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

Portugal: Day 4

by Kathy 25. March 2011 20:20

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<< Day 3: Lisbon: Parque das Nações | Day 5: Magical Castles of Sintra and Óbidos >>


Lisbon: Sintra, via the Mouth of Hell

This morning we would bid farewell to Lisbon and begin our journey to other exciting places around Portugal. But first, we had one last giant chocolate donut and delicious café com leite (coffee with milk) at the Pastelaria Emenda, one block from our apartment:

We were renting a car for the adventures ahead. This tiny chariot was delivered to our apartment door:

(We would find the small size to be a tremendous asset when negotiating through the narrow portals to old towns and castles.)

The two men who delivered the car were gracious enough to provide directions out of the city, and they even led us through the most difficult part. (Thank you!) Here, we are following their little red car out of our neighborhood:

We headed west, away from Lisbon and toward the Atlantic Ocean. Near the seaside town of Cascais, we stopped at Boca do Inferno (the Mouth of Hell). Years of pounding waves against the rocky cliffs had sculpted a giant cavity--the “mouth”. During storms or ferocious winds, giant waves crashed through the hole in a swirling, sucking, and frothy turbulence—the “hell” part.

We had to climb out on the surrounding rocks to reach Boca do Inferno. Sebastian and Genevieve led the way:

Here is a postcard photo of the “mouth” with some waves rushing in:

We were not to experience any “hell” today, however. We rounded the bend and peered into the giant abyss, only to find completely calm waters:

Ben and the kids, at the edge of the “mouth”:

The ocean along the cliffs was a deep turquoise color:

Down below, on a rocky edge, a man was performing some slow exercise movements, similar to tai chi:

Genevieve scampered up a rock and did her own pose:

What is it about rocks that make children (and adults!) want to climb them? Sebastian immediately sought out the highest spot he could reach:



Closer to the water’s edge was a large area of rock that had been smoothed and flattened by the regular tidal sweeps of water. The surface had lots of crevices and small pockets of space that immediately called out to the children: “Come and play!” Genevieve and Sebastian claimed one spot and set about gathering twigs, rocks and small shells to create a small “museum.”

Back on the road, we stopped again about half an hour later to visit Cabo da Roca, the western-most point of continental Europe.

Next to the parking lot was a handful of buildings to serve visitors--a souvenir shop, small restaurant, and restrooms:

We had to walk along a path to reach the actual point:

Genevieve, at the base of the monument:

(Note Genevieve has her hood on—the wind here was brisk and CHILLY.)

The top of the monument:

Genevieve snapped this photo of Ben and me:

Looking north, up the coast:

Genevieve and Ben:

The air was very clear, and we had an expansive view out over the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Here is a panorama, starting from a photo with Genevieve and Ben on the left and then moving right, with Genevieve and Sebastian in the final shot (she ran to reach the far side):

Sebastian and Genevieve played a game of tag around the monument base:

And Sebastian followed the narrow trails in the patches of ice plant:

We weren’t too far from our ultimate destination for the day—the magical town of Sintra. We wound our way from the coast, up into the nearby hills. We could see the colorful towers and domes of the fairy-tale Pena Palace, which we would be visiting tomorrow:

Our hotel was in the historical district of Sintra, across from the National Palace. The photo below shows the palace with its cone-shaped twin chimneys:

Our hotel was on the left side, across the street. Our room faced away from the palace, looking out to some hillside homes, as well as the Castle of the Moors that was perched on top:

We would be exploring that castle later today.

First on the agenda, however, was lunch. Down the street, we found a nice little pizzeria with outdoor tables:

Then we went on a self-guided tour of the Sintra National Palace:

Historians believe that some form of royal palace existed on this site as far back as the 10th century, when the area was controlled by the Moors from Northern Africa. After the Moors were driven out of Portugal in the 12th century, this site became a residence for the Portuguese Royal Family. The palace was changed and renovated over the years. The oldest parts of the existing palace are believed to have been built in the 14th century, with much of the work completed during medieval times. The palace was used by the royal family as a summer residence until 1910, when the revolution transformed Portugal into a Republic, and the royal family was exiled. The National Palace is part of the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra” that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

This ornate ceiling from the Blazons Hall was completed in the sixteenth century:

In the center of the domed ceiling is the Royal Portuguese coat-of-arms, with a winged dragon at the top. Around the center are the coats-of-arms of the eight children that King Dom Manuel I had with Dona Maria, the daughter of Fernando and Isabel of Spain.

With its glazed tiles covering the walls, the 14th century chapel reflects the Mudejar style, which blends elements from Muslim, Christian and Jewish styles.

