Sunday: Rain this morning, but since Marji and Gary were leaving tomorrow, we decided to head to Sintra and hope for the best. The four of us settled into a cozy Starbucks (I know, right?) at the Rossio Station and waited until the next train. The dreary Sunday in Lisbon meant everyone was escaping and the train was SRO. Luckily, we found a four-set and were able to watch, comfortably, as the sky became more and more ominous. The pouring rain began in Sintra and forced us to squish into a tiny cafe where we shared a delicate apple tart until the storm passed. The theme of the day, I think, was hurry up and wait.
Finally, slightly soggy, we were able to head up the hill to the historic center and look for a Tuk-tuk, a small car with a lawnmower engine that transports people from here to there. Buuut, in the two weeks since Mike and I were here, the police changed the traffic patterns so the Tuk-tuks were now at the bottom of the hill...where we just were. Back down we went. Still faster than the bus, which had lines 2 or 3 bus loads long, we
hired our ride which included a small history lesson and tour from the driver. Reluctant as we were to listen, this guy had some great info about the Pena Palace, where we were headed, and the surrounding area.
Pena Palace: Almost noon, the four of us finally arrived at the entry to the grounds of Pena. We then walked up a steep hill through flowering gardens, to the palace. What a cool place! The story goes that sometime during the early 1800’s, Prince Ferdinand was on a hunt, when he spotted a white deer and followed it to the ruins of an old Monastery. He camped among the ruins and, when he awoke, decided to build a palace. He hired many different artists and ended up creating this colorful weekend retreat. As time went on, each King, Queen, and Countess that came along after Ferd added their personal touches, like flush toilets, a telephone system, artwork. When the 1910 revolution began, those who weren’t assassinated, fled.
With its mixture of architectural styles, every room, every nook, every cranny is different. My fave was a room where the trompe l’oeil on the walls and ceilings was so realistic that
I had to touch it. The kitchen, although not as innovative as in the National Palace, was beautiful. Outside, the sky was so clear that you could see the ocean waves, miles in the distance. Truly, we could have spent the day wandering the grounds, but we had another palace to see before heading home to Lisbon and the crowds made moving around slow.
Another tuk-tuk down the hill. At the bottom, we could smell BBQ chicken and saw a sign that said “look down.” Below us was a restaurant with a grill! Starving, we not only looked down, but we went down. Delish! Ordering a rosé with lunch, no one expected that it would be Mateus, everyone’s college first-wine and a funny SNL joke. We had to reassure the waiter that all was good when we burst into laughter at the sight of the bottle.
Quinta da Regaleira: After lunch, the walk to QdR palace was short and only a bit uphill. Everyone was running out of steam and wondering if this palace was worth the effort. Not only was it worth a visit but I wish we had done it first. I could have spent the
Although the property dates back to the18th century and had frequently changed hands, the mansion and grounds we see today were built in the early 1900’s. This place is just plain, hogwarts fun. I was giddy with excitement as we walked from the ornate palace entry up the intricate pathways. Each turn revealed another bit of whimsy, a mosaic fountain with the purest water in Portugal, a waterfall with stepping stones leading to a secret tunnel, a peaceful alcove, or a beautiful chapel. At an interesting plaza called the Portal of the Guardian, there is a series of tunnels leading to a 90’ deep spiral staircase with nine platforms, referred to Inspiration Well. It’s all mystical and masonic and nine circles of Hell and I would still be there if Mike didn’t make me leave. No restrictions, no OSHA, a kid’s Paradise.
Walking back to the train, the four of us were dragging. When we missed the return train by seconds, Uber seemed like the only answer. Best. Idea. Ever. Quick dinner at a local restaurant, then home to Glen and Karen who pulled out the bottle of champagne to toast Marji and Gary’s last night.
We all slept well...20,000 steps, most of it uphill. We needed a nap.
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