Earlier this week I tagged along with a few other girls who were going to Sintra, a small town just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon by train. I knew I had wanted to go to Sintra prior to embarking on my trip and even considered staying there for a few days (but with the new Morocco plan that’s out). Let me tell you – it did NOT disappoint.
There is one word to describe Sintra and all that there is to see: magical. There really is no other word that even comes to mind. Sintra was used as a retreat by the royal family of Portugal, and its palaces were inhabited as late as 1910. When I think “retreat” I think cabin in the woods, lake home, etc. The Palace of Pena is so beautiful, vibrant and decadent that I kept comparing it to something from the board game Candy Land (neither my Aussie nor my Brazilian friends knew what I was talking about, so I just subbed in Disney World).
Here’s some wisdom I have to impart on you that I didn’t realize before arriving:
Sintra is a town, it’s not the palace itself – just the place where all the goods are located. The train takes you right into town, which is worth exploring just on its own. Before we did anything, we agreed that we needed a “proper” lunch and found the sweetest little place called Nicola. For seven Euros each we got a delicious soup, fish and rice, a drink (you could choose beer or wine, but I didn’t realize that until AFTER the fact) and an espresso. Tipping is not expected in Portugal so it was just seven even.
I also didn’t realize that there is sooooo much to see in a very large area. In addition to the Palace of Pena and its vast grounds there’s the National Palace of Sintra, the Moorish Castle, Monserrate Park, Capuchos Convent, the Chalet of the Countess, and the National Palace of Queluz. We spent hours just exploring the grounds and gardens of Pena, as well as the palace and its terraces and, unfortunately, it’s all we were able to do. But we all agreed it was still very well worth the trip.
Lastly, if I were to give people advice who were going I would say the following: 1. Wear good walking shoes. Not just sandals, but athletic shoes or hiking boots because there is a LOT of walking. 2. Don’t even THINK about walking up the hill from the town to the parks. It’s a long, steep road where cars and buses race by. I was legit scared for the people I saw on the side of the road who had decided to hoof it. It’s a five euro round-trip bus ride and well worth it. 3. This is me being a girl, but wear something cute because you’re going to want to take A LOT of pictures. I just threw on whatever and then hated being in pictures because I looked like a real slob. But there were so many amazing picture opportunities! I have one that I’m happy with where I’m with my “international squad” for the day (which included one Aussie, two Brazilians and yours truly).
Not only were the views spectacular, the company was as well. It was so great spending time with these likeminded ladies and getting to know them. We’re all so different (from different countries/continents, speak different languages, range in age from 19-30), but it felt like we were kindred spirits with so much in common and so much to talk about. It was a really special day for me and one that I will not soon forget.