The large kitchen area was built at the beginning of the 15th century and was famous for the 108-feet tall twin chimneys. Here is a photo, looking up inside one of the chimneys:

The white tiles on the kitchen walls were added at the end of the 19th century:

The size of the kitchen, and the large chimneys, were necessary to support the frequent banquets after hunting excursions. Hunting was one of the main reasons the royal family stayed in Sintra, in addition to escaping the heat of summer or the plagues in Lisbon. The kitchen is still used today for occasional banquets held at the Palace.

Of course Sebastian couldn't resist dipping his hands in the fountain in front of the National Palace:

Looking across from the palace--gorgeous Sintra!

Flowers were growing from the tiles on one old rooftop:

This old building near our hotel could make someone a nice home with a little TLC:

Sintra was such an incredible town that I even indulged in a little daydreaming about what it would be like to buy that place and live here. Sigh.

Speaking of dreaming, we let our imaginations run wild when exploring the Moorish castle:

We drove up to the ruins from our hotel. Leaving town, we had to squeeze through this very narrow space.

Even though I trust Ben’s driving completely, I squeezed my eyes shut during the last few seconds—as talented as he is, he can’t reach out and push the walls apart another few inches. We did make it, but it was definitely a close call.

This home looked like it was straight out of fantasy land:

And I loved the worn paint on this building:

The one-way road up the hill was sandwiched between moss-covered walls:

The Moorish Castle is believed to have been constructed in the 9th century during the time that the Arabs occupied Portugal. In the 12th century, after Portugal’s first king (Afonso Henriques) took control of Lisbon from the Moors, the garrison at the Moorish Castle surrendered without a fight. By the 15th century, most of the castle’s inhabitants had relocated downhill to the town of Sintra. The castle fell into ruins. In the 19th century, however, King Ferdinand II ordered substantial renovations of the castle walls and towers; as part of the romantic era, he liked to come up to the castle and paint in one of the towers.

We parked our car, paid an entrance fee, and hiked a long path to the castle entrance. The path led through trees and beside giant boulders that Genevieve and Sebastian had fun climbing:

Near the entrance was an Ossuary that had been built in the 19th century to hold the bones and remains that had been exhumed during renovation work on the castle’s church. Sebastian and Genevieve followed the steps to the top of the Ossuary:

Looking up at the castle walls:

Inside the entrance was an old stone bench—perfect for resting:

We had a lot more climbing to do! We found some steps that led to the walkway along the top of castle wall, and we followed the length of it. The wall was very high, and some parts had a very steep drop-off. We kept Genevieve and Sebastian right by us during the more sketchy sections. As a parent, there is a fine line to walk between giving your kids the freedom to explore and keeping them safe from harm. Let’s just say that I offered up a few prayers here, especially when the wind came ripping at us, ready to swoop us up if we dared let go of the stones around us.

Here is Ben with Genevieve and Sebastian next to the Castle Keep, which was designed to be the most secure spot in the castle, most able to withstand an assault from outside or from within:

The Castle Keep had been the home of the military governor (the Alcaide) during the time that the Moors had occupied the fortress.

From here, we had a fantastic view of the town of Sintra below:

The next section of wall had an extreme wind—you can see Geneveive’s hair being blown almost straight up from the back of her head:

After we passed the windy section, I could exhale and really soak in all of this beauty! Here is one of my favorite photos of the day:

The walkway was not intact on all portions of the wall. About half way around, we had to climb down and take some winding trails to reach the Royal Tower, which was King Fernando’s favorite place to paint. Here is Genevieve on the zigzag trail up to the Tower:

Sebastian and Ben, climbing the steps to the Royal Tower:

On top of the Royal Tower:

The tower had different levels. Here is Sebastian, showing me the door to the lower level:

From here, we had a magnificent view of the Pena Palace, where we would be tomorrow morning:

(Yes, that is real, not Disney!)

We also had a wonderful perspective of the castle wall snaking down the steep hill, with Sintra and the valley below:

Sebastian and Genevieve were having a grand time!

Back on the ground, they discovered big slabs of rock within the fortress—perfect for more climbing:

The air was so clear here that we could see all of the way to Lisbon—about 20 miles away:

This day had truly been amazing. Sintra was such a special place, with an aura that seemed other-worldly. We had started out this morning thinking that we would be visiting the “Mouth of Hell.” But I think that we stepped right into heaven instead.

Back to Portugal Index Page

<< Day 3: Lisbon: Parque das Nações | Day 5: Magical Castles of Sintra and Óbidos >>

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