When we are out and about day tripping we have embraced the European way, eating our biggest meal of the day in the middle of the afternoon. 

A little shopping was done to purchase another short sleeve shirt for Tony, the weather is unusually hot. I know nobody back home wants to hear that but here as well the weather has been different with some very severe storms this past winter. We have noticed areas where trees are down, power lines down and cleaning up is still taking place. The most recent big storm occurred at the end of February just before our arrival, a result they say, "from the big storm in the states".  The good 'old USA. 

We truly wish you all warmer weather each and every day.
 
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Comments

Karen on

Wow! What a monument! Spectacular! Just enjoyed another read, you make me feel like I'm there.

Barbara on

I am loving reading this blog every morning with my coffee...it's the first thing I do when I get to work...coffee, overnight oats and blog! The East Indian lunch you had sounds delicious. Can't wait to read more :)

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