We boarded an early morning train from rainy Porto, and headed south to Lisbon. It was a three hour ride, which we all caught up on our sleep on. Once in Lisbon, we boarded a regional train heading West to Sintra, (about a 45 minute ride via train). Through all of my research before our trip, I knew Sintra had to be on our list!
We arrived at the station, and were met right outside by our host, Teresa. She was very friendly, and spoke excellent English. The apartment was conveniently located directly across the street from the train station, so we walked right over and she gave us the rundown on the home. It was, to say politely, a very quirky house. It was very brightly decorated, with some interesting artwork. Jess and I picked the master bedroom which had it’s on bathroom, and Aly had what I was assuming used to be the dining room which they had transformed the table into a high bed. It didn’t even had a door; it was just, odd.
Teresa sent us off with many kisses, and told us to “Enjoy life, every moment,” as we said goodbye. It was very sweet. Portuguese people may just be some of the nicest I have ever met.
From the apartment we had to BOOK it up into the main part of Sintra, and then uphill for about 2 miles to make it to La Quinta Regaleira before it closed in one hour. We had really messed up with our scheduling, and this was our only day in Sintra. Since all three of the cool places to see would all be closing, we had to choose one. I had done the most research on the Regaleira, so that was where we were headed.
Sweaty, and out of breath, we made it before the gates closed at 4 PM. Thankfully, the grounds would still be open until 6 PM once you were inside. So, we had plenty of time to look around, although I could have spent all day exploring the grounds!
For some history, this is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro and the buildings that reside on the grounds currently took about 6 years to be completed. Monteiro wanted to build a residence that could display all the symbols of his interests, which included alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and Rosicrucians. All of the many structures also have an array of architectural styles including Roman, Renaissance, Gothic, and Manueline.
The grounds spread out over 4 acres of land that are lush with trees and shrubbery. We felt like we were in the middle of a jungle! It had many footpaths that led you around, so it was easy to find our way.
One of the things I was most excited about, and the first thing we tried to find was the Initiation Well, or the inverted tower. There are two, one finished, one unfinished. The first of the two, is the largest, and includes a 27-meter spiral staircase that led you down into the tunnels below the surface that connected all of the various entrances. The wells were not built for the use of actual water storage, but for ceremonial purposes pertaining to Tarot mysticism, yet another one of Monteiro’s interests. Also, for your movie buffs, the finished Initiation well was the entrance of the labyrinth in the Guillermo del Toro’s movie “Pan’s Labyrinth”.
The tunnel systems underneath the ground that connected the wells, as well as the grottoes, ponds, bridges, and caves was vast. We explored quite a bit of them, but a lot of the tunnels were actually blocked off, so we will never know for sure how extensive the tunnels actually are. I literally could have explored the tunnels alone all day. We had some fun turning off our flashlights and scaring some tourists in the dark. Yes, we are those people!
Also on the grounds were several tower-like structures that looked like mini castles that all had amazing views from the top. There is even a Catholic Chapel on the grounds, and many amazing sculptures and benches throughout. The palace itself is gorgeous, but we were very disappointed that only the main floor was open. The four other floors were closed for repairs. It really is such a unique and beautiful place.
Once we left the Regaleira, we headed back into the center of town to find some dinner. We picked a small cafe and ate outside on the main street so we could people watch as we ate. After that, we explored some stores and then headed back to our Airbnb. Once, there we realized we really wanted gelato, so we walked back to the center of Sintra to find some. As we were sitting down at the restaurant still opened that had gelato, I suddenly felt sick, and if you read my other post here, you will see just what an adventure that turned out to be.
We made it home, and after a shower, we all went to bed. Our train left at 6 AM the next morning, so none of us objected to getting to bed a little earlier, especially me since I was literally wiped out from being so sick. But even though I was feeling terrible, I was SO excited to head to Lagos the very next day!
Sintra is extremely gorgeous, and I hope to go back one day, and definitely stay longer than a day! There are so many more palaces and castles to be seen!
The Raw Brunette