Crazy Palaces in Sintra and Good Eats in Belem…

Today, after our typical delicious late morning terrace breakfast at our B&B, we decided to ambitiously try to hit 2 nearby towns in one afternoon.

Our first stop was the town of Sintra, about a 45 minute train ride from the center of Lisbon. Where Lisbon can be raw and gritty at times, the historical center of Sintra is beautiful and pristine, filled with much sun and greenery. We got off the train and decided to forgo the bus to take the 15 minute walk to the historical center, seeing a few of the beautiful sights of Sintra along the way…


One of the many palaces to be found in Sintra

Modern art sculptures line the road to the historical center

As I said earlier, Sintra is known for having many palaces. But one tops them all – the Palacio da Pena. We could have done the steep 45 minute hike to the top, but in the interest of saving time and energy, we decided to take the bus here. I must say that those bus drivers have skills to drive a huge bus through the narrow cobblestone streets to the top!

The Palacio da Pena was built during the 1840’s on what was left of a medieval monastery by Prince Ferdinand of Bavaria (aka Don Fernando II), who was married to the Queen of Portugal and missing home. The result was one funky looking castle, which easily reminds me of the castles I saw in Bavaria. It was a lot of fun to walk around to view the different architectural details, as well as the beautiful 360 panoramic views into Sintra and the surrounding regions…

Entering into the Palace grounds


Triton, the odd half-man half-fish figure which is supposed to represent the allegorical gateway of the Creation

Looking out over Sintra


Remains of the Moorish Castle

Pat and I on top of the world! Or Portugal at least. Taken by a really nice couple from Bend, OR.

Looking out from the Queen’s Terrace

The buildings in the background were converted from the old Monastery. The buildings on the left-hand side were the new ones that King Ferdinand built

Boo poses in the turrets

Minaret with a Moorish dome

Intricate detailing on the tiled Palace Walls

After our trip to Sintra, we decided to spend a little time in Belem. Basically, I got raked over the coals last night by Hugo for visiting Lisbon without stopping in Belem. So we added it in. Belem is only a few km to the west of Central Lisbon, known for its legendary seafaring spirit. Our first stop was Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, a monastery established in 1502 to honor Vasco da Gama’s expedition to India. The building and its interiors are very ornate and detailed…

Looking up at the Monastery

Stained glass windows inside

Monastery silhouette in the sunset

The GGB lookalike (once again) as seen from the town of Belem

But the highlight of our trip to Belem? The food, of course! So yesterday, I posted a photo of pasteis da nata, aka the Portuguese custard tart. That was actually the 3rd one I had had during our Lisbon trip from the 3rd different place, and you know what? I was liking the ones in China better than the ones I was having here. So I was giving the pasteis da nata one more chance. I visited the original home of pasteis da nata, Pasteis de Belem, open since 1837. Apparently (at least according to Wikipedia), pasteis da nata were invented by the monks at the above Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, to get rid of excess egg yolks. After the Liberal Revolution of 1820 shut down a lot of the monasteries, the recipe was transported to Pasteis de Belem, and this original recipe has been a closely guarded secret. So we’re these pasteis da nata FINALLY all that they lived up to be???

Absolutely! The crust was flakier here, the custard not as sweet, and they came out nice and warm! Melt in your mouth delicious! I’m now a fan!



Amazingly good stuff

Boo tries a bite, too!

After this, we had to somehow, someway, get to our dinner reservation in the neighborhood of Estrela, near our B&B. (A little sidenote: We basically took every form of transportation today: Taxi>Train>Bus>Train>Tram>Bus>Taxi. I think the only thing we didn’t do was hop on a boat!) We went to a cute, hip restaurant where I had my final Portuguese bachalau. It was tender, flavorful and wonderful. What a perfect way to end a nice day…


Tomorrow: Returning to France!

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