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Falling For Portugal: A Mai Tai Tom (Trip) Report

Falling For Portugal: A Mai Tai Tom (Trip) Report

Old Dec 8th, 2022, 11:47 AM
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"As Velhas sounds wonderful. How did you find out about it
Karen, I looked for restaurants within 15 - 20 minute walk from our hotel, and then checked other websites for any reviews. Truthfully the reason this made the cut (outside of good reviews) is because As Velhas translates to "The Old Ones." Since we are kind of "old ones" it just made sense. We lucked out and had great meals in Lisbon and throughout Portugal.

"As a fellow El Bosco fan"

Thanks John. I just can't avert my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

And thank you all for hanging in there. Apple has changed some photo formats (much to our surprise), so getting photos that work for me from Tracy's computer have been challenging, especially for a tech-challenged person like myself.
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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 06:56 PM
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I am enjoying your wonderful report, reliving our trip to Portugal!
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Old Dec 9th, 2022, 06:20 AM
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Tom, you definitely put more effort into researching restaurants than we do. Your research pays off.
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Old Dec 13th, 2022, 05:56 AM
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It was finally time to check out the sights in the Lisbon neighborhood of Belém, and there are no shortage of them. On a blistering hot day, we visited what many say is the most popular Portugal attraction, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and its adjoining church, Santa Maria de Belém. Down by the river we took in the oft-photographed Torre de Belém and walked down to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries). To end our day in Belém we were transported to the National Coach Museum. Those sights plus a famous bi-plane and fake lighthouse highlighted the day. And to cap it all off … I would have the best gin and tonic in my life at dinner. Life is good! (Story with photos in link below) ...without below photos.


Day Five: Manuel Labor, Get Here Early!, Boy Are They Strict, Tower Of Power, Navigating The Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Put Me In Coach, A Royal Ride, First PopeMobile?, Cranking Up The Heat, Please Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Gim Tônica Impecável and Revisiting Ginjinha

We got out to an early start on the day, and the tuk-tuks were already zooming near our hotel.

Uber was our choice of transportation as we headed to the Belém suburb of Lisbon. Belém is where Vasco de Gama sailed from on his famed expedition which led to a sea route to India. We had 9:30 timed reservations (the earliest) to UNESCO World Heritage site Mosteiro dos Jerónimos where da Gama’s tomb is located inside its church.

It was a 15-minute Uber ride to the monastery, and even arriving early a line was forming, with about 15 - 20 people already waiting. We could also tell this would be the hottest day we had experienced so far, and we’d had some sweltering days already.

Before joining in the queue, we checked out the South Portal which highlights the Manueline architecture. King Manuel I had it constructed on the site of a former chapel by Prince Henry the Navigator. This is the place where Vasco da Gama prayed on the evening before he set sail for India to spice up life for many, and was constructed specifically to commemorate his safe return from his voyage. It took nearly a century to complete.

On the South Portal there are statues of Henry The Navigator, Saint Jerome, the Virgin Mary and 37 other saints, not to mention the 12 apostles. On top is the statue of St. Michael, who is the protector of the monastery … and me, so it seems. With all its spectacular statues, this, however, is not the main entrance.

Shortly after entering the monastery, Tracy spied a ceiling painting featuring the Coat of Arms of Saint Jerome on the right, and on the left his symbol, the lion. A child’s face can also be seen.

Many intricate paintings and tiles would be found throughout our self-guided tour.

We made our way through the open passageways of the cloisters.

The Cloisters of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos might be the most beautiful and tranquil site we have visited. It’s said that the double-layered cloisters were “unique for the era.”

Lacy ornamentations and those beautiful spires make for a very peaceful setting.

Walking up the stairs there was an even better view. Tracy ranked this up there with the rooftop of the Milan Cathedral.

The cloisters were started in the early 16th century. Nautical and religious symbols abound.

We spent a good amount of time admiring them from various angles.

From above, we could see the famous Lion Fountain. From portugalresident.com, “According to legend, a lion one day entered a monastery where Saint Jerome was residing, causing all the other monks to flee. However, Jerome noticed a thorn stuck in the lion’s paw and proceeded to remove it. After cleaning the wound and bandaging up the paw, the lion was forever grateful and from that day forth lived with Jerome inside the monastery.” And as I’ve said on too many occasions, “There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”

We walked downstairs …

… and entered the Chapterhouse.

Inside the Chapterhouse is the gigantic tomb of Alexandre Herculano, who was a Portuguese novelist, poet and historian.

Although the Chapterhouse construction started in the 1500s, completion of the vaulted ceiling and other interior portions of the monastery didn’t happen until the 19th century.

It was a quick stop …

… and then we made our way to the adjacent Refectory and some really colorful late 18th-century azulejos.

The Refectory was built in the early 1500s as a dining area for the monks with the tiles added between 1780 and 1785.

The tile panels represent different biblical stories. It’s a very beautiful room.

This blue, yellow and green panel represent the life of Joseph in Egypt from the Old Testament.

We didn’t know what’s behind door #1.

Our next stop was scheduled to be the adjoining church, Santa Maria de Belém, where da Gama’s and other royal tombs are located. When we reached the entrance, we were directed outside to join the queue waiting for mass to conclude. The line was long, and the day was blistering hot and it was still early.

The line to enter the monastery also stretched forever by this time.

We joined the line and noticed a sign stating that anyone who got out of line would not be able to rejoin it. After 15 minutes we took a chance and found a little shade (very little) nearby. It was not a happy crowd.

Finally, after a half hour, the mass of people at mass departed, and we mercifully slipped inside.

The first thing you notice upon entering are the humongous tree trunk columns and the stone ceiling. Impressive indeed.

