Thursday, July 18: I leave Evora this morning on the 9:45 Rede expressos bus to Lisbon, which takes less than 2 hours. From the Lisbon bus station, I walk a short distance to the train station, hop on a train and arrive in lovely Sintra a half hour later. It’s an easier trip than I expected, and when I get out at Sintra’s adorable train station, I opt to take a taxi since I have no idea where Piela’s Hospedaria is located. It turns out it’s not that far, but it’s easier by taxi and I’m happy to spend the 5 euros.
My guest house is Piela’s Hospedaria and it’s run by husband and wife, Manuel and Leonor, and housekeeper Anna Maria. Manuel’s English is superb and he’s the friendliest man imaginable, making me feel welcome right away. He actually makes me feel like Piela’s is a home away from home. The guest rooms are on the second floor above the cafe. Both the Café Piela’s guest house and the cafe are run my Manuel and Leonor. (Café Piela’s)
After settling into the hotel and having some light lunch in the cafe, I venture out to explore Sintra. I head down into the modern town, following the signs for Sintra-Vila, the historical center of Sintra.
I walk through the part of town near the train station, where I see beautiful old manor houses painted in pastel colors.
As I pass out of this part of town, there’s a long stretch to walk down Alameda Volte do Duche, passing interesting sculptures along the way.
Once I get to Sintra-Vila, I can see that this is the place to be. The town is buzzing with tourists, shops, restaurants and street performers. In the center of this historic part of town sits the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, but I don’t know what’s what at this point. I couldn’t possibly think that the building with two huge ugly chimneys could be a palace. One of the funnel-shaped chimneys has been stripped of paint; it sits in its gray concrete nakedness beside another white-painted chimney. The two chimneys look as if they’re part of an ugly factory in the midst of the adorable little town.
As I walk through the streets, I pass some boys playing a lovely mesmerizing song. An open guitar case sits on the stone courtyard in front of them, waiting for donations. I walk past them at first, but their song is so lovely that when I walk past again, I stop and sit on a bench to listen, dropping some money in their guitar case. I ask them, “Are you trying to collect enough money to travel through Portugal?” They ask me how did I know? I say, because it seems like something my own sons would do. They say, yes, they’re Spanish and they are traveling and supporting themselves with their music. They’re super friendly and they tell me they’re on Facebook: (Sutil). I tell them, “I think you’re going to be famous one day.” They’re flattered, but I really mean it. Their song is that good.
After leaving the boys, I continue to meander through the town, soaking up the atmosphere. I love it here!
At one point I stop for a Sagres and study the Lisbon Guide that Jo lent me in Tavira, reading up on all the things to do and see in Sintra. It’s funny, many people take just a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra, but I’m staying here for 3 nights. I honestly think it would be short-changing yourself to come only for a day trip.
After I finish my beer, I wander around some more, admiring the doors, the pastel colored houses, the red rooftops, the windows and balconies, the laundry hung out to dry, the flowering bushes and the crazy street performers. I listen to the music of Portugal, Fado, wafting out of the shops, sounding like a lament on a breeze. It makes me pensive. I stop into a shop and buy a CD of some of the music that’s playing: Ana Moura “Des Fado.” Lovely.
Sitting on a hilltop above the town, I can see the Castelo Mouros, or the Moorish Castle. With its undulating mountains, forests thick with ferns and moss, exotic gardens and hilltop palaces, Sintra seems a land right out of a fairy tale.
At Restaurante Taverna, I stop for a glass of wine and some sausages. This is way too much food for me, and quite heavy, and I end up leaving most of it behind.
I go up to the restaurant’s shop for a taste of Port; here I buy a can of sardines as a gift for Mike.
Then I make my way back through the town toward my hotel.
Back along the road from Sintra-Vila to the train station, I pass by the Moorish Fountain, which belongs to the romantic-revivalist period and was built around 1922 by the master sculptor of Sintra, José da Fonseca. Its decoration is Arab in inspiration, with neo mudejar azulejos, painted plasterwork and sculptured decoration (Virtual Tourist: Moorish Fountain, Sintra).
There are more sculptures along this road.
In the town near the train station, I pass by the elaborate Town Hall.
And more pastel colored houses…
Along my walk back, I can see some of the green forests for which Sintra is known.
I head back to Cafe Piela’s, where I have a beer and use my computer. Cafe Piela’s is mostly a bakery, although it also serves sandwiches and soups, so it has a glass case where the baked goods are displayed. The glass case serves as the counter. I’m amused that the Portuguese patrons drop into the cafe, order a beer, and stand at the glass case to drink their beer. I wonder why they don’t have a seat at one of the tables. They just stop, drink the beer, pay their bill and leave. Not like the bars I’m used to in America, where people have a seat at the bar, have a couple of drinks, socialize, and linger. I see this numerous times while I’m in Portugal and I always find it funny, and charming, when I see it. 🙂