Standing on the end of the world – Day trip to Sintra and the Atlantic coast

IMG_7369.JPG

…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.

Curious to check out what sights we initially intended to visit around Sintra and the Atlantic coast? Well, be puzzled no more! Check our primary plans here.

IMG_7264.JPG

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.

IMG_7281.JPG

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.

IMG_7272.JPG

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.

IMG_7288.JPG

IMG_7280.JPG

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.

IMG_7291.JPG

IMG_7326.JPG

IMG_7332.JPG

We were impressed by these benches which stood opposite each other depicting an analogy. A man and a couple of dogs on the one side, a woman and another couple of dogs on the other one. Don’t know if there’s some hidden meaning behind this though…

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.

IMG_7365.JPG

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.

IMG_7382.JPG

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”

IMG_7385.JPG

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.

IMG_7430.JPG

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.

IMG_7427.JPG

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.

IMG_7449.JPG

IMG_7217.JPG

 

 

IMG_7233.JPG

IMG_7251.JPG

IMG_7315.JPG

IMG_7318.JPG

IMG_7410.JPG

IMG_7357.JPG

IMG_7422.JPG

IMG_7423.JPG

IMG_7443.JPG

Advertisements

Planning our second day in Portugal – Sintra and the Atlantic shore

In order to get to Sintra, we’ll depart from Rossio train station (we’ll get there using the metro from Cais do Sodre to Rossio or Restaudores) and while there, we are definetely taking advantage of the 434 tourist bus, which will enable us to take a route from the train station, to the National Palace and then up to Pena Palace, the Moors castle and back to the train station. However, we are mostly interested in the Pena palace and Quinta do regaleira, while Monserrate palace and Queluz seem great as well. Furthermore, as we would like to spend some time on the beach and maybe also visit Cabo da Roca, visiting all these sites is truthfully an impossible task to accomplish. Let alone the tickets paid would be an important blow on our budget, while I know for sure that we cannot keep our interest constantly elevated after continuously visiting one site after the other.

Portugal-Sintra-Quinta-da-Regaleira-Palácio-da-Regaleira-7040.jpg

So, we’ll opt for a qualitative approach instead of a quantitative one and that means we must make difficult choices. Pena palace and Quinta da Regaleira seem to be a must see and although we might regret it, we’ll probably draw the line there. Provided everything goes according to plan, we are getting up rather early and hopefully we’ll be done with our tour by noon. Then it’s bus 403 to Cabo da Roca, where we’ll probably spent an hour till the bus returns to take us all the way to Cascais. It seems that this bus runs every half an hour between 11.00 and 18.00 and its route starting from Sintra station, passes through six stops before reaching Azoia chafariz and Campo da Roca stops. After that, the bus continues its journey through Malveira da Sera station to Cascais (detailed schedule and route here). Once there, we may visit Boca do inferno and finally catch a bus back to Lisbon.

1200px-Cascais01.jpg

Or, we might as well skip Cabo da Roca, if we are too tired, and try to visit one of the beaches near the area. We’ve searched for a while and we have come to a small list to choose from and the way we see it, Rio Tejo divides the beaches near Lisbon to Southern and  Northern ones. Since we are visiting Sintra, the beaches up North seem to be the most convenient choice and that’s where we’ll enjoy the Portuguese sea and sun.
This photo of Praia da ursa is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia da Ursa and Praia da Aroeira seem to be some good options near Cabo da Roca. However, although Praia da Ursa seems great, it takes some effort to get there (even if you take the left path, as everyone suggests). Aroeira beach seems to be a challenge to get to as well.

This photo of Adraga Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia da Adraga beach is another option further north, along with Praia das Maçãs – bus 441 gets you there from Sintra – which seems to be the most easily accessible of these beaches. My heart is set to Ursa though, but I can’t drag Catherine into this narrow, steep path.

praia-guincho

Our last choice between Sintra and Cascais is Guinco beach, situated 6km north of Cascais, but it seems it is mostly addressed to surfers and we’ll probably skip this one. Our other options North of Rio Tejo, include Tamariz beach in Estoril, São Pedro beach and Praia do Carcavelos. All of them are too close to Lisbon, so they will probably be very crowded, but they are the most convenient to get to.

tamariz-beach-01

Tamariz seems to be a lovely choice,  as it includes a medieval styled building, constructed in the 19th century and I think it’s where Catherine might enjoy the sea more, as the place is easily accessible and may have warmer waters than the sea north of Cascais. There seem to be lots of places to go and enjoy a snack or a drink as well, so our stay around the place can be a boring comfortable affair.

Carcavelos beach is a 20 minute train ride away from Lisbon and what applies to Tamariz, probably applies here as well. Many options for a snack or some coffee, lots of people (probably more than Tamariz) and some guaranteed quality time on the beach, under the bright sun (pretty much what we can do around home though). I am a bit concerned over the water quality, since this beach is so close to Lisbon, but we won’t let that worry us. Another option is plan B, which we won’t follow probably, since it involves hitting the praias south of Rio Tejo, but, since some research is done, I’ll post these options here:

Beach_Railway_Costa_da_Caparica_03.JPG

Costa da Caparica seems to be a nice option across Lisbon, as it is a more than 30 km long sandy beach, easily accessible by bus or a combination of ferry and bus, while one can make use of a small mini train to reach the more distant sections of this beach.

 
This photo of Borda D’Agua is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia Morena is one of these distant sections and i guess you can find a useful guide to the place here, while another interesting place could be Da Cabana do Pescador (the fisherman’s hut). The thing about a 30km beach is that we do have one just in our backyard, (well, not literally, but still, it’s only a ten minute drive there), so we would rather experience something entirely different.

MECO_(Sesimbra)_2.jpg

Praia do Meco is another beach, further south, near Sesimbra, 40 km away from Lisbon (some info can be found here), but the longer the distance, the least becomes the possibility we’ll visit places like this one or Praia do ouro.

N4.PRA1359D.jpg

Finally, Portinho da Arrabida seems to be the prettiest option south of Lisbon, at least according to our standards, but it seems as if it will be a real hassle to get to, since it seems that we’ll have to travel to Setubal first, before finding some means of transport there. I won’t even discuss the option of visiting Praia do Troia, besides, the last time Greeks visited Troia (Troy) things got out of hand and eventually both sides suffered greatly. We won’t go to Praia do Troia, but we’ll bear them a gift instead…

IMG_6828.JPG

Our back yard, guess in Portuguese it would be called Praia do nosso patio posterior

In conclusion, I kind of feel that we are obliged to come to terms with the fact that our time is limited, while our desire to visit many places knows no boundaries. That means that we must lessen our desires and it obviously feels like a bitter defeat since reason suggests that in order to enjoy a country, you must divide the precious time at your disposal wisely. We know for sure that our bodies will be grateful if we don’t push them too hard, yet, our minds might hold a grudge. No matter where we go in Portugal though, we cannot have any regrets, as we’ll enjoy a country that seems to be stunning and is the place I mostly long to discover during this trip (Catherine eagerly anticipates to view Morocco). Still, we will also be having another day to spend in Lisbon, before departing on a night train to Madrid and we’ll make use of that time in order to relax and visit any place we missed during the previous days of our stay.