The chancel contains a series of 1570s paintings situated around a silver tabernacle.

The burial vaults of King Manuel I, Queen Maria and their son, King Joao III, rest on top of marble elephants.

We stopped into the Sacristy. Inside are scenes from Saint Jerome’s life and a late 16th century wood chest.

It is really cool how it appears the vaulted ceiling is seemingly held up by one large column.

You have to look through an iron grill work to check out the gilded Chapel of Saint Anthony.

And, of course, no visit to the church is complete without visiting the tomb of Vasco da Gama. This tomb wasn’t actually made until 1894.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos turned out to be one of the highlights of our Portugal trip.

Although not a long walk to our next stop, with discretion being the better part of sunstroke, we took an Uber to the oft-photographed 1521 Torre de Belém.

The first thing we saw was a statue of Gago Coutinho’s bi-plane. Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral, who in 1922 became the first pilots to to fly across the South Atlantic Ocean. The Santa Cruz bi-plane took off from this little park near Torre Belém.

We had contemplated climbing to the top of the tower, however a fairly long line dissuaded us, so we we hung around taking photos of the tower originally constructed as a fortress to help defend the mouth of the Tagus River.

King Manuel’s distinctive architecture was also on display here.

We walked around the area taking photos from different angles but it wasn’t much cooler even near the water. I tipped this musician who was trying to make a few euro, but he already looked pretty exhausted from the heat.

Next, we took a 10-minute walk along the water and a small harbor toward …

… the awe-inspiring Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).

Along the way Mary attempted to hijack a wine truck. I told her she should try to steal a Cab next time, but she replied that would be a Zin. “Que Syrah Syrah,” I joked.

We passed a red brick tower that resembled a chimney, but in fact turned out to be the Belém Lighthouse which had never functioned as a lighthouse, as it was constructed for the 1940 Portuguese World Expo.

As we continued our walk the Ponte 25 de Abril stood with sailboats in the foreground and the Cristo Rei Statue in the background. The statue was built in the 1950s as a thank you for a 1940 “plea to God to release Portugal from entering World War II … although the idea had originated earlier on a visit of the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro in 1934, soon after the inauguration of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in 1931.” The entire structure exceeds 300 feet.

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is unlike any monument we had ever seen.

It stands more than 150 feet high and was inaugurated in 1960 to commemorate the death of Henry The Navigator, although no one nicknamed him that during his lifetime. I learned that Henry did not actually go on voyages, but instead was a scientist and cartographer who helped explorers navigate the seas.

Henry can be seen out on the prow of the bow.

On the eastern side he is followed by a kneeling Saint Ferdinand.

The details on all the figures are quite amazing.

On the eastern side, Henry is followed by King Alfonso, Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral, discoverer of Brazil in 1500, explorer Afonso Baldaia and Fernão Magalhães (aka Ferdinand Magellan), who crossed the Pacific in 1520 and was killed in a battle with indigenous people who weren’t thrilled with outsiders trying to colonize them and convert them to Christianity.

We were in Belém on a Wednesday, and it seemed a popular day for tourists as this site that also had a fairly long line to head to the top, so we headed to lunch instead at the nearby Nosda Italian.

Modern and clean, we enjoyed a good lunch of pasta and salads. There’s always room for gnocchi!

After escaping a maze of scooters, we grabbed a taxi to the Coach Museum. “Where’s Ted Lasso?” I asked. The hot weather was not conducive to stupid comments like that, and everyone ignored me.

The Museu Nacional dos Coches turned out to be a surprise for my companions, but after reading numerous trip reports in my research, I knew that this would be a winner. I hoped it would be our crowning moment.

Located in a massive complex, the selection of carriages and royal coaches (along with other modes of transportation) truly was fascinating. In 1905, Queen Amélia d’ Orléans and Bragança who was was the last Queen consort of Portugal as the wife of Carlos I, founded the Royal Coach Museum to preserve this unique selection of historical vehicles. The royal coaches are displayed in chronological order showing how the vehicles evolved between the 16th century and the end of the 19th century. Here are just a few of them.

In 1715, the pope (first Popemobile?) offered this coach to João V of Portugal. On the back is a boy holding a flaming heart, which symbolized affection.

The Coach of the Oceans represents the connection of the oceans and all of Portugal’s maritime achievements. Apollo sits between two female figures while two old guys shaking hands represent the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean symbolizing the passage of the Cape of Good Hope.

Another intriguing coach represents the Coronation of Lisbon. The Goddesses of Fame and Abundance sit up front, while on the back are figures representing Africa and Asia.

This coach with mythological scenes belonged to the daughters of King Dom Joseph I. It’s good to be a princess.

Many coaches had intricate artwork on the sides of the carriage.

You could even eat in some of them. Table for two please!

The coat of arms of King Pedro V is topped by a royal crown. I wonder if he ever had Crown Royal with Royal Crown Cola in it.

This coach with four rows of seats took people out to hunt.

This must be from The Gilded Age.

Even little tykes had their own carriages.

Cherubs were popular decorative choices back in the day.

King João I’s carriage had dragons.

Queen Amélia got around in this small promenade vehicle and did her own driving.

Also on display was the first car to zip around Portugal, the four-seater Panhard & Levassor. It could gain speed of 26 kilometers per minute (16.2 miles per hour).

At the Museu Nacional dos Coches you’ll see everything from horse-drawn carriages to vehicles with horse power.

There was even a special art exhibit.

How about a game of chess …

… with some unusual pieces.

On the way out it didn’t take brains to know a 2020 statue called Brainless Figure in Stone.

It was mid-afternoon, and although Belém had many more attractions to offer it was time to return to our hotel. Hopefully next time. We passed by the famous bridge one last time.

