Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wondrous Sintra

We have left Lisboa and arrived in Sintra, a magical mixture of nature and medieval wonders, from the mystical Moorish castle that crowns the mountaintop to the many opulant palaces sprinkled across hilltop and countryside. On the forty minute train ride to Sintra I had moments of panic as the landscape of high-rise apartment buildings didn't seem like it would come to an end. I had pictured Sintra so different, so much more rural, but then in the last few moments we came over a rise and things abruptly changed. Sintra is a smallish town, centered around the Palácio Nacional originally built by the Moors circa 900 AD with its two huge conical kitchen chimneys making it impossible to miss. Looming overhead, crowning the mountaintop, is the Castelo dos Mouros built in 700 AD, and it is nothing less than stupendously magical. It just doesn't get better than a steep tree-covered, boulder-filled mountain, topped with a craggy, stone castle wall following the steep contours of the mountain, skirted below by Mediterranean red-tile roof-topped, colorful stucco houses on winding, narrow roads. Wow. If that is not enough to make this place utterly fantastic, half a kilometer from the Moorish castle atop another hill, sits Palácio de Pena, a pleasure palace built by the royals during the 1800's, outlandishly colorful and luxurious in contrast to the Moorish castle of granite. In the valley below the Moorish castle, lies mystical Regaleira, a mysterious, white, limestone palace built by an opera-loving, disgruntled royalist with a lot of money in 1918. Our house, built by actor Jóse Ricardo in the late 1800's, is a forty minute walk/hike (Isaac is currently working on number of stairs, we'll keep you posted) to the top of the Moorish castle, and just around the corner from the local fresh food market. Plus, it also has a fully-functioning kitchen which I am putting to good Portuguese use. We may not come home.

Click aqui for photos.

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