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Portugal - Sintra

PORTUGAL | Sunday, 10 September 2017 | Views [154]


Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Sintra Palace 

The next day, Sunday, we left Lisbon and headed to Sintra. We found a parking spot not too far a walk along a sculpture-filled ravine park from the Palácio Nacional de Sintra in the heart of town. The plain Gothic exterior of the Palace is dominated by two 33 meter chimneys that rise out from the kitchens, that are still used when visiting dignitaries are brought to the palace. It was the most lived in royal residence, being continually used from the 15th century up until the fall of the monarchy in 1910. The Royal family vacated the Gothic palace in the 19thcentury.


The outside of the Palace may seem plain, but the interior is anything but plain! There are massive halls with ornate carvings around the windows and doors. Wooden cabinets were intricately decorated with turtle shell and ivory.

Sintra Palace - cabinet

Stone floors are a mosaic.

Sintra Palace - mosaic floor

The Blazon Room has various coats of arms on the domed ceiling, each encircled with a gold frame. The walls of the Blazon Room are all tiled to a height of about 3 meters, depicting hunting scenes as well as whimsical characters.

Sintra Palace - Blazon Room  Sintra Palace - Blazon Room

Other rooms included the Swan room – with 27 wooden panels with swans in different poses painted onto the ceiling,

Sintra Palace - swan room

the Mermaid Room, the Galleon Room and the Magpie Room, which has 136 paintings of magpies on the ceiling representing the gossiping and scheming of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting.

Sintra Palace - magpie room

The Manueline Hall hosted a huge dining table, a crystal chandelier that holds nearly 100 candles and a pure silver mirror over the fireplace.

Sintra Palace - Manueline Hall

The Grotto of the Baths is one gigantic alcove made entirely of decorative tiles.

Sintra Palace - Grotto of the Baths

The opulence of this Palace grabbed us at every turn. Every painting, tile, sculpture, and ceiling had us in awe.

 Sintra Palace  Sintra Palace

The kitchen, as I mentioned, is still in use. The two chimneys are 33 meters high and basically form the conical ceiling of the kitchen. The plain white tiles run from counter top to ceiling, or in this case, where the chimney starts. One entire length of the approximately 30 meter long and 10 meter wide kitchen is oven. They look like countertops, but have ovens beneath them, so the countertop is really a stove top. A huge closet looking affair on one wall is a plate warming oven. There are stone prep tables large enough to carve an entire cow. Even the serving dishes were decorative and golden. We were gobsmacked!

Sintra Palace - kitchen   Sintra Palace - kitchen plate warmer  Sintra Palace - fancy dishes

Every palace has its dark side. This is the palace that King Afonso VI (1650s) was imprisoned during his later life, as he was deemed, by his brother, too unstable to rule the country. The stone tiles are worn, in a path, from the bed to the window.


I wanted to go up to the Moorish Castle, but Ed was getting tired. He also knew there would be lots of hilly walking, so they agreed to meet at a coffee shop at a certain time. Ed explored the town a bit and found a shop that had the most delicate porcelain dishes. They had what looked like ribbons and lace, but were actually also made of porcelain and were part of the dish.

 porcelain basket and bow

Moorish Castle

 Moorish Castle

The Castelo dos Mouros was constructed by the Moors in the 9th century as a fortified military observatory. It acted as a watchtower over the Atlantic coast and the northern territories, functioning as an observation post of the city of Lisbon. After the invasion of central Portugal by the Christian Crusaders in the 12th century, the importance of this viewpoint waned and the castle fell into disrepair. The castle deteriorated further after fire (from lighting) and earthquakes during the 17th and 18th centuries. The all but forgotten castle was restored during the 19th century by the Forestry Service. Later, the Ministry of Culture declared the area of special interest and work began by cleaning it up and installing electrical boxes to entice tourism. It is on a very, very high hill and does, indeed, offer a spectacular view of the region.

 Moorish Castle   Moorish Castle

The road leading up to the Castle is quite long and winding. Considering how high up this hill is, the number of switchbacks are unavoidable. After purchasing the entry ticket, it is about a 5 minute walk further up the hill. It seems impossible that there should be any structure built in and on these massive boulders. Some rocks were the size of a small house. The path navigates through lots of trees and huge rocks to get to the Castle. Even within the Castle walls, there is almost a forest of trees.


The Castle Keep on one hill is connected to the Royal Tower, on another hill, by a long wall that balances on the edge of a steep cliff.

Moorish Castle

There are hundreds of winding stone steps leading up to the individual towers.

Moorish Castle

There are remnants of stone walls that were once stables and military quarters.

Moorish Castle

Granaries carved out of the rock, like small caves, used to hold cereals and legumes. One remarkable feature is the granite block cistern that still holds water and bears the stonemason's marks.

Moorish Castle - cistern

Thanks to restoration efforts, it is safe to walk the walls enter the towers. However, everything looks all of its centuries-old age. It is wonderfully ancient and primitive.

 Moorish Castle

The time to reunite with Ed was drawing near, so a trip further up the hill to Pena Palace was not viable. (Pena Palace is supposed to be even more opulent than the Sintra Palace and is used for state occasions by the President and other government officials.) I caught a tuktuk back down the hill and met Ed at the coffee shop.

Ed & friend waiting for Irene

We had booked a rural guesthouse by a neighbouring town. When we got there, no one was around. We called and the host said he was at a birthday party and would be home shortly. We took advantage of the time and went into Ericeira for dinner. We drove back to the guesthouse.  There was still no one around. It was getting dark and cold so we headed back to the ocean side town of Ericeira where we found a lovely guesthouse. Casa Branca was the home of a semi-famous poet. Her granddaughter now owns this almost palatial house and converted it to a guesthouse. We spent a quiet and comfortable night. The next morning we stopped at the grocery store nearby and bought some food for our journey to Evora.

We had to drive back toward Lisbon and over the 17,185 meter Vasco da Gama Bridge before we left the bustling city behind on our way to Evora.


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