We visited Lisbon (Lisboa) in 2011 as part of our tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Our local guide took us to this port area on the western outskirts of the capital at the mouth of the Tagus River. Later we bused further along the coast to Cascais and then inland to Sintra. The area around the Monument to the Discoveries is very historic. This monument was built in 1960, 500 years after the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. to honour the Prince and Portugal’s history as a colonial power and its significant contributions to navigation, a profitable skill that came, perhaps a little belatedly, to Europeans. I say belatedly because the folks who populated Polynesia put the Europeans to shame in their ability to navigate their relatively small, fragile craft nimbly and repeatedly around and throughout the vast Pacific. The Polynesians were the most amazing discoverers on the planet.
Near the new monument is the Belém Tower, an iconic fortification built between 1516 and 1519 to assist with the defense of the mouth of the Tagus River on a basaltic outcrop that was barely connected to shore. It has a small museum inside, which we opted not to enter. Time was limited.
The large, concrete Monument to the Discoveries points toward the water and is best viewed from a boat. If one is, as we were, landlocked in the monument area its prow can only be seen from the side. At the prow, in a big, ribboned hat, is Prince Henry himself. The folks down the sides, behind Henry, are various heroes of the colonial era, including some explorers, navigators, cartographers, artists, scientists, monarchs and, of course, missionaries – whose diligent work of pagan soul-saving “justified” the ventures. If one were to climb the Monument to the top, she/he would get a great view of its beautiful, circular Wind Rose – a 165′ diameter, stylized map that shows and names all of Portugal’s conquests. We did not have time to go up, but I got some interesting close-ups of the detail.
Across Avenida Brasilia is the beautiful, sprawling Jerónimos Monastery, which we did not enter but photographed close up.
I found the afternoon visits to the towns of Cascais and Sintra wonderful. Maybe a post soon on those places… An experienced local guide spent this fascinating day with us – without our tour director. It was pleasant to be without him for the day. I, at least, didn’t mind a bit.