All good things come to an end and so did my wonderful visit to Portugal. On my last day there, I visited Sintra and Cascais and all I can say is “wow”. This was the second part of the two day tour I had booked to wrap up my visit and it was an amazing way to end my visit.
First off, I had a great time exploring Portugal. I found it to be a beautiful country with a rich history, gorgeous geography, beautiful architecture, warm and friendly people, and delicious food and wine! This last day solidified that for me.
We started the day meeting at the Hard Rock Cafe in Lisbon from where the tour minivan drove the small group (there were six of us) to Sintra. I had obviously read about Sintra and knew that it was a place I wanted to visit. As with the previous tour, I really was at the point where I wanted to sit back and be driven around – not drive myself or deal with public transportation (which is amazingly good in Portugal). I am not a fan of tours, but these were advertised as “small groups” and they lived up to that – six to seven people, flexible enough that I was able to remain back a bit to take the photographs I wanted.
Back to Sintra. Our first stop was as you first approach town for a nice view of the Palacio Nacional de Sintra as well as the Palacio de Pena. You could tell right away that this was going to be a great experience and I knew the views from above would be even more spectacular.
This was just a quick stop and we moved on to the Palacio de Pena. The minivan parked and we waited for the gates to open. As soon as they did, I took advantage of the restrooms (remember – always use one when you find one!) and then the entire group walked up the hill – enjoying the beautiful gardens along the way.
Once we arrived at the Palacio, we were all on our own and I started to wander and explore. I am not one for museums and that type of thing, I prefer to just enjoy the architecture, the surroundings, and atmosphere, but when it’s a historical place, I’ll indulge and do the “inside” tours.
There is only one phrase to describe the Palacio de Pena – “eye candy”. Wow. I couldn’t get enough. I kept walking around just admiring the beautiful – no, GORGEOUS – architecture and magnificent views.
No amount of reading or photographs can prepare you for the beauty that you encounter. Not only the buildings and the setting, but the views. Among those, my favorite view was of the Castelo dos Mouros (the Moorish Castle) which unfortunately we did not visit (that is the one down side to a planned tour – you’re on their itinerary, not yours). You see this stunning castle at the top of a mountain off in the near distance and, well, it just calls your name. Next time!
I continued to explore all the courtyards, enjoying the views, returning multiple times to feast on the incredible Triton Arch and the sea monster that is sculpted above it. It was then time to step inside and experience the interior.
This was a self-guided walk through a series of rooms and, as with most palaces, you get a good feel for what life was like when there were actually residents here. You step through formal rooms, sleeping quarters, trophy rooms, and the like. It’s interesting but maybe it’s just me, they all seem to look the same after a while.
Once done, the group got back into the minivan and we had a couple of hours to walk around the town and enjoy lunch. Our guide had mentioned the Cafe a Piriquita which is known for their famous queijadas (sweet cheesecakes) and travesseiros (almond pastries) – not disappointed. I had a couple of small savory items and one of each of the quaijadas and travesseiros and it was all delicious.
After fueling the body, it was time to walk around a bit more.
Back in the van and it was on to Cascais for the last stop. Of course, we had a stop along the way at Cabo da Roca which is the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal and continental Europe. The sea and coast line was beautiful – as it is in all of Portugal – and I had the chance to talk very briefly (and take a photo on his behalf) of a bike rider that was riding around the Iberian Peninsula!
After this stop, it was really time to head to Cascais. There was no set itinerary for the stop there so it was just perfect for me. Tell me what time and where to meet and I’ll see you there. I immediately set off to explore and quickly found some narrow streets in the older part of the city, a John Lennon statue street performer, the seafront,
and a local carnival where I finally found a souvenir to take home. Yes, I do get souvenirs for myself but I like to purchase local art or similar from small shops or individuals. At this carnival, there was an artist selling small cobblestones that had been painted to look like Portuguese houses – bingo, that was it!
With that out of the way, I found my way back to the meeting point, got back in the minivan, and we headed back to Lisbon for my last night in Portugal. I had everything packed and ready to go as I was moving and spending that night at the Hotel Tryp by the airport so I could make my early morning flight with no hassles.
And so, a wonderful visit to Portugal came to an end. I will be back and recommend it to anyone AND everyone.
By the Numbers
This was a seventeen night trip so I wanted to try my best to keep the costs down. Since I wanted to visit a lot of small towns and was limited on time, I had no choice by to rent a car. My VW Up cost me $452.26 for the entire stay – including insurance. Gasoline (petrol) is expensive in Europe so that added to the cost of transportation. I spent $171.21 in gasoline and consumed 30.6 gallons during the trip – driving a total of 1,296 miles. That averages out to be 42.2 miles to the gallon at $5.58 per gallon!
My average lodging was $43.41 per night – and that includes the last night at the Tryp Hotel which was $100 for the night. Meals are very inexpensive and you can do the “tourist menu” at many places for about 8 euro. Oh, and I wound walking about 146 miles during this trip!