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My European Favourites – Lisbon’s Belem District

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The Belem district of Lisbon is where you will find the most famous buildings and monuments from what is called the Age of Exploration or Age of Discovery as well as numerous parks and museums. It is located along the coast at the mouth of the Tagus river about 4 kilometers west of Lisbon’s city center. Belem, which is Bethlehem in Portuguese, used to be a small fishing village before it became the shipyard and docks at the center of the discoveries. It remained a separate town until recently when it became a parish district of the city of Lisbon. To better understand the Belem district and its monuments requires a brief history of the Age of Discovery, Prince Henry the Navigator and the Order of Christ.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portuguese sailors were at the forefront of the Age of Discovery. They recorded information about places they visited, and they mapped the coasts of Africa, Asia, Brazil and even Newfoundland. The expeditions were started in 1419 along the west coast of Africa under the sponsorship of Prince Henry the Navigator, who at the time, was Grand Master of the Order of Christ.

Historical figures from the Age of Discovery on the Monument of the Discoveries

The Order of Christ’s origins in Portugal lie with the Knights Templar that were founded around 1119. The Templars were best known as Christian warriors, but the majority of their membership were not combatants; they managed the economies in Europe and formed an early form of banking and finance. The Templars, who had become wealthy and powerful, were abolished on the 22nd of March 1312 by Pope Clement V under pressure from the French King Philip IV. The French king had many debts with the Templars, so he was motivated by an opportunity to erase those debts and remove the Templar threat to his power and influence.

The Templars were pursued, persecuted and annihilated throughout Europe with the help of political influence from the Pope as head of the Catholic Church. Portugal’s King Denis refused to go after the Templars and in 1319, he negotiated with Clement’s successor, Pope John XXII, to establish the Order of Christ, which were granted the right to inherit the assets and property of the Templars. So, with the support of the order’s Grand Master, Prince Henry, the emblematic cross of the Order of Christ was emblazoned on Portuguese sails during the discoveries.

The cross is seen on various emblems today including on the logo of the Portuguese national soccer team and on that of the Brazilian national soccer team. If you are interested in the Knights Templar and Order of Christ, there are various sites of interest throughout Portugal.

Compass Rose with a World Map of Portuguese explorations

To conduct the exploration of northern Africa, the Portuguese needed a vessel that could be easily maneuvered, so they developed a small boat called a caravel. The caravel had lateen sails, so it could reach good speed on the open water with the wind at its back, but just as important, it could also be sailed into the wind.  Using the caravel, the Portuguese worked their way along the African coast and set up trade posts.

Eventually, in 1488, Bartolomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope and rounded the southern tip of Africa and into the Pacific Ocean. Probably the most famous Portuguese discoverer, Vasco da Gama, followed the same path and reached India in 1498 setting up the spice trading route. By cutting out the “middle men,” which at that time were Arab, Turkish and Italian merchants, the Portuguese Crown became very wealthy.

In 1500, Pedro Alvares Cabral set sail for India but sailed far west into the Atlantic to take advantage of the trade winds. He spotted the northeastern part of South America which would become a Portuguese colony and the only Portuguese speaking country in the Americas, Brazil.

The Portuguese continued setting up trade routes to other parts of Asia, including Japan in 1542. The immense wealth from the discoveries and subsequent trade laid the foundation for the Portuguese Empire.

Manueline style architecture, a caravel and the Order of Christ cross on the Portuguese national soccer team logo

With wealth, came great building projects. Portugal has a unique architectural style called Manueline or sometimes referred to as Portuguese late Gothic. The Manueline style originated during the 16th century and depicts maritime elements paying tribute to the discoveries made at that time and financed by the resulting lucrative spice trade. Some of the most prominent features of the Manueline style include armillary spheres, sea shells, the cross of the Order of Christ, rope columns and botanical motifs like laurel branches, oak leaves and acorns. Many Manueline buildings were destroyed in the great earthquake in 1755, but the Tower of Belem and Hieronymites Monastery, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are two of the best examples we can see today.

