There is a reason people read guidebooks and research their trips before travelling. And I like to think that might be so they avoid walking 2 kilometers straight uphill to reach a fairytale palace.
Yes, Lindsay and I literally hiked our way straight up Portugal at the beginning of our recent trip. But I actually wouldn’t have had it any other way. Taking a train from central Lisbon, we arrived 45 minutes later in the adorable town of Sintra. There are several castles you can visit and we chose the colorful, fairytale like Pena Palace at the very top. There are some stunning houses on your hike up and the forest is stunning.
Around halfway, the giddiness set in – we came across a giant lemon someone had stuck on a fence and thought it was the funniest thing we’d ever seen. And that was before we spotted the lime in the gutter… Who was hiking up this mountain with excess citrus??
You reach the gardens of the Palace before you continue up the hill to the Castle itself. It is a much nicer walk to wind your way up through what feels like a manicured jungle and I imagine it would be stunning in the spring with all the flowers in bloom.
After curving through the gardens, the bright yellows and reds of Pena Palace greeted us. As did the lines of people waiting to get inside. This is one hot ticket in the summer months and we even visited on a Friday rather than the weekend. The inside was packed with people (including some particularly rude French tourists… France, I must say, you were not on your best behavior during our trip. This would become a recurring theme…) The queues are mainly due to the first few rooms only being doorways you can glance into. Once you get upstairs, the crowds break up and you can wander a bit more freely. And my goodness is it worth it (photos of the inside to come in part II).
With Lindsay having traveled over from Brussels, we felt like we fit right in. The site was first developed in the Middle Ages but the current Palace was built for Ferdinand II, who as part of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, had direct family links to Queen Victoria in England and King Leopold I of Belgium. The whole place feels over-the-top romantic. And the views… oh, the views… And our current weather in London, I’d kinda like to go back…
(Blog maintenance update: I’m upgrading the blog to use Disqus comments. For the moment it looks like I may have lost past comments… But the kind people at Disqus tell me to be patient for 24 hours before panicking. Fingers crossed. Please let me know if you have any problems!!)