Sintra - Day 4

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April 23rd 2018
Published: April 23rd 2018
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Today we decided to take a trip to the storybook-esque town of Sintra, Portugal. We made it up the windy roads of Lisbon this morning to the train station, and found our way. The train from Lisbon to Sintra is about 45 minutes, and round trip for both of us cost about 10 Euro. Sintra has a variety of palaces, chateaus, and gardens. They also have a bus system that takes you from place to place throughout the city, because while these monuments are all in "Sintra," the walks in between can take well over an hour to get from one point to the next, and the roads are quite steep. The bus system, however, was not the most...prompt. While it saved us steps and sweat, we had a lot of standing/sitting time waiting for the buses trying to get from point to point. We had eight destinations to choose from, and narrowed the list down to four. I really only wanted to go to Sintra for the Palace of Pena, so the rest were going to be added bonuses!

Our first stop in Sintra was to the Monserrate, which was a palace built in the 16th century. It had a variety of owners over the years, but the most notable was Sir Francis Cook beginning in 1855. Cook renovated the Palace and was inspired by both Venetian gothic architecture and the Alhambra in Granda, Spain. While looking around the Monserrate, it contained an overwhelming amount of Moorish influence. Unfortunately, most of the original furniture and artifacts were sold in an auction in 1946 by another owner. The building today contains mostly renovated architecture, information about the Palace's history, and a few artifacts. When you entered the Palace, there was a fountain in the middle, with two long arched hallways leading to a variety of rooms in either direction. It almost looked like a mirror's reflection with all of the different archways going each direction. The Monserrate also had a Fern Garden, Mexican Garden, and a Rose Garden. Cody and I spent the most time in the Mexican garden, looking at agave, cacti, and and aloe vera. The gardens alone took us 45 minutes to walk through. We would highly recommend the visit to the Monserrate!!

The second stop was to the Quinta de Regaleira. This palace contained more Gothic architecture with many gargoyles, and reminded us both of the Beauty and the Beast castle, especially with the sharp points at the top of each tower. We first walked through the gardens, which contained a tower you could climb up as well as a grotto. The grotto was one that you could walk through the caves. It was so dark we had to put our cell phone flashlights on to be able to see, but kept getting dripped on with water from the cave water above. This was probably the coolest part of the Regaleira. Unfortunately, the second floor of the palace was under renovations, so we were limited in what we could see on the inside. There was also a chapel on the grounds, which was very beautiful.

The next stop on our list was the Palacio National de Sintra. The walk from the Regaleira to the Sintra Palace was only about 15 minutes (and mostly downhill!), so we decided to walk it. This palace was probably our least favorite stop of the day. The royal family inhabited the palace from as early as the 15th century through the 19th century. We were able through the rooms, the most interesting one being the kitchen. The Palace has two large smokestack chimneys, which we learned were from the stoves. This was our quickest stop, as there were no impressive gardens to make our way through on these grounds.

While we were waiting for the bus, we decided to give up. We had waited for over 20 minutes for a bus, and when the only one who came by was so full they could not fit any more people, we decided to walk to the Palace of Pena, the actual reason I wanted to go to Sintra. The walk was 50 minutes of almost exclusively uphill, so to say we didn't talk much to each other was an understatement. We were too focused on huffing and puffing all the way up. After making the uphill battle to the top, we received our tickets to the gardens and palace..and learned it was another 10 minute uphill trek to the palace entrance (oh joy). But, we made it!! And boy was it worth it. The palace contained all kinds of artifacts, furniture, and architecture true to the time period it was in use. The outside of the palace are bright yellows and reds, with a lot of cylindrical towers, making it look like the Little Mermaid palace. This was a royal palace as well, and the gardens were too large for us to walk through before closing at 20:00. We did make it to the High Cross, which was built on the orders of King Jao III in 1522. The cross is on the highest point of Sintra, about 528m above sea level. This was our last major uphill trek of the day, but it gave us views of the palace, as well as over all of Sintra. This was our favorite palace of the day, followed by Montserrat, Regaleira, and then the Palacio National de Sintra.

We managed to take the bus down to the train station of Sintra, and rode the train back to Lisbon. We took an easier walk along the coast on our way back, versus trying to navigate the windy hilly streets of Lisbon. We ended up at a Fado restaurant for dinner about half a block from our Airbnb. We enjoyed woodpecker pork (it's so good you keep picking at it...and it was very good!), as well as the flaming chorizo. During our meal they had live Fado performances by the owners daughter as well as a 13 year old boy who is a family friend. The musicians seemed to enjoy the music more than yesterday's Fado musicians, and the dinner was delicious. This was a great way to wrap up our time in Lisbon.

Tomorrow we fly to Barcelona! I am beyond ready for more tapas and paella. Cody says to spite me we won't eat tapas or paella for the rest of the trip, but we obviously know who will win the battle. 😊

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