On our last day togther in Lisbon, my wife and I took the train to Sintra and spent the day in the mountains. Since the mountain at Sintra has several palaces and one, very old, castle on it, that meant we spent the day wlking up and down steep grades, visiting the old Moorish Castle, and the much newer, and very zany, Palacio Nacional da Pena.

My wife and I at Palacio Nacional da Pena

The Moorish Castle on the mountain behind Sintra old town

A typical street in the old town of Sintra

The train ride from near our hotel - Roma-Areeiro Metro stop and train station - to Sintra took 40 minutes and cost 1.55 E for each of us. Once in Sintra, we walked to the old town and visited the main tourist attraction, The Sintra National Palace. We got in line to buy tickets (4 E each) to tour the interior, but some folks ahead of us were arguing about getting a cheaper rate, so we left that line and went to the Turismo office. There we got a map and learned that there was a bus (3.85 E each) that would take us to the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace. We decided to do those instead of the National Palace. A good decision. It is really beautiful up there!

Looking at the Atlantic coast from the high tower in the Moorish Castle

After stopping for pastry and espresso ;-}, we caught the bus up to the Moorish Casttle. We used the bus instead of walking because of my sprained ankle, but, if we had walked, it would no have been on the road. The one way road is narrow with walls on both sides. The bus uses all of the availble space getting around the large number of sharp corners, many of which are blind. Walking up that road with car and bus traffic on it would not be fun, or safe. There is an alternative route - a foot path up to the Moorish Castle - which is safer and more pleasant.

Part of The Moorish Castle - the rear wall and high tower - as seen from the Pena Palace

The bus ride was like a carnival ride, rough and, at times scary, but the mountain side was beautiful and, when we got off at the Moorish Castle stop, we were anxiuos to walk in that beauty. First, of course, we had to pay admission ;-}. Actually, you can walk up from the old town or in from the placewhere the bus stops without buying a ticket. Those walks are both very nice and well worth doing, but going into the Moorish castle is really worth the price of admission. The ruins - to be fair, they are of questionable authenticity - are spectacular and the view from the high tower is great.

The climb along the wall up up to the high tower is quite strenuous and definitely not for folks with a fear of heights! Both the high tower and the, much lower, low tower have alternate routes that won't cause folks with acrophobia any problems, but, for the greatest thrill, climbing the stairway on top of the wall is hard to beat. So are the view of several palaces from the walls.

The Pene Palace as seen from near the high tower of the Morrish Castle

The Moserrate Palace

Inside the Pena Palace

The Pena Palce is simply fun! It is the Disney Palace of Portugal. Its us such a mish-mash of styles that it is almost comical, yet it also quite impressive. The interior tour - 6 E each! - is fun if you are into late 1800s life styles of the rich. It has some features in common with The Biltmore House, my town's major tourist atraction. Since the Biltmore house tours are up to $35 a head, the Pene Palace is definitely a bargain! Anyway,it is great fun and more good exercise - it is steep walk up to the Palace - and well worth seeing both for the place itself and for the views from the palace.

The statue, overlooking Pena Palace, of its creator

After coming down from the mountain, we had a, very late, lunch at one of the many tourist oriented restaurants. The meals - we ordered simple Portuguese dishes - was good but the wine, which cost 6 E for half as liter, was the equivalent of the .5 E for .25 l. 'box' - think fruit juice box - wine we got at the supermarket across the street because we forgot to bring a corkscrew!

The ride home on the train was uneventful and, after going back to our hotel and cleaning up and doing some packing, we went to yet another pastry place for pastry and espresso. life is good on vaction in Lisbon!