Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Literally Visiting the High Points of Sintra, Portugal

We sailed into Lisbon early in the morning. We remembered the sail-in as being particularly nice, past a lot of historic sites and under the bridge.

The Monument to the Discoveries...

We soon went under the 25th April Bridge, which is similar in design to the Golden Gate Bridge. The upper track has six car lanes and the lower has two train tracks.

They even decorated the foundation...

Praca do Comercio (Square of Commerce) on the left and on the right is the Church of Santa Engracia. 

This ship was following us in...it might be a busy day in port.

The Church of Santa Engracia, on which construction began in 1681. The Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon, was not destroyed during the massive 1755 earthquake.

We were going on a private tour today to Sintra and Cascais. Last year we had done a pretty extensive tour of Lisbon, so we were happy to go back and visit these two towns that we only sped through last year. Sintra is one of Portugal's oldest cities with an 8th century Moorish fortress overlooking the town. Cascais is a fishing village that has now become a popular seaside resort.

We were heading to the Castelo dos Mouros...

We first stopped in the town of Sintra to view the town hall. It is a beautiful building built in 1910 and known for its spire and clock tower. Sadly we were so close to it, we couldn't see the spire! The style of the windows was said to be quite unique for the time.

We all needed a washroom break, so our guide took us to this coffee shop. He said we didn't need to buy anything, but an espresso and a pastry hit the spot. Barb and Ed, with Josie in the background.

Our guide was taking us to a lookout to get a view of the town...

It was a rather steep walk up the narrow street. The vendor on the left had many products made of cork, including some neat purses and shoes. This is unique to Portugal and most of the world's cork comes from here. There is no vehicular traffic allowed in this area and shops are serviced by people carrying things in and out.

Here is our tour guide, Vladislav. Now that's not a common Portuguese name. He’s from Moldova, between Romania and Ukraine, and has lived in Lisbon for 12 years. He worked very hard to learn Portuguese and Spanish and loves to do English tours so that he can improve his English. This lookout better be good...

Lord Byron was said to have been very taken with the ancient village of Sintra and found it to be a very peaceful place. You could pop in here to taste Portuguese wines and cheeses.


Lots of little shops...this one appeared to be selling tiles. Many of the old buildings in Lisbon are covered in tiles, part of the Moorish influence.

Barb was hoofing it up the hill. She wasn't complaining, but I’m sure she was thinking “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” When I told her about the tour, I honestly didn't think we were going to be doing a lot of walking. Oops!

Past another little shop...

Here we are at the lookout getting a view of the area, which was lovely. And there is the town hall with the spire that we couldn't see when we were so close to the building.

When you looked to your left, you could see these stairs. No wonder we didn't see too many overweight people. Walking up and down stairs and lots of steep hills will keep you in shape.

The view to the right...in hindsight, had we known how long this would take, we might have skipped it as we ran out of time later in the day.

Instead of going down the same way, Vladislav said we could take a shortcut down these stairs, so Jim and I headed off that way. It reminded me a little of the Casbah in Morocco with all the alleys, nooks and crannies and stairs.


Jim at the bottom...

Up and down...not great for those who are less mobile.

And then it was on to the Moorish castle, Castelo dos Mouros. I circled where we were on the map. Yup, no other way to the top other than to walk it. This wasn’t turning out to be the day I expected.

And we're off...the original castle was destroyed in the massive earthquake of 1755. By today's standards it would have been in the magnitude of 8.5 to 9.0 on the Richter scale. In 1840, Ferdinand II of Portugal decided to conserve and improve the ruins.

It was nice to stop along the way and admire the view...

We had noticed this wire going down through the trees and joked about it being a zip line. Oh, no joke!

It wasn't an easy walk on the cobblestones. Someone asked Vladislav how they got all the materials up the hill to build the castle, and he said "look around." The area is full of rock, which they used to build it.

Time for a short break...from the left, Ed and Barb; Josie and Larry; Jan (who organized the tour) and Chris from Devon, England; Vladislav; and Jim. I believe Chris was 80 years old or close to it. Kudos to him!

This is rocky terrain!

Success...we reached the "new" Moorish Castle.

One of the towers of the castle...through the doorway and up some more stairs.

Here we are at the top. It kind of reminded us of the Great Wall of China.

In the background, you can see Pena Palace, where we were heading next. I thought that was our only destination, but Vladislav really likes the Moorish castle, so he added it to the tour. If only he had known how long it was going to take us.

What a spectacular view on a beautiful day. The white building in the centre is the town hall.

A panoramic view...

Josie and Larry...

Jim is King of the Castle! This was the highest point of our climb. We decided if we did any more, it would take the whole day.

Ed, Josie and Larry...Barb wisely decided to wait for us at the entrance with Vladislav. He wasn’t able to come in with us, as understandably he didn't want to pay the €15 fee. He said sometimes they let the guides in for free, but the ticket taker at the entrance wasn't having any of that.

Looking back at the tower...

And back down the stairs to make our way out...