We had about 90 minutes to freshen up for dinner. I had marked down “Gin and Tonic,” next to this restaurant but it had been so long since I made the reservation I couldn’t recall why.

After walking down Rua Augusta …

… we eventually arrived at our dinner spot. At the bottom of the Taberna Moderna sign I saw why I wrote that note. It simply read “lisbonita GINBAR.” It would be a tonic on this still warm evening.

Of course, being Americans we were the first to arrive. We were greeted by gentleman who told us the restaurant has more than 125 gins.

We were so early in fact that he gave us a tour of the very attractive interior of the restaurant.

Ah, so this is where the magic gin and tonics are created.

The mixologist has the tools for a good one.

Elton John greeted us at our outdoor table located in a beautiful square. Fortunately, the sun was going down behind me and the crew providing a respite from the heat.

I asked our server, Miguel, which gin and tonic he recommended. Without hesitation he replied, “Number 3 London Dry Gin, 1724 Tonic from Argentina and a mandarin orange slice.”

In a kismet moment, Tracy shared a photo of a gin she had taken awhile exploring the restaurant. “London Dry Gin gin and tonic it is,” I told the server.

It was phenomenal! My Toledo, Spain, GinTonic had just been relegated to number 2, but it will always hold fond memories.

The food here is meant to be shared, and each selection comes out individually.

They were all delicious, starting with an outstanding Risotto with mushrooms, pumpkin and pumpkin chorizo. We once again knew we were in for some delectable cuisine.

We had a ”double wow dish” of Magret de Poto; duck breast, spices and honey.

Another winner was Lombo de Boi; center of beef tenderloin with gorgonzola sauce, frite potatoes and Maldon salt.

Finally, we shared a tremendous Filét Mignon com Vinho do Porto; Sirloin filet in a porto sauce served with frites.

Hard as it is to fathom, I still had room for dessert. Of course, I did. The Passion Fruit Pana Cotta made for a perfect evening of dining.

Taberna Moderna is another restaurant I would not hesitate to recommend.

My compliments to the bartender!!!

When Tracy was taking bar photos, she also checked out the ladies room. Opening the door, she was transported back to 1979 with a disco ball and bubbles illuminating the room. Lisbon can certainly be a Funky Town.

We passed by the colorful Benamôr store …

… on our way to get Kim and Mary what Tracy and I experienced on our first day in Lisbon. Yes, it was Ginjinha time. A young lady carefully poured the infused cherry liqueur into those little chocolate cups.

As you can see our friends liked it!

This multi-colored photo of a tram near the Arco da rua Augusta coupled with her recent disco bathroom had Tracy wanting to do The Hustle.

We took a few photos from the Praça do Comércio of the arch illuminating the area with a decent view down the Rua de Augusta, which was bustling.

Also crowded was the Elevador de Santa Justa. It was here where I had a brain cramp. I had wanted to photograph the Largo do Carmo and was going to use those metro escalators to get up there. I guess the gigantic Gin and Tonic had hurt my memory cells.

Colorful was amped up to the next level when we stopped by this window, and gazed in at Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa
(The Fantastic World of Portuguese Sardines).

Yes, these are the famed tinned seafood cans of Portugal’s finest, but there are also carrousels, thrones to sit in and array of even more sardines.

It’s very touristy, so being tourists we had to sped a few minutes here.

Tomorrow would be our last day in Lisbon. We’d hop on a crowded train early in the morning for the short ride out to the palace built for King Pedro de Bragança and and his wife in the 1700s. It also had beautiful gardens (I’m spoiling Tracy). Back on the train, we decided to take a Time Out at a 32,000 square foot food hall featuring more than 30 restaurants. There I would eventually do one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever done in public. We’d eventually end up at a bookstore that has a major distinction. We capped it off with another great meal in a very cute restaurant ending our 5 1/2 days exploring this very interesting city.

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Old Dec 13th, 2022, 10:51 AM
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Belem was one of our favorite days. I love your photos of the art show at the Coach Museum, especially the large chess pieces!
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Old Dec 13th, 2022, 03:57 PM
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Glad that you guys finally made it to Portugal. I haven't finished reading your trip report. I'll continue after dinner.
As for having to attend an HOA meeting, I assume your friend is the president on the board otherwise I'd see no reason to have to attend while on vacation. I don't attend while on vacation. Plus, for years I also couldn't attend while here at home due to working weekly until 9:30 PM, and HOA meetings are held in the evenings. Whenever I can't attend, I just go on e-mail and read the meeting minutes to keep up with things.

Happy Travels!
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Old Dec 13th, 2022, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by maitaitom
"Yay, looking forward to your adventures, including the, ahem, glimpse into the Portuguese health care system.
And did you move from SoCal? Are you really in my neck of the woods now?"

Still in So Cal. We just flew out of SF because it was non-stop. Stayed with an old college buddy and his wife. Fortunately I get the Portuguese health care system story in a couple of days from when we arrived.
So, we're still in the same city, Maitai.
I agree with flying to S.F. sometimes when it comes to non-stop flights depending on one's airline and destination. But, one needs to keep in mind that there's a lot of fog up there and I have been stuck in the airport due to fog situations. I used to fly out of S.F. to get to Paris, non-stop, on United, I think it was. On one trip, I ended up stuck at LAX as S.F. was fogged in and many hours later when I finally arrived S.F., those of us on the flight were put up in a hotel by the airline to fly out the next day. It was mess of a situation to get on a flight the next day. I only had 6 nights for that trip to Paris, but ended up with 5 nights by the time I finally got to Paris.
As for BART, it's really easy to use to get from the airport into S.F. and back to the airport especially with my hotel being on Market Street.
Happy Travels!
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Old Dec 13th, 2022, 11:46 PM
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Tell Tracy her photos are fabulous 😉
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Old Dec 17th, 2022, 05:21 AM
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Thanks so much for posting such an entertaining and thorough report of Lisbon, Maitaitom. I'm sorry you fell and had to make a trip to the ER, but glad to read you're okay.