Belem Tower wall, view of the Tower from the Discoveries Monument and the Santa Cruz sea biplane

The Belem Tower, officially named the Tower of St. Vincent, is a four story 16th century fortification that guarded the entrance into Lisbon. It was the last and first thing explorers saw as they left and returned from their voyages. When it was first built in 1520, the tower stood on an island in the middle of the Tagus river, about 200 meters from the northern shore. The tower has been rebuilt various times and its current style combines Manueline, Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance features. It has also been used as a prison and is one of the most recognizable and photographed landmarks of Lisbon and Portugal. For a fee, you can enter the tower.

At the corner of the Belem Tower Park, you will see the Santa Cruz biplane monument dedicated to Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral who were the first pilots to cross the South Atlantic ocean in 1922. The seaplane was followed by a support ship as they didn’t have the fuel capacity to make the entire voyage. It was a perilous 79 day journey from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, and the plane was ditched along the Brazil coast after an engine failure in bad weather. It’s quite the story. You can see a replica of the actual plane in the Maritime Museum. From the monument walk around the Bom Sucessso docks and along a nice waterfront walkway. You will pass the Old Belem Lighthouse on the way to our next stop, the Monument of the Discoveries.

Monument of the Discoveries, Compase Rose and Prince Henry the Navigator

The 52 meter Monument of the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos), completed in 1960, celebrates the Age of Discovery and is designed to look like a caravel. The monument commemorates the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, depicted at the front of the monument holding a caravel. The monument has sixteen statues on each side of Prince Henry depicting notable people from that era including monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, poets, scientists, and missionaries. The square in front of the monument, donated by South Africa, has a compass rose and a world map detailing the Portuguese explorations. Inside, there are exhibition halls and an auditorium plus a lift to the top of the monument that offers great views of the Tagus river, the 25th of April Bridge, the statue of Cristo Rei on the other side of the river, the world map on the square below and the Hieronymites Monastery.

Hieronymites Monastery from the Monument of the Discoveries

The Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos), started by King Manuel I in 1501, and took 100 years to complete, is the former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome. The monks’ role was to provide spiritual guidance to the sailors and to pray for the king’s soul. In front of the monastery, there is a nice park with hedges and a fountain decorated with the coats of arms.

The Santa Maria de Belem church and the monastery cloisters are great examples of Manueline architecture. The entrance to the church is free while there is a charge to see the monastery cloisters. Once you enter the cloisters, you can enter the vault of the Santa Maria church for a great view of the columns and nave. Some kings and great figures in Portuguese history are buried here including Vasco da Gama, whose tomb you can see at the entrance, along with the poet Luis de Camões, who wrote the epic, “The Lusiads,” detailing the exploits of Gama and his compatriots.

Hieronymites Moanstery fountain, Santa Maria de Belem church interior and the tomb of Vasco da Gama

In the western wing of the Hieronymites Monastery, you will find two museums. The Maritime Museum (Museu da Marinha) is administered by the Navy and offers more details about the explorations and all other aspects of the Portuguese history of navigation. You can see scale models of ships, maps, paintings, navigation instruments, royal barges and sea planes.

The Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Museum of Archaeology), founded in 1893, contains ancient art and artifacts from throughout the Iberian Peninsula. In the Belem Cultural Centre, located near the monastery, there is the Coleção Berardo, which is a modern and contemporary art gallery.

The Pastéis de Belém busy counter, a peek at the production and the beautiful tarts

After a busy morning, you might need a snack. The Pastel de Nata is a Portuguese custard tart with a flaky crust that is dusted with cinnamon. It was invented by Catholic monks in Belem at the Hieronymites Monastery before the 18th century. Why the monks, you ask? Convents and monasteries used egg whites in those days to starch clothes, so the leftover yokes were used to make cakes and pastries. Today, the nearby Pastéis de Belém café is a must stop while you are in Belem to taste the authentically made pastry. There are sometimes long line ups outside, but they are customers waiting to buy “to go” sleeves of the treat.

