Saturday, July 20: When I arrive at the Park of Monserrate, I’m hungry so I stop for a little pastel de nata before I continue to explore the grounds of the Palace. Oh how I love that pastel de nata! I’m really trying to make sure I get my fill of it before I leave Portugal.
I walk along the Scented Path, bordered by pergolas with wisteria and jasmine, and pass by the Arch of India, which is missing its upper half. It was purchased by Francis Cook and represented spoils of the war resulting from the unsuccessful revolt of Indian maharajahs in 1857.
Monserrate Palace was originally commissioned by Gerard de Visme, an English merchant holding the concession to import Brazilian teak. The builder was William Beckford (1760-1844), writer, novelist, art critic and eccentric builder, and known as the wealthiest young Englishman of his time.
Monserrate Palace was transformed in 1856 into a summer residence for the Francis Cook family by the British architect James T. Knowles. Raised on the ruins of the neo-Gothic mansion built by Gerard de Visme in 1790, it represents 19th century eclecticism.
Francis Cook (1817-1901) was an English textile millionaire and owner of one of the greatest private art collections in Britain. He conceived the present Romantic Palace and Gardens as his family summer residence.
The setting of this palace is simply stunning.
The Gallery is a corridor connecting the three towers of the Palace. The succession of arches and columns creates great depth.
The Main Hall dome is a wooden structure decorated with plasterwork.
Some of the rooms are used to exhibit colorful paintings.
I love the stairway and the elaborately carved arches and columns throughout the Palace.
The Library walls are entirely covered by walnut bookshelves. The door, also in walnut, is decorated in high relief.
The Lawn, the first lawn planted in Portugal, was notable for its size and unusual cambered surface which required an imaginative irrigation system.
I always love these huge sprawling Ficus trees.
At the bottom of the lawn is a lovely water garden. All around, people are sitting or lying on blankets enjoying picnics.
The Mexican garden is the hottest and driest part of the garden and holds collections of palms, yuccas, nolinas, agaves, and cycads. It was fully restored in 2010.
An artificial waterfall attributed to William Beckford, called Beckford’s Waterfall, flows into this pond.
After walking all over Qinta da Regaleira’s gardens this morning, and walking all over Monserrate this afternoon, I go back to my room to find the cafe is now closed for Saturday night and all of Sunday. I guess I won’t see Manuel and Leonor again. 😦 I sit on the patio outside my room, but it gets quite cold so I go back inside and lie down for a bit.
Later I go out for dinner at another of Manuel’s local recommendations, Restaurante Sopa da Avo. The woman who runs the restaurant is really kind, and as I seem to be the only patron at first, she gives me her undivided attention. She even speaks some English.
I order Leeks a Bras, described on the menu as “leeks mixed with tiny French fries and involved in scrambled eggs.” I really like how the leeks are “involved” with the scrambled eggs. This dish is SUPERB!!! I savor every bite and really don’t want this meal to end!
When the owner sees how much I’m enjoying the meal, she brings me the recipe: Mix chopped onion with olive oil and milk. Then add the leeks and let cook. Add Gasket potatoes (tiny shreds of potato fries, much like potato chips, but in tiny sticks, from a cellophane bag) and eggs with parsley. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen these kinds of potatoes in the USA, but I’m going to be on the lookout for them so I can try to make this dish!
I return to Cafe Piela’s in the biting wind (it sure gets cold at night here in Sintra!) and get comfortable and warm for this, my last night in Sintra. I’m going to be really sad to leave here. 😦