When I woke up, I felt like I had a train going through my head. Yesterdays pub crawl got me good and in a way that I just wanted to sleep the day away. However, that was not going to be the case because we were headed to Sintra and then followed by Porto. It was a big day! As we made our way down to the hotel lobby, I relaxed on the couch with my excitement for the day bubbling up. I was falling into a day dream, after such a long hard summer working and now I am here moving into our next part of vacation. It felt like I was dreaming, it was actually my reality. To think four days ago, I was working my typical 10 hour days and stressed out of my mind. Now I am lounging on a couch after a fun night and ready to explore Sintra. As Kevin finished checking us out, the manager walked over to thank us for our stay and gave us his card. We were impressed with their service. We walked out with our bulky suitcases down the road and to the train station. I knew in that moment in time, I had to bring myself back to life. We had a lot to look forward to. As we stepped into the train station, I saw Starbucks. I knew all I needed was four things. A large water to hydrate, iced coffee to get rid of the pounding headache, green tea which would replenish me and a croissant for carbs and calories. We got all the essentials and headed towards the train.
The Sintra train was coming in 30 mins, as we sat and waited. I drank the green tea and ate the croissant. My body was calming down after last night’s indulgence and I was finally getting back to normal. The coffee was the perfect sweetness and bitterness where it settled the headache and some Advil helped too. We went over to the entrance to get on to the train and the moment I got on, I knew I was ready for what lied ahead. We were onto our next adventure!
The train went full speed ahead to Sintra, we were taking in the landscape all around us. We were being led into the hills and mountains of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains. The day was a little misty which added an air of mystery to where we were going. Sintra is known for their 19th century Pena National Palace, Castelo Dos Mouros which is a Moorish fortress and Quinta da Regaleira, another palace with spectacular gardens. All of which sat on top of the hilltop looking down to the charming pastel village surrounded by lush thick forrest that gave a deep and hidden feel to the town. As we came closer, we were excited to get off the train and start exploring. Except one of the silly things I overlooked on the way over. First, getting to Porto from where we were and then second, where to put our luggage. Oops, Kevin wasn’t thrilled but we figured it out. I knew that the cute stores had to have luggage storage. We just had to ask. Kevin whipped out his phone and looked up how to get to Porto from Sintra. Well lo and behold, we had to go back to Lisbon and then from Lisbon to Porto. Just a little back tracking but hey, we were only an hour away not so bad! We just knew from there we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to spend in Sintra so we had to get going!
We found an adorable shop that held our luggage. Looking at our phone map of Sintra we did not exactly know where everything was. I had done some research before arriving but once you get there with the mountains and all the directions to go in, it was confusing. I told Kevin the first thing I wanted to see was the Pena Palace! We sent for an Uber and we were on our way. We weaved and turned around sharp corners going up the mountain. Looking out the window, my nerves were going. I was so excited to see the beauty that this little town held. When we first got off the train, I had a thought to walk. Thank god we did not actually try that because it would have taken us hours to walk up the steep incline. Sitting in the Uber, I was relieved that the driver was getting us to the entrance relaxing in the back seat. After 15 minutes, we finally got to the entrance of the palace. You could not see it but there were pictures all over the ticket office so we knew we were at the right place. Saying our goodbyes and thank you to the driver, we set on our way. We paid for our tickets and a sign showed 5 min walk to the palace. We walked up the steep road that was surrounded by the thick woods and different botanical gardens. As we made our way up, I looked through the trees and there was a horse! A massive beautiful ardennes horse which immediately caught my attention and I had to go over and pet him. I was thrilled to pet this majestic animal. Later I found out “Parques de Sintra-Monte da Lua has reintroduced traditional – environmentally sustainable – techniques for managing and maintaining the forested areas under its supervision and making recourse to the Ardennes breed of horse. These horses support forestry working practices (transporting wood, collecting waste materials, cleaning roads and paths, etcetera) and also provide buggy rides around the sites of the Park of Pena.” (1) It was something special to see this horse wandering around freely under eye of the owner but also helping the national park use traditional practices to preserve the land around.
I turned to walk away and looked ahead. There it was, The Pena Palace! And damn, it was breathtaking! Since we were on the hill top the palace was in the clouds. We could see all the colors, textures and titles that made this palace special. As we walked through the arches letting us inside, I was taking in the surrounding flowers, walls, and architecture. At the beginning, there was a sign for the restaurant for food. We decided before we set out to explore to get something inside our stomachs. I got a half bottle of wine and cod fish risotto while Kevin got pork with rice and vegetables. The risotto was absolutely delicious! I enjoyed every bite, however when it came to the wine we both took one sip and was reminded us how we both felt that morning. We decided to store it away for later to drink.
The palace had different sections to walk through. As we made our way inside the royal family’s living quarters we were not the best tourists. We walked through each room taking in the sites, however not reading the little informational signs which gave us the history and significance of each room and what it was used for. Instead we made our own interpretations and made jokes with what some of the rooms were used for. Naturally I look my camera out to take photos of the tiles. I was approached and told no cameras in that section. After that I was reluctant to take photos, not knowing if I was allowed to or not. At the end of the day, I got gorgeous photos that may or may have not been restricted. Oops. We had so much to do in such little time that we just went with the flow having fun. I knew that later I would research and learn more about what we had done when I had the time. The palace was amazing to take in. We walked through large halls, trophy rooms, and prayer rooms. We went to the courtyards and along the ridge of the castle where the guards in the past had marched along protecting the people and things within. We explored all over and decided we had to move on to the next site. We hopped into a tuk tuk which is local transportation. A three wheeled buggy, which is a huge way tourists got around. Our tuk tuk driver was very charismatic, sharing stories with us and even taking us to different spots with points of history. He brought us to a house which was in a movie, it over looked an edge with a gorgeous view. No wonder it was placed in a movie. We got dropped off at the bottom of the street and he pointed us to the direction of the entrance of Quinta Da Regaleira.