I will be in Lisbon for a few days only in June and wondering what your thoughts were about staying at the Altis Avenida Hotel. The hotel rooftop bar looks lovely. Did you feel it was very centrally located? I don't want to stay in Alfama on this trip, but that area fascinates me so I'd like to visit there on foot from a hotel.

Thanks for posting such amazing pictures too! Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Dec 17th, 2022, 03:42 PM
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"wondering what your thoughts were about staying at the Altis Avenida Hotel. The hotel rooftop bar looks lovely. Did you feel it was very centrally located?"

We thought it was great and the location couldn't be beat. Short distance to Rua da Augusta and a straight shot down to the arch. The hotel had a great shower (both Rain Shower and shower on a stick). The complimentary breakfast was good, and if you get there in time you can sit outside with a view over the square. Nighttime wine time was great on the rooftop bar. Reserve a table however. Monday and Tuesday the rooftop is for guests only.

Avenida da Liberdade shoots out from the square across the street. I hear that when you don't fall on your head during the day that's a very nice walk.

Bonjardim is just a two minute walk for that great piri piri chicken.

Easy to get up to Chiado via the escalators in the metro station. Within 10-15 minutes of all the restaurants we visited, and they were ALL good.

We all liked the hotel very much.
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Old Dec 17th, 2022, 06:30 PM
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Thanks for your quick reply, Maitaitom! This hotel is definitely in the running so I'm glad you all liked it. Also, thanks for the tip about reserving a table on the rooftop as that's one of the main reasons I'd like to stay. Love rooftop bars and restaurants!
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Old Dec 20th, 2022, 10:49 AM
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It was our last day in Lisbon, and we decided to take a short train trip to visit the The National Palace of Queluz, dubbed by some as the “Portuguese Versailles.” After touring the palace and gardens, we zipped back to Lisbon for lunch at the very cool Time Out Market. Finally, we would visit The Oldest Functioning Bookstore In The World. One last great dinner, and that would be the end of our six busy days in lively Lisbon. Next stop: Sintra. Story with photos in link below ... without below photos...


Day Six: We Won’t Be Taking Our Luggage, “Portuguese Versailles”, No Crowds, Tiles Channel, Time Out For Lunch, Decisions Decisions, This Isn’t A Buzzer?, The Oldest Functioning Bookstore In The World, Channeling My Inner Sinatra, Shut Out Of The Rooftop, A Much Needed Refreshment and A Charming Way To End Our Day

On our final day in Lisbon, we would take the train toward Sintra, but Sintra would not not be our destination until the following morning. Today’s agenda called for a half-day trip to the Palácio Nacionalde Quelez, a Baroque palace commissioned in the 18th century.

We walked across the street to the already bustling Rossio Railway Station, where there was a long queue a little after 9 a.m. It seemed the entire city of Lisbon was getting away to Sintra on this Thursday morning. The queue proceeded quickly, and we purchased our one way ticket to Quelez (€1.65), located about halfway between the two towns.

The 9:30 train was so full, we decided to eschew the train the following morning because it would be tough to fit our luggage in with all the passengers. Note: Our friends who traveled the following month took an afternoon train to Sintra and said it was no sweat with the luggage at that time of day.
It was also the private dining room of the King and Queen’s Chambers.

smoking at the end of a meal only became a hobby of the Portuguese Royal Family in the mid-19th century
It was about a 20-minute train ride to the Quelez-Belas station, and then another 15-minute walk to the palace. After a few wrong turns we saw the sign to the palace as we walked through town.

The National Palace of Queluz served as Portugal’s Royal Residence in the 18th century. It’s also the place where Queen Dom Maria I should be sequestered from public view during her final years.

She became queen in 1777 when her father Dom José died. Pedro, by marriage, became king (Dom Pedro III). When Pedro (who was also her uncle … hey, it was the 18th century) died in 1786, followed a few years later by her son and then her confessor, she slipped into depression that would dog her for the rest of her life. In Portugal, she was known as “Maria The Pious,” while in Brazil she was dubbed “Maria The Mad.” She spent her last years in Brazil and although called by some “A Louca” (the Mad), she is pretty much revered in both countries.

The palace, which was originally a hunting lodge and converted into a palace in the 1700s, underwent a huge restoration project in 2015, and has been called the “Portuguese Versailles.”

We took a self-guided tour. Admiring the chandeliers in the first room, we knew opulence would be the order of the day.

The largest reception room in the palace is The Throne Room. The palace was one of the last rococo style palaces to be constructed in Europe, and this room has that rococo feel. Pedro and Maria threw big parties in this room. Tracy spent much of her time photographing the light fixtures, which were dazzling to say the least.

The Throne Room opens into The Music Room, which looks almost the same today as it did in 1761, making it one of the oldest rooms in the palace. Operas and chamber orchestra concerts were conducted in this room.

Although Dom Miguel never resided here, his portrait hangs in the Sala do Lanterim. It’s known as The Room of the Skylight since there is an opening in the ceiling for better ventilation.

If you live in a palace, you have to have a chapel. This one was designed in 1752. The painting on the main altar depicts Our Lady of Conception, the patron of Queluz.

The ceiling painting also dates back to 1752.

There were lots of places to sleep in the Apartments of Princess Maria Francisca Benedita, but none of us were ready for a nap.

In the apartments there is also an oratory.

The Smoking Room is where you could play some board games, and I assume, smoke.

One of the coolest parts of the palace contained some beautiful Azulejos. There are tiled panels in the Corridor of Sleeves that depict the four seasons, the continents and scenes from mythology.

Here we were reminded that lunchtime was not far away.

There were 26 rooms open to the public. We can’t remember them all.

The Don Quixote Room contain scenes of the Man from La Mancha’s life. A number of royal babies were delivered here, and it’s also where Prince Pedro, the first Emperor of Brazil and King of Portugal would die at the age of 35 from tuberculosis.

This is The Room Where We Forgot To Take A Photo Of The Description.

The Ambassadors Room is pretty spectacular. It was once called The Room of Serenades because concerts were held here (Pedro and Maria liked their music).

In 1794 it became known as the Ambassador’s Room because King João held audiences here with plenty of hand kissing.

It has some pretty spectacular ceiling paintings, too.

This painting on the ceiling depicts the royal family attending a music concert.

The Queen’s Dressing Room gave us our last spectacular chandelier to admire.

And one last ceiling to gaze.

Although not quite as opulent as Versailles, the lack of crowds made it a much more pleasant and peaceful palace to explore.

We made our way outdoors on another toasty day. In the distance, we glimpsed the Canal dos Azulejos (Tiled Canal)

Once upon a time there was a lake and a lake house (pavilion) where even more concerts were held.

The 115 meter canal was completely covered in tiled panels in 1755. Nearly 150 years later, King Carlos and Queen Amélia ordered the restoration of the tile surface.

We admired the Robillion Staircase, built between 1758 and 1760.

In the gardens there are plenty of interesting statues, including this one of a female Sphinx.

Every trip must have a Neptune (or Poseidon) Fountain, and we found our Neptune’s Fountain here at the Queluz Palace.

We wandered around the gardens for a bit, but decided it was time to head back to Lisbon. If you have some extra time in Lisbon (or Sintra … it’s about at the half way point) Queluz Palace is definitely worth a visit.

We decided to Uber back to Lisbon for a time out at the Time Out Market, the “world’s first editorially curated market.”

From its website, “A concept created from scratch in 2014 by the team at Time Out Portugal, with only the best ideas and business projects in Lisbon - according to the editorial team - which can stay in the market from one week to three years. If it’s good, it goes in the magazine, if it’s great, it goes into the market.”

The market contains 26 restaurants, eight bars and a dozen shops. And it’s got a buzz, to be sure.

I have made many a faux pas on our European adventures, but on this day I would make one of my funniest (for others).

While Kim and Mary decided on Asian cuisine, Tracy and I found a place with burgers (Ground Burger), which sounded really good about now.

While I waited in line, Tracy scouted out a spot in the crowded market for us to sit. After ordering, the man at the counter told me to take the buzzer which would alert us when our order was ready. I took it and went in search of the rest of the crew. As I approached Tracy, she gave me the “Look” that could only mean one thing … I had done something idiotic.

Over the noise of the market patrons, she I heard, “Tom, what do you have in your hand?” I answered, “The buzzer.” Shaking her head in disbelief she said, “Tom you don’t have the buzzer. You have the restaurant’s credit card reader in your hand.” Oops.

Well, I hightailed it back hoping the Portuguese police were not searching for an American criminal (hopefully they hadn’t contacted the York, England, police). Expecting a not very warm welcome when I returned to the counter, the guy working there just started laughing and said, “I knew you’d be back eventually.”

Tracy’s Philly burger with pickled onions and jalapeños was great as was my Ground Burger with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and a special house made sauce, which I immediately spilled on my freshly laundered shirt. Oh well, I’d worn it enough for now. These were the two best burgers we’ve had this year.

Kim and Mary enjoyed their lunch, as well.

After finishing, we walked around the market for a little while to check it out.

Fun stop!

In front of the market it was Tuk Tuk Central, and we hopped on one and took another death-defying trip through the streets of Lisbon. On the way to our next stop, Mary showed off a new way to wear glasses that has not yet caught on in Portugal.

Our Tuk Tuk dropped off us near Livraria Bertrand that has been certified by Guinness World Records as the “world’s oldest operating bookshop.” The book store opened in 1732, although it is not in its original Chiada location because it was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. We wandered through the various rooms, and finally found ourselves back on the street in front of another old store.

The Joalharia do Carmo is a relative newcomer compared to Bertrand. The store, which sells “elite exclusive pieces in decorative silver and jewelry”dates back to 1924.

It was a short walk to the Altis Avenida from there, but Tracy thought it might be prudent for me to purchase a hat to protect my head from the sun and jokingly, “to serve as protection in case you tumble again.” As you can see on our next day in Sintra it was quite stylish (ok, maybe not). When Kim saw me exiting the store, he quipped, “When did Frank Sinatra decide to join us?”

Nearing the Elevador de Santa Justa we came across something a little out of the ordinary. Called by some the “Portuguese Banksy,” the mysterious artist Superlinox has, for the past few years, put up some interesting installations in Lisbon and Setubal, a town located about 45 minutes southeast of Lisbon. In June of 2022 she installed a lilac in color sculpture entitled “Sofia,” which is to honor the victims of the war in Ukraine.

“Sofia is holding a crumb vacuum cleaner. From the website NIT: “Sofia can't have a solid opinion about eternity, but there are two things she knows very well: she loves Chiado and she can't stand crumbs,” describes Superlinox. “She IS a woman full of conviction, self-esteem and self-respect. She's a diva with a cleaning craze,” she tells NiT.”

The four of us took a power nap (not together). We had planned to have pre-dinner wine on the rooftop, but we forgot that darned riff raff public was allowed back in on this day, and there was no room at the inn.

