Ha-ha, why had we worried about bedbugs? These were not mattresses, they were concrete slabs. Just kidding but they felt like it. Nevertheless, we had a good night's sleep.
When we had chatted with people and they had asked where we were going James had rattled off some cities and one was Sintra. He had read about it somehow. Supposed to be a charming little town with lots of character. We had decided that Lisbon was nice but too big for us and a visit to Sintra was it for us.
Remember the Starbucksbuilding from yesterday? That is actually the local train station. Since it is so close it is easy for us to catch the 9:01 am train after the (included) breakfast at the hotel. So far the public transportation has been wonderful. Very reasonable (especially for seniors) and on time and comfy. We love it. The train takes about 45 minutes and there we are!
Sintra train station.
We start walking not really knowing what to expect. This looks like city hall.
We are walking what looks like the main street and look ... there is a castle. We think that's where we probably should go ... but it seems high. There are sightseeing buses, horse drawn carriages, all sorts of things. So we stop in at the tourist information.
We got a map at the info and just started walking towards the castle. At an intersection it said 5 minutes to the Palácio e Quinta da Regaleira. We should have known by now that Portugese 5 min are not the same but then there it was.
It was a rich man's home but seems to have quite a history. Between 1697 and 1817 it changed hands several times and was then bought by the Baroness da Regaleira. In 1893 the very rich António Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro (born to rich parents in Brazil) bought it at a public auction and then put "his touch" on it. It is so amazing and there is no way that I can describe it. I hope the pictures tell some of it. It is a mixture of beauty and amusement park but all classy. A boy growing up here must have had the time if his life.
First we went into the chapel.
There was a narrow little stairway down next to the entry/exit door. Of course we had to go there. Found ourselves in a tunnel and came out lower.
The mansion itself ... wow. Wouldn't you have dinner in this room?
The floor was all tiny little mosaic tiles. Even the blue.
See this double door? His and her hardware!
We might be at the highest terrace. The view! All the way to the ocean. All those little details. I could have spent a long time and taken 100s of pictures.
There were so many things all over the grounds. Turrets and tunnels, up and down.
I went up this one. James stayed down and ended up taking a picture of me.
A waterfall. Stepping stones which went into a tunnel too. The tunnels popped up in different places.
Almost at the top of the estate was the Initiatic Well (a "subterranean tower", that sinks some 27 meters into the earth, made accessible by a monumental spiral stairway, this hallowed space, full of esoteric and alchemical associations, makes the relation between Heaven and Earth intensely felt).
Of course it ends into a tunnel.
We were lucky that we had arrived early. Now bus loads arrived and it was time for us to go.
Again, discussion, how far might it be to the castle, which way to go, etc? We just walked ahead.
We went through narrow little streets, up, up, up. Passed a church where there seemed to be a baptism so we didn't go in.
Just before we came to this we met some people at a "you are here" sign except the where we were was missing. People were on there way back because they had given up and told horror stories about the way. Oh well ... we pressed on. My, must say I would have been better off with my hiking shoes. The very uneven granite stones and steps took there toll on my legs.
Finally we came what was marked at the old guard house and was a cafè. Yeah! Water! And some sandwiches.
Refreshed we continue.
The cafe shop lady spoke English and suggested to forget about the castle ruins but instead to continue to the Parque e Palàcio da Pena ... only another half a mile further ... uphill!
First we had to stand in line for the tickets. We splurged and got for extra 3 Euros the shuttle through the park up and back. By now we deserved this little luxury.
When the shuttle let us out we could not believe our eyes. No, this is not Disneyland. This was the summer palace of a king and queen.
Actually, it does have quite a history. In the 12th century a chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. 1503 the Convent of Our Lady of Pena was donated to the Order of the Hieronymites by the King Don Manuel I. 1755 the Monastery suffers serious damage in the great earthquake and falls into decline. In the 1800s the order is extinct, Don Ferdinando II purchases it and renovates the monastery and builds the "New Palace" with Dona Maria II, Queen of Portugal.
We have a lovely view onto the castle ruins we ended up forgoing to this. Good decision.
The dining room and bedrooms where in the old monastery part.
They were very proud of the fact that the importance of sanitation was discovered and the first bathrooms had been installed.
This is part of the new palace. This is not carved. It's all just painted.
The queen's terrace. So lovely. Spectacular view. We were sure we were seeing Lisbon.
Of course the above pictures only give an idea. There was so much to see. So much. We had sensurous overload.
The shuttle brought us back down to the gate and then the discussion ... what now. Taxi? Bus? Hey, downhill is so much easier than uphill (really? different muscles!) so we decided to go back the same way we came.
The church with the baptism earlier! ... wedding this time!
We passed a cafè saying "best view in town" and decided to try it.
Back with the train to Lisbon. As efficient as always. In the train we kept talking what a great place Sintra is and what a great time we had ... even if there were some "horrid hills".
Back to the hotel. Since we have no WiFi in the room we have to sit in the lounge to plan a little ... where to go next, when to go to England etc etc. James booked some flights and hotels via Internet. Having made big progress we decide to go to dinner. Not far again we look into a restaurant which looks quite good. Reservation? No! Eye roll! Do we mind sitting with others at a table? No! All is good. We are led upstairs.
The wall behind James is all clad in doors, upright and sideways.
Duck confit (spelling)
Night night! Enough red wine not to mind the concrete slabs.