Tag Archives: World Heritage Site

Sintra and the Palace of Pena

20 Oct
img_0154

The Palace of Pena and its quirky architecture.

High on a hill above Sintra, amidst gardens and above steep paths, sits the Palace of Pena. Conceived by the King of Portugal,  Don Fernando II, who lived from 1819-1895, The Palace of Pena was his dream home.  But he did not only plan the palace, he also planned for lovely gardens to surround it, bringing in plants and trees from around the world.  Creating a little world that has been named a World Heritage site.

He started building this, his summer home over the ruins of a 16th Century convent, the Convent of Our Lady of Pena, which he purchased in 1838.  It took about 15 years to complete his fairy tale home that combines German, Indian, Moorish and Portuguese styles.  A bit of the convent remains in the chapel.  The tile work and the Manueline style of decoration are definitely Portuguese.

 

You could spend days investigating this hillside extravaganza.  There are acres upon acres of gardens and kilometers of paths.  Besides the Pena Palace, there are the ruins of a Moorish castle.

As a lover of Disneyland and unusual architecture, I could not help but love the Palace of Pena.  The four modes of architecture come together in a romantic version of a palace.  Part of me wanted to ooh and aah over the building, and part of me wanted to giggle a bit and just enjoy Don Fernando’s view of the world through his enjoyable home.  But above all, I wanted to enjoy the sites and the joy of the gardens he and his second wife created on this hill.

 

When you enter the Palace area, you go over an area that was once a small draw bridge, through a tunnel that opens into a courtyard.  This side of the building is sunny and bright. No winds come through.  But when you walk through the arch in the Moorish style segment, you enter another world.  Our guide told us to zip our coats. And he was right.  With wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean, the other courtyard also had  harsh winds!

img_1405

The guide held my hand as we walked along the narrow ledge on the windy Atlantic side of the Palace.

We walked along the  wall of the palace in a narrow pathway.  I do not like heights, so our guide held my hand along the way.  The view were worth it.

To be honest, it was not always easy walking up hill to the palace or around the palace grounds.  There are many steep area and steps.  Honestly, coming back down the hill was almost more difficult.  It had rained a bit and so the stones were slippery.  I will say my leg muscles got a good workout.  Our guide helped by letting me hold on to him. So be careful when you go to visit.  And you must go to visit!

After our time at the gardens and palace, we drove back down the hill to the picturesque town of Sintra.  We parked along a promenade and walked to the old part of town, past the official royal castle with its twin chimneys: the Sintra National Palace.  Now a museum, it once was the royal residence from the 15th to 19th centuries.

img_0184

The shopping area of old Sintra

We walked through town and its several narrow streets filled with shops.  It was the first time I actually got to shop during my vacation.  I purchased only items made in Portugal, mainly made of cork and/or tile.  I watched a woman hand painting tile in a small shop, where I found some gifts.  Then we meandered uphill to more shops and a pastry restaurant, where we purchased a treat.

There were many little restaurants and shops for the many tourists that were visiting the town.  At times, the narrow streets were almost too crowded.  But the cruise ships have discovered this town, about 25 kilometers from Lisbon, so it is a popular destination.   Our guide brought us to the Palace of Pena first thing to try to miss some of the crowding.  He was right, but the time we left more and more people were filing into the park.

After Sintra, we left town to travel to the beach and eat lunch at a restaurant, Mar do Guincho, located right on the beach.  The fresh seafood was delicious.  The waiter brings the whole fish to the table to tell you what is available.  I had a local fish caught that very morning.  While my husband and guide shared a two-person traditional seafood and rice stew.

img_0207

The ocean was very rough.

While we ate, we watched the very wild ocean hitting against the shore.  All the beaches were closed the few days we were in Lisbon due to the errant hurricane and tropical storm that arrived with us.

We were there along with Hurricane Leslie.  We actually did not experience any issues, except for some rain. But the country was not prepared for a category one hurricane.   There was storm damage along the coastal towns and in Lisbon.  Tiles were blown off roofs, causing leaks; trees and branches were down; the ocean waves were very high and strong; and there were some people injured. I am glad no one was badly injured.

img_0216

Cascais

After lunch we drove along the coast stopping once in a while to watch the waves.  The we went to the city of Cascais where we walked along the beach promenade in town. We had a good time looking at all the expensive homes along the way and seeing the lovely marina area.  I imagine that this town of the wealthy would be a good place for a holiday.  But for us it was a quick visit and then back to Lisbon to rest for our next day’s adventure.