Instead, we ducked inside Beher (Rua da Prata 249) for some Ibérico ham and libations. The jámon was tasty, and I opted for a large glass of much-needed freshly-squeezed orange juice to quench my thirst.

Our restaurant on this evening was the charming and rustic Taberna da Baixa. It was a cozy place complete with a small upstairs dining area.

As we had experienced at every restaurant we dined at in Lisbon, the service was friendly and attentive. Every dish was good. Having already enjoyed jámon at Beher, we headed straight to the entradas.

Mary ordered the Arroz de Marisco (Seafood Rice), while Kim went for the Salmão Na Grelha (Grilled Salmon).

Tracy decided upon Bacalhau Á Lagareiro (codfish Lagaeiro style, grilled and served with olive oil and garlic).

I had the Wow! dish, Lombinhos de Porco (Iberian tenderloin pork with Taberna sauce (au jus with wine)). It was so good, I needed dessert.

The Baked Apple with Port wine and cinnamon served with a house made passion fruit ice cream finished out a very good meal on our final night.

We wandered the streets of Lisbon on a starry evening to walk off all our food.

It was a beautiful night, and it seemed a little less crowded on this Thursday evening.

Tomorrow we would grab an Uber (we had set that up with our Uber driver earlier today) and travel to Sintra for three nights.

After dropping our luggage at the charming Chalet de Saudade Guest House, we headed toward the Palacio Nacional Sintra where we would meet our guide for a tour of the palace and another attraction, Quinta de Regaleira. Unfortunately, upon arriving, we learned a tragedy had closed it down for the day. Our guide took us to another palace for a tour there and then detoured us through the busy part of Sintra. After a wine break on the patio, we met up for dinner with our local Southern Californian neighbors who had purchased a home in Sintra. It was here where a service breakdown made for a rather uncomfortable dining situation.
Day Seven: Beautiful Residence, The Three-Year Deposit, You Can See The Magic, Isabel Takes Over, The Oldest Palace In Portugal, Unique Tiles, Death At The Quinta, Plan B, Germany In Portugal, Some Great Advice, Wine And Pringles, Where’s Perry? and Will Mary Ever Be Served?
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Old Dec 21st, 2022, 03:04 PM
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I love your photos and report about the National Palace of Queluz! I regret not visiting it. It's so elegant and beautiful! Wow!

We enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner at the Time Out Market. Just by chance we decided to eat at Monte Mar, which turned out to be one of the best meals of our trip. I wish we took as many photos as you did of the market. Markets are so interesting and photogenic!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 01:32 AM
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I do love it when a new post of yours pops up!
Really enjoying the travel with you.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2022, 07:06 AM
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Looking forward to Sintra!
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Old Dec 29th, 2022, 01:02 PM
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Our first day in Sintra started off great when, after stopping in our charming hotel, the tour guide we had hired for a few hours showed us around the stupendous Palácio Nacional de Sintra. Our next stop was to be the Quinta da Regaleira, however a tragedy occurred there a short time before we were to enter, so we instead visited a 19th-century mansion (Biester Palace) with incredible art-detailing by a famous Italian set designer, architect and painter. It was a brief break before dinner, however Mary’s break to dine took much longer. Story with photos link below ... no photos below photos


Day Seven: Beautiful Residence, The Three-Year Deposit, You Can See The Magic, Isabel Takes Over, The Oldest Palace In Portugal, Unique Tiles, Death At The Quinta, Plan B, Some Great Advice, Wine And Pringles, Where’s Perry? and Will Mary Ever Be Served?

One last rooftop breakfast at Altis Avenida, and it was time for an Uber (we had set it up with our driver from the previous day) to Sintra. Lisbon had run the gamut of spectrums offering a a little bit of everything; from spectacular historical sights, gorgeous tiled buildings, colorful street art and out-of-this-world cuisine to grittiness, poverty, abandoned buildings and not-so pleasant graffiti. One thing was for sure, Lisbon was never boring. Negotiating the numerous stairs and uphill streets, Lisbon was like our own personal stair-stepper.

A big advantage of traveling with another couple (besides instant medical attention when you take a tumble), was that we could share the Uber cost (between €35 - €40) to Sintra, plus our driver provided a non-stop narrative and overview of the town along the way.

There’s a good reason why people caution you not to drive in Sintra. It is a maze of one-way streets with plenty of traffic and places where vehicles are prohibited from entering. Our driver was a little perplexed about where our lodging was located, so he pulled over to look closely at his GPS and figure it out. It didn’t take long. Looking up we noticed he had parked virtually in front of the Chalet Saudade - Vintage Guest House, where we would stay the next three nights.

It was almost like I personally knew our host Filipa at Chalet Saudade upon arrival. I had made the deposit to stay here in 2019, and each year we had to cancel thanks to Covid. In a nice gesture, each year they rolled the deposit over, and finally we made it. We were greeted by the always personable, patient and funny Filipa. Reviews are spot on, this is a great place to stay (more later).

Since it was just barely 10 a.m. the rooms were not ready, but that was no problem. Filipa told us to leave our bags in reception and go about our day. That was good, because we had someone we needed to meet.

Before leaving for Portugal, thanks to the always great advice from Maribel, I had booked a tour of Palácio Nacional de Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira with Isabel of Lisbon Tour Guides. We were to meet at 11 in front of the National Palace.

Donning my new hat, we embarked on a ten-minute stroll through town. “What do you think, Sinatra in Sintra?” I asked. Mary responded, “To be perfectly Frank, that would be no.” Well, I guess That’s Life, although I still like to do things My Way.

