Saturday, June 23, 2018

Rail Trip Portugal - 5th Whistle Stop: SINTRA

Although I had just arrived in Portugal's capital, I decided to go on a day trip to Sintra right away: It's one of the most popular tours from Lisbon, it's extremely touristy, and I was afraid that on the weekend, it would be even more packed since all the Portuguese daytrippers will join the foreign tourists.

They sure were not shy about painting the Palácio Nacional da Pena - built in the 19th century for King Fernando II.

Off to Sintra

It was raining. A lot. The internet said the rain would stop at about 9 in the morning. Too bad the weather gods of Sintra didn't listen to the forecast but made their own rules; and their rule was that I got soaked.

It's crazy what an impact the weather has on how you perceive a city. I'm afraid there are about a dozen places in this world that I disliked - only because I had to visit them in the rain and all I remember are deep grey skies and cold rain running down my spine.

How convenient: Built in Moorish style in the past - and in the present, it's an Arabic immigrant cleaning it.

Sintra had it difficult. Not only because of the bad weather. Also because at least its historic center is indeed very, very touristy. I assume that every person residing in Sintra makes a living catering to tourism. I'm not very fond of places like that - like Trinidad in Cuba, like Sirinçi in Turkey, like Guatapé in Colombia. I enjoy at least a little 'real life'.

Despite the rain: Cinderella would be so jealous...!

Hence, I was in quite a bad mood and my lovely grouchy self, walking through the rain under the deep grey sky, feeling the cold rain running down my spine.

After a minor fight with the security guard at the entrance gate, he probably also hates standing in the rain, checking people's tickets, cold rain running down his spine, I visited the Quinta da Regaleira in the rain - and yes, architectonically it is very nice.

It's not only the palace - there are the gardens with gazebos and fountains....

 ....and statues....

I like that many of the structures are a bit maze-ish: They have different entrances and exits and you can either enter them by stairs or through some narrow tunnels - it's great fun. Millionaire António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, who commissioned this estate, seemed to like things quite playfully. well as a small private chapel....

....that you can admire from above while you ask yourself where the lovely classical guitar music comes from -

- until you realize it's coming from the lower floor that you can enter over stairs or through a tunnel leading to the garden. You constantly think, oh, this is where these stairs, this hallway, this door is leading to....!

By the time I was done with the visit, according to the internet forecast, the sunshine was hours overdue. The weather gods of Sintra rescheduled a bit and the blanket of clouds vanished and some blue skies decorate at least the afternoon-pictures that I had the great pleasure to take at the Palácio da Pena, located a bit outside the town on a hill - like everything nice in Portugal.

It's good that a shuttle takes you to this main gate - since that's only the first stop on your long wandering.

But if you happen not to be a true born billy goat, there are buses at a really fair price taking you to the remote palaces Pena and de los Mouros. And even on the premises, you can take a shuttle to the main palace for 3 €uro round trip. However, at the end of the day, I was exhausted, even though I took every availably shuttle - it was a long, interesting, and very tiring day.

Well, you have to work a bit to get these views.

These woods that surround the Portuguese castles are huge! Compared to these estates, the German royal parks and gardens are shabby allotments. And of course, you are walking these woods up and down, what else, this is Portugal after all. I think I've never been to such a hilly place before. I have the feeling there is not one straight road in this country.

And I even made it up another hill to the cross!

However, the visit was totally worth it - the castle and the other structures scattered around the woods are quirky and fun and very different from any other castle I've ever seen. Almost a bit artificial - like a toy castle built from really colorful Lego-bricks.

It is an eclectic mix of styles - the bold red and yellow in combination with Arabic arabesques and Portuguese tyles.

At the end of the day, I don't really get why Sintra is 'only' a day-trip destination because it's simply impossible to see everything there is to see. If you'de like to visit all the palaces and mansions and take your sweet time, you'd need at least two if not three days.

And I recommend this visit although Sintra - and its stupid weather gods - tested me a lot today.

About Blogging

On the occasion and also nature of this very touristy visit to Sintra, I pondered a bit about being a travel blogger. Hen or egg? When it comes to blogging, I guess the answer is the same for everyone: The activity or the field of interest you are passionate about is there first, and eventually you decide - for what reason ever - to share your thoughts and information with the world.

In my case, it was only after I got asked again and again how it is to travel solo, especially as a addition as an elderly female. How I'm planning and organizing my trips and how I solve issues and which accommodations I pick and thousands of other questions more.

Hence, instead of answering these questions individually, I decided to write everything down in a blog so that everybody who needs certain info will find it in one spot.
Easy peasy, right?

Well, not really. Like probably every other blogger, I totally underestimated the work you have to put in each and every single post if you are ambitious to grant proper info, entertaining stories, and illustrate everything with appealing pictures.

But it's not only that. I assumed I would keep on travelling like I did before and just write everything down. But it's not like that. Funny enough, my way of travelling changed a bit - I did not only adapt my blog to travelling, I've also adapted my travels to blogging.

Of course, I choose destinations I'm interested in and do want to visit. But I always have my readers - you! - in mind. Technically, I'm not a solo traveller anymore - I'm travelling in an enormous group; trying to cater to different interests. There are places and things I normally wouldn't a traveller that is. As a blogger, I feel the obligation to cover far more fields give you a more complete impression of things.

But it works both ways: By forcing myself to visit certain places 'for you', at the end of the day I do enjoy them, too, and I'm very happy that my obligation as an author took me there.

As a matter of fact, everybody wins - the hen and the egg.

Did you miss this train? Here you can read what happened at the former whistle stops:

2nd Whistle Stop: FIGUEIRA da FOZ

3rd Whistle Stop: COIMBRA

4th Whistle Stop: LISBON

Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Brazil, while travelling, I'll be posting little stories and reflections on my stay. At the end of the entire tour, there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just enjoy some special moments with me.

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