Day 2, back to Sintra! If you were with me for part 1 of ‘My Fairytale: Sintra, Portugal’, then I’m sure you are very well aware just how excited I was for day 2. For those newcomers in the group, I’ll do my best to quickly catch you up to speed. Vacationing in Lisbon had turned out to become a dream come true all on its own. Then we took a day trip over to the tiny town of Sintra, 20 miles away. The dream only got better. We had visited the Quinta da Regaleira and taken a stroll through the picturesque city centre. We absolutely had to come back for more. And so it begins…
The 2nd day began much as the 1st, with a delicious Nutella filled pastry and Galao (espresso with steamed milk). We took a crisp early morning walk to Rossio train station and settled in for the journey. After gazing out the window at the idyllic scenery for roughly an hour, our train slowed steadily to a stop in Sintra once again.
Having made the long walk up the hill one time already, and knowing we were working with a limited amount of time, we opted for the tourists buses this time. We were leaving Portugal in a couple days and this would be our last chance for Sintra, in 2016 anyway. After talking to a few locals, we learned that bus 434 did a loop from the train station, to the town centre, then the Moors Castle, and finally Pena Palace. It ran regularly throughout the day beginning at about 9 am. This was exactly what we were looking for. We bought our tickets from the bus driver and were on our way within a matter of minutes.
I couldn’t wait to get to Pena Palace and Pete, the Moors Castle. As it turns out, Pete was right again! After about a 15 minute drive up the curvy mountain road, we arrived at the entrance to the Moors Castle. We purchased a combined ticket for that and Pena Palace for about $15 and started trekking. I believe the price has since gone up a few dollars. Though not very difficult, I should warn you that the Moors Castle grounds do involve a lot of walking and many stairs. But with such a beautiful view every way you turn, it’s not hard to stop and rest up for a minute while taking it all in. In the end, it is so worth it.
The trails are lined with gigantic boulders all covered in the brightest green moss I think I’ve ever seen. The trees off in the distance seem to go on forever. The castle itself, established by the North African Moors, is in great condition. It was originally built in the 9th century. The castle has been restored over the years and is very impressive. The massive stone walls throughout are walkable and offer a view of the vibrant Pena Palace. We explored for about 3 hours. Honestly we could’ve stayed longer, but we were on a time limit, so off we went. Next stop, Pena Palace.
Leaving the Moors Castle, the same way you came in, you are dropped directly in front of the 434 bus stop. The buses make their rounds about every 15 minutes, but we knew Pena Palace was just up the hill a little ways, so we opted for the walk. We should’ve taken the bus. Although not far, the road is much steeper than it looks, as least for us it was. But we survived and had a good laugh as the bus drove past us halfway up. At last, we had made it.
Pena Palace has a very Disney-like quality and walking up to it, it almost didn’t seem real. We jumped right into it, as we paid for the combination ticket earlier. Walking through a long outdoor corridor I almost felt like I had been whisked away to a fantasy land, and in a way, I guess I had been. The palace was built in the mid 1800’s and was to be a summer home for the royal family. The architecture has a great many influences and is loaded with a rainbow of colors which creates a place that is definitely one of a kind. The inside of the castle is beautiful and quite ornate. But the terrace offered all the splendor of the architecture as well as the lush forest below. The walkways around the top of the castle actually touched the clouds and made it even more magical.
After touring the palace, we headed outside to see the grounds. Rich with vegetation, the trails lead every which way and is an extremely peaceful way to end your visit. I’ve read articles where people complained about the entry fee or even the design of the palace, but I disagree. In my opinion, the grounds alone more than made up for the price to enter. It was an extraordinary place and I look forward to returning one day. As for our day there, it was over. Time to make our way back down the mountain for an early dinner. Waiting about 10 minutes, we caught the next bus and said our good-byes. After a delicious stew and 1 or 2 shots of Ginja, (sour Portuguese liqueur) we were back on the train. We were full, content, and eager for what was next to come. Until next time Sintra, farewell…