Jan 18, 2017

Magical Sintra

While we were in Lisbon John and I decided to take a half-day trip out of the city. We had visited Sintra years ago but I was so impressed with Pena Castle that we decided to take the Sintra daytrip instead of the trips that went to the beach and/or Fatima. They were too long.

Sintra is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered the most romantic town in Portugal. The guide provided an interesting documentary on the way as we passed various sites including the impressive 11-mile Livres Aqueduct that was built in the 1700s to transport water by gravity from the mountains to Lisbon. 

Sintra is a resort town surrounded by forest and where the royalty would escapee the heat of Lisbon. There is a thousand-year old palace in the center of town.  We chose not to tour it and instead enjoyed the view and walked around the town. There were shops that sold Portuguese tiles and yummy Pasteis de Nata, a small pastry shell filled with thick cream – a Portuguese favorite.

There is nothing quite like Pena Palace. It is high on a hill accessed by a heart-stopping narrow, twisty road. Bus drives need to take special training before they are allowed to drive a bus up the hill.  I’m impressed that John drove the rental car up the hill on our last trip. The views are impressive. Legend has it that King Manuel I was hunting on the mountain top and saw Vasco da Gama’s fleet entering the Tagus River on their return from India. 

Pena Palace is like something out of a fairy tale. Created at the
direction of King Ferdinand II it is yellow, white, and rose-colored in Manueline and Moorish architectural styles. There are turrets, gargoyles, arches, colorful tiles, towers all ornately embellished. That is on the outside. It is surrounded by a park of forests and gardens. The palace is constructed so that that it is visible from everywhere in the park. The guided tour
meanders through many of the palace’s rooms – all elegant with very ornate furniture. King Ferdinand II left the governing of the country to others so he could devote his time to the arts; he is dubbed the “Artist King.” There was an astrolabe on display. The astrolabe is one of the inventions that made it possible for the “Age of Discovery” to take place as it was a more accurate way to determine distance and location.  It was exploration that made Portugal one of the riches countries in Europe in the 15th century. Pena Palace is one of my favorite buildings. 

On the way back to Lisbon the bus stopped for a hazy look at Cabo
de Roca, the western most point of Portugal and mainland Europe.  We made another stop to see the sunset. Our last stop was at Boco do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth).  It is best seen in the winter or during a storm when the tide is high when the ocean
waters are funneled through a narrow opening into a collapsed cave making a “devil” of a sound. The “devil” was sleeping when we stopped – the tide was out and the ocean was calm. Cabo do Roco and Boco del Inferno are near the seaside city of Cascais which is where we stayed 20 years ago. I was impressed with the changes. Now there is a paved walkway from the city along the ocean to the sites.