Our Portugal Adventure: Day 3

Morning came fast and bright and all that magical wine from last night wasn’t feeling so magical. But, there was zero time for hangovers in Portugal, especially when we were planning on getting to the Quinta da Regaleira before the mobs of people Showed up. But first, coffee and pastries at Georgios – how are Europeans not 400 pounds?! These sweets and breads and cakes would do me in for sure….although I think the key here is to walk everywhere. Sunday morning was sleepier around town as well – we walked in around 9:15 am and only a few older people were there.

Feeling slightly revived, we headed through town, up the hill and into Quinta da Regaleira. By far one of the most eclectic, mysterious, intriguing places I’ve ever been, this palace had extensive gardens with hidden nooks and crannies at every turn.

Paths that would lead you underground, swirling spiral staircases that plunged you deeper into the earth, tunnels that lead to lagoons and grottos, and a series of paths that would pop you out several hundred feet away from where you had been. A mysterious playground of mystical twists and turns.

There were several sections where claustrophobia almost set in….tight caves with narrow walls and lots of people. Luckily, the line to cross the lagoon on mere stepping stones moved fast and we popped out soon enough.

Traveling during the off season is how we usually plan international vacations (having been to Ireland, Amalfi Coast, Costa Rica, Vieques in October or November). I could not imagine the lines in the high season of summer. Regardless, this place can not be described accurately enough to give it justice!

The grounds were extensive and we spent almost three hours poking our heads into every nook, every tunnel, every grotto. It was truly a special place.

After a spectacular few hours, we had seen and explored it all, so decided to walk to Monserrate, another palace with extensive gardens and beautiful interior. Little did we know, it was almost two miles away – not uber far, but we had already walked almost 8 miles that day alone. Well, that’s how we do it, so here we went. Luckily, there’s not a ton of traffic and the weather held (looked as if it was going to down pour there for a minute!). We made it and after paying the 8 Euro per piece, we’re glad we came.

 

Created by Sir Francis Cook, the gorgeous palace consisted of two stories, ornate entryways and arches, a glowing purple ceiling, and beautiful fireplaces. The palace was magnificent, full of architecture wonder.

Looking down from the second floor, you can see the intricate tile and fountain in the entryway – while looking up gives you the glowing purple view.

 

As as gorgeous as the palace and grounds were, we knew we’d have a two mile walk back to town and we’re getting quite hungry. Contemplating the bus, where the ideal states would be to rest and zone out while we got chauffeured back to town…..but that wouldn’t be our style. So, we walked the two plus miles back into town to have a well deserved, albeit expensive, lunch. It was in the heart of town, so we paid for the views and ambiance. Ok by us!

 

The he way home brought us past a street artist, so we stopped to chat and buy a piece of art (the only souvenir I like to bring home with me) and we even got to see him finish and sign our custome piece. For only 10 Euro, this was a steal!

 

We put our feet up for a bit, the found a vegan restaurant, the only one in Sintra, and had a lovely plant based meal. Our time in Sintra had been well spent – we would be off to Odeceixe in the morning.

Our Portugal Adventure: Day 2

Holy exhausted batman! Daylight broke on our second day in Portugal and after an eleven hour sleep (we had only slept a few hours on the red eye the night before, so totally warranted!) we were ready to explore the castle scene. Day 1 in Portugal was spent traveling and scoping out the scene, so we were ready! Our Airbnb, the Wood House, had the perfect amount of amenities, so after showering in the almost big enough for Mike shower, we headed out to breakfast. Having slept until 9 didn’t feel like a waste – we were rested and ready for Sintra.

Our host had recommended pastelaria Gregorio- a small pastry and coffee shop less than a quarter of a mile from our digs – with amazing cakes, pies and empadas. She wasn’t kidding!

We ordered two goat cheese, honey & walnut pies, a sweet roll and two coffees – what a decadent treat!

Although we realized we’d be hungry in less than two hours, it was a beautiful breakfast, one we savored during our luxurious morning.

Our plan for the day involved Pena Palace & Pena Park in the morning (or early afternoon in reality, as we didn’t leave the house till 10!) then checking out Quinta Regaleira in the afternoon. Having WIFI at our Airbnb allowed us to download directions to Pena Palace, which was extremely convenient and extremely different than what we had tried to figure out a la wander yesterday.

The actual road we wanted was steps away from where we were staying, so we’re on our way in minutes, rather than miles. As we made our way up the hill, it was comical how off we were the day prior. We were staying on Bairro Andersen and the street adjacent to ours, R. Dom Joa de Castro, took you directly up towards the Parque Palacio Nacional de Pena. As we climbed, winding through narrow streets, steep one ways and trying to avoid the tuk tuks (which fly around the corners and stall on the hills) we realized how close we were to all of the historical sites. Crazy how a little perspective and a lot of google maps helps out!

 

After about 30 minutes of steep, humid climbing, we saw the swarms of tourists parking any which way along the sides of the narrow streets and knew we were close. The weather wasn’t exactly hot, but the humidity really gets you sticky when walking straight up!

At the top of the hill, we were slammed in the face with tourists – they were all visiting Pena Palace. Every last tourist in Portugal was in line to see the beautiful red and yellow wonder. Oh well, it was on the list of must sees. For only 28 Euro, we both were in! Around the palace lay 90 acres of park, with winding trails taking you to a holy cross, valley of the lakes, tank of the seven pines….but first the palace!

 

The ornate palace only had a few rooms to view, but was absolutely gorgeous. Immediately entering the palace, you walk around a tiled cloister, and could see up to the second floor. The line looped us through the rooms, with old artifacts of King Don Carlos I.

There was a chapel in the back of the palace, with beautiful stain d glass and a gorgeous alter. Then of course, the spectacular views on the terraces, in which you could wonder about. It was completely beautiful and worth the crowds!

