"" Writer's Wanderings: Portugal - Sintra

Monday, June 21, 2010

Portugal - Sintra

With great anticipation, we disembarked for our day in the Lisbon area of Portugal. This was our first visit to mainland Portugal. We stopped once in Madiera which is an island and a favorite port stop for many cruises before going transatlantic. Originally we signed up for an excursion with the cruise company but our travel agent belongs to a group, Vacation.com (an organization of travel agents that offers special tours/packages for their clients) and we were invited to join a group for a special tour of the countryside. Since we like getting out of the ciey, we couldn't pass it up.

Our guide spoke excellent English and was a delight as she included history, culture, tradition and all sorts of other interesting facts into her talks as we rode out of the city and into the coutnryside. Passing through a part of Lisbon, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the elaborate mosaic sidewalks. Each block of the main thoroughfare seemed to have a different pattern.

We arrived at a little historical town named Sintra. And, after a brief introduction, our guide gave us plenty of time to explore on our own. Bob and I wandered the streets and alleyways admiring the intricate tile work on the buildings. As you look at the picture of the town, note the large tower on the left. It is not a minaret. It is actually the tower of the old town hall.

Our guide had explained that many buildings were tiled on the outside because it protected them better from the elements of wind and sea water. Some of the work, like the scene portrayed in the set of tiles in a section of a city wall, was very decorative.

One of the historic national palaces, Palácio da Vila, is in the center of the historic district. As with so many buildings in Europe, this one is a combination of many different styles as wings and towers, etc. were added through the centuries. The oldest part of the building dates back to the 13th century.

Up on a hill overlooking the town sits a Moorish castle which apparently is just a shell and is overgrown with vegetation in the center. I didn't think I wanted to climb again just to check it out. The memories (and the pain) were still fresh enough from our Cinque Terre climb.

This was the kind of town where we truly would have liked to linger. It's about 50 minutes by train from Lisbon (lots of stops along the way) and would be a nice day trip. We were already mulling over a plan to return someday to Portugal. The rest of our tour confirmed the decision.

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