SINTRA

Sintra is a small and sleepy town located only a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon. It is easily accessible by taxi, bus or train and is basically a day trippers heaven for a different viewpoint of Portuguese culture, history and architecture. We arrived a bit bleary eyed at 7pm to a campsite on the outskirts of the centre. I am not going to lie we didn’t even consider leaving the van, the past few days in Lisbon at the festival had killed us off so we went straight to bed!

The next day we woke after over 12 hours sleep feeling more human and slowly sorted ourselves out doing our usual chores (oh the glamour I know) and by mid afternoon we took a stroll into the centre. Stopping at Metamorphosis we had a nice long lunch filling our bellies with the most delicious fish and rice dish that came served in a huge pot. By the time wed finished it had well gone 3pm and as all the castles and palaces closed at 5 we saw little point in taking the hour hike up the steep slopes to them. Instead we walked over to the centre square. The cute collection of multicoloured pastel buildings contrasted to the vast green hills that overshadowed them. Where high above lay the palace and castle we so desperately wanted to explore. The town itself catering day trips closed pretty early so with no bar to entertain us we decided the view of the car park we were in just wasn’t going to cut it. Portugal is home to some of the most western points of Europe and as we were craving some sea and sand we decided that would be a perfect place to relax that evening. From Sintra is was just 15 minutes down the road and we arrived in Cascais. I cant even begin to describe the strength and chill of the winds that whipped around the van. It was perfect for watersports. So many kite surfers were ripping up the giant waves with their kites dancing above our heads. The sun was gleaming a deep orange as it started to set and we huddled together on the sand enjoying the spectacular views. The temperature soon dropped but thankfully we had our snazzy new NOS Alive jumpers to keep us toasty warm, the wind whipped around us aggressively but the sun so calmly and slowly dipped below the horizon splashing oranges and yellows above like a fire. When it had completely disappeared we hopped back into our van to feast on the Portuguese delicacy of sardines on fresh crusty bread. Our spot for sleeping couldn’t have been more perfect along a cliff edge looking out to the Atlantic ocean. The noise of the wind whistling and waves crashing sent us to sleep in our secluded spot and we loved waking up to the sun pouring in through the blinds. It was an early start but we were looking forward to seeing sintra properly so we drove back.

Our early start was so we could buy our tickets in advance from the tourist office, it gets so busy up at the top with people queueing, it is a great hack to skipping the long waits in the sun. I’d looked into the different packages and reviews to come up with this plan. We chose only the Pena Palace gardens and the Moorish Castle as they were our key sights and saved us around €30! An über ride later and we were outside the Palacio Nacional da Pena and were straight through the gates ready to explore. The park itself is wayyyyyy bigger the we thought, I guess I expected some gardens with nice flowers and what not but the grounds covered acres and were filled with an abundance of trees, parks, ruins and statues. Even though the main attraction was the palace we decided to hike up to the highest point in the park – the cross. If only the sky wasn’t so grey and full of clouds the view would have been so much better. I say that but it still was amazing and to be honest the clouds helped to make hiking a lot easier. The shady trees made us feel like we were walking through Delamere forest back at home. We headed back down the hill to admire the palace’s colourful facade and architecture. It was a real mash up of imagination with an underwater and coral theme of one arch juxtaposed the Morrocan influence of a second just a few feet away. The colours of vibrant yellows and peaches popped even in the dull cloudy sky. After pushing through the hoards of tourists taking pictures to admire the exterior unclose we’d had enough so sloped down the hill and towards our next stop the Castle do Morrous.

Being just a little further down the hill the castle meant it wasn’t far to walk and all down his thankfully. We again skipped past the queue and entered with ease past many grumpy tourists who’d clearly been there a while. Once you go though the gates there is a rather long walk to the castle but this was improved by the path being lined with the most stunning hydrangeas Ive ever seen they were bigger than my head! Under the archway we entered and stepped up along the walls to follow the walkway around the walls. We felt like we were back in Chester but with zero health and safety aster were sheer drops on either side of us. The views overlooked the square below and as far as the eye could see there was lush greenery. We took the path through the gardens down to the centre and after a few wrong turns we eventually ended up back at the van.

 

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