Baking teaches us, if you ask me, a vital lesson about life: if you want your cake to be sweet, you better put sugar in it. Yet we all know that sugar gets you fat, rots your teeth and ages your skin. But what would be the point of eating cake after cake of unsavory dough, to forsake the sweetness of pleasure simply because it brings a cost with it?
Roaming around aimlessly near Alfama we ended up in the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora, with lovely trees in full bloom (as per everywhere in Lisbon) and rather creepy statues of what I presume is either the Mother Mary or some evil incarnation of it. Inside you could find various saints that had tiny donation boxes in front of them – which reminded me very much of the hindu temples in India where you could give offerings to various deities.
Lunch was decided to be at Cerca Moura, a much better staffed and priced restaurant than Sol Nascente in Porta do Sol. The sauteed pork with clams, potatoes and pickles were delicious, despite the portion being designed for pygmies and not full grown men. Or me.
Tram 28 made it into Lonely Planet’s “1000 Ultimate Experiences”, under the Most Spine-Tingling Commutes at #470 – though it should have also made it on the “this ride will be incredibly expensive since only tourists take it, forever entrapped by various guides that exult the wonders of what is but an average tram ride on steep streets that are pretty”.
Yet the goal for today was to get to the famous Pasteis de Belem (in the appropriately neighbourhood Belem), so we hopped on a train from Cais do Sodre, despite the pouring rain and the creeping cold.
The Portuguese obsession with sweets and pastries can be tracked to a rather peculiar origin: the Jeronimos Monastery in the 18th Century. During that time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching of clothes, leaving them with equally large amounts of egg yolks that needed to be put to some good use. Hence the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the entire country (especially the pasteis de nata which have that creamy inside).
The food even made it to the Guardian’s Top 50 Food to eat in the world (and I shall reserve opinions about other items on that list or the locations provided).
We tried to cleanse our souls with more churches.
Since that was failing, we turned to a Temple of Meat: Casa Cabacas (Rua da Gaveas number 8, near Bairro Alto) where the gods of wine and steak danced together in blissful merriment. Steaks were about 9 euro each, coming on hot stones, with house wine pitchers for 4.5 euro. The place was bustling with souls asking for redemption through consumption. The meat was sizzling, the wine was pouring, the men were jolly and happy.
Other post from this trip: