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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Day 6 - Sintra Explored and Lisboa Attained

Today we explored the sights in Sintra. David and Anuzya had already toured the area so we left them back at the hotel pool while Sarah, Josh, Monica and Joe piled into the Van and drove to the hills, about 20 minutes away. Once we reached the town the streets became predictably narrow and windy. We luckily found a rare parking spot on the street, just large enough for the Van. Its too bad we didn't get a video of Joe's parallel parking magic. One try and we were perfectly parked. He was proud all day!

Just a few steps away we found the bus stop and grabbed the bus that took us up a steep, curvy road that led to several castles and palaces built in the late 1800's and one as early as 1498. When we disembarked at the top of the mountain we still had about a 500 metre hike straight up to the Pena Palace stairs. All of us, except Josh breathed a little heavy.

The Pena Palace was borderline Disney. It is a mixed match of different historical periods and styles, as it was built over a long period of time. It had amazing ceilings (see pictures below), tiles and interesting furnishings. It also had spectacular views from its top of the mountain perspective.

After the Pena Palace we rode the bus back down to the centre of Sintra to see the Palace Nationale. This 16th Century palace was more refined with interesting art and furnishings. Josh provided a running commentary on the historic relevance of all the objects.

We then hiked up a hill to find a garden restaurant and a quick lunch. We then navigated back to Casscia and picked up David, Anuzya and all our luggage. After only a few close calls at round abouts (who does have the right away?) we made it to the highway and soon after to Lisboa. Entering into the narrow streets with the Van Joe's nerves became frayed. Then we spotted our hotel, of course just after we passed it. One u-turn later we came to a shaky stop on a small side street and then inched our way down to the hotel's hidden garage door just before Joe collapsed in relief at finally parting with the Van.

The first few minutes of having to unload our own luggage and squeeze it into a small lift were stressful, but after we checked in we discovered that our new hotel was wonderfully hospitable with many tranquil public rooms (indoors and out), free Port in our rooms and honour bars in the library and garden. We felt a bit guilty watching two small women lugging our luggage up stairs to our respective rooms. And one of them decided that Monica and Joe needed a better room so she took it upon herself to move us. We were very grateful!

This first night we had already made reservations at the Cantinho do Avillez which shares a Chef with a related Michelin Star restaurant (Bel Canto). THis was a great choice and we certainly recommend it. The waiters and bartenders were knowledgeable, friendly and had good senses of humour. They made great Martinis and Old Fashioned and recommended wine that matched both the food and our tastes. Contrary to what one friend has been telling us we have discovered some very good local wines!

The food was "nouvelle Portuguese" and included appetizers of Partridge Pies; Tempura Green Beans; Bird Livers; and crab guacamole. Our entrees included scallops (ok, but not special); pork bruschetta ( moist and wonderful); cod; hamburger with foi gras and steak. Our wines, pictured below were complex and delighted our palates.

After dinner we walked along streets filled with people out for a Friday night and finally grabbed cabs back to our hotel where we spent a few hours chatting and sipping port and wine in the library. A nice way to end the day, especially since David and Anuzya were to fly away the next day.

1 comment:

  1. I see you were painting Frank Sinatra with Tempera...How does that work in New Jersey?