Sintra was a highlight of our time in Portugal – not only because of the wonderful B&B we stayed at, the ***Villa Mira Longa. Wonderful hosts!

We could have used more time, but loved the modern castle scene.

**Castelo dos Mouros: In the 19th century, the monarchs ordered that this castle, evocative of the Moorish occupation of Portugal, remain as a ruined ornament to embellish their sprawling parks and gardens. Set near the much larger, much more ornate Pena palace, the squat, thick-walled fortress was begun around A.D. 750 by the Moors and captured with the help of Scandinavian Crusaders in 1147. It retains its jagged battlements, a quartet of eroded towers, and a ruined Romanesque chapel erected by the Portuguese as a symbol of their domination of former Moorish territories. There was a lot of excavation during our visit (restoration related), but we liked this for the views regardless.

***Palácio Nacional de Pena: Only a cosmopolitan 19th-century courtier could have produced this eclectic, expensive mélange of architectural styles. Set in a 200-hectare (495-acre) walled park, it was commissioned by the German-born consort of the Portuguese queen; it reminds some visitors of the Bavarian castles of Mad King Ludwig. Appointed with heavy furnishings and rich ornamentation, it’s a symbol of the Portuguese monarchs in their most aesthetically decadent stages. This was Wonderful too – grand, elegant, great crowds, amazing views. It’s packed with people – go early and don’t try to walk from town, it’s a big hike.

The ***Quintada Regaleira was Galen’s favorite. The house in cool, but the grounds themselves are unreal – groats, hidden passages, sculptures, you name it. We could have stayed all day. Far less crowded than the other sites, and right be our hotel.

***Tacho Real was the best meal of the trip (leaving aside Michelin star destinations). It’s tiny, easy to overlook, but seek it out.

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