Lisbon: Day trip to Sintra

Today’s adventure in Lisbon wasn’t in Lisbon. That is to say, it started and ended in Lisbon, but we spent most of the day in Sintra, a forty-minute train ride from Lisbon. Three or four trains run from Lisbon to Sintra every hour, so it’s an easy day trip.

Sintra is a charming town with, in addition to normal town stuff, a few old palaces and the ruins of an old Moor castle. We didn’t go to the latter, but we visited three palaces. Well, one wasn’t so much a palace as a mansion. But, why quibble?

Warning: I started writing this only after getting back from dinner at about 10:15 p.m. Lisbon time. We had some wine at dinner. So, don’t expect a long post. Let’s see how this goes, shall we? You’ll probably get even less than my usual meh post. Did I mention there was wine involved?

Pena Palace

Fog-shrouded Pena Palace
Fog-shrouded Pena Palace

Pena Palace is more than an hour’s walk from Sintra’s train station. And most of that is uphill. There is a road up, but, on the way, we did much of the trek on a trail through a park. We walked along the road coming down.

The palace and the view from it are probably splendid on a clear day. I say probably because I have no way of knowing first-hand. It was far from a clear day. Low clouds shrouded the palace and blocked the view from it to the village and landscape below.

That’s not what the forecast told us before we left. It promised a nice day. Surely there’s someone we can sue for that. Or don’t they have any laws here in Portugal? My brother has American citizenship and lives in the United States. That counts for something when it comes to being able to sue people, doesn’t it?

Two-tiered cloister at Pena Palace
Two-tiered cloister at Pena Palace

Vibrant mustard-yellow and ochre colours cover the walls of Pena Palace if that’s what you call those hues. I’m not very good with colour names. Those might not be the most accurate names for the hues. Use your imagination, which might be misled by my choice of colour names.

The palace has lots of turrets and a tower or two. And it’s very charming. Or, it probably would be if it weren’t largely obscured by clouds, which, as I said, it was when we visited.

A room in Pena Palace

Inside, there’s a nicely tiled, two-tiered cloister. The rooms off the cloister contain period decorations. In this case, “period” means when kings occupied it, not when it was first constructed. Pena Palace didn’t start as a palace. It was a monastery built in the 12th century. Kings used it as a palace starting in the mid-19th century. The monarchy’s use of it ended when the monarchy stopped being a thing in Portugal in 1910.

Enough said about Pena Palace. It’s still late. I’m still tired. And I’m moving on. If you want to do some Googling to find out more about Pena Palace to while away your time, I won’t stop you. I mean, how could I stop you even if I were so inclined? And, I’m not so inclined.

Sintra National Palace

A view of Sintra's town centre from the garden of Sintra National Palace
A view of Sintra’s town centre from the garden of Sintra National Palace

Next, we visited Sintra National Palace. It’s located near the centre of Sintra.

The palace is well preserved. The rooms are attractively decorated.

Each of the rooms in the palace contains a placard describing what the monarchs used the room for. (Where that was known. Not all of the rooms’ uses are known. See below.)

One of the rooms contains a large bed and a couple of chairs. The placard in that room said the king met the elites in that room. The placard also said that he slept there surrounded by his servants. What the heck? I mean, what the actual heck? Who can sleep with a bunch of people standing and watching them? I know I couldn’t. Then again, I’m not a king, which is totally not fair.

Another of the rooms contained a placard that said that the purpose of the room’s small chambers is no longer known and, “Because of this loss of memory, it is more difficult to appreciate their value.” Wait. A loss of memory makes it more difficult to appreciate value? No wonder nobody appreciates my value. I can’t remember a thing.

The Sintra National Palace also has a lovely garden that overlooks the centre of Sintra. There’s a picture of the centre of town taken from Sintra National Palace’s garden above. I dare you to say Sintra isn’t charming. I’m waiting. I dare you.

OK. Enough about the Sintra National Palace. It’s not getting any earlier. I’m not getting any less tired. And I still feel the wine. You can reread these paragraphs a few times to drag things out if you want, but I’m moving on.

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira

We made Quinta da Regaleira our last stop in Sintra before heading back to Lisbon. Quinta da Regaleira is a mansion designed in the early 20th century by an opera-set designer. Its outside is beautiful, in a quirky sort of way. It’s constructed largely of grey stone and it is lousy with spires.

Inside, it might have been splendid in its time, but it’s currently less than so-so. The public, e.g., me, can visit only the first floor most of the time. There are sometimes special exhibitions on the upper floors, but there weren’t any when we visited. Much of the lower level was being renovated when we were there so there weren’t many furnishings.

A very small portion of the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira
A very small portion of the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira

What makes Quinta da Regaleira well worth a visit is its grounds. They comprise lush forests, beautiful gardens, and a couple of stand-alone, castle-turret-like structures. Lots of paths wind through the forests and gardens.

The grounds also include an “Initiatic Well.” Don’t ask me what that means. That’s just what the directional signs called it. The well contains no water. What’s more, the lovely tile floor and the “well’s” other features (see next paragraph) lead me to believe that whoever designed it never had any intent for it to hold water.

The Initiatic Well
The Initiatic Well

The Initiatic Well is well-like in that it is a cylinder bored down into the earth from near the top of the hill. A spiral stone staircase hugs the wall of the well. There is a stone wall between the staircase and the interior of the well’s cylinder, but there are large windows in the wall all of the way down.

At the bottom of the staircase, a cave-like tunnel leads to a couple of grottos, including one with a small waterfall falling in front of the tunnel’s opening in front of the grotto.

All-in-all, the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira are spectacular.

And so, to sleep. Perchance to dream. Typos be damned.

And, so ends this journal entry. Time marches on. And I’m going to march, or maybe crawl, to bed.


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