30 October 2008

Sintra is for Lovers

The next day, we woke up bright and early (I did, at least; my roommates woke up about 15 minutes before we had to be at breakfast). Let me tell you, the Hotel Marques de Pombal serves a mean breakfast. They had scrambled eggs (some with parsley, some without), mushrooms, sausage, bacon, ham, etc, and then there was a variety of yogurt, and a lot of bread and pastries (these were free, fortunately), some cereals, juices, cheeses, all that good stuff. I personally love scrambled eggs with mushrooms and croissants so I went a little crazy. Oh and also I went crazy with the almond pastries with apple jam. Delish.

The plan for the day was to day trip to Sintra, a neighboring village and municipality. It's a pretty quaint area. I guess they could totally have city status if they wanted, but they keep refusing so that they can keep township status and be more appealling to tourists or whatever. We got there in our tour bus, but after that we had to wait for a local bus to take us up to the first castle, Palacio da Pena. While we were waiting for that bus, I took a few pics of some hydrangeas that were behind us.

The bus took us up steep hills, through a very mystical-looking forest, to the front gate of the castley area, and from there we had to walk up through some more mystical-looking forests to the actual castle. Pena isn't very old, as castles go, but it does have a rich history. I guess the legend goes that a super long time ago, the Virgin Mary appeared on the same hill, and eventually there was a monastery built on the site. Like everything else in the area, the monastery was ruined by an earthquake in the 18th century, and the area was untouched for a while. Then one day the king came riding through and was like, "This would be a sweet spot for a castle." So he built one, employing all sorts of random architectural styles, and today it is Palacio de Pena.

What were some of the sweet things we saw there. . . oh yeah, a 360 view of everything, a big huge monster carved over a doorway, lots of tiles, a forest that looked a lot like Narnia, that kind of thing. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the palace unfortunately. (Not that that stopped half the people in our group from totally ignoring our tour guide and trying.)

After that we trekked back through Narnia down to the village, and we got a little break to do lunch and explore before our next tour. My group got lunch at a little restaurant run by a guy who called us his "American babies" and insisted that we try the almond tart (it was very, very good). Then we hit up the souvenir shops- I bought a little pin that says "Sintra is for Lovers" which I thought was just about the best thing ever, plus a gift for a certain sister's boyfriend.

Then we regrouped to vis the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, which is quite a bit older than Pena, but less pretty. There were a lot of beautiful tiles inside of it, though. One of the rooms, the Magpie Room, is so called because the queen caught the king kissing one of her ladies-in-waiting, and to stop all the rumors, the king had the ceiling and walls of this entire room painted with magpies, one for each woman at court, and in their beaks they carry the motto "Por bem," or "for honor." I'm not really sure why the magpies though. . . did they have Heckle and Jeckle back in the 16th century?

Then we got back on the bus and headed back to Lisbon. . . or so we thought. We drove out to the coast, to a place called Cabo da Roca, or something like that. It's the westernmost point of mainland Europe, and it's 140 meters above the sea. We all hopped the fence and sat on the edge of the cliff to try and be the most western of all. It was amazing. To the north we could see some of the coastline, and one of the girls asked me if it was the United States.

We could only stay twenty minutes, and then it was back to Lisbon. Everyone separated to go out to dinner and such, and I met up with this awesome pirate.

Pirates are really big in Lisbon, turns out. There was a pirate exhibit at the pirate museum in Sintra, we passed a pirate holding a menu for a restaurant in Sintra (standing next to a scuba diver and a shark), we saw the Pirate Bar on one of the main streets in Lisbon, and then there was this pirate in front of a convenience store. There should be that many pirates everywhere.

1 comment:

Jen and Jeff said...


We got your postcard...Thanks!! We are glad you are having a great time! We miss you, and we will come visit as long as you can pay the way! :)

Jen and Jeff