There are many seats inside, in various rooms, where you can sit and order your tarts and coffee. As you go deeper inside, there are windows where you can see the custard tart operation at work. Every few minutes you will see a staff member emerge from the bakery carrying multiple trays of the tarts to restock the front counter as they constantly fly off the shelf. Every self-respecting Portuguese bakery in the world makes their version, but the monks’ original recipe is a closely guarded secret and is held by just a few people. They have all memorized the recipe as there can be no written version.

Just further down the street, you will see the Pink Palace, which is the official residence of the Portuguese President. Next to the palace is the 18th century Royal Riding School, which used to house the Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coaches Museum). The Royal Riding School can still be visited and will have some coaches on display. The museum’s new location, which is only a few meters away, has a much larger space to show off one of the world’s finest collections of horse drawn carriages the from 16th to the 19th century.

The 5 hectare Jardim Botânico Tropical (Tropical Botanical Garden), which was laid out in 1912 by Hieronymites Monastery, is one of Lisbon’s best green spaces. The park has flora from all over the world, principally from Portugal’s former colonies. Some of the art and architecture with colonial themes date back to the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition. The grounds have 18th century marble statues by Italian artists, an Arch of Macau, an Oriental garden, greenhouses, and the 17th century baroque Calheta Palace, which is now a library and is used for exhibitions. Visitors enjoy seeing the ducks, swans, geese and peacocks who are found throughout the garden and its ponds. It is a good place to take a break from a busy day in Belem.

In the evening, you may consider a short walk along the waterfront, maybe while enjoying a beautiful sunset, to the Doca de Santo Amaro (Dock of St. Amaro). The dock is located next to the foot of the 25th of April Bridge. Here, you will find a variety of restaurants to have a nice dinner. As you enjoy your wine, you can reflect on the courage of the great explorers who left these shores to explore the world.

Explore Europe With Us

Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing Tours have taken thousands to Europe on their custom group tours since 1994. Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom tour possibilities for your group of 26 or more. Individuals can join our “open” signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours including our popular Canada hockey fan tours to the World Juniors. At azorcan.net/media you can read our newsletters and listen to our podcasts.

Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.

My European Favourites – One Day In The Bavarian Alps

 

 

I have been in sports management and the sports tour business since 1994 when I created my company, Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing tours. Please visit our website at azorcan.net for more information on our company, our tours and our destinations. We are European group tour experts specializing in custom sightseeing tours, sport tours (hockey, soccer, ringette, school academies) and fan tours (World Juniors). Check out our newsletters, and listen to our podcasts at azorcan.net/media.

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Alberta

Alberta justice minister demands answers from Edmonton on crime

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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Alberta’s justice minister says people in Edmonton are not being kept safe from violent crime, particularly on public transit, and he’s ordering Mayor Amarjeet Sohi to provide answers.

Tyler Shandro has told Sohi he’s invoking his ministerial powers under the province’s Police Act to demand a report within two weeks on what the city will do to arrest a spike in serious crime.

In a letter to Sohi made public Thursday, Shandro cited an increase in downtown crime as well as in aggressive encounters and drug use on light-rail rapid transit.

He pointed to the killings last week of two men in the Chinatown district downtown.

“As the minister of justice and solicitor general, I have a responsibility under the Police Act to ensure the people of Edmonton receive adequate and effective policing,” Shandro said in the letter.

“It is quite apparent that residents feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the downtown core, riding transit and traversing the transit centre corridors.

“In short, the people of Edmonton deserve better than what this city council is delivering.”

Sohi called the letter an overreach by the provincial government, but added that he is glad the provincial government is finally paying attention.

“I share the same concerns about the safety in our downtown, Chinatown and on the LRT that he highlighted in this letter,” Sohi said Thursday. “The social issues that are causing these safety issues are nothing new.

