So, here we have Part Two of my explorations around Portugal.
The following photos are from a day I spent wandering around Lisbon. I ducked into a number of cute and charming boutique shops, as well as stopped in a sweet little park to read in the sun and watch the group of elderly men chatting boisterously and playing chess under the trees.
Now onto Sintra. First off, the first two photos below are the train station in Lisbon. Gorgeous isn't it? Even something as simple as the train station was a stunning piece of architecture. I had to pause and take a photo. Then made my way inside to purchase a ticket to the famed and recently raved about town of Sintra.
Upon arrival in Sintra, I boarded a bus that would take me and the other passengers to Pena Palace. The palace stands on the very tip-top of a hill overlooking the stunning town below it (Sintra) which is a beautiful little city literally tucked into the sides of a gigantic mountain overlooking a huge swell of Portugal.
You can see the palace just peeking over the top of the mountain. So you see, it is at the very top.
The bus ride leading up to this point was both INSANE and a total blast. Talk about a winding, borderline fishtailing, wild and zany ride going back and forth, back and forth, up a very steep incline driving along the very edge of the road (when one looked out the window, you were looking down a steep drop hundreds and hundreds of feet).
Check out that explosion of colors! Whoa, this palace was so eye-catching and neat. Lots of fun to look at and explore. Pena Palace was such a vivid and brilliant array of shades, it stood out big time against the otherwise natural and sedate colors of nature surrounding it (largely forest and mountains).
Fun fact: apparently for centuries, Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a total of 18 monks. In the 18th century, this was destroyed and for decades remained untouched. But then a king (King Ferdinand) acquired the area and decided to turn it into a summer palace. He wanted the style of the palace to reflect and symbolize something like the Opera (one of his passions).
This is the result.
This grand entrance to the palace is supposed to symbolize the allegory for the creation of the world.
And will you have a look at those views from the palace terraces. Breathtaking.
When I say the palace is situated on the top of a mountain, I literally mean at the top.
This "wall walk" around the outside of the castle was lots of fun. I waited a good 10 minutes to get this photo with no one in it!!
That crumbling castle that is partially snaking down the side of that mountain as well as sitting on top, that is the Moorish Castle. Beautiful isn't it?
Yes, we were literally up in the sky. Such incredible sweeping views, 360 degrees all below and around us.
I sat here for a good 45 minutes, soaking up the warm and delicious rays of sunshine, people watching, chatting with some fellow travelers my age, and enjoying gazing at the palace.
Then I explored the gardens surrounding the palace which go on for acres apparently.
I had heard that there was a specific spot where one could get an incredible photograph and view of the palace, so I set out to find it. I explored the forest and park for probably 45 minutes, to no avail. I was ready to give up, frustrated and super hungry, but decided I would give it just 10 more minutes. of searching
As I walked up a hill, a couple emerged from the brush, completely off the path, literally pulling aside bushes and trees to come through. I asked them, smiling, "So, is there an amazing view up there?" The man nodded enthusiastically and told me, yes, climb up there and check it out, its awesome.
I pushed through bushes and sharp branches, clawing my way through greenery and climbing up small boulders. I am 90% sure this is not a spot I was supposed to be in, as I had gone completely off the path and up the hill into the woods. However, when I reached the top, this is what I saw.
Now, to explain this situation, this was hands down the most terrifying place from which I have ever taken a photo. You cannot see it from looking at these, but I was standing essentially at the edge (on these rocks) of a small cliff. One foot was balanced on a rock that came to what was basically a sharp point, my foot wobbling back and forth on that precariously. My other foot was placed on a slightly more stable rock, my legs in a semi-mild split. And the final factor: the wind. It was GUSTING and WHIPPING all around me. So much so that I was wavering and having major trouble keeping balance. I had nothing to lean on, nothing to hold on to.
Needless to say, I was shaking a bit.
However I calmed down, concentrated, snapped the photos rapid fire, as fast as I possibly could. I kept my cool because I knew the more I shook, the more likely I was to plummet to my death. But, thankfully (the resulting photos being evidence of this) I made it down safe and sound.
After getting that photo, I felt like I was walking on air for a good 30 minutes. I was FILLED with satisfaction and adrenaline. I had gotten the money shot! Oh yeah :-D This was way cool.
And now, on to Cascais, the famous beach just outside of Lisbon. The day after my trip to Sintra, I took a train out to Cascais. I laid on the beach, read my book, ate one of those made-of-dreams coconut sweet rolls and relaxed for a few hours. Then I walked the boardwalk all around the beach for an hour or so, took photos, ate a pistachio gelato, and greatly enjoyed myself.
On my second to last night, I had some truly incredible seafood. This place was rated as #7 for the best seafood in Lisbon. I wrote down the directions and after Cascais, headed out fittingly for some food from the sea.
This restaurant was down an incredibly unsettling alleyway. The walls covered in graffiti, sketchy characters loitering on the curb, dark and dusty storefronts open but empty. However, as it was daylight (about 5pm) and I was starving, I pressed on.
I found the restaurant and ducked inside. Right away, the chef swept me over to the cooler where the fish was kept. I could tell immediately that I had come to the right place. This man was clearly a master at his craft. He described the different fish to me (laughed when I said, "what about salmon...?" telling me, "No, no, no, you do not come to Lisbon and eat salmon. Salmon is a farmed fish. You want something wild from the sea, and fresh. I recommend this delicious white fish to you.") So I agreed.
Fifteen minutes later, he emerged from the kitchen with this. And he had thrown on the salmon for me too, no charge!!! Really sweet.
This dinner was to die for. Perfectly grilled seafood, a side of lemony butter, the potato was cooked to perfection, the salad was a fresh and tasty side to the rest of the foods. YUM. All for 9 euros!!!! Plus at the end, he gave me a complimentary shot of Porto wine. This is apparently the wine of the region, which I hadn't tried (as I am not a big wine fan).
Phenomenal meal, and experience, for 10 euro. Loved this.
My host, Judite, left me little sweets and fruit every day!!! This was so incredibly nice and thoughtful :-D
I was walking down a quiet back street on my very last day in Lisbon when I stumbled across this building. Shell shocked (by the color...the architecture...the sheer size), I stopped and snapped a photo. Whoa.
I hunted down this pastry shop as I had heard it was a must try (Tartine). This was the toughest place for me to find, out of all the ones I purposefully seeked out for specific food choices. However, it was worth the search.
As it was my last day, I decided to go all out, no-holds-barred eating action. The item on the right is a sweet cheese pastry, almost like ricotta. This was quite good, though not a showstopper. The one on the left was one of my beloved coconut rolls. Though this one was not nearly as good as the other ones that I began to get daily from the bakery down the street from where I was staying.
The third item I got was a chocolate tart. This was the best of the three. The chocolate was soft...creamy...slightly bitter while also sweet. The crust was like a shortbread. Excellent. I ate that chocolate tart while sitting in the square pictured below.
I sat at this cafe for about an hour and a half writing out post cards to people :-D many of you should be getting one sometime in the near future...keep an eye on the mail ;-)
My last dinner in Portugal. An excellent crepe filed with cheese, mushroom, spinach and egg. Super tasty.
And that's all folks!! I hope you enjoyed. This was a wonderful trip for me. Peaceful, exciting, super delicious, I did lots of exploring, took tons of photos (as you can clearly see), read a lot, enjoyed meeting and chatting with a few fun people, relaxed a lot, ate some really outstanding food and just really enjoyed myself.
Another 10 for a great European travel adventure :-D