We passed the impressive Câmara Municipal de Sintra (Sintra Town Hall), a castle-like structure constructed in 1909 that looks like it could be right out of a medieval fairytale.

As we walked through Sintra’s historic center what looked like cones on the roof of the palace loomed over the buildings.

For some odd reason our group always seems to be enamored with street art with oversized chairs. Today would be no exception.

Of course, some people take a little longer to get in them. I blame the extra weight of the hat.

We reached the palace ten minutes early, and Isabel easily recognized our motley crew and we recognized the red fan she said she would be carrying. It was too late for her to turn back now. Construction on the Palácio started nearly 700 years ago and has been updated often in the intervening years.

The palace went through extensive upgrades and additions for King João I (who was also Henry the Navigator’s father) in the 14th century, making the Palácio Nacional de Sintra the oldest surviving palace in Portugal.

One of the reasons the palace was built in Sintra was so the royals, especially Queen Philippa, could escape the heat of Lisbon’s summers (and the fall, which we could attest). Other wealthy ‘Lisboetas' took their lead, and many mansions and homes were built in Sintra, whose hillside location provides a cooler climate, although still not that far from Lisbon.

Also known as Palácio da Vila, we started our tour with Isabel leading the way. As we walked up the 16th-century stairs to the Sala de Entrada, Isabel gave us an overview of the palace, just part of the wealth of information and history she would impart on our tour. I had told Isabel about my stumble a few days previously, and she often told us to “watch our step.” As it would turn out, those were ominously prescient words.

Interestingly, the first room is known as Sala dos Cisnes (Hall of Swans), the first time a swan song was actually at the beginning.

It’s not difficult to figure out why. Paintings of crowned swans can be spotted on the ceiling. King João I had five sons and one daughter who betrothed to the French Dauphin. The French king sent a gift of swans to Portugal in celebration of the marriage and there are 27 painted on the ceiling, which was equal to the bride’s, Infanta Isabel, age.

The room took on many functions; musical concerts, banquets, receptions and the occasional funeral. Those hutches in the corners date all the way back to the 1600s.

We stepped out to the Central Courtyard, an area that allowed King João I and Queen Philippa to access different rooms without having to enter others.

Don’t tattle, but we next entered The Magpie Room. The ceiling here puts The Swan Hall to shame. There are 136 magpies on the ceiling each with the sentence “no harm meant.”

The story goes that King João was caught in the act kissing one of the ladies in waiting. He tried to explain, “Por Bem” (“Without bad meaning)” Well, that one would never pass with Tracy, but I guess Philippa was more forgiving. A lot of gossip and tattling occurred after that event, so 136 magpies were painted on the ceiling, one for every woman at his court.

The fireplace has a story, too. It was given to King Manuel by Pope Leo in 1515, and was placed at the Palace of Almerim (a palace that no longer exists). It blazed to life in 1898 when it was installed in the Magpie Room, which was utilized primarily as banquet Room.

We entered the third room of the palace, the Câmara do Ouro (Gold Chamber), a room where the king would greet people of “higher social service.”

Then, if the guests were boring he could immediately lay down and take a nap after they departed.

Later in the 16th century, King Sebastião slept here with his servants and close family members sleeping on the floor. A royal slumber party.

The Garda-Roupa (Wardrobe Room) is where the royals kept their clothes, jewelry and other bling.

It’s also called The Mermaid’s Room because mermaids are floating in air on the ceiling (this photo captured by someone on the internet with better light … and camera).

Plus I think every dressing room should contain a pig’s snout decorative piece.

On display in the Camarin of the National Palace is historic globe. It’s also unique, as it “represents the celestial sphere, with constellations and signs of the zodiac.” Made by German-born Christopher Schissler The Elder in 1575 it “reflects everything that was known about the universe at the time,” and is the only known 16th-century globe of its kind, not to mention being the oldest globe in Portugal.

Walking into the Galley Room, I felt I was listing a little bit. This was put in by João III in the 16th century to interlink the main chambers with the northwest wing of the Palace.

In the room are painted galleys flying the flag of Portugal and the Ottoman Empire. Speaking of which I could have used an ottoman to put my feet on my about now.

It was mind-boggling to think we were seeing many of the original artifacts from 500-600 years ago. It is one of Europe’s best-preserved palaces. In the 16th-century Portugal experienced an economic boon due to the India spice trade, and the tiles found in this palace I was told are seen only at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. That’s because King Manuel I of Portugal imported azulejos from the Alhambra Palace.

Speaking of azulejos, next we entered the spectacular Sala dos Brasões (Heraldic Hall). Wow! King Manuel I had the Coats of Arms of 72 noble families painted throughout.

It had us looking up once more. On the ceiling is a painting of a stag, which represents the “Symbol of Justice.”

There was no ceiling as to the amount of photos Kim and Mary took of it.

Azulejos surround the room on the walls. They show hunting scenes and acts of gallantry.

The King Alfonso VI Chamber dates all the way back to King Dinis days 700 years ago, and is the room where King Alfonso was imprisoned in then 17th-century

Originally built in the 13th century, the chapel was enlarged in the mid-15th century and is currently under renovation.

The green tiles came to Portugal with King Manual I who had visited the Alcazar and Seville when he married Isabella, eldest daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon.

She was also the widow of Prince Afonso, the heir of King John II of Portugal (confused yet?). Isabella died one hour after giving birth to her only child, Prince Miguel (who died before his second birthday). Whew! Times were tough.

According to the palace’s website, “the Mudéjar ceiling (a painted and gilded wooden ceiling) is one of the best preserved in Portugal.”

In this room is the only 17th-century state bed in Portugal. State beds, elevated above everyone else, were usually used as a symbolic attribute of power. This was no place to sleep, but it was another place to entertain guests.

