Beautiful Sintra

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Amber Christian
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When we were originally slated to see Sintra, we were going to go as part of a day tour that took us to a number of sites in the area. Unfortunately, I was ill that day and we had to cancel that day trip. So for visiting Sintra, I had to make an impromptu plan. Sometimes this happens on vacation, and you just roll with it. There are several palaces as well as other beautiful sites, so it isn't hard to find things to do here! For my impromptu plan, we decided to visit the popular Pena palace. We bought our passes ahead of time so we had a guaranteed admission time and off we went.

The train to Sintra from Lisbon took less than an hour. Then it was time to get on the 434 bus. We got on the bus and headed off for the sights. I realized as we got started that I had wildly underestimated the time it would take to get from the train station up to Pena palace by bus. I marveled at how many people were driving on the roads, and noticed the wild menagerie of cars, buses, motorcycles, wild Tuk-Tuk drivers and the like were headed up the winding, narrow roads around Sintra. Hmmm.... what is the best way to show how narrow the roads are?

We arrived up at Pena Palace about an hour later on the bus. I think this was the most crowded place we visited in all of Portugal. Lots of people everywhere! Social distancing was challenging in a few parts, but not impossible.

We walked through the palace, taking in the contrast of designs. It is interesting to see a mash-up of design styles here and era's here. Prior to coming to Portugal, I had never realized this area was occupied by Moors. You can see that affect in designs all over the southern part of Portugal that we have visited. We enjoyed our walk through the castle.

The grounds of the palace have beautiful views. The ground themselves were a hidden gem for us. We took a few hours to simply wander the grounds and re-connect with nature. In some places the trails are wide- and everywhere they are essentially devoid of people. It was wonderful.

As we wandered the grounds, we were walking in forest. Then at one point, we popped out of the forest and this was our view! It was really a stunning view of the palace up on the hill. Of course I had to strike a pose for this!

After walking the grounds of the palace, it made me step back and thinks more about the contrasts with Lisbon. A big observation we have of Lisbon is the lack of green spaces. Even a number of areas that are labelled as parks are covered in tiles with pop up cafes in the evenings. Barely any residences have planters on the patios. The lack of greenery has been jarring for us. Visiting Sintra is a nice counterbalance, with so much forest and greenery.

Walking the palace and touring the ground was a 4 plus hour endeavor, so we decided to wrap up our day in Sintra here. I realize that this is somewhere I would like to come back and visit again. There was so much more to see for sights that we simply didn't have time to explore. I feel another trip to Portugal coming in our future!

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