Day 1 - Sintra

just look how far I've fell
down in the wishing well

How Soon The Dawn - Jake Bugg

Day 1 was spent taking a day tour to Sintra. The guide who was supposed to pick me up was running late. Luckily he called the hotel to let me know because pick up always gets me nervous, like what if they forgot about me. The group was small. There were 8 of us. A couple from Canada and the rest were from England and seemed to be a family. I only talked to the Canadians. Didn't make an effort to talk to the Brits, nor did they make an effort to talk to me. Small group makes me nervous seriously because I feel like I have to interact with people. With big groups, I can just kinda fly under the radar and be on my own. Anyways, it's not a very long drive to Sintra. In fact it's quite easy to go to Sintra from Lisbon by train. It's just it may get complicated getting to the places of interest from Sintra train station. I chose to take a day tour because it took me to places other than Sintra. In Sintra, the first stop was Pena Palace. Pena Palace is actually inside the large compound of Pena Park. Looking at the map, there seems to be many places of interest inside this park. Unfortunately we didn't explore any of them at all. I didn't mind it actually because I honestly didn't know what to expect and I thought visiting the palace was good enough. From the main entrance there's actually like a small shuttle that bring people up the palace. I'm not sure if it's free. There's a queue and the guide said let's just walk up. The walk up is not so bad. Trees all around, it's kinda nice though the weather was not that cool when I was there. I thought the palace to be quite interesting. Some parts are yellow, some are red. The palace itself is not very big. I actually didn't take a lot of pictures of the exterior of the palace, or the palace as a whole. I think you may need to be at some distance to have a full view of it. This picture below is actually a view from one of the terrace inside the palace.

One of the interesting thing in the exterior of the palace is this menacing Triton statue. He looks angry but I can't stop looking at it. All around him are like corals and such. Very interesting.

Inside the palace, it's a one-directional visit. I actually like this kind of visit, when you just follow 1 direction, it makes things simpler. The rooms are not mind-blowingly amazing, but if you put your imagination into it and imagine people living in it in those days, it can be interesting. I guess you do have to do that sometime to make things more interesting, use your imagination to colour the pictures.

When we're done visiting the inside of the palace, our guide was waiting and he took us walking the wall of the palace and there's a really nice view of the Moorish Castle. Well it's not quite a view because it's covered by fog, but I was quite blown away with it because there we were where we were, in a sunny day and then some distance from from we were, across the trees, there's fog and mist and the way they covered the Moorish Castle made the whole view be rather mysterious and mystical.

The last place we visited in the palace was the chapel. It's small, but I remember it being pretty nice. Then the guide took us to town and gave us some free time. I had plan of visiting Quinta da Regaleira and really wanted to make it happen. Had a quick lunch and confirmed with the girl at the cafe the direction and if it's possible to walk. Remember I told you that people in Portugal speaks English, well this girl too wonderfully. She told me the direction which was different than what I thought and told me to go, it's nice. I followed her direction. The walk was longer than I expected. It's also quite a climb up a hill. As always I was thinking, it'd be easy to get back. Managed to make it and there wasn't a queue, thank God. Ticket price is 6 euro, so it's not that expensive. Was given a map and I didn't realize that the place is pretty huge. As I walked the path among the trees, a feeling came reminding me it's like walking the park to reach The Cloisters in New York. Looking at the map, it hit me that I wouldn't have time to explore all the places in the place. It made me rather sad, but I thought let's just focus on why we're doing this. I wanted to go see the Initiation Wells. So I tried to make my way there, trying not to get distracted by every interesting things I see.

I did get distracted though on my way to get to the wells. There was like a cave or grotto and I went in it. Some parts of it was lighted so it was kinda cool. There were people taking pictures and I just wanted to get away from them, but instead of going back out and get to the wells, I just went deeper inside the grotto. The deeper I got, it's no longer lighted and it got really dark that I wasn't sure about it. Tried to get some light through my iPod, but it was still dark, then I realized the dumb me had my sunglasses on. Even without it on, it's still dark and the floor felt wet like there's a puddle. However I did hear people and saw a small light at one end, so I went towards those and lo and behold I arrived at the bottom of the Initiation Wells. I knew that it's it because I'd seen pictures however the pictures I saw were from the top and here I was looking at it from the bottom and it took my breathe away, really.

I got to say that picture above may not reflect how amazing it was to be there and seeing it from my perspective. The picture that I tweeted perhaps better reflects how I felt. The picture was from my phone and I applied some filter. It kinda had the magical fantasy feeling about it.

It was really by dumb luck, a wonderful dumb luck. Really have to thank God because His way is better and I often don't have faith. There are stairs enclosing the well and you can use it to go up or down depending on which way you enter the well. I think my picture from the top is even worse. After so many pictures taken all these years, I don't think I'm getting better. All my pictures from the top area really don't reflect how unique and wonderful this place is. When you reach the top, the top entrance is actually not so high up from the ground and I think what's even more wonderful about it is how nondescript the place is if you're looking at its top exterior. It just looks like some mound of plants, you may even miss it. It's like a hidden entrance to a wonderful treasure :)

After that because I didn't have much time, I thought I should head towards the exit and just see things that I could see on my way there. There are other grottos, also dark with puddle of water, but no doubt would have been interesting to explore if I had had the time. It's really a shame. There's a palace, but I didn't have time to go inside. I really only explored a small part of this place :(

Because I spent my time in Quinta da Regaleira, I didn't have time to explore the alleys in city center and see all the shops and such. Sintra seems to have more things to offer than I expected. I don't know if I'll ever get back to Portugal again, but if I do, I do really want to go back to Sintra and explore this on my own. Hopefully by then transportation from the train station gets better. For pictures from Sintra, please go here.

The second part of the trip first took us to Cabo da Roca which is apparently the most western part of Europe. While it can be considered hot when I was in Sintra, here it was chilly with the wind. There were many tourists and there's a group of Korean tourists. It's fun to watch them excitingly taking pictures. Anyway there's a small monument with a cross.

Then there are 2 beautiful different views of cliffs from the left and right side of this cross. I started walking to the left and it was nice with the water looking blue.

By the way around here there's also a plain filled with wild flowers. Most of the flowers are (as mentioned in Wikipedia) Carpobrotus edulis. I didn't think they're particularly beautiful when I was there, but somehow I have fond memories of them now and I think they do look pretty. Despite a nice camera, I still couldn't take good picture. This one below didn't come out nice too.

The cliff on the right side had more mist or fog when I was there, but I thought the view was still great. Go to my Flickr album for a better picture than this below.

Last stop of the day was Cascais. Before reaching this seaside town, we made a short stop to look at the water of the Atlantic ocean where there were some people surfing.

Then it was Cascais, a town with a beach, which I think is quite popular with people to spend a day in. I can't pronounce this town though. I'm pronouncing it wrongly and I can't remember how my guide pronounced it. Portuguese way of pronunciation is not something that I can figure out from the spelling. Anyways, I didn't think the town to be particularly interesting. We're given free time and I just walked around and had ice cream. The shop selling the ice cream is supposedly very famous, but I think it's so so. Perhaps I chose the wrong flavors. For pictures from Cabo da Roca and Cascais, please go here.

By the time we reached back in Sintra, I think it's already 6 pm something. The nice thing and one of the reason I travel in the spring is because the day is getting longer, so it's still pretty bright at 6 pm. For me it also made me feel like the day was still early and we could still and should do more stuff. So I made my way to Praça do Comércio. There were many tourists. One of the building around this square has renovation going on so it's all scaffolding covering it and so I didn't even bother to take photos of the area. It's by the water and you can see Cristo Rei (I'll talk about this in the next post). Then I went to Terreiro do Paço metro station to get travel card to be used the next day. First machine I encountered didn't look like the machine I saw when I googled how to get the card. Sure enough it didn't have the options. I went down and found the correct machine and got the ticket easy enough. I was quite relieved and happy with that accomplishment :D Then I decided to call it the day. On the way back I went to Pingo Doce the supermarket again to get more water and I also bought some banana. The banana cost pretty much the same like in Singapore while the water if I'm not mistaken is like cheaper than Singapore. In fact the water in Seville was like cheaper than Singapore too. For dinner, I wasn't particularly hungry so I decided to just try bifana. Found the shop selling it near Pingo Doce and reviews said this shop is pretty good. Bifana is like pork sandwich. It's sliced pork and they were cooked in a big pot. The one I got had only bread and pork and the size of a burger. I think it's how it supposed to be though, like it's really not filled with other thing like vegetables. It's cheap at 2 euro. I felt a bit weird because the small shop was filled with only guys in it, the patron and the sellers (mostly like uncles), and there were more guys behind me, but all was okay. Sometime you just have to be confident. I wonder if they thought what a strange girl coming to get bifana, where's she from. I'm not sure if the seller speaks English well, but he understood that I wanted a take away with coke. Now for the bifana, I'm not a fan. It wasn't bad, so that's good because I'm picky about food. I finished it all, but I guess mind wasn't blown and it's not something I miss.

:) eKa @ 12:02:00 PM •


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