The Reverse Tower Noun
I climbed tower down
to the cool smooth floor renown
but tunnels play ground.
A 7AM train left for Sintra in the near dark.
Accompanying two friendly Mexican girls we stiffly hiked all the way up to Pena castle in the early morning light and were the first in line to buy tickets. One of the girls held a place for us in the entry line which was very nice since it became a massive queue by the time the ticket booths opened for business. This castle and the 200 hectares of gardens/woods around it look as if they come straight out of a fairy tale.
The current Palácio da Pena was constructed between 1836 and 1854 in Romanesque Revival and neo-Manueline styles. That was over the ruins of a monastery destroyed in the 1755 earthquake except for a beautiful chapel which was a highlight for us. The Palace itself was clearly a place for play and leisure for royalty and untold wealth was funneled through many exceptional artisans to create a building of exquisite beauty.
We bought a ticket for entry into the Moorish Castle nearby as well. Unlike Pena which is imposed on the landscape that, older place, conforms to its mountain top. Though its stone walls have been built and rebuilt many times it strikes me as more natural and less hubristic. Perhaps less sophisticated but its naturalness has a great appeal. I particularly liked the views of the ocean and Lisbon as well as the archaeological exhibits and dig sites.
Our plan was to visit the Quinta da Regaleira next but we didn’t want to go on the narrow road so we considered ourselves lucky, even if we weren’t totally sure about it, when we found a hiking trail down the hill. It went past the base of a rock cliff where several climbers were getting ready to ascend with ropes. Then, surprisingly, it lead to a gate in a stone wall which was open. Inside that we went from the natural to an artificial planned garden for the Sassetti Vila. That was a delightful walk through plants from all over the world, fountains and sculptures.
But if Pena was a fairy tale and the Moorish Castle, a lesson in history then the Quinta da Regaleira is a remarkable blend of both with imagination pushed to the limit of the looking glass and possibly through it. This place is a Disney land for adults.
Italian set-designer and architect Luigi Manini (1848-1936) who also designed the Palace Hotel do Buçaco was the genius behind the design of at least some of this magical place. I could have spent a week there and still not see everything. My favourites were the reverse tower and tunnels, the small but mind-blowingly beautiful chapel and the incredible statues and other art built into the interior rooms of the ‘palace’. Just before the place closed we shared a small portion of dinner at the cafe.
Then we walked down to Sintra for mass. We were early so we went into a roadside cafe to get something to drink and they let us power up our devices.
The 7:15pm mass was at the Igreja de São Martinho in Sintra and the gospel was read in English as well as in Portuguese which was a very pleasant touch.
An 8:50pm train took us back to Lisbon and the Rossio Station