Portugal, summer 2007, Sintra

November 30, 2009 at 8:41 pm
Moorish castle

Moorish castle

Palacio da Pena from the Moorish castle

Palacio da Pena from the Moorish castle

We’re going to Sintra today but Jaoa’s breakfast is so good, we get a very slow start. Somehow, without the kids, our pace is lazier, and we don’t feel so agenda driven. So it’s way past our intended start time when we actually head out.

We take the train to Sintra on a steaming hot day. Sintra is bustling and packed with tourists. We try find some iced coffees to cool off but it seems nobody in Sintra makes them, so we go look for the sights. Sintra caters expertly for tourists – they have a shuttle bus to take one to all the points of interest, so it’s easy to get around. We start at the Palacio da Pena, a kind of kitschy mock Gothic structure Rough Guide calls ‘a wild fantasy of domes, towers, ramparts and walkways.’ It’s packed with tourists which surprises us a little as we haven’t seen too many in Lisbon. Apparently they’re all here, today, with us. I’m also encountering guidebook problems, as for some unknown reason I brought the library’s Rough Guide which has started falling to pieces on our arrival. That’s a lesson – always bring your own guidebook and allow for a lot of wear and tear.

After a while we move on to the Moorish castle. It’s much less crowded and much hotter. Maybe the two go together. It has spectacular views and is a wonderful sight, but it is now incredibly hot and we have to work out how much touring stamina we have left. We explore for a while before getting the shuttle back to town.

We get a tram to the beach, Praia das Macas, which is packed with locals enjoying a perfect day. Unfortunately we have to swim separately because we don’t want to leave our belongings unattended but we enjoy a refreshing dip in the Atlantic. Then we have more fish, but not bacalhau, at a restaurant on the beach, before heading back.

Moorish castle

Moorish castle

Lots of walking and baking at Moorish castle

Lots of walking and baking at Moorish castle

Palacio da Pena

Palacio da Pena

On our last day in Lisbon we take it easy. We spend most the day strolling around with no clear plan. We find that is the big difference between being with our kids and being without them. With kids, you must have an agenda : a clear idea of where you’re going and what you’re going to do when you get there. Without, you can wander around and soak it all in, and Lisbon is a great place for doing just that. It’s filled with narrow, old streets full of tiny shops and houses and calls for a lot of time to do little.

One thing we do is go to the Castelo, Lisbon’s splendid old castle/fort located high on the hill not far from our B&B. It has a little village within its outer walls and is a very impressive and enjoyable excursion. From there we wander around the Alfama a little more, before trying to catch the Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon’s great covered market. Unfortunately our pace has been too leisurely because it’s already closed.

View of Castelo, Lisbon

View of Castelo, Lisbon

Lisbon from the Castelo

Lisbon from the Castelo

Typically charming Lisbon streets

Typically charming Lisbon streets

Eventually it’s time for dinner. We find an incredibly atmospheric small restaurant in the Alfama.We’re outside, and right in front of us, life is going as normal. People are taking in laundry, playing soccer, doing chores, arriving home from their day. It’s fabulous, compounded by Liora’s dish of grilled chicken which is sublime and I promise myself I’ll get it next time.

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