Pena palace, Sintra
With Lourdes, server extraordinaire at the Independente
Hard core tourist stuff today which was ultimately worth it but not always fun. I was excited to go to Sintra, about a 30-minute train ride northwest to the mountains by the coast to see some of the incredible architecture there but knew it would be mobbed with tourists, as it was.
Still the Pena Palace with its fairy-tale turrets and ramparts high on a mountain above the clouds, with a view below that stretched for miles, was ravishing. Loved the colors of the palace too — mustard yellow, deep rouge, blue and white tiles. We had a sandwich for not inflated prices at the little place near the entrance which was much less crowded then the cafeteria at the exit to the castle. Then we took the shuttle bus (5 euros and worth the price) down the hill to the old city to tour the National Palace, which was also astonishing with ornate tiled rooms, gold leaf and painted wood and stone details and two very cool giant white chimneys resembling milk bottles, which added to the other- worldliness. But we frequently got stopped and stuck between very large tour groups, which got oppressive. Next time: start earlier. I wanted to tour some of the other impressive houses but two was enough for one day.
Lisbon view from park across the street from our hotel
Back in Lisbon we hit happy hour in the kiosk of the lovely overlook and park across from our hotel and drank beer and lemonade at a wood table with a glorious view of the city, with the castle high on the hill and the blue riverfront and all the city in between and around.
Our hotel, the Independente, has been great, perfect location, good price (about $117 per night), funky but comfortable and clean, with a terrific breakfast served by a very cheerful woman named Lourdes who is originally from Cape Verde.
After a somewhat nerve-wracking four-hour drive up to Lisbon from Pedralva in the Algarve (the last straw was the engine warning light going on about an hour and a half outside the city and the car suddenly loosing energy but fortunately regaining) we rendezvoused at the Lisbon airport with our old friends Francine and Russ who flew in from London.
We bought a three-day transportation pass for 39 euro each and rode the metro to Rossi station where we hauled our suitcases up a very steep and long hill (which we later learned is where the wonderful old funicular goes up and down) to the grand old pile that is the Independente Suites and Terraces. It’s a three-story old mansion with lots of faded Old World charm and funky art every where. We rode a strange very small elevator up to our second floor room (rather than walk with our bags) and into a charming high ceiling-ed room with dramatic art, big long windows that open like French doors and night lamps made out of old plumbing pipes.
We wandered around our neighborhood which is across the street from a tile-stoned park with an overlook where we can see across the city to the Castle and river in the distance. We walked to an amazing old mansion that has been turned into small shops showcasing local designers called Embaixada and a slightly less grand mansion near by called Entre Tanto. Tonight we took the funicular down the hill and walked past the gorgeous art nouveau theater to Cercejaria Ramaro, a famous seafood restaurant that already had a line out the door. We squeezed,our way in and our 7:30 reservation was eventually honored. The seafood was phenomenal. Shrimp, lobster, clams, even goose barnacles, all incredibly fresh and flavorful, simply prepared because there was no need to do much. The place was packed, with room after room of loud happy people cracking crustaceans. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.