Belem, Lisbon

This morning we took a bus to Belem (“Bethlehem” in Portuguese) to tour the enormous church there and the adjacent cloister, both built in the Manueline style at the time of Portugal’s maritime glory. An elderly Portuguese man on the bus made us the objects of his lengthy monologue on the superiority of the Portuguese culture over the rest of the world.   We also paid a visit to the National Coach Museum housing a fleet of elaborate fairytale-looking vehicles all decked out in gold and velvet. The oldest couch, built in the 15th century, featured a hole in the seat, suspiciously suggestive of an outhouse. From one visceral end to the other: no trip is complete without a visit to a bakery. We went to a 180-year old pastry shop housed in a building lined with painted tiles inside and out, where we sampled the local specialty, pasteis de Belem, which is a custard cupcake, fresh out of the oven. It sounds better than it tastes, good enough but not great. Portuguese breads and pastries did not make a big impression on my taste buds. The tour of the city was abbreviated today since we had to embark the ship. The ship is very small holding a maximum of 208 passengers. We were supposed to have 190 but 20 are still stranded elsewhere, even though European airports have just opened. To my surprise, it is rocky. I have never felt so much rocking on the Mediterranean.  It is probably because of the ship’s size. The service here is a bit overwhelming.   I was escorted to the dinner table and back by my waiter. I wonder, if he is going to do this every day, I might get used to it and not be able to make it to my kitchen table without the help of a male escort… Tomorrow we are docking in Portimao, in the Algrave.  Until then, goodbye.

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