“The disorder and crime that we are seeing in our downtown is directly linked to the lack of provincial investments in ending houselessness, the mental-health crisis, the drug poisoning and addictions crisis.”

Shandro’s letter said the United Conservative government is doing its part to address core issues that can lead to crime, including spending millions of dollars to fight drug addiction and homelessness.

Shandro did not make himself available to media to answer questions.

There was no comment from the Edmonton Police Service. Chief Dale McFee was to attend a city council meeting Friday.

Edmonton city councillors are currently debating whether to set this year’s police budget at $385 million, which would be a drop of $22 million if police could not secure extra funds from declining photo radar revenues.

Shandro said earlier this week he would be concerned if Edmonton’s police budget were to be cut.

The police budget has not been cut, said Sohi, who added that the city has invested more in transit officers, community action teams and in safety-related projects in affected areas.

“Council is investing in many issues that are the responsibility of the province and, frankly, they are falling short,” he said.

“The pandemic has brought to light so many social issues that are not being properly addressed or adequately funded.”

Sohi said he looks forward to meeting with the minister next week to outline his concerns and explain how the city is doing its part.

Irfan Sabir, justice critic for the Opposition NDP, said violent crime in Alberta’s capital is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. But, he added, the UCP government is choosing to off-load complex problems and pick fights instead of collaborating.

“People in Edmonton want a plan in place (so) they can be assured that they are safe in their homes and their communities. But in this instance, the minister is just passing the buck,” said Sabir.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

— with files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary

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Alberta

Kane, McDavid, Draisaitl lead Oilers over Flames 4-1 to take 2-1 series lead

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EDMONTON — Evander Kane didn’t have a team four months ago.

The controversial winger lugging around plenty of off-ice baggage was confident of an NHL return at some point. He just didn’t know when or where.

Now he’s filling the net alongside two of hockey’s best.

Kane scored a natural hat trick during an electric six-minute span and Connor McDavid provided more magic with three assists in another dominant performance as the Edmonton Oilers downed the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff series.

I’m just happy to be part of this group,” said Kane, who had his contract terminated by the San Jose Sharks in January before signing on in the Alberta capital. “Just trying to do my part.”

McDavid, meanwhile, now has 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) through 10 playoff games this spring. The only players in post-season history with more over the same span are Wayne Gretzky (29 in 1983 and 25 in 1985), Mario Lemieux (25 in 1992) and Rick Middleton (23 in 1983).

“He’s been on fire in the playoffs and has taken his game to the next level,” Kane said. “He’s not just doing it on the scoresheet. That’s what’s allowing him to really showcase his skill. He’s physical, he’s involved. A dominant force.”

Leon Draisaitl, meanwhile, became the first player in league history to register four assists in a playoff period by setting up each of the home side’s goals in a frantic second as the Oilers’ top line combined for 10 points. Zach Hyman had the other goal for Edmonton.

“(Draisaitl) has been really good for our group,” Kane said of a teammate sitting second behind McDavid in the overall playoff scoring race with 19 points despite battling through a suspected injury.

“Seems to find another level each and every night.”

Mike Smith, who was briefly pulled from the action by the league’s independent concussion spotter midway through the third after getting clobbered into the boards by Milan Lucic, made 32 saves for the victory.

Oliver Kylington replied for Calgary, while Jacob Markstrom allowed four goals on 34 shots before getting the hook behind a Flames group that has been outscored 8-1 since taking a 3-1 lead in the second period of Game 2. Dan Vladar made seven saves in relief.

“We lose the second period 4-0,” Calgary defenceman Rasmus Andersson said. “We let one guy (McDavid) dominate.”

The Oilers will look to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the best-of-seven Battle of Alberta — the first post-season meeting between the provincial rivals in 31 years — Tuesday night back at Rogers Place.

The first playoff contest in Edmonton to feature the Oilers and Flames since April 14, 1991, when Theo Fleury scored in overtime of Game 6 to spark a wild and memorable celebration, the Oilers exploded for those four goals in just over 12 minutes in the middle period, including Kane’s second hat trick of the month.

