Sintra

In the last post, we had left off at us checking into the hotel. We showered and lay around for a bit but quickly realized we needed to get up and go. We only had one day in Lisbon so we needed to make the most of it. The problem was that we were pretty exhausted and didn’t have a lot of good ideas. We wandered back to the commercial plaza and started casting around for ideas. Everyone had recommended Sintra but we just didn’t have the energy to figure out the public transit/train/etc. to get there so we took the lazy route and paid for a tour bus.

That turned out to be a great idea. Sintra was about a half hours drive away and I’m sure that other people on the tour were laughing at the couple who paid for the tour and wound up nodding off most of the way there but a quick nap really refreshed us and let us make it through the rest of the day.

How to describe Sintra? Picture a bunch of hills with palaces on the taller ones surrounded by narrow, winding cobblestone streets barely wide enough for a car, never mind a bus. Streets go up and down and around with sharp turns, steep inclines and dead ends. Very pretty. It explains why most of the buses have their mirrors protruding out the front like antennae rather than sticking out the sides. You need every inch you can get. We only had an hour but we were starved so we wasted about 20 minutes in a cafe having a sandwich and a coffee. The place where the bus dropped us was only close to one of the palaces so we only got a brief look but we managed to wander around long enough to realize you could easily spend a whole day or more there.

Here’s a typical road sign that you might see on a wall or side of a building.

road sign

An example of some of the tile mosaics you find on peoples houses. You can buy these huge mosaics, some several square meters in size, in almost any tile or souvenir store. I wasn’t kidding about the tiles. As you will see later, quite often the outside of entire buildings are tiled.

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Sharon looking at some stores. What are those things by the postcards? Could they be some tile mosaics?

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View down a street.

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Typical street in Sintra that shows how the entire town is carved into the hills so that the houses are all perched up above each other. This is a two way street. Buses go down this street. You have no idea the respect we have for the skills of bus drivers in this country. So many blind corners that its very common to see convex mirrors perched on walls so that people can see oncoming traffic without sticking halfway out into the street.

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Some views around town.

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Note the palace up the hill.

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Tower of one of the palaces.

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Looking down the hill.

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The bus tour included more than just Sintra so next we got to drive along the coast and see two more sights. The first is the easternmost point in continental Europe, a place called Cabo da Roca. Very impressive site.

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The second was the seaside community of Cascais which is the place where the rich and famous live when the come to the Lisbon area. Sharon wrote a note in her book: “Plan: live here in 20 years.” We were running late so we only got to stop for a little bit but here’s a view of the marina downtown. You’ll just have to take our word for it. It’s very nice. Beautiful beaches with windsurfers and kite boarders, gorgeous homes, etc.

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Finally the bus dropped us off back at the Plaza Commercial and we slowly wandered back towards our hotel. It was around 6 or 7pm and we saw a couple of interesting looking restaurants on the way and made plans to change into nicer clothes and head back out for dinner. I’d love to tell you that we went out for a great meal our first day in Portugal but the actual case is, we ate a couple leftover Pasteis in the room and were fast asleep by about 8pm after more than 36 hours of wakefulness. 36 hours is a long day but you can sure get a lot done.

In the morning we woke up mostly crippled and hobbled around like senior citizens for quite a while before loosening up. A day of sitting on planes and buses, climbing up and down cobblestone streets and stairs plus a 12 hour, non-moving corpse-like sleep on a hard mattress apparently adds about 50 years. Who knew? Tune in next time for the castle and the road trip.

Kris

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