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Published: February 1st 2008
"Are you with the feeling that you will return?"
That's the question the receptionist asked me when I checked us out of the hotel, just outside Lisbon. My answer "yes. of course!" And that was before we had actually been into Lisbon. Before we had seen the wide Tegas River, and watched young sailors in their little boats manuver tight cirlces, while a tanker passed under the bridge. Before we walked down narrow cobbled streets passing little ladies in their bathrobes on their way to the neighborhood bath, before we had stood by the most dramatic coast line we had ever seen. Before we had been above the roof tops and taken in the view of the river meeting the sea. We had "the feeling" we wanted to return before we realized that this was a country whose legacy was discovery.
Keith was attending a conference hosted at this resort hotel. If we were golfers, just the resort would have been enough to intice us to return. The country side that this resort is built in is peaceful. In a valley surrounded by farms and vineyards, some still having wind mills! Again I am asking alot from
my little camera, making it focus on a distant wind mill. Add to that the contrast of a modern wind tower next to an old wind mill, and you have me running all over the golf course hoping that the next hill will get me closer to my subject! It didn't, and I put a photo here anyway.
You'll see in the photos that the hotel was brand spanking new, looks as if it could be in any new developement in the states. Honestly, we were actually a little bit disappointed, we had thought it would be more 'old world'. Wait, the best was yet to come! And don't get me wrong it was a fantastic place. If we had wanted to play a round of golf, or any sort of pampering spa treatment, this place could provide it. They didn't disappoint on service! And they did arrange for me a very nice driver that took me just where I had wanted to go.
I was able to get into the old town of Sintra and to visit the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle one afternoon. Sintra is situated in the hills, north of Lisbon. The road
in the distance we could see the bridge over the Tejo River
up winds thru a forest that was planted by a king over a century ago. Their National Palace was closed the day I was there, it is the oldest surviving royal palace. Danny, the driver and my new friend, took me on a walk through the town's very narrow streets. This is the first time I've seen tiny streets and houses all jumbled up together. In this old neighborhood, stairways seem to connect the area's shops and cafes. We stopped in one where he bought me the famous little Piriquita tarts, and we enjoyed a coffee. Then we headed up the steep wooded drive to the Moorish Castle, and another world.
Living next to a Polish castle has been inspiring, but now I've seen a real fortress! High up in the hills, above Sintra is this thousand year old Moorish defense. Being here reminds me of the area around Mt. View and Sylamore, except that it's more civilized! Meaning you don't have to climb over the rocks and wade through creeks! The walkway is nice and wide leading up to the castle. Lots of evergreens and such warm temperatures, it feels like spring.
what it took to build this 1000 years ago.
see the man beside the tower
I stop myself from taking picture after picture of the boulders, since I know that one picture of a rock looks just like the next picture of a rock. (a lesson I haven't learned about ruins and palace pictures! Bear with me!!)
It is in ruins, although it's walls were restored 150 years ago, by King-Consort Don Fernando. Views were vast and inspiring. And to think about the men that built these walls and ramparts! How many did it take, how long did it take them? How many died?
Keep in mind that, in Krakow, we hadn't had much in the way of sunshine, or clear skys in weeks. This blue sky and visibility made me so happy. I'm beginning to think I need the sunshine. Being on top of this castle was a shot in the arm! Except, I was a bit scared of the height! Still, we climbed up and around all of the steps and ramparts. It's a kids castle fantasy come true! Danny points out the tops of the suspension bridge sticking out of the fog, about twenty miles away in Lisbon.
There is another place in the hills that makes this area worthy of the World Heritage sight designation, Pena Palace. From here we drive up to the palace. We got behind a group of cyclists struggling up the mountain road, and it seemed quite dangerous given the road is so narrow, and it is two way traffic. Mountain men.
A quick note - Tagus valley area is a beautiful region, and this is the first of 7 entries. Needless to say we absolutely loved it. Next entry The Palace of Pena
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