Sensational Sintra and Lovely Lisboa (Lisbon)

July 12th (Thursday)

With our time in Porto at an end, we left as early as possible because we knew we had a long drive ahead of us.  We were headed to Sintra and wanted to spend some time in the old town there before continuing on to Lisbon, or Lisboa in Portuguese.  Leaving around 09:00, we survived the crazy drivers of Porto, and got into Sintra about five hours later.  After getting a bite to eat, we wandered around the old buildings and alleyways for a while, before eventually making our way to the Quinta de Regaleiria.  Taking its name after the owner of the original estate, the Viscountess of Regaleira, this incredible place was transformed by the wealthy merchant Carvalho Monteiro.  With his vision, and the aid of renowned Italian architect Luigi Manini, the grounds were turned into a maze of gardens, tunnels, mysterious paths, and hidden entrances within towers, a chapel, and other various buildings.

Photo of a large ornate palace in the distance through some trees and flower bushes
The Quinta de Regaleria palace, seen from the gardens

Kitty and I wandered through these gardens and tunnels for over two hours, mesmerised by the shear size and scope of this project.  Though the grounds have only been open to the public since 1998, the main palace was under restoration work, so we didn’t go in there, but everything else certainly kept us busy!  We could have easily spent a good half day in the Quinta, but with another couple hours of driving ahead of us, we decided to head on, having seen a good majority of the grounds.

Photo of a triplet of towers, placed inside the gardens of Quinta de Regaleira
One of the many structures scattered throughout the gardens

We got into Lisbon around 19:30 and got checked in at the No Limit hostel.  The hostel staff had already gone out for dinner supplies which meant we were too late to avail of the free dinner they offered from Wednesday to Sunday.  Instead, we chatted a bit with the other hostel guests, then hit the supermarket to put together an easy meal for ourselves.  After eating, we headed out for drinks with a couple of girls preparing to hike the Camino de Santiago.  They were headed to Bilbao in a couple days, and were enjoying Portugal before attempting to hike miles every day for the coming weeks.  Brave souls, to be sure!

July 13th (Friday)

Today was to be our beach day!  We hit the mall for a few necessities (new bikini for Kitty, sunscreen, etc.) then headed to the beach south of Lisbon.  The beaches of the king and queen (Praia do Rei, and Praia da Rainha) had been recommended to us, so that’s where we headed, though the entire stretch of beach was equally enticing!  We got parked, changed, and then hit the water — and boy was it cold!  Portugal had been colder weather than we had been seeing in Spain, but we didn’t realise that it was because of the ocean coast.  We enjoyed the swim, but between the temperature of the water and the strength of the current, we didn’t stay in long.  Instead, we sort of bounced between soaking in the sun and cooling off in the ocean.

Photo of a quiet beach, looking out toward the ocean
Beach day! A couple hours later, the beach was inundated with kids.

Once we had our fill, we had a bite to eat in the nearby cafe, and then grabbed some ice cream as we strolled along the beach.  We stayed until early evening, then headed back to the hostel to get showered.  In our wanderings the day before, we heard about a local festival that was going on just around the corner from our hostel, so we headed there for some wine and cheese tasting, and ate some tapas at the restaurant as we waited for the live music to start.  Unfortunately, it got colder than we anticipated and we were wiped from the beach, so we headed on back to the hostel and called it a night.

July 14th (Saturday)

Saturday morning we slept in before getting breakfast, showering, and getting ready for the day, then headed into the city centre.  We wandered about the town for a while, taking in the many sights it had in store before we stumbled across the Museu do Aljube, a fascinating prison turned museum about the Portuguese dictatorship.  Although there were still sections that were only in Portuguese (which neither Kitty nor I spoke much of), the majority of the museum was available in English, and told the tale of the rise and fall of the dictatorship, from shortly after World War I to the late 1970’s.  We were largely ignorant of Portuguese history, so to find out that there had been such a dictatorship not only so recently, but also so brutal in its treatment of its citizens was very enlightening.

Photo of a large square, dominated by a central statue of a figure on a horse.
One of the main squares in Lisbon city. On the left, they had an area set up to watch the World Cup finals.

After spending a couple hours in the museum, we headed back to the hostel for a quick nap, before enjoying the dinner (provided by the hostel staff) and spending the night chatting with our other hostel guests.  This was our last day in Lisbon and we were headed off early in the morning, so we didn’t stay up too late.

That’s where I’ll leave it this time around, but there’s plenty of photos below (all from the Quinta — the place was massive!), and stay tuned for further updates!  Once again, feel free to hit the subscribe button in the sidebar to be notified next time I post, or follow me on Twitter for more general updates.  See you again soon!

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