Tuesday 24th September
For our visit to Sintra we chose to go to the Quinta de Regalaria as the blog of their visit from April and Cain on Spirit of Argo (a sister boat) made it sound so good, so if you are reading, thanks for a great blog!
The train journey there wasn't very inspiring, Lisbon's suburbs aren't too pretty with rows of tired looking flats and the track was rubbish strewn and decorated with graffiti. However, at Sintra greenery took over and all was kept clean for the sake of the tourist euro with art sculptures lining the road on the way down from the station.
Once in the town centre the tourist crowds increased - restless horses with carriages stood at the side of the road (having read Black Beauty I will always feel sad for these horses) and coaches blocked the roads. We found a coffee shop with a dazzling display of huge buns and cakes and fortified ourselves for a day exploring and all for only €4. They know how to do a good bun in Portugal.
The large grounds of the Quinta is it's main appeal with grottoes, underground tunnels and turrets to run up and down with fabulous views from the tops. There are enough mythical creatures and symbols to make you think you're in a Dan Brown novel.
Symbols and creatures
Most of the tunnels are unlit and very dark in places, we took torches although it was fun trying to make our way in the dark and trying to scare each other! The longest tunnel comes out at the 'initiation well' a 27m hole in the ground with a starcase winding up around the edge of it.
Looking down the initiation well
The interior of the house is mainly empty with photo displays of how it would have looked. You can get out onto a roof terrace and look onto the owners laboratory on the roof, which he kept locked, surrounded with more strange creatures. The carvings on all the buildings are so detailed and again secret society symbols can be found.
Looks like a head if you squint....
We thought the Quinta was great, there was plenty for us to do to fill 5 hours. And good value for money given the cost of some of the other attractions in Sintra.
As if we hadn't done enough walking for the day, we decided to walk up through the woods to the castle walls as far as you can go without paying. It was up and steep, with plenty of steps thrown in too. Much quicker coming back down! We had a drink from a fountain that all the locals were filling big plastic bottles at, so we reckoned it must be ok even though a sign said the quality couldn't be guaranteed. No bad guts so it must have been ok.
We tried a gingyva (cherry liquer in a little chocolate cup) - bit like cough medicine but with more kick.
We caught the train from Oriente, the station within Parque das Nacoes and about 10 minutes walk from the marina. We had to change once on the way out (the next train arrived at the same platform so not a lot of hassle); we got a direct train for our way home. €2.70 each per direction for a 50 minute journey. The quinta visit cost €6 each which included the grounds and the house.