Mediterranean Odyssey 2019 travel blog

Washroom at Cafe Saudade


Pena park

National Palace ceiling

Tiled walls

Today was our Sintra day. A 40 minute train ride into the hills north west of Lisbon.

We woke early to be sure we wouldn’t miss an early train ( or a seat!). Without much panic, and also doing a load of washing, we were out the door at about 8 am. We walked across to Rossio station, and there was a train waiting. The security man said “yes, it is going to Sintra”. C asked a couple standing nearby, and they said ( with Irish accents, “no”). J and C chatted with the couple and in a few minutes a train arrived, and this was the one. We got on - the Irish were sitting next to us!

After a slightly monotonous trip ( the views seemed to be mainly of high rise apartment blocks, with the exception of an old stone aqueduct) we pulled in to Sintra. And it was quite cool and overcast. The tops of hills we could see were shrouded in mist. We began walking down the hill, hopefully in the right direction. C needed a coffee, so we kept a eye out, and there was one over the road - Cafe Saudade. J was all for leaving because it looked crowded, but C insisted, so we went in and were directed to a table in a back room. Who was at the next table? The Irish couple! They told us that this was the place to be as they had researched it ( they were on a short holiday to celebrate their 25th anniversary. C apologised that we were following them around) there was a couple from Texas, and a chap from California, so we chatted as we drank our lattes and J and C shared a scone with jam.

We still didn’t know where we were going, or how, and we didn’t have a map. We walked down and found a ticket office - we got tickets for the National Palace of Sintra. Tickets for Pena Palace gardens, and Quinta da Regaleira are purchased at the site. We got a map but it wasn’t a great help - very stylised, and no scale. As we walked back up the road some Tuk-Tuks drove past. C hailed the second and the lady driver quoted 15euro to Pena Palace. We jumped in! And hung on for our lives. She went flat chat, often turning round to talk and point out places of interest! It was exciting! We didn’t hit anything, but we came close. The vehicle was an Italian Piaggio. The driver said it cost 10000 euros. J said “ we want one!”

She pointed out the National Palace, the Regaleira, and the Moorish Castle on top of the hill. Every so often we caught a glimpse of Pena Palace, our destination. We ignored our friends M and C, although we didn’t know it then. J and C went to get Park tickets (seniors), and the lady asked J how old he was, looking sceptical when he said 66! Then the walk started through the park to the Palace. It was quite lovely, especially as it was early, and there was dew on the trees and shrubs. Huge spiderwebs were glistening in the sun. There were lakes, an occasional stone castle -like building , flowers and huge trees. The path wound its way back and forth as it climbed ever upwards. J commented that they would both get a Polka -dot jersey as joint Kings of the Mountain today!

After about 45 mins climbing, we could see the Palace through the trees - all colours, pink, yellow, grey, blue. As we reached it, we could see hundreds of people queueing to get in. J and C were advised not to bother. We could still access all the outside terraces, visit the cafeteria, and get good views of and from the Palace. So we did. We think people would have been in the queue for 1 1/2 -2 hours- not fun. So after a. Cool drink and a good look around, we wondered where to next. ie how to get to the Regaleira Palace. Walk? But how far? So we followed the general flow of people, and soon reached an entry/exit. Clang! The sound of a penny dropping. If we had got the tuk-tuk to here, we could have walked downhill through the park!

We stopped at the cafe at the entrance for a snack and a bottle of water, then went outside. Here we were bombarded with offers of transport to Sintra ( which we didn’t want) we walked down the hill a little, and asked a policeman “how far to Regaleira?” He said “better to get a tuk-tuk.” Just then a small tuk-tuk went past and C hailed it - the driver quoted 5euros each to the next Palace. So we jumped in and hung on tightly as we sped down the hill! When close enough, she pointed out which way we would need to walk back to the National Palace and Sintra.

Into the ticket office and two unchallenged seniors tickets! C controlled the map, and we made our way up the hill to the famous Initiatic Well, and past numerous terraces, battlements, towers, caves and springs, all with beautiful large trees, some beginning to turn yellow.the walk back down to the Palace was similar and very green and peaceful ( apart from idiot young people shouting and making loud noises, and tourists from an un-named countries being generally loud and irritating. For instance, it the well, it was cramped, and one girl was blocking the walkway with her posterior while she took photo after photo. J wanted to get past but decided squeezing past might create an incident, so he asked her in polite terms to “shift her butt!”

The Palace was very ornate - Gothic Revival / Neo-Manueline architecture. Built in 1912 it is a UNESCO world heritage site. As we ended our tour we got a very strong whiff of sewerage. J thought it was just the old pipes, but as we made our way out there was a large flow of liquids bubbling up from the lawn and running down the bank. Broken pipe more like. We got out of there and started walking towards Sintra.

A gradual downhill slope winding around the hill and we came to the township of Sintra. And the National Palace was one of the first buildings. As we already had tickets we entered.

It’s a far less fancy looking building - mainly white with yellow trim, and terracotta tiles. Two strange chimney like structures are very prominent. Inside was much more interesting - painted ceilings ( on wooden boards, not plaster), carved and panelled ceilings, ceramic tiles in abundance, tiled floors, plus paintings, furniture etc. the chapel is undergoing restoration but we could look down from a balcony. The most spectacular room was fully lined all around with hand painted ceramic blue and white tiles, capped of with an incredible domed roof.

As we got to the kitchens, we encountered a rude tour group - you know the ones who think the whole experience is just for them. J got a bit irritated and forced his way through, in the nicest way! After finishing here it was a long walk, again slightly downhill to the lower part of Sintra, then a last upwards slope to the Station. All the way down were people hawking their tourist wares. Also, there were sculptures (part of a current exhibition) every 25 or 30 metres. Once we reached The uphill section, J and C desperately needed coffee and a sit down. So they stopped at Cafe Saudade and asked for a table. You guessed it - the same table out the back. After some nice coffee and even nicer tarts, we walked up to the station and climbed on the waiting train. Forty minutes later we were in Rossio station. “No more slopes and stairs” everyone cried! So we walked to the Gloria funicular. J and C’s tickets made a depressing buzz, meaning no more credit. So payment was needed. Then, a short walk to the apartment. Aaaah, a quiet relax in a comfy chair until tea.

At 7:30, J and C decided to try the recommended restaurant nearby. They found About 2 blocks away and asked for a table. Adega do Tagarro Lived up to the promise - homestyle, reasonable prices, friendly staff, nice food. Olives, bread and sardine paste to start with. Then, C had Cod cakes and rice with beans and J had mixed grilled meat and fries. C insisted on desert so they had a custard crepe with chantilly cream on top. They staggered back to the apartment. Last day in Lisbon tomorrow!

Earlier, as they left the train, C said “not much legume”. J was a bit puzzled about the subject of food coming out of the blue, and foolishly queried her. “I said there wasn’t much leg room” she replied firmly! J kept walking.......

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