Hydrangeas still in bloom...

Heading down, you could see the zip line faintly in the background.

Next, it was on to the Pena Palace...

Ooh...look at these cute little cars you can use to get around. We needed one of those!

Here is a map of the Park of Pena. The palace is circled, but look at the vast estate around it. You could spend several days here, not a few hours. Initially, the estate was barren land, but over time the gardens grew to include over 500 species of different plants. The palace was built in such a way as to be visible from any point in the park.

The palace...

For centuries Pena was a monastery, a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of 18 monks. In 1838, King Ferdinand II acquired the former monastery of Our Lady of Pena, which had been built by King Manuel I in 1511. It had been unoccupied since 1834 when the religious orders were suppressed in Portugal. The monastery consisted of the cloister and its outbuildings, the chapel, the sacristy and the bell tower, which today form the northern section of the Palace of Pena, or the Old Palace as it is known.

We got a ride in a shuttle bus this far, but from here we were going to have to walk. Another fine mess!

As with many old buildings, there always seems to be some sort of restoration work ongoing. The archway to the palace is covered with tiles, part of the Moorish tradition.


One of the towers of the palace...I loved the bright colours against the beautiful sky.

Pena Palace has many different architectural styles. On the right, is the original part of the monastery...

Archways with different designs and shields...

Jim forging on ahead...

This Triton (half man, half fish) was above another arch...

Larry; Jan; Kim and Jim; Chris; Barb and Ed...I guess we temporarily lost Josie somewhere...

There was so much to take in. Every little arch and alcove had incredible details.

At the top...

Over to the right you could see the Moorish castle. No wonder the castle and palace were perfect defense points...

The palace is built entirely on rock.

All together...Vladislav scared the life out of us by standing on the wall on the right to take our photo.

We were lucky to have such a clear day. On days like these, the palace can supposedly be seen from Lisbon almost 30 km away.

They must have recently done some painting  because when Vladislav put his hands on the wall to pull himself up, he was rewarded with red hands. While he was waiting for us to look around, he would often perform some sort of exercise. That man was in good shape. We would walk up the stairs, while he would run up them. This part of the palace with the clock tower is part of the restored monastery.

Next, it was up the stairs to view one of the oldest parts of the monastery, the chapel. Barb wisely sat this out as, when we got to the top, we found out it wasn't open.

The chapel window...

Look at the intricate work...

The original cloister...

Gargoyles...

We then entered the old part of the palace, which was the original monastery. This is a bust of Ferdinand II, whose vision took the ruins of the monastery and made it into a palace fit for kings.

The dining room was also the original dining room of the monastery.

The palace was filled with art objects of the time...the photo is of Don Carlos I, the grandson of Ferdinand II, who lived in the palace from 1889 to 1908.

The bedroom...the beds were short, not because people were short, but because they ate such rich foods and drank so much mead and wine, they were afraid they would vomit and choke, so they slept sitting up.

The bathroom with a neat shower arrangement...

Inside the chapel that was created by King Ferdinand II...

Beautiful stained glass depicting the history of the monastery. On the top, Our Lady of Pena and St. George, the patron saint of Portuguese armies. On the bottom, King Manuel I holding a model of the palace and the famous explorer Vasco da Gama, with the Belem Tower in the background.

The reflection on the floor was pretty...

Amazing altarpiece...

The detail was incredible. You could have looked at this altar for many hours to see everything.

The view overlooking the Moorish castle...

I'd love to know who dusts all this stuff! Dona Amelia wife of King Don Carlos I...

Some scary looking figurines...

Some sort of phone system...

What looks like an arch is actually trompe l'oeil, painted to give a 3D illusion.

Amazing trompe l'oeil...

More beautiful objets d'art...


We were practically going through the palace at a trot now...it was hard to look at everything. I think Vladislav had clued in that there was no way we were going to be able to visit the fishing village of Cascais as planned, and get back to the ship on time.

A delicate chandelier...

There were several of these lighting arrangements...

King Ferdinand was a collector of stained glass...

Some of these works date back to the 15th century...



And with a tour through the kitchens, we were back out of the palace.

On the back of the shuttle bus, an impressive view of the palace. The palace was converted into a museum in 1910-1912 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. We only toured the old part of the palace, the original monastery. You would need a lot of time to do this justice.

The road down from the palace...by the time we got back to the shuttle bus, we were getting concerned about the time, so we decided to skip Cascais and head back to the ship.

Near the port in Lisbon...some neat graffiti. Fitbit steps that day 10,726 with 67 floors climbed. A good workout!

We sailed out of Lisbon, passing the Monument to Christ. It was built in 1959 as thanks to God for having been spared in WWII.

The 90 ft statue of Christ sits on top of a 270 ft high pedestal.

Panoramic view of Lisbon with the Christ Statue on the right and the 25th April bridge...

A sunset to end an amazing day of sights...


Tomorrow, a sea day before we reach the port of Ponta Delgada in the Azores...

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