We landed in Lisbon and found our way to our Airbnb where Darcie and Andee were waiting for us – they had been studying in Spain and flew into Portugal the day before us. Our place is located in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon which is the old and/or poor part of the city but it has tons of beautiful buildings covered in colorful tile which is unique to Portugal. On our first full day we ventured out of Lisbon and took an hour train ride to Sintra.
Although I don’t think anyone actually refers to Sintra as the Portuguese Castle Capital I think they should. Sintra is home to Monserrate Palace, Castelo dos Mouros, Palacia Nacional de Sintra and Pena Palace just to name a few. We only explored two of the castles / palaces while we were there. Our first stop, after a slightly scary bus ride up the mountain, was the Moorish Castle which was first constructed by the Moors in the 9th century. However, after the Crusaders conquered Portugal many parts of the castle were fortified including the towers and walls. Some parts of the Moorish Castle still remain though including the aqueduct and well underneath which some royalty were also buried.
Although it was very overcast and misty the best parts of the Moorish Castle were still the views of Sintra and Pena Palace.
It was a short walk from the Moorish Castle to Pena Palace which as far as palaces and castles go in Europe is relatively young. Pena Palace was built in 1842 by Ferdinand II, who was a lover of arts, and you can definitely see that influence in its construction. The outer walls of the palace are covered in different bright colors and have detailed stonework that include some alligator gargoyles. The inner walls are decorated in intricately detailed tiles of geometric shapes, people, or animals. It was definitely incredible to explore.
We were also able to see some of the rooms decorated as they use to be – Drew told Darcie that our next Thanksgiving table would probably look like the dining room in the palace thanks to this trip!
After making our way back down into the heart of Sintra we had a late but delicious lunch at what use to be a cheesecake factory. The old factory building is actually visible under plexi glass in the bathrooms. The food there was delicious and we tried the local cheesecake, which wasn’t like what we would consider cheesecake but it was still good however it paled in comparison to the pastel de nata we also tried.
After taking the train back into Lisbon the four of us went and met Vicky, Hector and baby Bella at a restaurant down by the water. I had ceviche and a ‘typical’ Portuguese steak with an egg on it both were absolutely amazing and so was the company!