Monday, 9 July 2012

Free for all Sunday

Day 77 08.07.12 Belem
Courtyard of the Monastery of Jeronimos, Belem Lisbon

Sunday is rapidly becoming my favourite day of the week in Portugal as lots of attractions are free between 10 and 2pm.  This means with a bit of research (lots of places don’t advertise freebie sunday) and planning a route you can save quite a bit of cash.

Palacio de Ajuda in Belem just outside LisbonWe started off in the 1821 Palacio de Ajuda high up on the hill (usually 5 euros each).  Despite the palace’s crumbling appearance from the road, it’s actually incredibly grand.  The interior is perhaps the most opulent of all the great palaces and castles we’ve been to visit so far.  

Almost every room has a spectacular chandelier at its centre and is wonderfully over the top.  There are magnificent decorated clocks, stunning portraits, intricately painted ceilings and outlandishly sumptuous furniture.  Each room is full to the brim with majestic decorations.  One of the most impressive of the rooms was the dark blue and gold coloured bedroom complete with polar bear rug and narwhal horns on the wall.  The gold and red crown room was also of course very lavish.  We really enjoyed our trip and felt the entrance fee charged during the rest of the week was pretty good value.

Palacio de Ajuda in Belem just outside LisbonPalacio de Ajuda in Belem just outside Lisbon

Next stop was the Museo dos Coches (usually 5 euros each) which I thought meant car museum but turned out to be coaches.  The main room had a fantastic fresco ceiling and was filled either side with royal horse drawn carriages.  It was a large and impressive collection, including some very old designs with tapestry sides and huge gaudy gold masterpieces.  An interesting exhibition if you’re into that sort of thing but a lot of money to charge.

Onwards to the Archaeology Museum (again 5 euros).  Firstly there was a rather dull room of Portuguese finds that were mostly broken pots, not the best of starts.  After that however came a fine selection of Egyptian finds including some mummified remains, stone hieroglyphic tablets and a lot of jewellery.  There was also plenty of well-preserved Roman finds and some interesting religious relics.

Monastery of Jeronimos in Belem, Lisbon.
The Archaeology museum is housed in the Monastery do Jeronimos so we headed the cloister for our next visit (usually 7 euros each).  It is just amazing.  It really is a shock to the system to step out into the grand open courtyard full of incredibly detailed stonework.  Hopefully the pictures do it some justice but you really have to see if for yourself to appreciate its breath taking scale.  The two tiers really do give you a great overall view of this fabulous structure.  There are several rooms off the courtyard, mostly dedicated to Portuguese history and the background of the building.  It really is an awe-inspiring place.

Monasterio de Jerónimos in Belem, Lisbon
Last stop on the freebie front was the Presidential Museum connected to the police headquarters (usually 2.50 euros each).  Fronted by sword bearing guards and with a metal detector at the entrance, it’s a little scary to enter!  Inside is a small but varied collection of medals, memorabilia from royal visits and portraits of previous heads of state.  There are also some confiscated items including decorative duelling pistols, some amazing ivory sculptures, a Japanese bamboo procession of people and a hideous painted turtle shell.  An odd but enjoyable visit!

All in all we saved ourselves a total of 49 euros just for going to see places on Sunday.  Huzzah! 

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