A trade from a grey, chilly day in London to mild, sunny Portugal can be accomplished by just a short flight south, which is what we did late last fall. This view outside our hotel room awaited our group and enticed us to get out and explore as soon as we arrived.
We stayed in the charming town of Sintra, a short trip away from the city of Lisbon, and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its 19th century Romantic architecture. The palace seen in a distance here is the Sintra National Palace, which has been continually inhabited from the 15th to late 19th century.
On our stroll to lunch, we walked by the Town Hall which was built at the beginning of the 20th century.
One of the jewels of the region is the Pena National Palace situated on a hill above the city. A collection of many styles of architecture typical of the exotic Romantic style, this current structure was rebuilt in the mid 19th century,
after a monastery which was originally there in the Middle Ages fell into ruins following the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.
King Ferdinand II built it as a summer residence for the Portuguese royalty.
Once you entered the door guarded by a newt made of shells,
some of the views were incredible.
Indoor pictures were not allowed but I was able to shoot a picture of the tiled courtyard in the interior.
On our way to Lisbon the next day, we stopped at the Belém Tower. Built as a fortification at the mouth of the Tagus River in the early 16th century, it is also the ceremonial gateway to the city of Lisbon.
The bright colors of the region in contrast to the waters of the harbor are part of the charm of this beautiful city.
Particularly fascinating is the Jeronimós Monastery which was built
by Manuel I in the 1500's to honor the successful return of Vasco de Gama from India. This style of architecture is typically called Manueline style and is common throughout Portugal.
The two story cloister is especially striking. Maybe we should have stayed there a bit longer in prayer, since a couple of gals in our group were pick-pocketed after our visit here.
Before heading back to London, we hiked up the hill to the Quinta da Regaleira. Much to our amazement, we found a Romantic style palace, a chapel and a fascinating park.
The first owner, Montiero, designed an exotic assembly of buildings and gardens including a 5 story palace,
and gardens which boasted caves, towers, waterfalls, benches,
fountains, underground lakes and a system of tunnels which we bravely wandered through, encouraging each other along the way.
A delightful trip drew to a close as we gathered in the square in front of the Adega des Caves restaurant. The sun bounced off its typical blue azulejos, or tiles, which are so tied to the culture of Portugal, since the country is world renowned as having some of the most beautiful tiles ever made. Hope you'll stay tuned for my next blog highlighting some of those tiles.