Thursday, 5 July 2012

The day we climbed a mountain

Day 70 - 01.07.12 Sintra 2
Palacio Nacional de Sintra, Portugal

We got up early (…for us…on a Sunday) to visit the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, in the centre of town.  It’s an odd looking building with two huge conical towers and big Moorish windows.  It’s looking a little run down at the moment and like a lot of Portugal, in need of a lick of paint.  Perhaps there’s some sort of paint shortage?!  The palace despite charging 7 euros per person all week is free on Sunday mornings, a very well-kept secret!  

Inside there’s a lot more of the Moorish influence in the way the windows were shaped and tile work on many of the walls.  Many of the ceilings were intricately decorated in different themes, the swan room was particularly remarkable.  There were lots of impressive chandeliers and grand pieces of furniture to be seen.
The main highlight though had to be the Blazons Hall with pretty blue azulejo tiles around the walls and the huge domed ceiling.  The ceiling really is something special with a huge golden crest at its centre and many gilded crests surrounding it.  The huge table at the centre finishes off what is a breath-taking room with views over the rest of Sintra and out to the sea.  Again the gardens left a little to be desired but didn’t detract from a great visit. 

Palacio de Pena, Pena Palace, Sintra in Portugal

After lunch at the van we set out for the Palacio Nacional da Pena high on a hill above the city.  We knew we were in for a steep trek but underestimated quite how steep!  It took us at least an hour to walk up the hills, but still saved us the expensive tourist bus fees!  The views along the way were magnificent.  We could see over the city and out to sea, as well as over at the huge Moorish castle.  The entrance fee for the Palace of Pena was a rather ridiculous 13.50 euros each, up from 9 euros out of season!  The walls and gates around the palace also mean you can barely see it without paying at least something, so we opted for a ticket just to enter the gardens at a more reasonable 7 euros. 

The gardens are huge and include a small farm, fountains, lakes and a recently refurbished cottage which is just adorable!  We had a great time scrambling around, up hills and through huge piles of rocks.  Despite the tiring walk to the palace we also opted to climb to the highest point of the park and indeed the Sintra mountains, 529 metres above sea level.  It was quite a sense of achievement to reach the top and the views of the palace were fantastic.  

From there we walked over the palace itself which is wonderfully bizarre!  It’s a host of funky colours and crazy shapes, truly very unusual.  There’s some incredible detailing on the huge gate and the half-man-half-fish sculpture above on of the windows.  It’s a spectacular place and a real shame it’s so expensive to get in as we’d have loved to see the inside.  Sadly we have to be very careful with our money and it’s a fine line between making sure we don’t miss out on things whilst making sure our money goes as far as possible so we can keep travelling!

Moorish castle, Castelo de Mouros Sintra, Portugal

The walk home was much more pleasant as it’s all downhill!  When we got home we just collapsed into the van to rest our weary legs!  It has been a tiring but really awesome day.          

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