Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sintra, Portugal

One of our best experiences came in a side trip to Sintra, which is about 20 miles northwest of Lisbon. The city itself is charming with quaint little streets dotted with shops. The city is in the mountains, so the streets rise and fall.

Bus 434 picks you up right outside of the train station and a makes a round trip stopping at downtown Sintra, the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace. We bypassed the Moorish Castle, although from Pena we had an excellent view of the walls of the castle that was built in the ninth century.

Pena Palace is a beautiful castle with turrets and domesin pastel colors. The walk around the top of the wall affords breathtaking views of the countryside in one direction, the Atlantic Ocean in another, and all the way to Lisbon in another.

The palace was built from 1840-1885 and was the home to Portugal's king as late as 1910. A tour of the interior features glimpses into various rooms showing how the kings and queens lived. It's also interesting to contrast it to Queluz which was used a century earlier. The differences in styles and amenities in very noticeable.

The palace also features a very large park with numerous trails. Hike to the Queen's Throne lookout for a fantastic view of the palace from a distance. Among the trees on the grounds are sequoias, western red cedars and tree ferns. Hike down along the Lakes of the Gates toward the exit to see ponds with beautiful swans (white, black and mixed), ducks and cranes.

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