“…in my heart I was still carrying my grievance for not visiting that beach, while in my hands I was holding a lame conversion tool to a Christian heresy. The latter, I got rid of at a litter bin in Cascais. The former remains to this day.“
Although we hadn’t yet accomplished our goal of experiencing Lisbon to the fullest way possible, we had decided that the next day we would visit Sintra and Cabo da Roca and maybe swim in the Ocean. Needless to point out that this was a very demanding task and sacrifices had to be made, let alone we couldn’t make these choices lightheartedly, so everything had to be decided on the spot. I have to say that we started our day too in too laid-back a manner , considering the efforts we had to make to correspond to such a heavy itinerary. Therefor we visited a small bakery that we noticed that had lots of local folks as clients and ordered our usual cup of frozen espresso, some sandwiches and pasteis de nata.
I must also point out that the Portuguese expression for breakfast (cafe da manha) pictures in the most perfect way my idea of breakfast. Morning coffee. Plain. Simple. Nothing else. Consequently, after enjoying this tasty breakfast, we walked to the nearby metro once more to reach Rossio train station, where we would board a train for the 45 minute ride to Sintra. Some tough decisions had to be made aboard that train but we limited our choice of sights to a couple. While in Sintra we would either visit Pena palace or Quinta da Regaleira.
There are many sites to visit near this lovely town but when time is short harsh decisions have to be made. Pena palace is probably the most renown place in the area, yet we opted to visit Quinta da Regaleira, as we were drawn to it by the strange nature of the place, as the man who conceived the idea for this architectural delight, Carvalho Monteiro tried to create a place that would reflect his interest in alchemy and the occult. The man who would undertake the task to fulfill that goal at the beginning of the 2oth century, was the Italian architect Luigi Manini, who designed many buildings in Portugal at the time. In order to get there we walked through the town encountering many pieces of street art along the way and even more vendors that were spreading their merchandise on the pavement. We took advantage of the chance for some shopping before reaching our destination.
The place is quite extended as it is actually a vast park on a hillside. The three floor high palace is the main building and it is built in Gothic style. There’s also a chapel, but the most bizarre sight is the park itself. Walking around the place you’ll encounter symbolic statues, fountains, initiation wells, tunnels, grottoes and a couple of lakes. The place had emanated a strange beauty, which took grotesque shapes at times and it would most certainly be quite an eerie place to walk after dark. It kind of reminded me of the setting of a Dario Argento’s films.
I guess that the initiation well is the site’s most prestigious highlight. A fountain is situated in front of the entrance as if clumsily trying to hide it, while a small lowly lit tunnel guides the visitor to the well, which is better lit as the light of day bursts in through the opening on the top. The rest of the park hides various symbolisms related to the occult (we actually threw some water from the fountain of abundance on our bodies to cast away the ghost of summer heat and the specter of poverty – one was gone, still waiting for the other) and it could really be a much more exciting place to visit for someone who delves into this stuff. It made me think that the whole park is some sort of a map of Carvalho Monteiro’s mind: A place of charm, yet one of puzzlement and anxiety to lay hands on the mysteries of being.
We had spent quite some time in Sintra and it was time to move to the coast. We were informed that we would have to return near the train station to catch the bus to Cabo da Roca, which meant that we would have to walk a bit more. After a long walk and a short break while awaiting to board the bus, we followed the lovely yet quite tiresome route to our destination. The place where the world comes to its end. At least that was the general belief until the 14th century and the scenery had played its own part on that issue.
I personally expected the place to be more otherworldly but the vast crowds of visitors instantaneously crossed that secret hope of my mind. I guess we also contributed to some other poor visitor’s broken hope of a similar experience with our presence alone though. Nevertheless the crowd was gradually swept of our minds as the wind and the waves captured our souls reclaiming nature’s dominion over human beings. We were standing on the westernmost part of Europe facing the Atlantic ocean over a high cliff. Nothing but huge waves laid between us and the lands west of that place where the sky seemed to prolong the sea to infinity. This was truthfully the place where the land ends and the sea begins, as the inscription on the sites monument declared. The place emanated its unique atmosphere as there were not many shops nearby, only a lighthouse, a coffee shop and a small gift shop. Enchanted by the dramatic landscape I even suggested to Catherine that we should visit the nearby Praia da Ursa, but she objected noticing that there was a great risk of losing the last bus to Cascais and remain stranded on the world’s end all night. I was willing to take our chances but she wisely wasn’t.
My frustration turned to a feeling of sparing joy, as I noticed a stand of books with four large letters placed on it. F – R – E – E. Free! Books are to me what cheese is to mice (come to think about it mice also eat books) so I got near grabbed one, realized it was about religion, left it, eager to get my hands on another one and then I dishearteningly noticed that every single book was the same edition of a Jehova’s witnesses’ booklet published in different languages. It was then that I noticed the kind stranger sitting nearby, gazing happily at me, maybe the only person on earth who willingly laid his hands on a proselytizing manual to read. It was too late for me to run and I was quite embarrassed to admit that I accidentally showed any interest on these books. It wouldn’t sound too good:
“Sorry mate! I thought you were displaying something interesting”
We left the place after a while, as the bus to Cascais arrived and in my heart I was still carrying my grievance for not visiting that beach, while in my hands I was holding a lame conversion tool to a Christian heresy. The latter, I got rid of at a litter bin in Cascais. The former remains to this day.
We reached Cascais where we decided to walk around town for a while. There’s a lovely trail leading to Boca do inferno, but we wouldn’t walk that far as Catherine was tired, so we casually strolled around the city for a while. Cascais is a beautiful city and there’s a large beach right in front of it, which seemed kind of fun but not near my idea of a great beach as it was too crowded. Seemed like a good place for socializing though. The path leading outside of the city was very appealing as it follows the shore enables view to the vastness of the Atlantic. We even spotted another beach, a better one that seemed like a river as the sea appeared to be entering a narrow inland passage, but the time for strolling had to come to an end. It had been a very tiresome day and it was about time we had something to eat and a drink or two.
As the train to Lisbon took us all the way back to Cais do Sodre, we didn’t bother to look for any other options. The kiosks sold food. We were hungry. It looked great. We are never hasty when it comes to food though, so after spotting a canteen that sold some sort of codfish croquettes, we bought some as an appetizer and it was a very tasty choice. The main course was provided by a nearby kiosk that specialized on sandwiches and that also went well. We skipped desert though and proceeded straight to drinking, as we revisited the place we enjoyed our drinks the night before, to enjoy some cocktails, music and a lovely Portuguese evening.