Jul 25, 2012

Portugal: Part 3 - Cold and Rainy in Sintra

My last free day was spent in a drizzly, windy and tourist-filled town called Sintra. Don't get me wrong, it was still beautiful, and I saw things that aren't even close to anything I've ever seen before.

Sintra is a very easy 30-minute train ride from Rossio Station in the center of Lisbon to the last stop on the Sintra line. This area used to be a summer retreat for royalty and the aristocracy, so the city is littered with huge mansions and estates plus a few palaces.

Rossio Station

The Portuguese transportation system is very modern, probably due to the infusion of EU money in the last few years. However, it seemed to me that most of the tourists still opted to participate in tourbusapalooza because this was the only place during my whole trip that was overrun with tourists.

When the train pulled into the station at Sintra, I knew it was going to be a wet and unpleasant day, weather-wise. It wasn't raining hard so I decided to take the 10 minute walk into the center of town. Along the walk, you can already see Sintra National Palace (Palacio Nacional de Sintra) topped with Madonna's Jean-Paul Gaultier cone bra.

Sinta National Palace

Plus, the street leading into town is lined with sculptures like this:

Heart sculpture on the way to Sintra ville

The Sintra National Palace was my first stop. It is the only remaining royal palace from the Middle Ages. One of the unique things about the palace is that many of the rooms have their own themes.

The Swan Room was used for banquets and other functions and is beautifully decorated with white and green tiles, animal shaped tureens and a ceiling painted with swans (of course).

The Magpie Room has a ceiling that is decorated with magpies but I found this intricately tiled wall and fireplace to be most stunning.

Many of the windows of the palace presented views of the Moorish Castle, which I would visit later on in the day.

The piece de resistance was the Stag Room. It was absolutely exquisite, decorated floor to ceiling with blue and white tiles and painted coats of arms and stags. It was also overrun with tour groups. I patiently waited until the tour groups cleared out, giving me a few minutes to enjoy the room with only a few other travelers. Of course, another tour group quickly descended upon the room.

One of my main goals of this trip to Portugal was to see some examples of Moorish architecture. I was in luck because the chapel of the palace was done in Moorish style.

While there were many more rooms I wish I could share with you, I will leave the palace at the kitchen. This place was huge and stark. Guess the royals need a lot of space to feed the richies.

The dreary weather was getting to me at this point so I gave up on trying to wander around looking for something good to eat. Instead, I opted for something quick and sugary. Cafe a Piriquita is famous for their travesseiros. Travesseiro translates to pillow, which is appropriate for me because I love my pillows. They are almond and egg custard filled flaky goodness. I grabbed a couple of pastries and a drink and was on my way to my next spot.


I had originally had grand plans to do a lot of walking but my feet were cold and my nose was runny so I took the bus, waiting with the rest of the tourist folk. My destination was Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors). The castle is more fort than what one normally thinks of as a castle, and it castle dates back to the 9th century and offers panoramic views of the city along its high, winding walls.

While the views were remarkable, I had thoughts of the winds whipping me off a ledge, so I wound up cutting my visit to the castle short.

Does it look windy to you?

The castle also gave me a peek at the prime real estate that exists in Sintra. Look at all of the big houses! More like mini castles.

My final sight in Sintra was Pena Palace.  The same bus I took from Sintra ville can take you to the gate of the palace but then there is still a ten-minute walk up to the palace.

Pena Palace is a odd mishmash of different style of architecture and colors. Photos weren't allowed inside the palace so there will only be exterior shots. The interior showcased rooms decorated in Victorian furnishings. And similar to other sights I visited in Portugal, the Palace had rooms dedicated to Asia and the Middle East.

I reached my limit of walking around in the cold so I took the train back to Lisbon. 

I enjoyed a leisurely dinner at Servejaria with some beer and seafood. If you haven't figured it out, oil is important here, just look at my octopus.

Coming up will be a wrap up of the rest of my trip to Portugal. 

Cafe a Piriquita
Rua das Padarias
Sintra Portugal

Praca dos Restauradores
Baixa 1250-188 Lisbon

You might also like: 
Portugal: Part 1 Obrigada - only word I learned 

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