Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Portugal Fairy Tale Begins in Sintra

Saturday, February 27

After six hours on the bus, we arrived in Sintra, a small town outside of Lisbon.  Tourists staying in Lisbon love making day trips here to admire the quaint town on a hill and the extraordinary castle that protects it.  We first toured the streets of the town, following Toba as he took us through the nooks and crannies.  We had a picnic in an ancient park and prepared for the day's main event: the Palacio de la Pena (the Palace of Pain).

The Palacio de la Pena is situated high above Sintra.  Good thing we had Elder, our weekend bus driver, to swing us up the mountain.  Upon entrance, more steep climbs greeted us.  But, once we arrived at the fairy tale castle, we were literally on top of the world.  The photo shoots began to admire the incredible architecture and breathtaking views.

Construction began here during the Middle Ages for purpose of a chapel.  In the late 1400's, the Portuguese royal family commissioned an addition of a Monastery to St. Jerome.  Although the structure was a bit damaged by the 1755 earthquake, it was resurrected and renovated in the 1800's to make it the Portuguese royal family summer home. 

I was struck my the Moorish influences in the architecture.  The Moors never inhabited this palace, but did build a fort on another hill in Sintra that reminds you of the Great Wall of China (see below).  I suppose the Christians who built the palace had no problem including the Moorish tower, arched doorway, and courtyard.  We toured the inside as well, but could not take any photos of the royal furniture and decoration.

After touring the truly fairy tale castle, it was time for another quick stop before Lisbon: Cascais.  This resort town has great views of the rocky coast.  For views of this day in Sintra and Cascais, see the album "Sintra, Portual 2-27" at https://picasaweb.google.com/bradleywilliams39

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