Thanks Mr White
[Monday 3rd September; Portugal Day 3, Lisbon Day 3]
Today was S day ...
But first, an addition to yesterday's commentary. Janet has a new toy, one she bought in Singapore a few weeks back. It's a Garmin super watch and it tells her all sorts of things about her daily life. Because it's actually a cylon (its three red eyes glow in the dark) it's smarter than all of us put together, and there's a fair chance that one day it'll rise up and murder us in our beds. But that aside for the moment, one of the things it told her yesterday was that in terms of flights of stairs alone she'd done the equivalent of walking up to the top of the Empire State building. That's just stairs. And we repeated the same feat today! I told you it was hilly.
Today started in typically slow holiday mode. We all progressively emerged from our cocoons, Nat last because of the late night and the long trip. She headed off to the supermercado, and upon her return we all breakfasted together before a team meeting and departure to Estación Rossio, which is not far from the shopping center of town, for a day trip to Sintra. The station is at the end of and just around the corner from the Praça da Figueira.
The Praça da Figueira is paved with mind bending patters which create an optical allusion. It's perfectly flat but I kept wanting to step off the high points down in the lower ones!!
The Estación Rossio is a modern train station housed, as is often the case, in a grand old building.
Rossio was the start point for a day trip to Sintra. Thank you Mr White. Up until quite recently I'd not heard of Sintra, and it was only after Gary White's recent trip there, and his subsequent extolling of it's virtues that we decided to visit.
The trip out to Sintra takes a pleasant 40 minutes, most of which is through the outskirts of greater Lisbon (an expansive metropolis of some 3 million people - roughly a third of the total population of Portugal). The train trip was a reminder that the romantic old town in which we are staying and which I assume is all most visitors see is not a true representation of Lisbon. We passed through seemingly endless suburb upon suburb containing row upon row of mid-sized apartment blocks of maybe 15 or 20 floors; washing hanging out of the windows, graffiti everywhere. A lot of it looked tired and run down.
Wikipedia notes that "Sintra is a major tourist destination in Portugal, famed for its picturesqueness and for its numerous historic palaces and castles. Sintra is also a major luxury dining and tourism destination within the Portuguese Riviera, as well as one of the wealthiest municipalities in the country". I don't know so much about the latter, but certainly the former is the case. There were lots of people there, but not in an intense way (think Rome or Venice), and in my very limited experience I am finding that the Portuguese people have a very friendly and not at all overbearing manner which one expects elsewhere in Europe.
On the other side of the coin, based on appearances alone, Sintra was, and probably still is, the home of Portugal's extremely rich and famous. I'll let the pictures tells the story ...
We arrived in Sintra early afternoon, and found a place for a coffee before tackling the big uphill climb to the palace. A great view was afforded from the coffee shop terrace:
The high point (both almost geographically and certainly in terms of grandeur) is the Pena Palace. The palace and surrounds have a history going back over a millennia, although most of the Palace's architecture is relatively recent, the older buildings having been destroyed in the 1755 earthquake which flattened so much of old Lisbon. After coffee it was time for the trek uphill (about a 2 klm hike). It was well worth the effort. Various shots of the Palace follow, along with a few selfies thrown in, all mostly without commentary:
And a father/daughter selfie ...
A little down from the castle is the ancient Castle of the Moors. Time was agin us, so we looked from afar rather than visit. Spectacular.
This castle has its roots going back to the 8th or 9th century. Whilst we didn't get to see it up close, it is all the same an impressive structure with an equally impressive history.
We trained back to the city, but not before I had tried my first pastel de nata, the Portuguese national sweet. Oh my, how good is this? I'll need to walk up to the top of the Empire State building every day to justify eating one of these, but wow, they are delicious. So today's sampling was the first, but certainly won't be the last.
The day ended back in Lisbon. Here's the inside of the the Rossio railway station. I like railway stations; they often have a grandeur about them. This one's not as splendid as some, but in keeping with the general Lisbon theme there's some nice tiled murally things along the main walls.
Walking home presented some interesting sights. I wouldn't be able to take any of these things on the plane home!