Well we are on the road again after a hiatus. Don, the gypsy, is very happy. We had an interesting flight out here as Don found a way to use our American Airlines miles to fly from Tucson to Seattle to London to Lisbon (total trip time 25 hours). We had a layover in Heathrow and found some very good food there, some sort of warm, flat croissant with meat and cheese. Very yummy. The drive to our first hotel was also very indirect as we got lost at night, without a working GPS or phone. At the end of the long trip though, all was good and we were safe.
After a good night’s sleep, we set out for Sintra, a place with beautiful castles and palaces on hills, and the narrowest two-way streets on which to drive. For the slow season, the number of tourists was staggering. We had to park in town and walk up to the castles. Good exercise though — our Fitbits tracked over 20,000 steps and over 100 flights of stairs.
Our first stop was the Pena Palace (the first 12 pictures) which is a Romanticist castle on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
The castle’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary. King Manuel I, was very fond of this sanctuary and ordered the construction of a monastery on this site which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.
The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 reduced the monastery to ruins, but the chapel (and its works of marble and alabaster attributed to Nicolau Chanterene) escaped without significant damage. For many decades the ruins remained untouched. In 1838, as King consort, Ferdinand II, decided to acquire the old monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors and a few other estates in the area. King Ferdinand then set out to transform the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. The construction took place between 1842–1854.
The Castle of the Moors (13th picture) was constructed during the 8th and 9th centuries, during the period of Muslim Iberia. The castle changed hands several times as different factions gained control of the area. By the 15th century, the castle’s importance centered around the religious activities performed in the chapel inside. By the 16th century, the castle was abandoned.
Our last stop in Sintra was the Montseratt Palace (pictures 14 – 20) which is an exotic palatial villa that serves as the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. It was restored in 1858 for Sir Francis Cook, an English baronet created Viscount of Monserrate by King Luís I. The Islamic architectural influence is in reference to when the region was a part of the wider Muslim Gharb Al-Andalus until the 13th century.
We made it to the coast (last two pictures) just in time for sunset. Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca) is the westernmost point of Europe (or as we overheard a tour guide say “The closest point to the U.S.”). It was the first time we have seen the Atlantic Ocean from “the other side.”