Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 3 in Lisbon, Day Trip to Sintra

I got up around 9:30 am today, wanted to eat breakfast and be ready for the hostel's Sintra tour that was scheduled to begin at 10:30 am.  I had heard the tour was great from a couple of hostel mates I had from California, I was looking forward to seeing something different from Lisbon today.

After breakfast, I got my things  and was ready to go to Sintra.  I went to the hostel's lobby and did not see the tour guide or anyone gathered for the tour, I asked the person at reception if the Sintra tour had left.  She told me the tour was delayed until noon, she said I must have missed the morning announcement. I did not mind the delay, I used the time to write a blog post and catch up on other things.

Our tour guide showed up around noon, there were three people from my hostel going on the tour. I had gone on the walking tour with them yesterday, a woman from Holland and a man from Canada.  The guide apologized for the late start, he said the hostel needed the van in the morning. I saw the woman from Holland had a hoodie and I decided I should go back and get mine. The weather has been hot in Lisbon but we were going to Sintra, I did not know how the weather would be there, later I was very happy I had brought my hoodie.

Sintra is a short drive from Lisbon, it took us a little over half an hour to get there.  Our driver went the wrong way at first, he drove towards the Alfalma district, he thought he had to pick up people at the hostel there, but the other people on our tour were at the hostel near the beach.  We went back for them, 2 people scheduled to go on the tour did not show up, so there were five of us total.  I had 2 hostel mates, one from Taiawan and one from China who wanted to go on the tour, too bad they did not get those spaces.

We drove through what appeared to be Lisbon's business district before crossing the bridge on the highway to Sintra.  Our guide pointed out landmarks as we approached Sintra, we could see the Moor's Castle on the hill as we drove closer.  Our first stop on the tour was a garden area, we spent about an hour walking around this area, there were many sculptures, and local artists working in the area too.

Sintra Garden

Lynnae in Sintra Garden
We went to Sintra's National Palace after walking through the garden area.  We did not go into Sintra's National Palace, from the outside it looked like an aging building, our guide said inside it was very nice.  We did some more walking in Sintra, most of the walk was getting to know the city and seeing various views, like Lisbon, Sintra is hilly, and there are great views the higher you climb.  After seeing the picturesque views, we went for a wine tasting.  I sampled the one beverage the shop charged for, Portugal's famous Cherry Wine, Ginga.  The cherry wine was a tiny amount served in a chocolate cup, it was good, I did not sample anything else.  I only paid 1 euro for the sample and it was worth it.  We got cheese samples with the tour too, the others in the group spent several minutes sampling various wines.

Lynnae at Ginja Sample in Sintra 
After the wine tasting, it was decision time, did we want to visit the Moor's Castle, the Palace Pena or a Quinta de Regaleira. Our guide described Quinta de Regaleira as a farm, it was his recommendation, I was not sure I wanted to spend my afternoon in Sintra on a farm, although the tunnels sounded interesting.  Our guide drove us to all three locations, I decided to break with the rest of the group and go to either the Palace or the Castle.  I checked out my guide books and both seemed interesting, we had two hours on our own to explore whatever we chose.  The guide asked all of us what our choice was when we got to Palace Pena, I told him I was not sure either the palace of the castle.  He suggested I visit both and said he would meet me at the Moor's Castle.  I agreed and I told him if I did not go to the Moor's castle I would meet him there in 2 hours anyways.

I said goodbye to my hostel mates and got off at the Palace Pena, bought a dual ticket for the Palace and the Moor's Castle and began my independent tour.  I bought a ticket to take the bus to the foot of the castle, I asked the woman how long it takes to walk up, she said 10 minutes, but it is very rough.  I sat for at least 10 minutes waiting for my 2 euro bus to depart, and I saw a lot of people take the rough walk.  Two euros does not seem like a lot but when you factor in the weak dollar, it starts adding up. I will walk next time. 

Lynnae on Bus/Trolley for Pena Palace
Sintra's Palace Pena is huge, walking up it is impressive to see.  We visited on a clear day, so there were outstanding views of Sintra's landscape from the castle.  I gave myself an hour to look around Pena, I wanted to explore the Moor's Castle and surrounding areas too.  The palace was beautiful, like all the palaces I have seen during my travels, extravagantly decorated too.  This palace was unique, Sintra's palaces and castles in general are different from what I have seen in the rest of Europe.

Lynnae inside Palace Pena 

Lynnae outside Palace Pena

Lynnae outside Palace Pena 
I walked downhill to the Moor's Castle after touring Palace Pena.  I was surprised to see our tour guide sitting outside the castle when I arrived, he said he had never gone into the Moor's Castle and there was a lot he could see without purchasing a ticket to tour the grounds.  He decided to join me, we walked to the entrance of the Moor's Castle together and he told me more about the area.  There are many trails surrounding the Moor's Castle, one could stay busy for a few days in the area exploring everything.  We were on a schedule, and I only had about half an hour to explore the paid Castle area before departure time.

Lynnae walking to Moor's Castle 

Lynnae at Moor's Castle
Our final destination today was Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe.  As we drove closer to Cabo da Roca, the clouds began to roll in, our guide commented on the change in weather.  He said the weather in Sintra can suddenly change, it can be raining and cold in Sintra and sunny and hot in Lisbon.  He said he thought we would have a nice sunset, but he was not sure. Our guide did not seem optimistic about us seeing much of the Atlantic ocean either.  As we drove closer, I told him I could see the ocean and pointed, he said, yes that is it.  Cabo da Roca was about 30 minutes from Sintra, it was still cloudy and foggy when we arrived.

The wind was blowing hard when we got out the hostel's van to walk towards the Westernmost point in Europe. This was serious wind, the type that you have to fight to walk forward, and it was cold.  The temperature must have dropped 30 degrees on our short drive from Sintra to Cabo da Roca. The Dutch couple with us was not prepared for the weather, they took a couple of pics and got back in the van.  I had my hoodie with me, I was happy I went back to get it this morning, I could have used a scarf and a hat, it was that cold. 

Lynnae in Cabo da Roca 
I was cold walking around Cabo da Roca but it was worth it, I was as far west as one can get on continental Europe.  Even with the fog and cloud cover, the view of the Atlantic coast from Cabo da Roca was amazing.    I walked as far as I could, bracing myself as the wind whipped around me.  I asked a Canadian in our group to take my picture, he asked if I was going to stand on the ledge or was it too much of a risk of being blown over.  I told him the risk was too high, so I stood in another spot.  By that point I was freezing, I could not believe there was a couple relaxing on a ledge next to us.   My ears were aching from the cold and the wind blowing through them.  After the Canadian took my picture, I pulled on my hoodie and walked quickly back to the van.

Cabo da Roca Coast 
Our guide drove us along Portugal's coastline to Lisbon city, it was a nice drive and at a point along the ride, the clouds broke, the sun reappeared, it was warm again.  Our driver told us again, Sintra's weather changes quickly, once we left Sintra, the weather was back to normal.  I was starving when we finally arrived at the hostel.  I went to a Portuguese buffet with a Canadian and Dutch hostel mate who were on the Sintra trip with me.  This was my second time at the buffet, the food was good, but not as good as the first day I went.  I liked the buffet because I got a variety of Portuguese food for 6.90 euros, a good deal.

The rest of the evening was quiet, I spent a couple of hours talking to my Dutch hostel mate about her life growing up in Africa and other things.  I went to sleep sometime after midnight.  

Day 3 in Lisbon Photo Album

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