Once we arrived to the Quinta De Regaleira, I was thrilled to find the Initiation Well and the enchanted pond. We looked at the map and headed towards the direction it pointed us in. I was absolutely shocked at first looking at the entrance of the well. It was all but just a large boulder. It was completely hidden and missable if it was not labeled. Watching others walk past the large boulder we followed suit. It led us immediately to the top of the Initiation Well. What a beautiful and incredibly remarkable hidden gem. As you look up there is a large circle opening. Look down, the staircase spiraled down with gothic architecture. I have never seen anything like it. We walked down the staircase looking up, down and all around. At the top it was bright with a lot of light and as you walked down it got more chilly and dark like you’re going into a black abyss. At the bottom of the staircase I looked up and it was to me like the light at the end of the tunnel. I was picturing this is what it must be like at the end of my life. Only to have the darkness direct me into a dimly lit tunnel. We followed the dark tunnel towards the sound of trickling water. As we walked ahead it got louder, sounding like a waterfall. The tunnel opened up to an enchanted pond with a flowing waterfall. My eyes were mystified. The green and lush pond with moss covering everything. As we walked around, we were led to steps that actually brought us across the pond. I have never in my life saw something quite like it. I had a moment where I could be dreaming. It felt like I was in a childhood dream as an adult living it out. Walking across the rocks I was giddy and had so many “awe” moments. Kevin had as much fun as I was having, we both were experiencing something we never had before. Once we took our time looking at the different gardens and stone towers, and taking photos of the gothic palace we decided we should start getting back to the train station and get on our way to Porto.
We meandered down the streets through the adorable town back to the train station. We found our way and got out luggage. It was perfect timing. We got onto the train and in ten minutes we were headed back to Lisbon. The train ride went fast and it was relaxing to sit after a couple of hours walking around Sintra. We got into a different train station in Lisbon. The train station had large arches and it felt so large and huge like we were in a dome. People were running, walking and hanging out till their trains were called. We looked into the next train to Porto. We had an hour. Perfect, got some food, went to the bathroom and patiently waited for the time to tick down. Getting on the platform I always get nervous. The thoughts of missing the train, getting onto the wrong train or being on the wrong platform played through my head. Being with Kevin gave me peace of mind because he is aware of everything, he would never lead me astray.
The train came in and we were on our way to Porto! I closed my eyes, put my head on Kevin’s shoulder and I was out like a light. Before I knew it, Kevin was shaking his shoulder waking me from my drooling sleep. We made it! We got off the train and I was still in a daze from just waking up. Kevin called an Uber, and before I could even process being awake we were headed to our airbnb. Our driver dropped us off and we rolled our luggage down a very steep hill. The lady who we were meeting was right outside in front of the apartment. With a great big breath, she said “get ready its four floors up.” Kevin jokingly said, “I was hoping you wrote the fourth floor by accident.” He grabbed both our luggages and carried the 100 pounds up the stairs. I had just my bag and was huffing and puffing. Both, the lady checking us in an I were absolutely impressed with his strength and how he just muscled it up the four flights. Walking into our airbnb, it was ADORABLE! I loved it! It was clean, and very modern. The apartment had a little balcony which we could not see because it was dark but a lovely living space, with kitchenette and our bedroom was great. It was not massive but very comfortable. We dropped our things, went over details with the lady who gave us the keys and she said her goodbyes. We just looked at each other… what now?
We both were hungry but decided to explore our surroundings. We were aimlessly walking around taking right and left turns, wherever our bodies took us we went. It led us to a main square that was all lit up with Christmas lights. It was stunning and right in front of a build with lovely architecture there was a giant tree. The tree had a dazzling light show. We took in the buildings and people around us then decided to head back towards where we stayed to find food. We found out after stopping into a restaurant, looking at their menu that their kitchen had closed. With our mouths watering, we had a glass of wine and promised to come back to that spot for their lamb chop. We had taken too long of a stroll where we were missing out on the opportunity to dine at the restaurants because the kitchens were closed. We figured we should just keep walking, looking for something that was bustling with people. Around the block, there was a bar called Pinguim Cafe. There we settled in, Kevin had a beer and I had some wine. We looked around and there was a man delivering garlic bread to a table which smelt so delicious. We ordered one. As we were waiting for it to come out a group of girls came in and ordered shots that looked like a mini root beer floats. I told Kevin that was to be our dessert! We enjoyed the bread that was toasty and warm with buttery garlic. I immediately got up and went for the shot which turned out to be a golden Russian ice cream shot. We patiently waited for the shot to be made and cheers to our first night in Porto!
Leaving with our bellies not fully satisfied because we were still hungry, we knew one place that was open.. gyros! We went to the square where we had walked through earlier and dove into some gyros. They were simply delicious and a great way to end the long day with tons of flavor. As we walked out of the gyro shop, our hands full, we were drawn to a guitar player. A group of people were forming around and at that moment he convinced a women to sing while he played. After a minute of her pulling out the lyrics and him picking away at the first couple of strings, they were off. We were enjoying the food, the atmosphere, and having fun swaying to the music. They were talented and her voice was angelic. This was epitome of street music. It was a glorious way to end the night and from there we headed back and got the sleep we had been craving.
Live Well and Run xox