Saturday, April 22, 2006


Sintra is considered ‘around’ Lisbon, but it was SO wonderful, and SO different from Lisbon that I figured it deserves it own, separate category. I only spent the day there, but it is definitely a place that I would go back to. It was like a medieval village in the hills, with so many trees and fragrant blooming flowers. It was a breath of fresh air, compared to Lisbon, which was at times a little smelly and quite polluted with dust. (or something else that was gritty in our teeth and throats) Out of the train station, I walked straight into the old town, or Sintra Villa. Here, there were many shops, cafes and cobble stone streets as well as the main Palacio Nacional de Sintra. My day’s agenda was to see the Castelo dos Mouros, a Moorish Castle up in the hills..and the Palacio Nacional da Pena, which is something that seems out of a fairy tale or a Colette Peters “Cakewalk” cookbook..a beautiful and whimsical castle of many colors and tiles and textures. I knew I had to see it when I saw the photos. I have discovered on this trip abroad, that I really enjoy seeing the Castellos/Palaces, Gardens and Ruins, much more so than the Museums. There is something about being outside but also being in an exhibit of a different sort. I am constantly amazed by the grandeur of some of these old castles, and I have really enjoyed wandering through the grounds and imagining what may have been taking place there many years ago.

I decided to burn off the many pastries that I have indulged in since we have been here in Portugal, and I took a scenic and long roundabout way up to the Castle and Palace. It was a peaceful forested road with many switch backs…all uphill. Along the way, I passed a few beautiful old mansions before I got to the Parque da Pena and the Castelo entrance.

Walking around the Castelo grounds, I felt like I was in the magical land of the Lord of the Rings. The castle was deep in a shaded overgrowth, in many if the land and flora had almost engulfed the ruins yet the remaining castle walls were visible enough to be able to walk from room to room and to see the outer and inner walls. Then, as you walked up the stairs, above the treeline, you were treated to this spectacular view, of the Palace de Pena, the ocean in the distance, Sintra and beyond.

Then, I made the trek up to the Palace de Pena..not without stopping for another ‘Pastis De Nata’ (custard tart) on the way..

This palace was one of the most incredible that I have seen. I just loved the colors and all the different arch ways and tiled facades. It was such a feast for my eyes, and my camera. I kept finding yet another cool angle, the greatest contrast of colors, textures and shapes. The inside was equally as impressive. Filled with relics of time past, the rooms were set up to represent what they may have looked like back in the day.

I only wish that I had a little more time to explore Sintra further. I was also sad that T opted to stay back in Lisbon for the day. I really feel like he missed out on this outing..There was much more to be seen, like a Capuchin Monestary, hidden far in the woods as well as other parks and villas. I felt as I left on the train that day, that I was not finished with Sintra, and I will definitely be back, and next time, T is coming with me!

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