Road trip- final chapter (Sintra)
13 September 2007
As we drove away from Evora, we tried to glimpse megaliths in the surrounding fields and wished we had more time to explore. Not this time though-Katherine was booked on an 1145 flight from Lisbon, and would soon be winging her way back to Toronto. The car seemed very empty after we dropped her off, but Christopher took over the navigator's seat and we headed for Sintra- another World Heritage site on the outskirts of Lisbon.
Arriving in Sintra is like stepping into a picture from one of your old fairy tale books. This charming town is set in a lush wooded area on the slopes of the Serra de Sintra, and was once a summering-place for Portugal's kings. Palaces, mansions and an old Moorish castle can be glimpsed through the woods from various viewpoints. Our first stop was the "Palacio Nacional de Sintra". This site dates back to the Moors, but the existing building was repeatedly enlarged and redecorated by a succession of Portugal's kings. There are beautiful "azulejos" (tiles) and sumptuous furnishings throughout the palace, and the views from the windows are stunning. After visiting the palace, we had lunch at a small caf� in the town and then drove up the steep winding road to the site of an old Moorish castle.
Now THIS was a castle! Clearly built with defense in mind, it sits on a promontory some 1,300 feet above sea level, and the walks to the tops of the two battlements are decidedly not for the faint of heart. As we inched our way along the steep stone staircases with no guard rails, it occurred to me that our paternalistic Canadian bureaucracy would likely never allow free public access to a site like this. From the top, we could see the surrounding countryside, the city of Lisbon, and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The peaks of the "Palacio Nacional de Pena" were visible through the trees, looking just like Sleeping Beauty's castle. Unfortunately, all three of us have a mild distaste for heights. By the time we made it back to the bottom, we were sweating profusely, and not just from the heat.
Our guidebook describes the Pena palace as "ludicrous and magical"and we probably should have gone to visit it. But by 3 p.m. we were all tired, thirsty and ready to stop. The drive back to Ayamonte seemed long- perhaps partly because we took a small detour to make one last visit to a Portuguese supermercado. We arrived back at Aisling around 9 p.m., and found that everything in our freezer had thawed. Oh well, it was a good thing we had been to the supermercado- and we'd had a great road trip!