Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sintra and other points of interest

Sintra is a town and a region in the hills in the greater metropolis of Lisbon. We arranged for a guided tour so on Saturday our guide picked us up about 8:30 for the drive to Sintra and our first stop at what he called the most beautiful castle in Portugal, the Palace of Pena, at the top of the tallest hill on a twisty road through a beautiful forest. And he was right. It is gorgeous. Built around a monastery dating from 1511 and abandoned in 1834, King Ferdinand refurbished the monastery for a holiday retreat and then added a new wing in the mid 1800s. At the same time, he ordered the empty hillsides to be planted with trees from all over the world and with gardens and winding paths. The hill is now forested with over 500 different trees. Link for more info. The palace reflects influences from the Moors, the Templars, and German romanticism. The red section is the old palace built from the monastery and the yellow and tiled section is the new palace.

the Neptune gate

some of the elaborate detail is carved stone

some is carved wood

some is trompe l'oeil

a niche tiled with sea shells, a space for monks to meditate in solitude

view from an upper terrace

After touring the castle our guide gave us an hour to wander the town 

Portuguese pottery, I regret now not bringing back at least a small plate

before we headed to the beach for a really nice lunch at a family run hotel and then off to the western most point of Europe.

We returned to Lisbon driving along the shore and passed under the aqueduct started in 1731 and though still unfinished began bringing water to Lisbon in 1745. In 1755, a devastating earthquake struck Lisbon destroying the city but not one stone was lost from the aqueduct. Modern engineers still claim the aqueduct over the Alcantara Valley couldn't have been built, especially the largest pointed arch, but there it stands.

image via Wikipedia

The last point of interest our guide showed us before dropping us back at the apartment was the last remaining section of the defensive wall built by the Moors when they occupied the southern part of Portugal in the 8th century, finally being defeated by King Alfonso in the mid 12th century.

last: azulejo, the Portuguese tiles



  1. Oh my GOD! How did they even conceive of such a structure? I'm talking about the castle but the aqueduct as well. Just...sometimes I truly believe that the human race peaked a while back. In some ways, at least. I never realized how many different influences Portugal contains. Frankly, I've never really even though much about Portugal. Isn't that crazy?

    1. me either. it's like the hidden jewel of Europe. and I think you're right, the human race peaked centuries ago.

  2. That castle is beyond simple description. Think of the legions of artisans employed. Ferdinand was the Trump of his time, and the artisans went to their graves begging payment for their work. Including the poor sods who brought in all the trees and dirt and dug all the holes. As lovely as it all is, and awesome and "inspiring", like much of the existing world, it is built on the backs of the masses who were not paid a day's wage for a day's work. End of rant.

  3. Beautiful! I didn't make it to Sintra when I visited Lisbon, so it's nice to see what I missed! Those colors are amazing.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us - it's just been amazing!

  5. I just had to keep l;ooking back and forth on these pictures. What a gem to have found, I have never seen anything so beautiful!

  6. Ok, spending all day with this post. Thanks. Such a glorious place! Using some photos for screen savers. Astonishing and so well photographed, LOVE

  7. I've actually been there, years ago. Thanks for giving me a return trip. I loved Portugal.


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