So apparently many of the buildings in the lower city only date from the 18thC because nearly everything was destroyed in 1755. And this would also be why there is an enormous statue in the centre of the lower city to the Marquis de Pombal, since he was the one who got things going restoring the city while the king hid out in a tent up a mountain.
So we had more history as Sebastião drove us around the city, about Vasco da Gama, and King Manuel who was responsible for a certain kind of architecture characterised by nautical themes: ropes and anchors, artichokes (because they staved off scurvy) compasses, maps and other tools of navigation. We saw many examples of this, one of which was this little tower on the edge of the river Tagus, which used to be in the center and controlled the traffic coming up and down: the Tower of Belem. There are braided stone ropes all over this place. Next to this was a monument to Henry the Navigator; a younger son who became king and was responisble for a large portion of the expansion of the Portuguese Empire. Mom and I were naughty and picked up a few shells from this pretty little beach. We also went to see Henry’s tomb.
After lunch there was an optional trip to Sintra, which we took because why not? We’ve come all this way, why should we skip anything? So we went and omg, so pretty. We took a tour of the National Palace which was full of tiles and mosaics and old furniture. Each room had a theme and a story. I remember one where the ceiling had been done entirely in magpies because the king had been caught kissing a lady in waiting by the Queen. He had one magpie painted on the ceiling for every woman of the court to stop the gossip. We did not have time to go up to the Moorish castle at the top of Sintra, but we could see the battlements from the high windows of the palace. I saw an adorable little olive dish here in Sintra with demented fish painted on it and I should have picked it up, because I am still thinking about it. Oh well! This evening we are to go out for a night of Fado music, wine and food.
Update: omg so full of food. Such delicious food. A lovely fish dish and lots of wine and such amazing music. Fado is characterised by 12-string guitars – either solo or accompanied by other guitars and a single singer. The singing is noted for it’s passion and not one of these singers opened thier eyes while they sang. They literally looked transported by their music. A treat. Here’s a sample I found on youtube: Amalia Rodrigues – Fado but it’s better live!