Wow, what a killer day for touring! The weather was just perfect. Bright, sunny and about 70-75 degrees…. couldn’t have asked for better. It was a great complement to the gorgeous palaces and castles of Sintra. We started our day by parking at the Sintra train station and getting an Uber to the Pena Palace-a national landmark of Portugal. The Palace is built on the site of an old monastery from the 1100s. It was mostly destroyed in the great earthquake of 1755….but soon to be King Ferdinard II really loved this site… so in the 1830s, he purchased this old monastery and the nearby Castle of the Moors and soon would build a palace. He became King when his wife, Queen Maria II (remember the 7 year old girl that was given the crown by her father? same girl, now age 18) and he had their first child. Together, both Ferdinand and Maria designed the various pieces of the palace, including Arab and Moorish influences
It has the most amazing views from the top of the highest hills. In fact, it is so high and distinct in position, on a clear day you can see this from Lisbon in the distance.
If you look closely to the view, you can see the Castle of the Moors, a medieval castle built in the 900s by the Arab Moors and taken back by Christian forces in the 1100s during the reconquest of Portugal. This ruined castle was also part of the land purchase King Ferdinand made and he committed lots of resources to restoring and preserving it.
This is by far the most toured and well-known site of Portugal I would bet… and it shows. Tour bus after tour bus was arriving as we were leaving. So many people. Kegan was about to his wits end with the people… so it was a perfect time to head to the next tourist site. ha
Back at the gift shop and main entrance, we hired a Tuk Tuk driver to take us to the Quinta da Regalaira. With all of the major hills and mountains, it would have taken all day to walk between these sites… but a motorized tuk tuk cart and 20 euro… you’re there in 15 minutes 🙂
Norah made friends with a little french girl. This was after making friends with a little Italian boy at Pena Palace. ha
There isn’t a huge history to this estate… just how amazing it all is with grottos and waterfalls, stepping stone entrances, Tarot card and Free Mason initiation wells built into the ground, a super-Gothic style palace with 5 floors, lookout points, underground tunnels …. it was just amazing
There was a Sequoia tree planted in the middle of the estate! The Pena Palace has this sort of odd trees/plants thing, too- over 400 plants and trees brought from all over the world.
I was here for these super strange “Initiation wells”. 88 ft deep and never actually used as a well for water, No one really knows the true purpose, but they have a lot of symbolism with Tarot mysticism and its thought they were part of some secret ceremony. The guy who owned and built these was a well known Free Mason and was into secret codes of the Knights Templar and alchemy.
There are 9 landings, representing the 9 levels of Hell in Dante’s inferno. The steps between each containing 27 steps, which is dictated by Masonic principles (according to websites anyway…I couldn’t find any actual info on this as much as I tried…all the websites just seemed to be copying each other.)
We walked around and found this cave/tunnel that emptied out in to a pool with stepping stones to cross to the other side.
We walked on down the property to the palace where we toured the inside…
After seeing the palace, it was time to walk back down the hill 15 minutes or so into the town of Sintra. I had read about pastries that just could not be missed from a bakery that had been baking for the King and Queen since the palace was built in the 1800s.
We ended up with a Pastais de Nata (egg custard), an orange cake (I don’t know the name), a Queijada pastry- sort of a cheesecake like pastry… and a Travesseiro – an almond creme filled “pillow” covered in sugar that is unique to the Sintra area. All in all, they were OK… but nothing I’d say is “cant miss”.
We ate our pastries in the car and headed north along the coast. We came to a point with an old fortress and a beautiful rocky coastline.
We next drove the town of Òbidos, which I had planned on walking around… but honestly, the idea of parking at the bottom of this hill outside the city walls, leaving the car and walking all the way to the top wasn’t really appealing… and we were a little behind schedule anyway.
We did stop off in their local supermarket though to grab some shelf-stable items we could keep in the car for the next few days.
We found gazpacho…something both Kegan and I could drink every day. The fresh tomatoes, peppers, onion… mmmmhhh. Cant get enough of it.
Kegan found me some Cape Gooseberries- my favorite fruit- that were local to Portugal. So good.
Also picked up some random other items. Cherry tomatoes, oranges, chocolate, wine, bread….
I wish we had a big cooler or fridge though because the most impressive thing was their seafood counter!
I want to live somewhere where my local seafood counter looks this good. Holy cow! I think if we come back to Portugal, I would plan 2-3 days around the beach in summer and AirBnb a place with a kitchen and cook ALL the seafoods. 🙂
We drove on to the town of Caldas do Rainha where our hotel was for the night and we then walked across town to a small restaurant called Tibino Casa de Petiscos. Such a good choice.
Our starters included a bread basket and olives and we ordered some small plates
Kegan’s main course was wood fire grilled octopus and we both agreed it was the best we had ever had…and up until now, we had given that honor to Monterey Fish House in central California…but now the honor will be bestowed here.
I had ordered the Portuguese steak because I thought it was something different, basically. haha It was OK.. but nothing great.
They were so cute and brought us a hand-written dessert menu in English.
They had a photo on Google that I was trying to order…and the only thing that maybe matched up was the almond tart on the menu… turns out, it wasn’t what I was trying to order. haha but it was ok.
It seems like a good time to mention just how amazingly open and nice everyone in Portugal is. Everywhere we go people cant wait to tell us about all the fun things around that we should see and do in their town… and are always so eager to speak in English with us when they see us majorly struggling with Portuguese. I didn’t expect that, I never expect anyone to speak MY language when I don’t speak their’s… but they seem genuinely shocked when Norah says “Obigrada” (thank you) and “ola” (hello), like they think it’s the cutest thing. ha
Tomorrow is another day hopping between towns seeing sites and old buildings 🙂 See ya then!