We got a long weekend and we had a voucher for a one night stay in one of the Vila Galé Hotels, to use before 2012. So, we took that chance to visit Sintra (Portugal).
On 7 October 2011, we caught the “Regional train” at 5:50 in Aveiro and we arrived at the “Gare do Oriente” (Lisbon Oriente Station) at around 10 o’clock. This was a long trip because we caught the slowest and cheapest train. But, as we were playing a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, the Starship Traveller, we didn’t feel it was that long. That was my first experience with gamebooks and I enjoyed it a lot. You can visit this website for more information about this gamebook and other ones.
To go to Sintra we had to catch two more trains, one at Oriente Station and the other at Campolide Station. This trip should take 51min, but, because of our distraction, we took more than one and half hour to arrive to Sintra. We didn’t leave the train in Campolide Station, therefore we had to stop at the next station and wait for the train to go back. We arrived to the town of Sintra at around 12 o’clock and we exited the Station through the building of the Train Station, which is decorated by beautiful “azulejos” (tiles).
Not too far from the Train Station, we saw a curious building, the “Câmara Municipal de Sintra” (Sintra Town Hall). This building dated from 1909 is a fine example of Neo-Manueline architecture.
We continued our walk looking for a nice place to have our home made lunch. We found a public park, the “Parque da Liberdade” (Freedom Park). This park, inaugurated in 1937, hosts a plant population that includes 60 different species. It seemed a nice place to spend some time relaxing, playing sports or getting to know some plant species names and their main characteristics.
After lunch we had enough energy to climb the “Serra de Sintra” (Sintra Mountain), which is shrouded in mystery and, with some frequency, in fog. But not that day. We started our walk towards the “Palácio National da Pena” (Pena National Palace), where we arrived one hour later. As we intended to visit both the Pena Palace and the “Castelo dos Mouros” (Castle of the Moors), we bought a combined ticket (Pena Palace + Castle of the Moors) that cost 14€.
We found a row of 6 Sequoia sempervirens trees (the tallest tree species on Earth) at the entrance of the Pena Park. A few meters ahead, we gave a look at a model of Sintra mountain that shows its geological structure. After some climbing, we arrived at the Pena Palace. The view from there is fantastic. We can see everything around us. There was only one thing stopping us from completely enjoy that amazing view, the cold and strong wind coming from Northwest.
We visited the Manueline Chapel, which remained from the former Monastery built before the Palace. After that, we entered the Palace. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures in there.
The interior of the Palace is extraordinary, everything, from the floor to the ceiling is beautifully decorated. But it is especially unique because of the furniture and the personal belongings that can be seen exactly as they were left in 1910, when Queen Amélia and the rest of the royal family left Portugal into exile. There’s one room that stands out from all the others, the Arab Room. Its walls and ceiling are painted with oriental motifs and it is decorated with Indo-Portuguese furniture. The visit to the Palace ended in the large kitchen, which is filled with copper pots.
It was time to visit the Pena Park. But first, we took a snack break. As we were afraid of getting too late to the Moorish Castle, we did a quick visit to the Park. We visited the “Templo de Colunas” (Column Temple), built by order of D. Fernando II on the spot of an old chapel dedicated to Saint António. Then we passed by the “Jardim das Camélias” (Garden of Camelias), by the Drinking Fountain of the Birds and by the Valley of the Lakes, which consists of five consecutive lakes linked together by waterfalls.
Unfortunately, we didn’t go to the “Cruz Alta” (Higt Cross), the highest point of Sintra Mountain (528 meters). Neither to the “Alto de Santa Catarina”(Saint Catherine’s Peak), which seems to be the best place to take pictures of the Pena Palace.
After leaving the Pena Park, we followed the directions to the ruins of the Castle of the Moors. The view from the Pena Palace was amazing, but from the Castle was breathtaking, we could see everything around us, including the Palace and the village of Sintra. It’s completely understandable why that place was chosen to build the castle.
We left the Castle through a stone pathway that led us to the “Calçada dos Clérigos”. That stone pathway is part of three different pedestrian routes, two short ones (PR2 and PR3) and a long one (GR11-E9) and, along it, we saw the house where Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author noted for his children’s stories, lived when he stayed in Portugal.
We were back to the historic center of Sintra at 18 o’clock. Then, we went to the new part of Sintra to buy some food and water at the supermarket and we went back to the historic center to have dinner in the Bengal Tandoori Restaurant, an Indian & Italian restaurant.
After dinner, we walked back to the Train Station to catch the train to Campolide and, from there, to Alcântara-Terra. From Campolide Station we could see the “Aqueduto das Águas Livres” (Aqueduct of the Free Waters). We went by foot from Alcântara-Terra Station to the Villa Gallé Ópera Hotel, located next to the “Ponte 25 de Abril” (25 of April Bridge).
Our room, where we arrived at around 22 o’clock, was very comfortable and it offered a nice view. From there we could see the “Padrão dos Descobrimentos” (Monument to the Discoveries) and the “Rio Tejo” (Tagus River).
You can see here the general course of our trip .