You might recall that my last post was about our time in Lisbon. Today I would like to tell you about two beautiful places that were part of our Lisbon experience - a day trip to see Sintra and Cascais.
Recommended among the top 10 day trips destinations, Sintra is only 40 minutes train ride from the centre of Lisbon. It is regarded as one of the most picturesque, enchanting and romantic European cities. Its collection of fairytale-looking palaces, beautifully designed sprawling gardens and extravagant villas make it a destination not to be missed.
As soon as we alighted from the train and walked toward the main square of Sintra, we noticed two gigantic conical chimneys (the town's most recognisable landmarks) that belong to National Palace.
But the most famous and <in my opinion, the most beautiful among them all is Pena Palace. The palace stands on the top of a hill high above Sintra and on a clear day can be seen from Lisbon. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
Although getting to Sintra was a very easy affair, getting to Pena Palace was a totally different matter. As I said before, it stands high on a hill that we definitely were not prepared to climb. The other option was taking a cab or a local bus that would take you to the foot of the hill and then you either walk the rest of they way up or catch a shuttle bus for an additional fee (of course) to get you to the front gates of the Palace. We opted for latter, the bus seems like a lot of fun, besides I was fascinated to see how the driver was navigating the narrow winding path, overcoming 90 degree bends without a scratch to the vehicle.
After a slow 15 minutes ride, we finally reached the gates of Pena Palace. It looked like absolute magic. Build in the early 19th century, the exterior is a fantastic conglomeration of turrets, domes and ramparts all washed in an array of pastel shades. I have never ever seen anything like it before. Despite the fact that it was midweek in early April, the grounds were full of visitors. In fact, it was quite difficult to take a photo without another ten people around you doing exactly the same and another ten posing in front of the lenses.
Not every tower looked the same. Pena Palace represents an array of styles reflecting the much loved exotic taste of Romanticism. The interiors are as lavishly decorated as the interiors. Sadly, a few rooms were not available for viewing at the time of our visit but what we saw was sublime: in every room the walls were covered by richly patterned wall paper, thick carpets covered parquetry floors and everywhere the objects of art and decor were the examples of superb craftsmanship.
It is a coastal town about 30 kilometers from Lisbon and regarded as one of the richest municipalities of Portugal.
Formerly a sleepy fishermen town, it is now a most popular vacation spot for both Portuguese and European tourists. We spent the whole afternoon strolling along the waterfront admiring the intricate architecture of the houses that line the boardwalk and colourful boats bobbing on the water, then stopped for an early dinner at one of the multitude of restaurants and enjoyed the sumptuous dinner of expertly cooked local seafood.