If there is a place of magic and wonder, I would say it’s Sintra. Today was a day of nail biting heights and enchanting forests. I have experienced similar sensations at other places yet this was without rollercoasters or fabricated princesses. We climbed through Liberadade Park, up ladder-like alleyways, along cobblestone streets, on stone switchbacks up the side of a mountain until we reached the walls of the Moorish Castle. We continued to climb to the top and along the castle walls into lookouts. I’ll admit I was a nervous wreck. The combination of intense winds, ancient boulders, cliff walls and the children running around made my heart race and hands tremble. Nonetheless, I hiked the entire perimeter of the walls, identified other castles in the distance and occasionally nagged Don to be more careful.
The Moorish Castle ruins were an intense hike, yet we looked further up in to the distance and saw our next destination. We backtracked down the mountain to change paths and hiked to the Pena Palace. Chloe had said that the Plaza de Espana (Sevilla) was just like Disneyworld, yet I think this palace may give it a run for its money. A strange and elaborate combination of styles reminded me of a child’s crayon drawing of their ideal palace. Be sure to look at the pictures below. I was in disbelief for most of the tour. In the guide-book it was described as a casserole of styles, with a different combination around each corner…agreed!
Tired legs, yes. Sun burn, a bit. Stubborn, always. We bypassed the bus heading down the mountain and returned the way we came. When we were in a round tower on the Moorish Castle Don pointed out a building below that he wanted to visit. Quinta da Regaleira was our last stop in Sintra, and by far the most magical. Everything on the grounds (main house, interior carvings, furniture, gardens, hidden caves) were designed by the architect and artist Luigi Manini had worked tirelessly to create a pure example of this style. Don and I both have come to love Manueline architecture and design so I felt like a kid in a candy shop! There was a main house, a chapel, a greenhouse, gardens, pools, fountains, sculptures, waterfalls, wells, and caves. The caves are not advertised upon entry and not easy to find. We entered by jumping stone to stone across a basin below a waterfall. From there we walked behind the waterfall and Don used his iPhone flashlight to allow us to move through the tunnels. There was a labyrinth below ground that we explored. We came upon the base of 2 different wells…yes just like Goonies.
Inside the main house was an exhibition featuring the architectural plans, floor and ceiling layouts and detailed drawings used to design this magical place. The giddiness that I felt in the caves was surpassed by teacher giddiness. This is exactly what I’ve been searching for without avail in the bookstores and gift shops after each place. One of the workers told us that they sold a book in their shop with all of these sketches and photos of the grounds. We made our way to the shop, which had closed for the day. I probably resembled a dog that was kicked. Don asked the workers for other ways we could find the book. Is it sold elsewhere? No. Is it online? No. Do you ship? No. Since we were leaving the next morning for Coimbra, this was our only chance. Another worker overheard and opened the store for us. I am so excited about the book! It has all the sketches and blueprints for the grounds, as well as other places he designed. A big score for lesson planning!