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October 25-27, 2022
Settling into our city hotel near Avenue Liberty in the late afternoon, we went out for a walk. We started at Pombal Circle (Marquis of Pombal Square) which lies at the top of the Avenue Liberty. The walk down the tree-lined avenue was delightful. The white small cobblestones inlaid with black cobblestones made decorative designs all along the way. High end stores, shops and restaurants beckoned as we walked along. We were not buying today. As it grew dark, Kathy and I decided to get back to the hotel and sit in the lounge and eat a small meal, while Randy and Melisa opted for a nice restaurant along the avenue. We all slept well.
In the morning we ate breakfast in the hotel and headed to the nearby metro to spend the day in Sintra, a suburban area north of Lisbon. Unfortunately, we did not buy the tickets in the machine properly and instead of four tickets for the day for four people, we purchased one ticket for one person for four days. One and a half hours later, after standing in line to get the proper tickets, we were on our way. The allures and sites of Sintra soon made us forget our ticket problem. What a day!
We hired a tuk-tuk for a tour and were glad we did. Not only was Miguel, our driver, fun and informative, he was kind and helpful. We saw Penã, a colorful royal palace from the medieval times. We saw beautiful homes overlooking verdant valleys. Our narrow roadways were lined with moss-covered stone fencing with ferns and ivies protruding. We saw the walled fortress guarding a high hill and the quaint old town of Sintra. Miguel let us off near a restaurant he recommended in the old town—it was delicious as we ate area seafood specialities. Our cod/potato cakes were tasty. After lunch we walked to the Quinta da Regaleira, the Knights Templar training site. Here is the famous training/initiating well where Knight recruits were initiated while wearing blindfolds and with swords drawn, forced to march quickly down the stair-lined deep circular well. We walked it with eyes wide open, and it was still a feat to accomplish. Melisa opted to not descend the well and walk back down instead, but Randy had her phone. No meeting spot in the very large grounds was chosen, and we were lost/separated from each other for some time. However, the beautiful grounds and gardens kept all of us soothed until we reunited. We enjoyed shopping and strolling in the old town before taking the train back to Lisbon.
We slept well and long and arose with determination to take the tourist-friendly Tram 28 which winds its way to most tourist spots in the city. We showed our cab driver our location at the beginning of the tram line. He said something in Portuguese and then disappeared. He returned with another hotel guest he had found who could speak English. This guest told us the taxi driver wanted us to know that the site we had chosen had long lines to get tickets and he wanted to take us to the end of the line where there would be no lines and, at the conclusion of our ride, we would be much closer to our hotel; however, he stated the taxi fare would cost two Euros more. We were thrilled and thankful that he would do this for us. As advertised, there was a minimal line where he dropped us off. These old tram cars creek and jiggle as they trudge up steep hills and through narrow streets. We had fun and saw many Lisbon sites during the 45 minute ride. When we got off we saw very long queues of people waiting to buy tickets, and we were once again thankful for such a thoughtful taxi driver. We immediately hailed another taxi to take us to the Belém neighborhood where we found a great restaurant—Randy had the “best pizza I’ve had on this trip’” and Kathy had delicious sea bass in a thin potato crust over shredded mixed vegetables. Our restaurant was in the majestic Praca do Comércio (Commerce Plaza), a large harbor facing the River Tagus that flows into the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Lined with beautiful government buildings and a large equestrian statue of King Joseph I framed by a victory arch, we enjoyed the time spent there. We hailed another taxi to take us to the Belém neighborhood, specifically to the Pasteis de Belém, the confectionery that produces the famous Pastel de Nata. This puff pastry is stuffed with a creamy custard, a secret recipe. We briefly walked the area and through a park to the ocean front where we strolled a short distance to the Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) with the great Portuguese sailers on one side (Henry the Navigator, etc.) and government leaders and missionaries on the other, all who played a big part in Portugal’s Age of Discoveries looking out seaward on the monument representing a ship’s prow. From there we strolled toward the lighthouse and Belèm Tower, a 16th century fortification built during the Portuguese Renaissance, before returning to the hotel for a leisurely evening.
The Castelo dos Mouros, a Moorish castle in Sintra
The Palacio Nacional de Sintra, the original medieval palace of Sintra used by the early Portuguese rulers
The “haunted” mansion in Sintra, Portugal, used as the setting in the Netflix movie, “Ninth Gate”
The cork oak tree (quercus suber) is one of the most common tree species in Portugal. The process of removing the outer bark is done once every nine years.
We took a tuk-tuk tour to reach the Palacio Nacional da Pena (Pena Castle) with its vividly painted exterior.
The colorful Pena Castle in the hills of the Serra de Sintra
Sintra’s Quinta da Regaleira
The ceremonial Initiation Well on the historic estate of the Quinta da Regaleira
Part of the tunnel system at the base of the spiral staircase of the Initiation Well on the estate of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal
We rode the vintage Remodelado Tram, Tram 28, in Lisbon, Portugal, inaugurated in 1914, which passes through popular tourist districts on its 4 1/2 mile route.
Lisbon street scene while riding Tram 28
Another Lisbon street scene from Tram 28
Sao Vicente de Fora Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal
Belem Tower and Lighthouse on the waterfront in Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon’s Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge) is a steel suspension bridge across the Tagus River, a motorway bridge, freeway bridge, and railroad bridge reminiscent in design and even coloring to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
We could not leave Lisbon without sampling the famous cream cakes at the Pasteis de Belem bakery with its secret recipe that has not changed since the bakery opened in 1837.
A chef at Pasteis de Belem removes its famous custard tart, the Pastel de Nata, from the oven.
Lisbon’s Monument to the Discoveries
The other side of Lisbon’s Monument to the Discoveries