Monday, March 8, 2010

Portugal Trip Part 6 - Sintra

On my final day in Portugal I was planning on taking a train out to the hills around Lisbon to Sintra, where there are a couple of former royal palaces (Portugal is no longer a monarchy). However, I overslept until about 10 AM, so I checked out of the hostel and wandered around the city debating whether I should go out to Sintra or to the Oceanarium near where my bus would leave from at that night at 9. During this period I decided to use my casino winnings to buy a few bottles of port as gifts for my and Beth's parents, which although a nice gesture I'm sure ended up being a mistake when I decided to go see the palaces, since I now had to lug both my heavy backpack and the bottles of wine all day. I don't regret buying them, though, I just regret not planning it better.
So I went to Rossio station to catch the train, which took about 40 minutes (I assume - I fell asleep and when I woke up I was alone on the train sitting in the Sintra station). It was a bit of a hike from the train station to the first palace, which is located in the downtown area of Sintra, a very pretty little town, but it was completely flat (for now) so my wine bottles and I set off to see the sights.

Rossio train station

View of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra from across a little valley

This palace was a popular summer getaway from Lisbon for the Portuguese kings. Those two weird cones are chimneys for the kitchen.

More of those azulejo tiles, and a very ornate ceiling

The exterior of the palace was filthy. You'd think with it being a national monument and all, they'd powerwash it every once in a while.

I sighted another palace/castle on top of the hill! Now I wonder how you get up there?

Said palace is the Castelo dos Mouros, and luckily I didn't have to climb up to it because the waiter who served me my very Portuguese hamburger and coke for lunch told me where the bus stop was. What followed was probably the most harrowing bus ride of my life, and I've ridden some buses (Norway, anyone?). The hairpin turns were nothing new, and yes, the narrowness of the road made the passing descending vehicles a little interesting, but what truly set this route apart was the poor condition of the pavement. So I bumped and twisted up the mountain, hoping these castles up here were worth carbonating the wine I was toting. After what felt like forever but was probably only about 15 minutes, I arrived at the Palácio Nacional de Pena. Photos weren't allowed inside, but I wasn't really blown away; many of the "royal chambers" were smaller than our living room in Richmond.

That's not to say that the outside of the palace wasn't impressive

Fairytale-like

A very awesome, very dirty palace

Crap! I overshot the Moorish Castle . . .

A king's view of the Atlantic

After leaving the Pena Palace I walked down the road to the Castelo dos Mouros, which you have probably figured out by now means Moorish Castle. It was constructed when the Arabs were in control of the entire Iberian Peninsula but fell into ruins after the Christian reconquest and was restored in the 1800's in keeping with the Romantic style of the era (the literary/artistic movement Romanticism, nothing to do with candlelit dinners and rose petals). Compared with the other two palaces we've visited so far, this one is much more . . . rustic.

One of the gates into the castle, with only about 4 1/2 feet of clearance. Those Arabs must have been really short!

A ruined church outside the main gate. Funny story, when they were restoring the castle in the 1800's this church still had it's roof, but they decided it would look more "Romantic" this way.

Part of the wall running through the woods

Hey, I can see the Palácio Nacional de Sintra from here!

Yeah, I climbed those battlements. The sun being right in my face kind of prevented me from getting any good pictures up there though.

Man, I love taking pictures of flags

After walking along every treacherous wall of the Moorish Castle I caught the bus back to the train station and went back to Lisbon. The rest of my evening was uneventful: lost 40 euros at the Casino Lisboa (you gotta quit when you're ahead, kids), at some steak and eggs in the Vasco da Gama Mall food court, and got into a fight with the rudest bus station employee in Portugal (long story, but apparently I was supposed to have ESP to know where to catch my bus to Madrid). Finally I settled in on the overnight bus to Spain, looking forward to getting back to a country where I understand most of the language.

9 comments:

  1. Excellent post, as usual. I very much enjoyed my carbonated port, by the way...

    DAD

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  2. Hey,Patrick,
    I loved this post. The photos are beautiful and I don't see how Paris will be able to compare to Portugal. Maybe we should just go to Lisbon! Can't wait to read the next installment. I think your time in Europe is the best money we ever spent.
    Love, Mom

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  3. Hi,Patrick.
    Wow! Your photos are beautiful. Of course my favorite is the one of you with the "king's view of the Atlantic"! Why is it that you'll swim in the Atlantic there, but not NC? The post was quite entertaining,too, and I'm waiting for the next installment. Your time in Europe is the best money we have ever spent! Love you.
    Mom

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  4. Port? That was PORT? Oops...

    Just kidding.

    Dawn

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  5. Patrick, I talked to your Mom last night...lucky I remembered it was her birthday. We were talking about family talent as far as telling and writing stories and she reminded me about your blog. I'm so glad she did. It is amazing and I know you're having a wonderful time. Forget all that climbing but I sure wish I were at the casino with you!

    Love, Aunt Mary Ann

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  6. That Moorish castle is my fav, but since when is topless so romantic? Whoops, now I get it.

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  7. I love reading about your adventures and looking at your amazing photos. If you decide that engineering is not for you, consider a career with National Geographic; you're a natural travel writer. Love, Aunt Connie

    PS for Mom and Dad--sorry, but it's the truth!!

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  8. The Pena Palace and view are my favorite shots yet, especially the king's view...Portugal is moving up my list...Tim

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