Sintra, Portugal

Travel

Sintra, particularly the area I visited, is a tourist zone, no bones about it. With all of its historic buildings, it is a a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Upon arriving in Sintra by train, we were inundated by tour guides, 360-degree bubble vehicles, scooter rentals, and the like. Once we elbowed our way out of there, we walked down a curved cobblestone sidewalk, where sculptures lined the right hand side of it.

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is that a weasel? I love weasels.

Along with the sculptures were artists hawking their art- watercolors, jewelry, belt buckles, scarves. On our second trip in I did end up buying a ring and a hair clip. There was also a guy playing, in heavy rotation, “A Whole New World,” “Colors of the Wind,” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” on the panflute. It gave me flashbacks to when I worked in Times Square and below my office there were pan flautists playing the Titanic theme… ALL DAY. My heart may go on but my brain is toast, thankyouverymuch.
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Castle from Below

Once we got past all of the people trying to get our money, we came to the town itself. More people trying to get our money, but anyway. Up, way way up on the mountain, we could see the Castelo Dos Mouros- a castle built in the 8th and 9th centuries to protect this farming town. During this time, this area was ruled by Muslims until the castle was surrendered in the 1100s to Christian Rule.

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“Hey Nando, you see them tits up there?” – Roberto Canessa, Andes.

We followed a road, away from the town, and up towards the castle. We got a great view of the Sintra National Palace, AKA the Boob Building.  Very few were walking it, some took a bus. We got so many great views of the amazing architecture. Aching to get away from the cobblestone and occasional pavement, we found a lush path on our way up, and hiked through it. It brought us through the back end of the castle, but not before we came across a weird little tunnel building that went, well, I don’t know where:

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Vaginaland, Except with spiders.

I cannot tell a lie; we gave up at the first sign of spiders.

 

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Around front, we paid our admission and wandered around. There was a cool thing to climb on in the front, until I realized I was climbing on a crypt with a skull and crossbones on it. The views all over the castle were amazing and breathtaking. You could see some of the other palaces that we did not get a chance to visit in the background. Giant, colossal buildings that looked so tiny. The National Palace, which looked so large, was so small below us.

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In 1755 there was a major earthquake that almost completely destroyed Lisbon and the surrounding areas. The castle was damaged and the structural integrity compromised, but it still stood, and was made safe, standing still today.

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We wandered around town a little bit until our stomachs led us to a restaurant we had seen on our way with vegan friendly options.  Cafe Saudade was a welcome comfort. We had the most common local beer (we had it everywhere!), Super Bock, and a couple of sandwiches that we split. The sandwiches were on Bolo Do Caco bread, a traditional bread from Madeira Island. We sure didn’t eat vegan, but it was delicious- we shared a tomato, mozzarella, oregano, and olive oil sandwich, and a cheese, lettuce, tomato, olives, carrots, and beet sandwich. It was delicious, and the largest meal we had had so far.

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We wandered around the town a little more, and then left to go back to Lisbon. We weren’t planning on coming back again, however, towards the end of the trip, when we had a car, we decided to go back, a decision mostly influenced by the fact that we could find SHADE at Quinta Da Regaleira.

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Quinta Da Regaleira was built in the early 1900s and had a lot of different owners. He wanted to build a unique place that reflected his ideologies. Along the property are many symbols of alchemyMasonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians. Not to mention, lots of dogs (that’s my sole opinion, but there were lots of statues of dogs. I’m a fan. Fun fact: Many lame facebook websites and clickbait sites show spots from Quinta Da Regaleira (mostly the initiation wells, but also some mossy ponds) and refer to them as “Beautiful Abandoned Spots.” This place is about as abandoned as Times Square, just so you know.

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Initiation Well. Like a tower but inside out.

Rambling gardens and caves, waterfalls and fountains, towers, mini-cathedrals, gardens, and a giant palace, by far, my favorite part was the initiation well. These wells were never meant for water, rather, they were used for tarot initiation rites- they are like towers, that go down instead of up.

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Eventually, we left Sintra, by car, but not without some excitement. If I learned 2 lessons from my second trip to Sintra, its these.

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  1. Take it easy with the photos, lest you end up like this annoying couple, holding everyone up everywhere, because they thought that Sintra was their own private photo shoot location. They literally posed each other for 50 photos in EVERYTHING.
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2. No matter what, even if everyone else is doing it, do not park wherever you feel like it, on a narrow street next to a tourist attraction. Everyone else will leave, the GNR (police) will pretty much treat it as a disaster zone, reroute traffic around your car, and make you follow him to his station, only because you avoided getting towed by about 30 seconds, and then you will have to pay 160 euros. Trust me on this one. But, on the flip side, most of the GNR were handsome.

The rest of the photos… Click to enlarge.