For the next hour or so, we wandered around the park, climbing hills, winding down mossy paths….and zero crowds. A little tip if you want to avoid the rush: walk places and take the road less  traveled. Typically that’s how we roll when traveling- off the beaten path is the way we like to go!

Famished after 3 hours in the park (and miles of walking in the Forrest to get back down into town) we headed back into the town center for a wonderful meal at a terrace restaurant. White wine, Super Bach beer, breathtaking views. It had been an amazing afternnoon.

Lunch had revived our aching legs and spirits (when checking our mileage at the end of the day, we had racked up 10 miles on Saturday) so we decided to check out Quinta – even though it was after four pm at this point. At least we’d know where it was for the morning if it was too late to go in. And up the hill and around the bend we went, hitting the Quinta da Regaleira, a beautiful ornate palace with multiple steeples and dripping with goblins and creatures of all sorts. Truly a site to see. We were in fact too late, and would only have an hour to peruse if we decided to enter, so we passed, as we’d go fresh in the morning to wander at our leisure.

Headed back into towns center, we stopped at a local mercado for some vino – verde y rojo- & local Portugal beer.  The white wine is what they call green – and both red and white were under 5 Euros a bottle! And were actually really good!

We took the bottles back to our little wooden house and decompressed from the day. The nights dinner would be the fanciest we’d been to in Sintra – Tabernacle Criativa, with chef Vitor Rocha. Passing it earlier on Friday, while we were still getting our head about us in our new digs, I took note of the lovely ambiance and knew I wanted to experience what they were serving. It was delicious and where we sampled our first port – a dry white while we perused the menu. The night was perfect and we headed back to the wood house to listen to music and drink more wine!

Our Portugal Adventure: Day 1

Our trip had finally come – Portugal here we come! I had packed a few days prior to departure, Mike the night before, so we woke up on Thursday, October 11, hit the hot tub, took the dogs for a walk and hit the road! This was actually the earliest we had ever left for a trip, so it was a pleasant, non stressful morning. I had made a reservation at ParkDIA the night before, saving $2 per day, so we were off to a good start. Our total for the car(10 days) was only $70!

Our first flight to Philadelphia got delayed about an hour, which wasn’t a problem as our flight to Lisbon didn’t leave until 9:19 pm. After grabbing a quick bite & a beer, we were off on our first leg. We would be traveling for the next 24hours. Boarded, about to take off, and the captain signals that hurricane Michael’s wrath was interfering with the original flight route….so our runway path got shutdown and we had to wait for something to open up. Almost three hours later, at midnight, we finally took off. At least Mike and I didn’t have to share our row with anyone and were able to sleep a bit. I use that term very loosely as Mike is 6″4 and really doesn’t fold up nicely. But he made the best of it.

The flight, albeit extended 3 hours due to delays and turbulence, got us safely to Lisbon at 11:30 am local time, where we promptly got off the plane, exchanged money, and asked about the trains to Sinatra. In my original research, I thought we’d have to head into Lisbon’s town center to Rossio station but the friendly airport guide let us know to take the metro red lineup Ouieutte, get off and take the train to Sintra. Simple right!? It actually was extremely simple. And we actually made all connections without having to wait (even stopping at the ticket counter to buy tickets for the metro & Sintra).

Getting off at Sintra, the last stop on the train, I pulled up our Airbnb address, where we’d drop our bags and head out to grab a bite and explore. I had let our Airbnb owner know I wouldn’t have service, as I don’t get an international plan when traveling – both a liberating and terrifying concept, as we had rented Airbnbs throughout the country to were relying on WIFI at the places and google maps for directions. So glad I didn’t fret too much over this though, because we got to our temporary home with zero trouble and found the owners daughter cleaning. We were able to leave our heavy bags, as we were about an hour early, grabbed the key, and took off into the great unknown, in search of good food and refreshment. It was about 2:15pm at this time and the need to stretch our bones was something fierce. The weather was still humid, and although it wasn’t hot, hot, it was a perfect temperature to walk around in a dress or shorts, comfortably.

The narrow streets were alive with people, with tuk tuks and small vehicles whipping through the alleys. Seeing the local traffic, I was extremely glad we didn’t get a car for the first jaunt. Parking on hills, as steep as they come, in unfamiliar territory is not my cup of tea. Our digs were in what seemed to be a good location and we found a beautiful restaurant, Sabores do Mercado, to spend the next hour and a half. Wine, fish, local beer, olives….we had arrived!

After filling our bellies, we decided scope out the sites we wanted to check out in the morning. The train station had an information center so we walked down, asked about Quinta da Ragaleira – an old villa with extensive grounds and tunnel. Also on the list, Pena Palace, sitting high atop Sintra. Well, we walked up, and up, through the Parque da Liberdade, all the way to the top of the hill….to find a great deal of cafés, restaurants & shops….just not the castle circuit. Well, at least we got a good walk after having been cramped up in an airplane! We realized we had walk d all the way to Sao Pedro, a completely different town, which we’d find a shortcut to Pena Palace the next day. It pays to stay in a town a few days so you can scout out the sights.

The 6 mile walk had left us ready to put our feet up, so we headed down, stopped at a local grocery to get two bottles of wine and some water, then went in for the night. The dollar isn’t strong in Europe, but we found things to be relatively inexpensive here. Lunch, for instance, was 36Euro – but Mike had three beers and I had two large glasses of wine. Vino in the Mercado ranged from 1.50 – 3.40Euro – a steal, even with the conversion!

Although it was early, we had only sleept a few hours on the plane and were running on empty. At the house, we unpacked a bit, talked, drank wine and planned our next day’s adventures…and end d up in bed at 9pm. Cheers to our first day in Portugal!