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Europe/Africa 2014: Day 02 (Portugal 02): Oct 06


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Sintra!

After a quick breakfast at the hostel, we head out to Rossio station to take the train. Approximately 40 minute ride.

Once there, with all the other tourists, we purchase a single loop ticket for 5 euro. This allows us a one way hop on and hop off bus ticket through the Sintra area. Great idea. The first ride is quick, into the small town at the base of the hill where the National Palace of Sintra is located. A bunch of hills that lead to souvenir shops, bakeries, restaurants, etc. Our first stop, Piriquita, a famous bakery in the area. So good. Love pastries. We got the travesseiros, a flaky puff pastry… We decided to skip this palace and go to the next stop, the Castle of the Moors.

A great hike up, around, within the Castelo dos Mouros. The great views of nature and medieval architecture. It was definitely a fun place to explore. If you can’t tell, we didn’t learn much about it’s history. [Wikipedia], there we go. Looping back from the top of the hill, and back to the bus, we head to the Pena National Palace.

The line up looked fairly long, it was a good thing we purchased a combo ticket back at the castle so we just cut through. After a short hike up the road and stairs from the entrance, we arrive at the Palace. There was a lot of maintenance going on unfortunately, but it was still very interesting. The facade was very solid and colorful, red, yellow, white and the intricate sculptures and tiles you’d expect. Several terraces to walk out on and take in the view… We finally walk inside, through a series of rooms to get an idea of its long history. Collections of art, furniture, sculptures, interiors. The most interesting part of each room for me would be the ceilings, there was one technique used called trompe-l’oeil that creates the optical illusion of relief sculpture through painting. It was very interesting.

The Pena National Palace estate also includes a large garden area, the Pena Park. A number of trails through led to different monuments, sculptures… We made our way to the statue of The Warrior, a huge sculpture of a solider holding a pike standing on top of a mountain of rocks. A trail did not lead up to it unfortunately, we got up there and a couple was already trying and failed, haha. Next we wanted to see the Temple of Columns but for some reason, we couldn’t find it so we continued up to Cruz Alta, the highest peak in Sintra with the cross. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but also not very… worth it. Oh wells. Coming back down, we finally found the temple, hidden amongst the trees. Also not that interesting, hahaha, but we found it~… Making our way through the park was very nice, walking in the forest, refreshing. The Valley of Lakes, a series of lakes that wind through the park leading to the exit. I just read this now, but the King that had the palace built also ordered trees from distant lands. From ginkgo trees of China to sequoia trees from North America…

Jumping back on the bus, we wanted to get back to town and walk to another palace that was not part of the bus pass we purchased, Quinta da Regaliera. We were in luck, the bus we got on was heading back in reverse order, not affecting our single loop ticket. It just… took a bit to get there… and when we finally did arrive back to the National Palace of Sintra, we missed the stop. *sigh. We ended up back at the train station and walked back in 15 or so minutes. And visited the bakery again :3

Quinta da Regaliera… was an awesome palace. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t research anything, you get surprised and love it more, haha. The actual palace was very dark and Gothic, the rooms inside essentially contained plans, drawings, detailed architectural stuff for the palace itself and the surrounding area. It was not as lavish as what Pena Palace had shown.

Walking out into the gardens, we explored a couple of buildings and the church had a staircase that led down, that led outside into the front garden. We kept making our way through to the Waterfall Lake. When we got there, there was a bridge that led up and a staircase that led down. Down to the water. Naturally, I went down to the water, there was a series of rocks that made a path, that hopefully led somewhere… Called Leda’s cave. It really felt like we were exploring and discovering pathways… After several pictures, the cave kept going, underground tunnels! Although one was gated off, we continued through and split to find the Initiation Wells. Apparently never used as wells, but ceremonial purposes like Tarot Initiation rites. We came upon a well was built purely of stone looking up from within, it was rough and well camouflaged, but it actually has stairs and several levels. We walked up but decided we wanted to continue exploring the tunnels. The second path we took led to a second Initiation well, this time with refined stone walls and stairs, and nooks along the walls that could have fit a person. I can only imagine the sight… It was amazing already. The two top levels had paths that led outside, they were stone slabs that were able to spin that could have been really looked over, adding to the mysteriousness of the palace grounds… By the time we got up the second well and taken a lot of pictures, the palace was closing! We had to make our way to the exit somehow… But of course, we had to make it interesting. Back down into the well and through the tunnels into the last path. It did not lead to another well. But still nice :P… Walking through the garden again, through buildings, staircases, random paths, the place was almost completely deserted. The exit was a one-way door, I guess allowing stragglers to leave without the assistance of staff. So much fun.

Back into town! Gelato 🙂

After our pit stop, we walked back to the station and caught our train back to Rossio.

Dropping our stuff off at the hostel, dinner at Cantinho do Avillez which served some good Portuguese dishes. We had partridge meat pies, I had a flaked cod, while Karen and Michelle had steak sandwiches then followed with Hazelnut dessert. Mmm… Good food, good conversation.

Finally getting to shower and sleep.

Castle of the MoorsPena National PalaceTrompe-l'oeilCruz AltaQuinta da Regaleira, Leda's CaveQuinta da Regaleira, Initiation WellQuinta da Regaleira, Initiation WellGelato di CafeFlaked cod with bread crumbs, LT egg and “exploding” olives

Castelo dos Mouros, Pena National Palace, Trompe-l’oeil, Cruz Alta, Quinta da Regaleira – Leda’s Cave, Initiation Well, Initiation Well, Gelato di Cafe, Cantinho do Avillez – Flaked cod with bread crumbs, LT egg and “exploding” olives

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