After a sleepless night (falling FINALLY asleep at 5 a.m. after counting a herd of sheep) I woke up at 11:30 a.m. and off we went to Sintra. After a metro stop, a short train ride, and the bus ride from Hell, we were transported to another time where palaces and castles were the norm. Amazing!
Of course, the bus ride up to the beautiful Palace of Pena scared the crap out of me. OMG! Blaring his horn to alert anyone crazy enough to drive this lane, the driver confidently took the hairpin curves in the big bus up the narrow path. I thought we were surely going to die. But we survived to climb up a steep hill and roam about the palace where safety is more of a suggestion than a standard, i.e. don’t bring your toddler or aging parents. They’ll die. With gaps in the railing and steep drops into crevices, we watched our steps and checked it all out.
The views were breathtaking looking out onto the Moorish Castle and the sea. Inside, the kitchens still full equipped with the biggest mort/pestle I have ever seen. What. The. Hell. Were they grounding up trees in there not spices?? Two of the original ovens used by King Ferdinand II’s staff are still displayed along with lots of other relics. You can only imagine the three man lift required to haul up one of the large cauldrons to make soup for the King. Damn. The chapel from the early 1500’s was serene and peaceful.
Deciding after waiting awhile in line for the bus down the mountain, we blew off the Moorish castle (cool from a distance but it was starting to rain) which was further down the hill and thought we would just check out the town square instead. Of course, first we would have to survive the bus trip down. Packed in like the favorite Portugal sardines, I warned Thom to hold on tight as we stood or he would wind up in the lady’s lap he was huddled next to. As the “Eye of the Tiger” came on the bus radio, the lively British gals that had stood behind us in line as we waited for the bus broke out into loud song. Bus Karaoke was on! Hilarious.
Tired from all that singing, we quickly exited on the main square in Sintra, checked out the News Museum with it’s Macho Media exhibit and headed down the quaint curvy streets. There I found the best thing ever-Ginja! Cherry liqueur shots served in a dark chocolate cup for only 1 euro. You nibble a little chocolate, sip a little liqueur and repeat. Of course, you could just throw it all at once in your mouth but I wanted to savor it. Tasting like a cherry cordial that my dad used to love at Christmas time but with booze, it was a perfect union of tastes. Yum!
Walking down the mountain in the rain, it was the end of a perfect day in Sintra, a fairy tale land where you can easily imagine another time where knights defended their kings and queens. Magical.