Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Portugal: Day 5

by Kathy 27. March 2011 22:40

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<< Day 4: Lisbon: Sintra, via the Mouth of Hell | Day 6: Dinosaur Tracks to Nazaré >>


Magical Castles of Sintra and Óbidos

Today we would be exploring the dreamy Pena Palace before heading to the walled castle-town of Óbidos. Our first stop, however, was the contemporary art museum in Sintra.

With map in hand, we drove downhill on a curvy street, away from the historical district.

The map, however, did not warn us that some streets only flowed in one direction. We also should have paid more attention to the page in our guidebook entitled, “Stop And Learn These Road Signs”!

Yikes! What did a white circle outlined in red mean? Or the red circle with a white dash in the middle? We were clueless. Quick, quick! I grabbed our guidebook and flipped to the road sign page. Uh oh! And that was how found ourselves going the wrong direction on a long one-way road, winding downhill. Thankfully, we didn’t meet any cars. And my heart soon resumed its normal slow beat.

The Sintra Museum of Modern Art showcases a collection of international contemporary art from the 20th and 21st century, with works by many artists such as Alexander Calder, Jenny Holzer, Sol LeWitt, Pablo Picasso, and Richard Serra. The primary group of artwork is known as the Berardo Collection. During our visit, most of the museum space was devoted to an exhibit of the Latin American artists within that collection.

No photos were allowed inside the museum. However, here is Ben outside the front entrance:

Genevieve, with some outdoor sculpture:

Sebastian (with his eyes squeezed shut against the bright sun):

After browsing through the museum’s many rooms, we were back in the car, heading to another artistic wonder—the Pena National Palace:

(The above image was from a postcard.)

The palace was built in the 1840’s by King Ferdinand II. (Remember him? He was the same king who renovated the Moorish Castle that we had explored yesterday).

The palace was built on the site of a small monastery that had largely been destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1755 (the same one that leveled much of Lisbon). The name “Pena Palace” comes from the monastery chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Pena, which had miraculously escaped significant damage. Local stories say that the chapel had been constructed in the Middle Ages after an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared on that spot.

King Ferdinand wanted to create a summer residence for the royal family. For the chief architect, he chose a young German baron, Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. With much input from the king and queen, the palace was designed with elements from Gothic, Medieval, Renaissance, and Islamic styles, all of which combine to form an enchanting whole.

The parking lot for the palace was down a fairly steep hill from the entrance. Before hiking up, Genevieve and Sebastian wanted to play in the extensive gardens:

Their favorite part was a hedge maze, where they would have happily played for hours if we had let them. Here is Genevieve, popping up from a hiding spot in the maze:

Although there was a shuttle taking visitors up the hill, we chose to walk. Well, 3 of us walked. Sebastian hitched a ride:

The walking path gave us some great views of all the different architectural aspects—the domes, the turrets, the clock tower, the wall crenellations, the arches. There were so many intriguing details!

Here I am with Sebastian and Genevieve at the entrance:

One of the interior archways had a grotesque gargoyle above it, sitting in a clam shell, with feet that transformed into fish tails, and hands that grasped the branches of a tree that seemed to be sprouting from the back of his head.

The palace was full of symbolic details, but I am not sure what that gargoyle represented.

We loved all of the little turrets, some of which we could climb:

This one had a beautiful domed cap:

The top of the clock tower was peeking over the curved wall, and we noticed that the clock face has no hands.  Was this more symbolism?

Another view of the palace:

There was a small café with outdoor tables on a large patio:

We sat in the sunshine and enjoyed some ice cream:

(Sebastian really does like his ice-cream! He just didn't like the sun in his eyes for a photo.)

On the way back down the hill, Sebastian and Genevieve ran ahead, and then perched themselves on a bench so they could pretend that they had been waiting for us “such a long time!” (This is a favorite “game” of theirs, and Ben and I always laugh and play along.)

The drive north to Óbidos took a little over an hour.  

