Seeing as travel has been seriously curtailed (and with good reason) during this global pandemic i’m dipping back into my album archives so that we can all day dream about sunny European climes. If we can’t physically go there at least we can drool over pictures right?Right?
I can’t believe that I haven’t written about Sintra, Portugal yet becuase it was one of my favourite little weekender type trips that I’ve taken since moving to the UK.
Portugal has been top of my travel Wishlist for a long time…like, a long time. And I still want to go back, even now that I’ve been once. This time I chose Lisbon because (as I’m sure is already obvious to everyone) #ihavethisthingwith doors, walls, city streets, anything architecturally pastel and gently crumbling.
Lisbon is beautiful. But if I can give you one tip it’s this. If you have time to go to Lisbon, find time to go to Sintra. If you love wandering tiny meandering cobblestone streets, eating tapas in little family run restaurants that are tucked away around a wall and down stairs in what looks like a private courtyard, basking in a sunshine filled village square with a white washed palace behind you and an earthy Mediterranean view in front, Sintra is for you. And that’s not even mentioning the old palace folly and gardens that makes you feel like you’re in the earthly equivalent of the little mermaid’s castle, or the fantastical yellow and red Pena Palace that is literally a creative’s wildest dreams come to life.
For such a tiny place it’s stuffed with palaces, each completely different, and each wonderfully eccentric. You may have been seeing it pop up on a lot of different Instagram accounts and blogs. It’s clearly been “discovered”.
You need at least two days exploring this little town, which you can get to by train or car (we caught a taxi which took about 30 minutes). I’m sure there are many beautiful boutique hotels in and around the area but we stayed at a charming little guesthouse that I would highly recommend called Águamel Sintra, Boutique Guest House. Charming rooms and a constant supply of cake…what more can you ask for in life right?
The biggest perk of staying overnight is that you get a chance to experience the town without the hoards. I know I’m one of the pesky tourists contributing to that hoard, but I like to try and avoid the other tourists if I can when travelling! A lot of people visit as part of a day trip from Lisbon, so if you stay, you’ll notice a bigger difference from around 5pm onwards.
Here’s my hit list for Sintra:
Pena Palace: Fairytale Gaudi-esque eccentric castle, every inch of which is a riot in colour, texture and articulation. It’ll make your head spin in the best way if you’re an architecture nerd like me! Get there early to avoid the crowds.
The National Palace: this is the white palace adjacent to the town square. I didn’t get there but I hear it’s fantastic. Another charmingly eccentric place.
Quinta da Regaleira: This is a stately home and gardens. The gardens if this place are what really amazed me. But the house is beautiful too – I can never go past mosaic floors. I learnt how to mosaic in Florence a few years ago so I know exactly how much work and skill is involved when I see them! Also a really fun skill/hobby if you’re looking for a new creative outlet.
Each corner of the garden reveals something new to explore. Choose a little overgrown green path (any one) and you’ll find yourself next to streams which lead to grottos and lakes, secret tunnels and stone towers. And it’s just a few minutes walk from the centre of town!
Castelo dos Mouros: The Moors Castle. Great spot if you feel like a bit of a walk into the hills around Sintra. And the view from the top (I huffed my way up there) is pretty spectacular. Definitely the kind of reward I go for!
Not a place so much as a cultural phenomenon are the pastel de natas (custard tarts). No joke these things! I’m definitely more of a Savory person than a sweet person especially for breakfast but TRUST me, you need to make it a personal challenge to eat as many of these little scoops of custard pastry sunshine as possible while visiting Portugal. Every little cafe will have them and I usually sprinkled them with a little cinnamon (or you can add powdered sugar) and had an espresso alongside mine – cuts through the sweetness!
Okay so on that note my idea for a ‘Portugal’ blog post has turned into a bit of a love letter to Sintra. Before I send everyone into a reading coma – when actually I intended this blog to be more graphic and all about the images – I’m going to leave it here and come back to Lisbon in a separate post. Well, that is if I ever get through all my Lisbon door shots.
For a bit more of a different perspective check my instagram for a lots of little videos from my time in Sintra and all the places we visited! @larandrae 🌻