Hyman opened the scoring with his sixth of the post-season 52 seconds after the restart following a 21-shot Edmonton first off a setup from Draisaitl and McDavid to ignite the crowd inside and outside the raucous, packed-to-the rafters arena.

“I think we had a lot of our younger guys that haven’t been in this situation before (and) were a little bit intimidated by the atmosphere,” Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter said.

Kane scored his first of the night at 6:58 off a feed from Draisaitl after the Flames turned the puck over at the offensive blue line.

He then pushed the lead to 3-0 on an outrageous McDavid rush after stepping past Calgary defenceman Noah Hanifin like he wasn’t even there just 53 seconds later.

“We’ve let one guy beat us a few nights now,” Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said of McDavid’s mastery.

“Back to the drawing board and figure out a way to stop him.”

Smith made a great stop on a Johnny Gaudreau breakaway later in the period before also denying Tkachuk.

“Just trying to make saves for our group,” said the 40-year-old goaltender, who spent a big chunk of the season out injured. “Trying to stay as poised as possible.”

Kane completed his hat trick — the seventh-fastest in post-season history — with his 10th goal of the 2021-22 playoffs at 12:58 on a 2-on-1 with McDavid before fans littered the ice with headgear.

The 30-year-old Vancouver native is just the third Edmonton player to score three straight goals in a post-season game, joining Gretzky (1983) and Petr Kilma (1991).

After his contract was voided by San Jose, Kane signed on with his fourth NHL team despite plenty of questions about his past — from suspensions due to COVID-19 protocol violations, a bankruptcy and self-confessed gambling problems.

The biggest headlines from his personal life, however, were related to allegations of abuse lodged by his former wife, which were not proven in court. Kane has custody of the former couple’s daughter.

“I didn’t know Evander Kane at all,” said Edmonton interim head coach Jay Woodcroft, who replaced the fired Dave Tippett in February. “What I’ve learned is he is a hockey player with really, really good habits.

“There’s a reason why he finds success.”

Markstrom, who allowed 11 combined goals in Games 1 and 2 after posting a .941 save percentage in the opening round against the Dallas Stars, got the hook in favour of Vladar to start the third with the Flames turning their attention to Game 4.

Seven points clear of Edmonton in the standings to top the Pacific Division and minus injured defenceman Chris Tanev (undisclosed) for a fourth straight contest, Calgary got a power play early in the final period looking for a spark, but Smith was sharp at every turn.

Lucic subsequently ran over the veteran netminder behind the Oilers’ net midway through the third to ignite a melee involving all 10 skaters.

“When you’re getting run through the end wall and you’re not expecting it … it’s not an ideal situation,” Smith said.

“A play out of frustration, running our goalie,” added Kane.

Smith was removed by the spotter in favour of Koskinen, who didn’t have to make a save in just over four minutes of action, before Edmonton’s starter returned to a huge ovation after re-emerging from the locker room.

Kylington got a consolation goal for the visitors — his first of the playoffs — with under five minutes to go in regulation.

The Oilers fell behind early in both games at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome, but following a wild 9-6 loss in the opener, rebounded with a 5-3 comeback victory two nights later to even the series.

Edmonton had a much better start Sunday, including Brett Kulak’s point shot that leaked through Markstrom and hit post before being cleared.

The Flames had hoped to keep the action at 5-on-5 as much as possible after McDavid, Draisaitl and the Oilers took advantage of power play, short-handed and four-on-four situations in Game 3, but took two penalties to Edmonton’s one in the first.

McDavid, who seemed to have the puck all night, went on one of his jaw-dropping rushes during his team’s second man advantage, but Markstrom was there to deny the Oilers captain in what was a sign of things to come.

“Good to come back home and play these guys on our home ice,” Kane said. “A good win for our group.”

And one he probably didn’t envision being part of not that long ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2022.

___

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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