In one valley, there were tall apartment buildings on the outer edges of what appeared to be an old town with smaller dwellings:

Along the road were huge wind turbines—much larger than the ones that we generally have in California:

Óbidos has been described as “Portugal’s most romantic medieval village.” The buildings were indeed beautiful, and it didn’t take much imagination to transport ourselves back to the 13th century when King Dinis gave the entire town to his bride, Queen Isabel, on their wedding day.

To get inside the walled town, however, we first had to find the entrance. It took us a bit of searching, and finally a phone call to our hotel.  The entrance was tucked away next to the main castle on the northern end.

The castle:

The castle has been converted to a hotel, and we would have liked to have stayed there; however, they did not have any rooms that could accommodate our family of four. We ended up finding a wonderful bed and breakfast that turned out to be one of our favorites of the entire trip—Casa das Senhoras Reinhas.

As rain speckled our windshield, we navigated our way to the hotel down the cobble-stone main street (Rua Direita):

Almost all of the buildings were white-washed, with trim of cornflower blue, golden yellow, or leaf green. Our hotel was in a block of yellow:

The skies were clearing, so we headed up the nearest steps to reach the walkway along the top of the castle wall.

The walkway was a bit sketchy, with a 2-story drop off of one side.

As a parent, I found myself looking at that “fine line” again between keeping the kids safe and giving them freedom to explore. The kids were pleading to walk along the wall.  After some discussion, we set down certain "rules"--no running, walk close to the outer wall, stay away from the edge, and stick with one parent at all times.  Ben and I each took one child.

I had Genevieve, who was really great about following my running mantra to her (“Stay against the wall!”) even through the few parts that had a short safety wall on the drop-off side, as shown below:

Sebastian was known for having what Ben and I called “happy, skippy feet”, as if they held so much joy that they just had to dance all over the place.  So Ben walked against the inside edge with a firm grasp on Sebastian’s hand.

The walk along the wall is one of the things that Genevieve and Sebastian remember vividly from our entire trip to Portugal. They found the whole experience to be incredibly exciting.

I thought that it was pretty amazing myself!

A view out over the red-tiled roofs:


We climbed down from the wall to take a closer look at Santa Maria Church, with its beautiful old bell tower:


During peak tourist season, the streets can get pretty crowded with tourists. But today there seemed to be only us:

We stopped at a medieval-themed tavern for some snacks and drinks:

Sebastian was inspired by the hanging weapons to do some pretend sword play:

I loved the old doors on many of the buildings:

In my artwork, I use doors to symbolize choices, and I incorporated the last set of doors above in one of my paintings. Here is a section of that painting, showing the doors on the far left:

After our break, we continued our trek on the walls:

Occasionally, we would stop to peek over the wall at what lay beyond.  On one side stood an old windmill that looked abandoned:

Far below was a church with a cemetery:

Agricultural fields stretched westward:

The tile rooftops were so fascinating with their colors, lines, patches of lichen, and even plant growth:

This old rooftop had a hole, as if someone had chucked a heavy object through it:

Genevieve was getting very comfortable walking so high up in the air:

(As for me, I was getting more comfortable with having her walk so high in the air.  Well . . . what I really mean is that the words “die,” “death,” and “plummet” were no longer floating through my brain.)

I was really glad that we had taken this walk together as a family. It was a special experience. But I was also glad when we made our final exit, down this lumpy trail:

Genevieve and Sebastian still had some climbing energy, which they used to scramble all over a large expanse of rock.

And we all marveled as the setting sun lit up the rain clouds:

Back to our cozy room at the inn:

We had experienced two incredible places today—Pena Palace and Óbidos. Either setting could easily be the back drop for a magical fairy-tale. With a happy ending, of course.

Back to Portugal Index Page

<< Day 4: Lisbon: Sintra, via the Mouth of Hell | Day 6: Dinosaur Tracks to Nazaré >>

Map of Our Journeys

(click the map to enlarge)
Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin