Portugal, Mar ’14 (Lisbon – Sintra)

Lisbon – Tram 28

We took  a long night train from Spain to Lisbon. Eurorail international train was awesome with bicycle lock, great facility and great comfort.

If you want to get a good impression of the historical city of Lisbon, a very good idea is taking this typical yellow little trolley, ‘eléctrico 28′. This legendary tram 28 is a tourist attraction in itself. It goes all around town. Of course you can hop on and hop off.

The tram started from square Praça.

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Tram 28 – super crowded

On the way through Alfama, the tram passed in front of the Sé Cathedral, providing for a wonderful photo opportunity.

The tram also passed through the famous viewpoint (miradouro) Portas do Sol (Gates to the sun) and the legendary fleamarket ‘Feira da Ladra’  in Alfama.

After a city tour by Tram 28, we came back to square Praça and explored the area. There was food fair with a huge variety of local delights. Liyang was so delighted to get the superb cheese for cheap!

We then walked to a busy touristy street for some delicious egg-tarts and bread.

As we walked through Lisbon – whose history spans back thousands of years – we found streets filled with heritage monuments, and characteristic neighborhoods where the city first developed and can still be experienced at its most genuine level. The pace of life was rather slow, no one rushed on the streets and I guessed that was just the way Portugal is at large.

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Slow pace of life

 

Sintra

We were so eager to take the short train ride to Sintra so we got up early in the morning. The breezing cold and little arrays of sunshine were just perfect together.

Sintra is known for its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, which has resulted in its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although its heritage in buildings and nature is the most visible face of the historic individuality of Sintra, a whole literary heritage has made the area a legendary reference in Portuguese culture. It has become a major tourist centre, visited by many day-trippers who travel from the centre and suburbs of the capital Lisbon.

We reached Sintra after a short ride.

Instead of taking any day tours (which were fairly expensive), we got a free map and started our own adventure for the day. As we headed outside from the train station, we met two Taiwanese ladies who study in the US and we soon formed a backpacker group.

National Palace of Sintra is the best preserved medieval Royal Palace in Portugal, being inhabited more or less continuously from the early 15th century to the late 19th century.

The buildings in the central square of São Martinho, across from the Sintra National Palace were just so gorgeous in their unique designs and colours.

The iconic Pena National Palace originally built on the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena, and renovated extensively through the initiative of Ferdinand II of Portugal. It was summer residence of the monarchs of Portugal during the 18th-19th century.

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The lovely town

We slowly walked up hill to famous places as suggested in the map. One of them was The Quinta da Regaleira. It is a decorative 20th century residence that is situated in the town of Sintra. The grand house is split over five floors and has an ornate gothic façade, but the real attraction is to the rear with the enchanting gardens. The gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira were styled to represent ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels and concealed symbolism.

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Quinta da Regaleira

 

Instead of taking a bus or tram service, we enjoyed hiking more. And all the buildings on the hill side were just so amazing.

We finally reached the hill top after nearly two hours hiking. And the destination at hilltop was no other than The Castelo dos Mouros. It is a ruinous castle that is set  amidst the lush forests of the Serra De Sintra and is a popular tourist attraction of Sintra. The Castelo dos Mouros was established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra but it fell into disrepair after the Christian conquest of Portugal. The castle was restored in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II, who transformed it into a romantic ruin and a major feature of the gardens of the Pena Palace. The castle retains the charm of an ancient ruin, with dense forest surrounding the crumbling battlements that offer spectacular views over the Sintra region.

We spent the most of our time there to enjoy the unique workmanship and architecture.

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The battlements

From the castle, we can see the stunning bird-eye view to the whole town of Sintra. It was just absolutely awesome.

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Mandatory panorama shot

As recommended by our two new friends from the US, we went to find the most famous bakery in Sintra, Antiga confeitaria de Belem. Since 1837, this patisserie has been transporting locals to sugar-coated nirvana with heavenly pastéis de belém . The crisp pastry nests filled with custard cream, baked at 200°C for that perfect golden crust, then lightly dusted with cinnamon.

We ended our day tour around Sintra in great satisfaction.

And before I forget, Magnum ice-cream was so cheap in here and some flavours were absolutely unique and stunning (EUR 1-2).

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