Sintra, Cascais & Lisbon

It was Sunday, and we decided to take a day trip from Lisbon. We got up and the weather was warm, so we decided to travel light to Sintra (and then go on to the beaches of Cascais). We headed to the train station and grabbed a ‘nata’ (the ever-present pastry in Portugal) and some coffee.

After about a half hour train-ride (which was covered under our transportation pass), we ended up in Sintra. We started walking from the train station to the city itself. There was interesting art all along the road the led up to the town square. We took a quick look around, and then started walking the road up to Pena Palace. The wind was a little cold (we hadn’t brought our heavy jackets thinking the good weather would be everywhere). After walking for about half an hour continuing to progress upwards without even an easy shoulder and no end in sight, we re-read the tour book, and realized we needed to take the bus. We walked back to the closest busstop and waited. After a few minutes, the bus showed up and whisked us up the hills–luckily we stopped when we did.

We skipped the Moorish Castle (as Steve’s suggests) and went on to Pena Palace. We paid our entrance and walked up the path to the palace sitting on a plateau around the countryside. It was AMAZING! It was a mix of styles and colors–just like a castle from Disneyland with minarets and interesting sculptures everywhere (lions, crocodiles, etc.). It was windy, and getting cooler, so we quickly circled the castle walls. We then went inside, and toured the unique collection of antiques filling the many rooms of the palace. It was like a miniature Versailles–grand, but in a lot more intimate setting.

We walked back to the Moorish Castle, and realized that we didn’t want tour ruins in the wind. We grabbed the bus, and headed back to town. We crossed the now busy square, and went to the National Palace. This is was a Gothic/Moorish design. Each ceiling had a different design. Many of the walls were covered with murals. It was a nice stop (once we got past the touring crowds).

We were hungry and decided upon a Lojo do Vinho in main square (suggested by Frommer’s). We had some nice wine (Tinto da Anfora), olives, bread, and some great sausage (which they covered with alcohol and lit aflame in order to cook them). We were alone for a while, until the tourists started to show up for lunch and the restroom. We paid and headed down the hill back to the train station, to catch the bus to Cascais.

We tried napping on busride to Cascais as we round through the hills toward the beaches. We arrived at the beachtown (after guessing correctly on the right busstop), and exited into a very touristy little area. The cold was here too, so we headed to McDonald’s for some quick intranet and a soda. We searched for the beach, and finally found it. It was only a few tourists, and a lot of onlookers, enjoying the beach. It reminded me a lot of the French Rivierra with boats in the harbor and building ringing the water. We decided to walk the beach area, seeing some interesting wavy brickwork in the pedestrian zone. We finally settled on a coffee shop for some pastries and some dark hot chocolate at Pastelaria a Bijou de Cascai–they had multiple types of hot chocolate and a mix of pastries to enjoy.

We then grabbed the train back to Lisbon (still covered by our tour card), went back to the hotel and took a quick nap. We got up and went to the walking to the Figuera district looking for a restaurant listed in Frommers (Faz). Several restaurants were overflowing with people watching the Lisbon/Porto soccer match on TV. We walked through the Alfama District as it got darker. It was a quiet Sunday night where people were out at the local restaurant or home watching the soccer game. We finally heard the famous Fado music that Lisbon is famous for (forlorn folk singing) as we passed by the neighborhood establishments. We got to Faz and saw it was too fancy for what we were looking for, and decided to go back to a small place that we had passed long before.

We headed back to “Ho Caldas”, a small neighborhood restaurant that was full of locals and no English menu in sight. We figured out what we wanted, breaded pork and chicken, both accompanied with potatoes and rice. The portions were large, and the prices cheap–we wished we had split one dish. We watched the rest of the soccer game as Porto ended up winning to the local’s disdain.

We walked more through the city. We went back and had coffee at Nicola, a cafe that was always busy near the hotel. After hanging out at the coffee shop for an hour or two, we finally headed back to the hotel.