Day 26 – Sintra to London

For some reason the full circle of life has to also apply to holidays, and good things too, have to come to an end.

After an early morning cab ride to the airport, we boarded a very full plane to London Luton airport and had an uneventful flight. After waiting for what felt like forever for our checked in luggage to arrive we left Luton for London, Marble Arch where we sat for a few hours having another sandwich lunch before making our way for the last time as a foursome to Hyde Park Corner tube station. Edu and Simryn took the westbound train to Heathrow for their onward journey to Dubai, while Martin and I took the northbound train to Cockfosters to our friend Brendan’s house where we ended up spending the night.

Exhausted from not only a day’s travel, but also a very busy 26 days we had dinner and went to sleep.

I think it will take a few weeks for the past three and a half to really sink in, and I think we’ll have many days to come where we’ll have flashbacks and thoughts about the whirlwind that was our European holiday.

Of course, the best way to mourn the passing of a great vacation is to plan another, and Martin and I are already beavering away on plans for the next, so keep your RSS feed active or check in from time to time, cause we’re not packing those backpacks too far away!

Day 25 – Sintra

Sintra. Well… it is like stepping off a train and in to a fairy tale, really. Like most of Europe there is Sintra, then there is Old Sintra. We, of course, were interested in Old Sintra. A World Heritage Site whose name means “Mountain of the Moon”, Sintra was made famous by the English poet Lord Byron who referred to it as a “glorious Eden”.

Built on hills and their valleys, there are quite a few castles, palaces and stately homes in Sintra as this used to be the summer home of Portugal’s royalty. From the 8th Century Moorish Castle, to the magical and mysterious Quinta Da Regaleira (a manor house built by a very crazy mind, with caves, tunnels and more) and the Disney-like Pena Palace, there is more to explore in Sintra than we had time for, especially with me hobbling up hill and down hill.

Edu and Simryn tried to squeeze as much in to the day as they could, but we decided to take it easy and make it one of the very first destinations for our next holiday, so we walked from the hotel Pensao Residencial (http://www.residencialsintra.blogspot.com/) to the Liberdade park, where we walked around looking for one of the famous fountains, which we only found, in the end, on our way back, but we had a great walk through the gardens. We found our way very indirectly to the National Palace which had at its origin an Arab palace, but today is a museum where concerts and exhibitions are regularly held.

We spent some time walking around the shopping area of the ‘Old Town’ admiring the ceramics which are produced on site. We looked at and photographed such structures as the Clock Tower, and St Martin’s church, and then took the 434 bus to Pena Palace. On arrival we decided that we would walk directly up to the palace and then take the scenic route down. With all the stairs I wasn’t really up for going inside with my sore foot. The walk down was fantastic. The palace was started as a monastery in the 1400’s but after it was damaged by lightning in 17 something and then almost destroyed in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 it lay in ruins until it was built in to an amazing cake frosting looking castle in 1838. The grounds still have two chapels and a herb garden on it, as well as various other weird and wonderful structures, like a Turkish Bath looking fountain, a Water Wheel which would make an awesome wedding chapel, a ‘Valley of Lakes’ which literally is a valley down the mountain with landscaped lakes and duck shelters on two of the lakes that look like mini palaces. We took about an hour and a half to walk the intricate network of paths towards the exit.

In the evening the four of us went for dinner at a wonderful restaurant that had a fantastic Portuguese flair where we ate delicious duck, steak, sea bass and cod, and Simryn and I had absolutely phenomenal deserts of Strawberry, Chocolate and Vanilla Ice cream (Simryn) and I had the best chocolate mouse I’ve ever experienced! Perhaps not the cheapest meal at E95 for the four of us, but certainly in the top three meals of the holiday.

I for one, cannot wait to go back to Sintra to really do it justice.