Thursday, June 19, 2014

So I Think I Was Talking About Portugal

Yes, still. I had one more day of traipsing around Portugal to recap here on the old blog, and then life rolled along, so today's the day.  You can read the whole thing beginning with the post found here. 

Three of the seven couples had to leave on Sunday, but the four couples remaining had a splendid day driving up the coast to a town called Sintra. 

The coast is stunning. 

Truly. We all said we'd love to come back and spend some time here, walking along the high coastal path and sitting in one of the many seaside cafes watching the waves roll in. Hubs wanted to get down on the wooden walkway hanging out over the sea, but we needed to be on our way, so I vetoed that idea. Plus I thought the higher portion looked questionably attached to the cliff, so it was back to the cars and on to our planned destination.   

The town of Sintra was much different than the area around Obidos, and the first thing you noticed was how lush it felt. Sintra is jam packed with castles in the cliffs, beautiful buildings in town, winding roads, narrow lanes, and wonderful shops and restaurants. No wonder it was a favorite summer retreat for the kings of Portugal. I'd liked to have had another day to explore here, but we take what we can get, right? First things first-espresso! Must fortify ourselves for the trek up the mountain.

Gosh I love these people. 
And also Portuguese espresso sipped while sitting in an ancient city square.

Since we had limited time here and so much to choose from, we opted to visit Parque da Pena, a palace and surrounding parkland built on the highest peaks of the Serra de Sintra. The castle ruins you see high on the hill in the picture above are not the ones we visited. They are a place I'd like to visit, but that will have to wait for another day. Castelos dos Mouros is a thousand year old Moorish castle, about a fifteen minute walk from our destination, Pena Palace. 

Pena Palace sits above the Moorish castle, and was built in the 19th century on the ruins of a monastery founded in the 16th century. Portugal's Prince Ferdinand was cousin to Bavaria's crazy King Ludwig (if you've been to Neuschwanstein you're familiar with him) and also England's Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria.   

Pena Palace is unusual in that when a Republic was declared back in 1910 the palace became a museum, and has been preserved exactly as it was when royals lived there, furnishings and all. 

The views are tremendous and you can ramble all over the castle and surrounding grounds, climb towers, and even sip a coffee or have lunch on the terrace.

Wandering around a castle is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

These four. 

They had themselves a little fun on the way down the mountain. We'd taken taxis to the top, but you had to ride the bus down or else hoof it, about thirty minutes along a steep path. One couple opted to walk, but not all of us had the proper footwear for hiking down so we got in the bus queue and waited. We had the bus timetable and three scheduled stop times came and went, still no bus. By now the queue had grown quite long and loud and a little restless, which made us wonder if a bus did eventually arrive would the crowd storm the doors? One of the guys managed to snag a taxi and suggested the girls ride down and the guys would walk and meet us below.

So we girls sat in a little outdoor restaurant and figured we'd have at least a thirty minute wait. Ha! We should know better than to underestimate their resourcefulness. We'd just gotten settled in our seats when the guys came round the corner laughing and singing. Turns out a very sweet young Italian couple took pity on them and picked them up part way down the mountain. The couple tuned their car radio to a station that played old 'American' music and they sang the whole way down.

You can always count on the Italians to love life wherever they are.

After a very late lunch we did a little shopping up and down the narrow streets of this charming city before heading back to the hotel to pack up. Sob.

I compartmentalize pretty well, and most days I just get on with things. This trip reminded me though, of how very much I miss my other life. Foreign cities and old buildings and new places and accents and languages not my own. A big wide amazing world that most days feels really far away from the New Jersey suburbs.

Don't misunderstand...I like the suburbs and I love America with all my heart, but still...sipping coffee on a castle terrace in the hills of Portugal makes me long just a little for all the world out there I'll never get to see.

Thirty years ago I never imagined I'd be that person who wants to see the world. In my mind those people were 'out there'...the fringe. They wore Birkenstock with thick socks and walked around airports with ginormous backpacks. They were adventurers, daring embracers of change and all things new.

But hey, did you know it's also possible to see the world with a too heavy great big suitcase checked through to your destination? To be a little bit adventurous and a little bit chicken all at the same time? To embrace change but insist on a few constants too?

 Trust is. 


  1. Looks stunning! Your guys seem like a bunch of kids how you describe them laughing and singing and then the photo with rabbit ears. Sounds like a wonderful trip. :-)

  2. I'm pretty sure you all could not have crammed anymore in your time there if you had tried. And, sharing the time with great friends would just be "the icing on the cake. Enjoyable post!

  3. Thank you for taking us along on your wonderful trip! The photos and your stories have been great to see and hear. I want to go to Portugal, now. I love castles and the old architecture.

  4. Thanks for showing us some of Portugal! WAY better than our dock to airport view!
    What is next on your travel agenda??!!

  5. I'm not sure I'll ever visit Europe (we don't fly) ... but no problem, because I have you to "take" me along on your trips!

  6. Beautiful coast line and this is a town I am going to put on my bucket list. It is so beautiful and I love castles! So glad that you had such a wonderful trip with friends.