Sintra Travel Blog› entry 38 of 42 › view all entries
sitting on the train waiting to pull out of lisbon, i'm already in love with sintra. well who wouldn't be at 3.40 euro round trip ticket?! initially i was excited to visit sintra because absolutely every one that found out i would be in lisbon told me that i had to make it to sintra. then add to that it turns out to be a 3.40 euro ticket?? score! PLUS it was only a quick 30-45 minutes away!
once arriving at sintra's train station i headed to the tourist desk for a map and the employee there was taking surveys of the english speakers regarding where they were from. right away he said to me 'US right?', which i of course confirmed and he immediately smiled and said 'congratulations on your new president!' that of course made me smile because i've heard that so many times now while here, but it never gets old! it's so awesome and just really cool to see other's enthusiasm, and it's just an all around great feeling and vibe, and definitely much different than what i felt when i was here in 2006 and especially 2005 during katrina.
upon exiting the train station it only got better. as i walked the short distance to the city center my surroundings went from small town charm to greenery - parks, forests, mini lakes. and then you round a corner and through some tress there's this palace!
the palace turned out to be Palacio Nacional de Sintra in the historic city center. i took photos but didn't go in because i realized i had limited time to see what i wanted to see since the employee there made everything sound so tempting! i ended up having to narrow it down and come up with a must see list, which i'm glad i did because although i didn't go into that palace or the toy museum (which funny enough were the 2 original things i had planned on doing), i did go into the Quinta da Regaleira - which is something i'll never forget.
first off, the walk there was great in it of itself. it very much reminded me of a hike to cinque terre from biassa years ago, right down to the spray painted path-markers on random rocks, trees, and posts. when i finally reached the destination i was stopped dead in my tracks. it's this... mansion surrounded by amazing gardens full of wells, lakes, waterfalls, spiraling towers, an aquarium, underground tunnels, grottos - all for you to play in and hike through! the site has been named a unesco world heritage sight and rightfully so as it's just like a completely different universe in there. it actually reminded me of when i was a kid and would build forts out of boxes and the couch cushions and crawl around in it pretending i was in my own little world.
so there's a very detailed and efficient map for you to follow but it's very hard to do so because each way you turn there's a different path to take or an underground tunnel you want to crawl into with something amazing on the other end! of course it took me a while to discover the other ends of these tunnels because i was too scared to go in!! they were dark! i mean at first i was all gung ho because i had my little blue flashlight and my book light which i figured were plenty so i pulled them out and charged in! mistake!! i walked about 4 feet in before i was engulfed in darkness, freaked out, turned around, and walked right back out! i said no way, not happening.
i got about...4 feet further than i did the first time. i ran into a stairwell climbing up (only visible by the flash of my camera when i took a picture mind you), couldn't see anything further than 2 steps in front of me, then turned around and backed out!! yes, i am a wimp.
well, eventually i made it through one of the scary underground caves/tunnels a bit later... after i followed 4 other people through one! i happened to be walking a little bit of ahead of this group when i came upon another cave, waited a while near the entrance hoping they would find it too, and then when they did i let them go ahead of me and once i heard them come out safely on the other side shortly after, i charged right on through!! heck after that first one i was plowing through those suckers like nothing! and even stopping to take photos! i was very proud of myself.
i ended up wandering through the maze of gardens, and tunnels, and statues, and fountains... for a good 2 or 3 hours before finally making it to the mansion portion. it was a small mansion, but hey who i am to judge?! i woudln't turn it down!
when i finally tore myself away from the Quinta da Regaleira i realized i only had time to make one more stop, so i chose the Palacio da Pena and caught a bus up the mountain to get there.
however this was also kind of a downside because upon entering you're told no photos or video allowed - understandable. then you're told you have to carry your backpack in your hand or on your front - also understandable because i definitely don't want to be the one to turn around and swing my bag knocking over some ancient vase. but then as you enter the first room the first thing you see are 3 signs that say no photos or videos.
all in all sintra was just...wonderful. had i known it was such a great little spot i would have planned to spend more time there, probably a couple nights or so.