Back in 2015, it wasn’t my idea to go to Portugal, it was definitely Pete’s. It was important to him to go there and go there soon. So that’s what we did, we started planning our trip for the spring of 2016. Not that I didn’t want to see Portugal, I mean, I want to see everywhere. But there are certain countries that are on my priority list and some that aren’t. Portugal was not. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
With our impending departure date steadily approaching, I started to research. Pete’s more of a ‘fly by the seat of his pants’ type of person, and as much as I love the idea of that, I’m afraid if I don’t do extensive research prior to a trip, I may miss out on something and regret it. After all, who knows if I’ll ever be back. Throughout my pre-trip investigations I came across some of the most beautiful pictures I’d ever seen of the tiny town of Sintra. Sintra is only about 20 miles west of Lisbon, which was ultimately our goal. I convinced Pete to spare one of our days in Lisbon and take the hour long train ride over to give it a look. It didn’t take much convincing.
Morning of departure, from Lisbon to Sintra, was not easy, as I had fallen in love with Lisbon. But I’d be back at the end of the day (I’ll save the stories from Lisbon for another time). Our hotel was centrally located near the Rossio train station. A quick 5 minute walk and we were in line to buy tickets, which were less than $5 round trip.
Whenever we take a day trip out-of-town, we like to leave as early as we can, so not a minute is wasted. We can sleep when we’re dead, right? As early as we were, we assumed the train would be full with morning commuters zipping from one town to the next. But it was actually very comfortable and not at all crowded. The trip itself was full of amazing scenery and even gave us a glimpse of the colorful Pena Castle just as we were about to arrive.
Upon exiting the train, we were a little confused about which way to start walking, I mean we saw Pena Castle, but it was up, way up. On one side of the train station we saw teams of tourism buses rumbling and ready to take our fellow travelers off to their chosen destination in Sintra and on the other side, drivers for hire. Luckily one of them was kind enough to point us in the right direction. I’m sure the drivers would have given a reasonable rate, but we always think half of the journey is getting there. We walked for maybe 15 minutes and started realizing why those drivers were there. In front of us we could see a road slowly winding up the hill. But with such incredible scenery, our morning stroll breezed by.
Pete and I came to the historic centre in Sintra and as we paused for a moment to take it all in, a few of those buses stopped dropping off their first customers of the day. We resumed walking and quickened our pace. We were headed for the Quinta da Regaleira and intended on being the first in line! A few minutes later, we arrived to claim the lead at the front of the gate.
Opening at 10 am and costing about $7, it was obvious that this was going to fill up the majority of our day. The grounds were seemingly never-ending and very well maintained. Paths this way, trails that way, secret tunnels and caverns hiding for those who dared venture into them. With little light through some of these tunnels, we relied heavily on the light coming from our phones. And just when you thought a trail or tunnel ended, you would see a pathway winding off in another direction. Some leading to a garden perhaps, some leading to medieval like buildings. The only thing I can compare it to is the way I felt in Disneyland as a child, like I was in a fairytale, and felt just as much awe as I did back then.
The best part of the grounds for us were the wells which symbolize the initiation ceremonies for the Knights Templar. After climbing down the moss covered spiral staircase to the bottom of the well, you are dropped at the foot of yet another series of tunnels, these being more lit up than the others throughout the property. Following this cave-like path, you are then led to a grotto. And what grotto would be complete without a waterfall, bridge, and stone walkway through the water? They have it all here, and sadly, no picture can quite give it justice. Just when you think there is no more, you remember you still get to tour the Palace. So after a quick drink and snack from the café outside the Palace doors, we head in.
The palace is spread over 5 stories and loaded with historical facts. As a bonus, it regularly gives you a sneak peak of the gardens below. The Palace itself did not capture me the way the grounds had, but was still impressive and worth the visit. By this time, we had spent a better portion of the day at the Quinta da Regaleira and headed back into town.
Wandering around the romantic streets of the city centre, we found a cozy little restaurant. As we settled in for a relaxing late lunch, we began weighing all of our options. We knew Sintra could not be seen in only 1 day. We would have to come back. After all, we still had our hearts set on the Castelo dos Mouros (the Moors Castle) and Pena Palace. So we took our stroll again headed the opposite direction this time, finding our way back to the train station. No sad good-byes here… we will be back in a few days.
To read more about Sintra, follow the article on to My Fairytale: Sintra, Portugal Part 2