The train to Sintra was about an hour ride from Lisbon. The train station in Sintra is on the outskirts of the town, not very close to any of the sights. There are people waiting to catch the tourists leaving the station, to sell you tickets for a hop on/hop off bus service throughout the area to the various palaces. I got on one of these and took it for the short ride into the heart of the “downtown” area with the Sintra National Palace. I grabbed lunch first since I was quite famished and enjoyed a marvelous pizza with a view of the palace.
I toured through the National Palace after lunch, enjoying the ornate designs and furnishings inside. When I left, the bus was out front, conveniently, so I rushed over and hopped on to get a ride up the mountainside to the Castle of the Moors and the Pena National Palace or the Palácio Nacional da Pena in Portuguese. As the bus wound its way back and forth up the mountain we kept passing people who were walking up it. They looked so hot and sweaty and I felt bad for them. And so thankful I had gotten the bus ticket! It was quite a ways up the mountain and in the July heat… poor people.
The stop for the castle came first, but I had seen from a prior curve in the road that the castle lay quite a ways above the stop for it. I didn’t feel like a hike, so I stayed on the bus. I’ve seen plenty of castle ruins. This one I deemed not worth it at that point in time. Next was the stop for the Pena National Palace, which was also quite a ways above the stop. Thankfully, they had a shuttle to take people up and down it, for a cheap price of course. Perhaps the castle had a shuttle as well, but I can not say…
I have to admit, though, that I was a little disappointed by this palace. It looked so beautiful in pictures I’d seen online, and I really wanted to see the ornate window that was held up by a rather unusual “man.” In person, however, it looked like the palace was made of concrete, painted over, and cracking in some places. A lot of the exterior was being worked on with scaffolding and tarps all over. The awesome iconic window with the man beneath it? Covered with tarps! It all came across as a cheap joke and left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I took my pictures, and quickly made my way through it so I could return to the bus stop.
I took the bus back into the downtown area with the Sintra National Palace. Feeling lazy, and with feet that were really starting to hurt, I got a really cheap, 5 minute taxi ride to the Quinta da Regaleira. It was so close that the taxi driver was surprised when I insisted on getting a ride from him to it, rather than walking. Oh well, some things are just worth the money at the time!
The Quinta turned out to be my favorite of the 3 palaces that I got to see. There are quite a few more, however most of them lay on the longer bus route, which I did not have the time to take as closing times were approaching. The palace was more ornately decorated, yet still somber in its uniform shade of grey, not like the loud and outlandish colors of the Pena National Palace. The interior was beautifully decorated, with old styled paintings on the walls and floors, along with beautiful woodwork. You are able to wander through the multiple floors of the palace and up into one of the towers for a view of the gardens and the Castle of the Moors up above.
The gardens of the Quinta are by far its best feature. It is an extensive maze of paths, underground tunnels, stairs, towers, waterfalls, ponds, and wells to explore. Bring a flashlight for the tunnels!! The large, empty well has stairs spiraling around it all the way to the bottom where the tunnels connect to it. Probably a fun little adventure, but I did not have any light to see with, so I regretfully, had to pass. There’s a little man-made waterfall with stepping stones across the stream below it which lead to a tunnel that brings you behind the falls. Add in the pond full of ducks, the beautiful flowers (hydrangea clusters larger than my head!), and a little chapel on the grounds and the Quinta was a charming way to spend an afternoon and my last little bit of time in Portugal.