09.05.2011 - 09.05.2011 26 °C
We tried to get going early on our 21st (!) day of travel (that is 3 weeks folks!), but the stress of not having accommodations booked for our stay in Cinque Terre made our departure later than it needed to be, while we were frantically sending off emails. We took the train to Sintra today, 40 minutes from our location in Lisbon. Once we got off the train we found a map and started walking towards town. It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve been so far. The walk took us along roads with beautiful views of Sintra and the towns farther down, if you strain your eyes in the 10am sun the ocean is only a few kilometers away. We followed the signs through Sintra’s little town center to the Castle of the Moors. It ended up being quite the strenuous climb, but we were very agreeable to it, we could always use the exercise. We paid the 14 euros each (!!!) for a ticket to this castle and the Pena Palace, which we would see later.
The castle was built during the 9th and 10th centuries by the Moorish people. It has a very rich history and a strategic position in the land around it. We really enjoyed the grounds and climbing the walls. The walls had been rebuilt in the 1830’s by King Ferdinand II. The views were spectacular. We wondered all morning what it would have been like to look out over the same lands 200 years ago when most of the development wouldn’t have been there. Signs told us that there had been artifacts found dating back to 5000BC in the area. That was hard to even comprehend!
After the castle we hiked a bit further until we got to Pena Palace. The first thing you notice is it’s bright colours standing out against the blue, blue sky. This palace was built in the first half of the 1800’s, by King Ferdinand II, when he acquired the land and the monastery that was already established. The castle has many architectural elements in play that we found very interesting. Many rooms in the castle have wonderful vaulted ceilings and the styles are both medieval and Islamic. We really enjoyed touring the rooms of the castle, with all the old furniture and stylings. The views from the castle were amazing, we were on top of our part of the world. You could see for kilometers all around, as far as Lisbon . We could even see huge waves crashing on the distant beaches.
Before we left the hill entirely we explored a tiny part of the grounds. The entire grounds measure more than 200 hectares, with an eclectic collection of plants and trees from around the world (even Sequoia Red Woods). We didn’t have much time to explore so we poked around in the valley of ferns which is, as the name implies, a valley filled with a wide variety of ferns which were planted 150 years ago. They are enormous now, looking more like trees than plants! There are also 5 small man-made lakes all connected by little waterfalls and loaded with fish. And one black swan!
After our adventures on top of the mountain we walked back down to town. By the time we arrived, we were starving. We ordered the requisite pastries the town demands, queijadas and travesseiros both of which were nothing special and dined on quiche and salad for lunch. We bought a few postcards and took the train back to Lisbon. Desperately in need of clothes and not able to do laundry until tomorrow we stopped in at H&M. Shane bought a few shirts and some underwear and I got a new shirt from Springfield.
We ate dinner at the hostel. Eight euros each bought us soup, bread, 3 drinks and dessert as well as an amazing Portuguese bean stew that really knocked our socks off. And a major bonus, we could eat until we were full, the pot was on the table awaiting refills. During dinner we chatted with a German fellow, Philip, who also happened to share our three weeks of travel anniversary. We chatted about our travels, he just came from Porto too, and about Germany and the state of our food systems worldwide. Towards the end of the night he wrote us out a list of things we need to check out in Berlin and in Munich. We keep getting lucky with personal recommendations from awesome people from the places we are visiting.
And to top off the wonderful day we FINALLY got a reservation in Cinque Terre for a private room. The kicker is that were so desperate to get a room we were willing to pay up to 90 euros a night and this one comes in at 50 euros a night and it’s private! Our perseverance worked out and the universe lined up a room right on budget!