I have to admit, our day 4 trip to Sintra was a bit of a disappointment. Not because the Pena Palace wasn't beautiful - but because this is a highly touristy area, with a lot of waiting in line, a lot of confusion, a lot of jam packed streets, a lot of disorganization and a lot of tourist traps.
1. Pena Palace
After a helpful employee at the train station showed us how to purchase the right tickets, we boarded the first train to Sintra in an attempt to beat the crowds.
The train was uneventful, and soon we arrived at our destination.
The signage wasn't the best I've ever experienced, but eventually we found our way to the shuttle/bus stop and pieced together how the tickets worked. We waited in line for a good long while until a bus pulled up and we were able to board.
We rode the shuttle up and up and up - probably the scariest bus ride to date - until we reached the base of Pena Palace.
There, swarms of tourists in haphazard lines stood outside broken ticket machines and closed gates - milling around with no one seeming to have any idea of what was going on. I got increasingly more frustrated as the minutes dragged on and on and still, no direction was given. My mom and I decided to divide and conquer - jumping onto two lines that we weren't even sure were where we needed to be.
Eventually - the ticket windows opened, the gates rolled back, and we made it inside. I immediately needed to find a bathroom and some sustenance and luckily both were located at a little shop right inside the gates. We sat down in the sun and ate some horrible microwave-oven sandwich that kind of tasted like a piece of Elio's pizza (but nowhere near as good).
After that, we started making the climb up to Pena Palace. As it came into view, I got really excited about the bright colors and bizarre architecture - it looked totally out of place!
At this point in the day, my mom and I decided we were content to not wait on any more lines, and instead of touring the inside of the castle, opted for walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the sights on the exterior of the castle. The tickets we had bought at the start allowed us to walk all over the castle, and we didn't feel like we missed out on anything by not going inside.
The castle was extremely unique in it's design and I did really enjoy photographing it. Not to mention seeing the incredible views from it's turrets.
2. Lunch & Shopping In Sintra
The shuttle ride back down into the main part of town was another long and winding ordeal. A couple of times we thought we might have gotten on the wrong bus since it was taking so damn long!
But eventually we found ourselves outside of the Sintra National Palace. We stuck our heads into some shops, but most of them seemed to be glorified souvenir stores.
We were pretty grouchy and didn't feel like exploring all too much for our lunch - so we plopped down at Restaurant Cafe Paris where we had an overpriced lunch (but it was a pretty place with outdoor seating). I ordered a salad and a crepe - neither of which impressed.
After lunch we continued our walk down to the train station and all along the way there were local artists and vendors selling crafts and jewelry along the sidewalk. We also found some nicer shops closer to town, and I loved stopping to take pictures of the buildings covered in beautiful flowers!
By the time we made it back down, I was warming up to Sintra, but also more than ready to get on the train back to our Airbnb.
3. Sunset Shopping
When we got back to Lisbon, we walked around and did some final shopping - I bought a pair of pants I absolutely love from United Colors of Benetton. We chased the sunset a little ways until we realized we probably weren't to get a great view and wandered back to our little neighborhood.
4. Portuguese Wine at The Little Wine Bar
We wandered around for awhile hoping to find a place to sit out on the sidewalk and have a drink - but most places were packed or only offering tables to those that were ordering food. Portugal made a wine drinker out of me - so we stopped in a little wine bar (quite literally called The Little Wine Bar) for a final glass. This place was adorable and the wine was fabulous - highly recommend if you're staying in the area!
5. Last Supper at Restaurant Duque
I am happy to report that we ended the trip with perhaps one of the best parts - dinner at Restaurant Duque.
All week we had passed this tiny restaurant on the corner of our street and I had gazed longingly at the sweet potatoes in the window (true story).
On our last night, I convinced my mom that we had enough cash left (it was cash only) to go for dinner and a glass of wine at this local spot.
Who would have thought that the cash-only place across the street would turn out to be our absolute favorite meal of the trip? AND that we would be seated next to a lovely couple who we talked with throughout the meal?
It was the perfect end to the trip and I urge you to go eat here!
We ordered the Oven Roasted Octopus (with sauteed sweet potato!!!) and the Sea Rice (basically a seafood paella with fish, clams, mussels and prawns).
6. Goodbye, Portugal!
The next morning we woke up, packed, and said goodbye to our Airbnb home away from home (not before stopping for a coffee and pastry from a corner cafe).
I had used MyTaxi to schedule a cab pick-up at the AirBnb and it worked out perfectly. Our taxi driver was there right on time and was such a lovely person. We chatted the entire way to the airport - about tourism, rent, the European outlook on lunch breaks, Airbnb, and why the Portugeuse don't get angry at traffic. I was sad when we pulled up to the terminal to end our first real in-depth conversation with a local.
I was also, obviously, sad that the trip had come to an end.
Saying goodbye to my mom after such an amazing bonding experience was difficult - but I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity.
I now know that my mom and I make GREAT travel partners and I can't wait to plan another trip for the two of us to share again soon.
To anyone considering a trip to Portugal - book it! The area has so much to see and do - it offers a European feel, cobblestone streets, museums and churches galore - as well as having plenty of cool, hip places like the LX Market, Time Out Market and Pink Street. Not to mention the beaches, National Parks, and day trips that are at your fingertips.
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