Belem, Portugal and Pasteis de Belem
Belem…another essential destination to visit when in Lisbon – for more reasons than one. One great reason is the beauty. The setting was unbelievable.
First up – Belém Tower, one of Portugal’s iconic treasures, dating back hundreds of years to the early 1500s. The original purpose for the Tower was to serve as a fort, protecting the people against raids along the Tagus River.
The Tower of Belem sits majestically by the edge of the water, surrounded by soft sand and smooth rocks. When the tide came in, the reflections were gorgeous. We arrived just before sunset and enjoyed the shifting colors of the tower as well as the sky and water.
Just gorgeous! The soft lighting in this moment was pretty incredible.
And did you notice the amazing architecture? Those turrets! Honestly, I could have stayed in this area for hours and enjoyed every minute.
And of course, we had to try to capture the moment. Our rare selfies are starting to improve!
Ryan had to drag me away from the Belem Tower; I enjoyed photographing this area very much. Next up, and just a short tuk tuk ride away – also sitting on the water’s edge, was the famous Monument to the Discoveries, honoring the death of Henry the Navigator, who discovered the Azores, Madeira, and Cape Verde.
The attention to detail, the expressions on each of the figure’s faces were incredible.
The front of the monument was created with a collection of sculptures, and formed to represent the prow of a small sailing ship, with Prince Henry leading the way.
The monument is 170 feet tall, and for a small charge, you have the option to climb or ride an elevator up to the observation deck. We did neither, as we had limited time and just enjoyed being outdoors.
And now we come to the foodie portion of our blog post. Yes… you knew it was coming. Months before our arrival, after being invited to Portugal by the Travel Agent Forum, I started researching things to do, see, and taste, as is my habit before traveling anywhere. One of the very must do experiences that kept popping up in my research was to taste the famous Pastel de Nata, an incredibly rich velvety egg custard with a crispy flaky puff pastry, and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Pastel de Nata is likely the most popular, beloved pastry in all of Portugal, and truly you can find it anywhere. That said, not all Pasteis de Nata (the plural of Pastel) is equal.
On our visit to Belem, our guide Paulo took us to Pasteis de Belem, touted as being the original site for where it all began! The line was out the door and down the street! Apparently this store makes 20,000 Pasteis de Nata every day. If you know me at all, I hate waiting in long lines. I mean…I truly despise it and despite my love for trying new things, it would take a lot to make me stand and wait in a line like this. So I have to confess I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be tasting any Pastel de Nata that day. What we didn’t know is that Paulo had guide connections! He took us past the very long lines and snuck in a separate door, where he was able to purchase our Pasteis de Nata at a totally separate counter dedicated to guides!
We were in and out in ten minutes, and enjoying our Pasteis de Belem in our cozy tuk tuk before you knew it.
No exaggeration, the Pasteis de Nata from Belem were melt in your mouth amazing. Just out of the oven, they were warm, creamy, sweet, crispy – just delicious. I could hardly contain my excitement. I’m pretty sure Ryan was talking to me, but in that moment I could hardly hear what he was saying, much less respond. I was lost in my delight. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but truly I am a foodie, and when I discover something this brilliant, I get a bit swept up. My love for food and the joy I derive from delicious, sweet, savory, or spicy can not be helped. Hence my love for travel. Well, I will stop for now. Suffice it to say, Belem is a MUST SEE! More later.