It’s been a long time in between posts … I don’t even want to do the math. But I’m happy to continue writing about the epic 4 month trip J’Nell and I took in 2019. The next stop on the journey was …
Sintra, Portugal: Dates Visited – November 23-25, 2019
Just when you think Portugal cannot get any more alluring, along comes Sintra.
Hilltop castles, colorful buildings, winding streets, great food & wine, and gorgeous views almost everywhere you turn. The town is a stunner. Many just make a day trip from Lisbon, but if you have more time it’s well worth at least two nights. We did that but could have happily stayed longer.
We booked our accommodations at Casa do Vinho Sintra Guest House, right in the center of town, and the owners were extremely friendly and the room was comfy with a patio. There’s also a terrific restaurant just steps away called Santo Bife, where we had a tasty lunch along with a pitcher of Sangria served in an earthenware container. It was a perfect spot to fuel up for our upcoming adventure.
The Moorish Castle, high up on the hill overlooking the town, was next on our agenda and it would be my favorite experience here. You can take a bus (or mini taxi) to the top, or ascend the scenic walkway with your feet; we choose the latter since it was such a fine afternoon. An overall easy hike with a few steep spots, it took us about 35 minutes to get to the castle.
We then meandered up and down the ancient stone stairs of the sprawling grounds, enjoying the history and the sweeping vistas of Sintra. It’s the kind of place where you take a lot of photos and enjoy them later, but the images cannot capture what makes it special. You have to concentrate with your eyes, mind, and heart, and your memory will be better than the digital images.
Going back down the hill it began to sprinkle, and on the steep stone path while enjoying the view of Sintra below, my feet went out from underneath me. I had hiked 550 miles from France to the westernmost spot of Spain with a 20 pound backpack strapped to me, and I had not fallen once. But here I was now, after a leisurely stroll around a tourist site, slipping and sliding out-of-control toward the side of a cliff. Thankfully I didn’t careen that far, and I quickly popped up to my feet finding only scraped hands, ripped pants, and a mildly bruised ego.
About half the way down we saw a restaurant with a nice view of the town, aptly named Sintra Terrance. It ended up being a wonderful place to stop for wine, a cheese plate, and to forget about my fall. Dusk turned to dark, and continuing our descent we saw runners with numbered bibs getting ready for a road race. We popped inside a tavern at ground level for more wine and to watch the start, and then moved to an outside café at the finish line for desert, coffee, and Portuguese brandy. Thankfully they had heating lamps, as the temperature had become frigid.
The next morning we explored the Palace of Sintra, which is in the town square and a short (flat) walk from our hotel. If on a day trip from Lisbon I would probably skip it, but with extra time I’m glad we were able to visit. The azulejos (blue and white tile artwork), gorgeous ceilings, and other decorative flourishes made it an enjoyable experience.
Palácio da Pena is Sintra’s biggest tourist draw, and with good reason. The multi colored building is a feast for the eyes and has a fairy-tale feel to it. Unfortunately the day we took the bus up there, it was rainy, foggy, and overall gloomy. That being said, a super cool place to tour and I am grateful I got to see and experience it. You cannot take any photos inside the palace, which is a bummer because there was a lot of history to absorb, but I respect it.
Afterwards we had a fun (if somewhat terrifying) hurtling ride in the rain down the hill in one of the taxis that are a cross between a golf cart and a rickshaw. That evening we enjoyed a tasty dinner in a cozy restaurant called Romaria de Baco, stopped at a wine shop to purchase a bottle for our room, and then went back to Casa do Vinho Sintra Guest House to plan for our trip to the south of Portugal. Lagos and the Algarve region awaited …