We woke in Sintra and had a nice breakfast at the hotel before heading out to look over the town. Sintra is a tourist town; no two ways about it. When we arrived the day before, it was packed with busses and tourists. First thing in the morning, it was empty and elegant. As the morning wore on the busses arrived and the town filled up again.
We found a pastry shop that had been recommended and picked up some goodies to enjoy later. Portugal is full of various custard filled pastries and we were trying to avail ourselves to as many of them as possible.
We ventured into one of the many shops that sold Portuguese tiles. We somewhat reluctantly climbed the stairs - we're shy by nature. We entered the store to meet Theresa who ran the shop. We had a wonderful time talking with Theresa and learned that most of the tiles were hand painted not by her but by her daughter whom she had taught years before. We left with a tile we intended to pass along to a friend... though we haven't quite gotten around to that - and many fond memories. It was a reminder for us to get out and introduce ourselves and initiate the conversations. Check! Rule of Travel #23 (difficult for introverts).
After enjoying the downtown, we regrouped at the hotel and walked out to Quinta da Regaleira. This place is difficult to describe (do check out the Wikipedia link) and it is an absolute blast.
It's an estate intentionally built to enchant and I found it very enchanting indeed. Aware that we did not have a lot of time (we were to visit the amazing Moorish ruins up on the hill outside town and travel to Evora the same day), we moved relatively quickly through the grounds.
One of the features that I did not want to miss was the so called Initiation Well. We entered a tunnel through an entrance near the location above. It got very dark indeed before we found some artificial lighting which led us to the so called Inverted Tower shown below. The well was dripping but not full of water. We descended a spiral staircase on the inside of the "well" from where the tunnel had joined it until we were at the bottom.
After the climb to daylight we could look down and barely see the bottom in the darkness. What an amazing and weird place! I have to admit that the first time I heard of this place was from a photo on Pinterest. Maybe there is something to this internet thing after all...
We trudged back down the hill and took a much too brief tour of the amazing palace itself. It was much more interesting than I expected and we sadly kind of ran through it. Never stay in one place for only one night - did I mention that? Rule of Travel #47.
Next up was the Moorish Castle. We were checked out and mobile now so we drove up to the castle, bought our tickets and started hiking. Again we felt a bit rushed but the gorgeous day, the amazing landscape and ultimately the hilltop castle completely took our breath away.
The ramparts were high and in some places very narrow. The sense of openness was intoxicating and at times quite frightening.
Finishing up at the castle, we were unsure what to do next. Meg came up with the obvious solution. Let's go to Azenhas do Mar and check out that cool restaurant we found on the interweb.
So that's what we did.
It turned out to be just a short drive away to this small town sporting an amazing oceanside restaurant that we had again seen either on 500px or some other travel site online.
By the time we arrived - and made some phone calls home - we were famished. We reviewed the menu and - after some beer - that it was time to try percebes. These are expensive barnacles; not appetizing to look at but then neither is a lobster.
They proved to be delicious especially after Meg determined how to avoid the tough exterior. We hit them hard and also enjoyed yet another amazing, fresh grilled fish - I think it was golden bream that we split. Some ice cream for dessert and we were good to go.
Before we left, we climbed the path opposite the restaurant and got a birds eye view. The entire place was enchanting, quiet and kind of mysterious.
Back on the road we found it was past 6PM (!!) and we had several hours to drive to Evora. The drive was uneventful though and the TomTom took us right to the door of the Albergaria do Calvario (very highly recommended). Better yet we were greeted with those wonderful wonderful words "Can I take your bags?" and even better "Would you like a drink?". We quickly settled in to one of the most comfortable and tasty places I've ever stayed. But more on that tomorrow.