I trash talk Europe a lot. Mostly it’s in jest and about how the culture is too bland and needs more seasoning. The food needs more seasoning too, but that’s another story for another day. I visited Portugal briefly after doing a group trip in Morocco, and I think this country may have single-handedly redeemed the entire continent of Europe. Had I known Portugal was such a whimsical place, I would have booked a longer trip. There’s always next time, I guess.
My lodging accommodations were in Lisbon at Living Lounge Hostel. It was a pleasant experience, and I recommend it. The hostel offered a day tour to Sintra through YouTour, and I decided to join spontaneously after hearing about it during breakfast. It was a small group of six tourists and our lovely guide, Lara.
We arrived in Sintra that morning to catch scenic views of the National Palace and the Moorish Castle. There were so many sights to see and not enough time to conquer it in a day, so we got a game plan of what we wanted to accomplish. Another woman from the group and I were going to Pena Palace while the rest of the group chose to visit the Moorish Castle.
Based on Lara’s recommendation, we opted out of touring the inside of the palace and only visited its grounds. We were both grateful for that decision when we saw the entrance line for the palace tour swirling down the walking path. The grounds of Pena Palace were impressive, and I can’t imagine anything inside the palace being as impressive. From hand-painted tiles to gargoyles, the design was straight out of a fairytale.
After Pena Palace, we all reassembled for lunch on a farm just outside of Sintra. Cantinho do Picadeiro was such a peaceful experience. We dined outdoors on a picnic table with beautifully arranged table setting. This was so much better than having lunch at one of the many crowded restaurants in Sintra’s city center.
I opted for the lasanha de frango e farinheira – a cheesy chicken lasagna with a Portuguese sausage. I… I don’t know what to say about this lasagna. I think about this meal all the time. I tried to recreate it back home in Louisiana, but failed. It was so good yet so simple. At the end of our meal, we had a charcuterie and port wine to top it all off.
We left the farm and continued on the winding roads of Sintra to Quinta da Regaleira. Let me tell you about this place. It was the most enchanting place I’ve ever been. It was the highlight of my day. There were so many interesting places to get lost on the grounds and I wish I would have been able to wander longer. The Initiation Well was my favorite area.
Instead of getting in the van, we strolled from Quinta da Regaleira to the historic city center. There were several restaurants and souvenir shops for tourists. Lara told us if we didn’t do anything else, we had to taste the travesseiros at a dessert shop called Piriquita. It didn’t take much convincing for me to try the sweet little pastries at the busy shop. It was flaky on the outside and filled with almond cream on the inside. It was tasty, but not particularly memorable.
We were approaching the end of the day, and the group was perfectly fine with going back to Lisbon. Lara, on the other hand, was adamant about driving us to Cabo da Roca. According to her we needed to see it, so she steered the van westward.
Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point in mainland Europe, and was thought to be the edge of the world up until the late 14th century. Besides a lighthouse and a cross atop a brick pillar, there wasn’t much in the area. The view of the Atlantic Ocean was most important, and I captured the most breathtaking sunset here.
Can you imagine standing at the edge of these cliffs in the 14th century, looking out to the ocean, wondering what – if anything – was beyond the water? Lara was right. Cabo da Roca needed to be seen – if only for a moment. I didn’t spend much time reflecting at the cliffs because the wind wasn’t tolerable for me and the thin dress I chose to wear that day.
Lara guided us back to Lisbon as the day turned to night, and I took that moment to think about the overall experience of the day. The tour exceeded my expectations and the perfect weather was the cherry on top. I didn’t have enough time to see all of what Sintra had to offer, but I was happy with a chance to scratch the surface. I have every intention of returning to spend more time in Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra.