Sintra celebrates beauty. Here are some pictures to share.
Our quiet guesthouse:
Our breakfast, cafe com leite and delicious custard tarts called Pastels de Nata:
Garden paths, lovingly tended:
In the morning we’ll be on the train to Sacavem to resume our Caminho. Sintra, you’ve been wonderful!
8/27 – if you look way up when standing on the main street of Sintra, you can see the battlements of a castle on top of the mountain in the distance. Today we took a bus 3 miles up the mountain, to walk among the ruins of the 8th century Moorish Castle, Castelo dos Mouros. Time and earthquakes have brought down most of the structure, but the turrets and walls that remain provide a wonderful view of the countryside below.
One of the things you can see from the castle is the visually striking Pena National Palace. Originally a monastery from the Middle Ages, it was mostly destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, then restored in the early 1800s by young King Ferdinand. It has tiled walls, trompe l’oeil, minarets, Moorish arches, and whatever else struck the royal family’s fancy.
The tour displayed lots of rich-people stuff. My favorite was the kitchen:
We walked through the natural gardens that surround the palace, and climbed to the mountain summit to see the High Cross:
From the Cross, we looked down on the palace below:
Enough climbing for one day – time for a nap!
8/26 – there once was a millionaire who wanted the best estate ever. He hired landscapers to make the gardens magnificent, and added underground tunnels, secret grottoes, waterfalls, Rapunzel towers, and everything you ever dreamed in a fairy tale. He added secret Masonic and alchemy references, and threw in some stuff from the Knights Templar for good measure. The result is Quinta da Regaleira.
Here is the Inverted Tower, or Initiatic Well, that links earth and sky. Climb down the wet stone stair to reach underground tunnels to the chapel and the lake:
We climbed up winding paths, crawled down dark tunnels, hopped on stepping stones across a lake, and came home exhausted. What a place!
8/25 – As our train left Lisbon behind, we saw mile after mile of high rises and urban landscape. Then, 30 minutes later, we were in a land of fairy tale castles. Welcome to Sintra! On our first afternoon, we just walked around to get our bearings:
We peeked into a park with papier mâché animals, where a little old man played El Condor Pasa on his recorder:
We’re going to enjoy the beauty and the quiet for the next few days.
8/24 – we are in Lisbon for one more day. What should we see? Not too far away is the Igreja Sao Roque, or the Church of Saint Rocco. This is the oldest Jesuit church in Portugal, and perhaps the most ornate. At the time it was being built (1700s), the Portuguese explorers were bringing more gold and jewels home from Brazil and the new world than anyone knew what to do with. Many of the riches ended up here. Here is one of the large gold candlesticks, over six feet tall:
Here is a bone of Sao Roque himself, in a gold reliquary:
This church has so many saint parts, that there are two reliquary chapels on either side of the main altar, one for male bones, and one for female bones:
If you are not familiar with Saint Rocco, he is always depicted as having sores on his leg, and is accompanied by a dog offering him a loaf of bread:
We are staying at the Lisbon Amazing Hostel, so every morning we meet different people at breakfast. Today we met a Chinese couple who are going to grad school in Milan, and have come to Portugal for a summer holiday. They are getting Masters degrees in business. It turns out that David (his chosen Anglican name) already owns several factories, and the degree will help them to run the companies better. As we ate toast and jam, he asked us what type of vegetable oil was the healthiest – he was thinking of starting another company to import healthy oil to China! We marveled at his ingenuity.
As an antidote to the noise and crowds of Lisbon, we are taking the train 30 minutes west to the delightful town of Sintra, where we will spend several days walking through gardens and castles before resuming our Caminho. The New York Times featured a travel section on Sintra just last week, so we fear it is no longer an undiscovered idyll, but we shall see!