Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Under the Sintra Sun

view over Sintra
Sintra is amazing! As we expected, it has the quaint cobblestone streets & charming alley ways leading to artisan shops and eateries, what we did not expect was just how magical it would be.
We arrived by train and walked to `"Cinco", the B&B where we are staying. Through an unassuming green door we entered a beautiful garden where our host lives in her house, behind which is our cottage. We have full amenities, including a living room that opens up onto our own private garden courtyard with a table & chairs overlooking a picturesque valley. We were both delighted, but Betty Lou in particular is in heaven.
view from Cinco, Sintra
Upon getting settled, we decided to walk to the Palacio da Pena, Sintra´s star attraction. It is a beautiful palace, exuberant and romantic in its color & design, perched on a lushly forested mountain top. We decided to walk, but after an hour in the heat we flagged down a bus (we discovered later that we had accidentally opted for the long road). I must mention how beautiful the forest is and that it smelled like flowers and herbs and was filled with exotic birdsong.
Palacia da Pena - Sintra
The palace really was spectacular - it almost seemed like it ought to have been at Disneyworld and the views from it into the town and surrounding valley were beautiful.
From the palace we walked to another peak on the mountain where there sits an 11th Century Moorish castle. The castle is so cool. ("This is so cool!" being the phrase i exclaimed repeatedly while there.) The castle walls are precariously built atop the mountain and walking the ramparts takes you up and down along cliffs. It was like being in a medieval book or movie.
Moorish Castle - Sintra
At the end of all this hiking, we were drenched with sweat and satisfaction. We had a wonderful lunch in the village, followed by a nap and decadent desserts before returning to our courtyard to watch the sun set.
Today we went to the Quinta de Regaleira, a palace dating back centuries, but redesigned in the 1800s by an eccentric Brazillian coffee baron, known as Monteiro dos Milhoes ("Moneybags Montiero"). He hired a designer of Italian opera sets to create a lavish and magical garden setting for the palace, as well as the interior which was full of symbolic elements of alchemy, religion, and free masonry. The palace is interesting, but the real treasure is the grounds surrounding it. They are filled with turrets and walls, pools, grottos, flora, and fountains and, best of all in my opinion, super cool underground tunnels leading to different parts of the park! Some of these tunnels were lit and others were pitch black, making us wish we had brought lights. It was just amazing. I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
We just had a delicious lunch and the rest of the day is free. Tomorrow morning we catch the train back to Lisbon and then take a bus to Fatima.
We are both extremely happy.
me on the Moorish castle

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