A bed similar to this is was used to display the body of King Afonso VI (1643–1683) in public after his death at the Palace in 1683. The painting is of Marie Louise of Orléans, the Queen of Spain, lying in state in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid.

The Cozinha (Kitchen) awaited.

Remember those two 100-foot chimneys we saw when we were walking here? Well, those were built for this kitchen. The kitchen was originally a separate building because of fire.

The Manueline Hall is quite impressive. The Great Hall was built during the reign of King Manuel.

Tracy was captivated by the light fixture and tile.

Next up was the bedroom of Pedro V.

We stepped outside for a photo op.

Back inside, we felt fortunate nobody needed to use the restroom.

I asked Tracy what room we were in now, and she replied, “the Sitting Room.” I replied, “And here I thought that the last room we were in was the Sitting Room.”

We made a quick getaway from the bathroom …

… and ended up in the final room of our tour, the Gruta dos Banhos (Water Grotto).

Water jets squirted from tiny holes in this area of the courtyard.

The Grotto was built in the late 15th or early 16th century.

The tiles depict everything from the creation of the world to the four seasons and mythological scenes.

It was a colorful way to conclude our first tour of the day.

But this was only the first half of our tour with Isabel. Our next stop was scheduled to be the Quinta da Regaleira.

We could see all roads lead to something important in Sintra.

It was a short, but lovely, walk to the Quinta.

We passed by Lawrence’s Hotel which is the oldest hotel on the Iberian peninsula (1764), and became known as “The Writer’s Hotel” as it hosted Lord Byron on his “grand tour” after being kicked out of England and a host of others including Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson.

Walking by a beautiful fountain, we were close to the Quinta da Regaleira that many people describe as “magical.”

As we approached we saw people leaving, but there was still a long line to get in that didn’t seem to be moving.

When we turned the corner a policeman was directing everyone back down the hill explaining the Quinta would be closed for the remainder of the day. Isabel inquired what was going on and was told there was a medical emergency and an ambulance had been called.

We hung around for a few minutes, and soon the word started circulating that a woman had suffered a heart attack and died. The following day, it turned out to be a different story. The guard told us that a 69-year-old woman from California had fallen backward near the stable entrance, hit her head and perished from her injuries. That gave me pause to reflect on how lucky I had been.

With the Quinta da Regaleira now closed, Isabel quickly came up with Plan B. We backtracked to Biester Palace, a 19th-century Neo-Gothic/Romantic house that had just recently reopened to the public.

Palacio Biester was the brainchild of Portugal’s first architect José Luis Monteiro. He utilized some of the best artists of the time to help decorate it, including Luigi Manini, one of the great Romantics in Sintra’s history. It was constructed in 1880 as the residence of Ernesto Biester, a wealthy 19th-century merchant and Portuguese playwright of German origin, who had married a Portuguese woman.

We paid our €5 old geezer price (€10 for Tracy The Younger) and entered a section of the expansive park that surrounds the palace. It was right about now I was rethinking that hat purchase. Mary was right … I’m no Sinatra.

Photogenic flora and flowers greeted us as we climbed uphill toward the house.

The park area was deigned by French landscaper François Nogré, and it includes spectacular views of Castelo dos Mouros and Sintra, including the National Palace we had just visited.

In 1999, The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depp was partially filmed here, marking our second Johnny Depp story of 2022.

Interestingly, many of the photos we took inside never made it to the cloud and disappeared from the phone (someday I’ll figure out the cloud), so a few of the following photos are from the Biester Palace website.

The Music Room (photo from Biester website on left) hosted many a soirée.

It was also a room where Amélia Biester could invite friends over for a quiet conversation. The stucco work, plus the walls and ceiling are very decorative.

The ceiling in the library wasn’t too shabby either. There are paintings of beasts, angels and neoclassical medallions referring to the story of Virgil’s Aeneid.

The Living Room (photo from Biester Palace) …

… is highlighted by this colorful fireplace and painted ceiling.

The Dining Room (Biester Palace photo on left) also has a gorgeous fireplace.

Many of the walls throughout the palace contain lovely frescoes.

Even the doors looked like a piece of art.

The “every palace has a chapel” theme continued here. This one is a Neo-Gothic Templar chapel, so we expected to see Angels and Demons.

The four stained glass windows came from Paris in 1899.

Before leaving we checked out the Master bedroom (photo of bedroom from Biester Palace below).

The mesmerizing ceiling art (left) and walls (right) of the Master Bedroom were created by Paul Baudry and Luigi Manini. The angel’s eyes seemed to follow you around the room. If you expand the photo by clicking it, the angel even does it on the computer.

One more room, and we were done with the interior.

But wait, there’s more!

It was time to explore Parque Biester …

… and Discoveries Viewpoint.

On a clear day one can see the Moors Castle, Pena Palace, Sintra Village, and even the ocean.

Fog was rolling in on the coast so we could only see a portion of the water and we would have to wait a few days to see the Royal Palace of Mafra.

We also were able to see the castle, Pena Palace and the National Palace.

We strolled through the park for awhile, but then everyone remembered we hadn’t eaten.

Isabel recommended we eat at the small tea house Biester by Casa Do Preto. While we ate our pastries, Isabel told us the brief history of the Quinta do Regaleira which we would visit the following day (is it Dante’s Inferno? or was he a Mason?). She also said we should arrive early and suggested the best route to navigate the property to avoid crowds. Go straight to the big ticket item, the Initiation Well, and then work your way back ending with the house.

We took a detour through the town of Sintra. This sign took on an entire new meaning after today’s events.

I still regret not stopping here.

Sintra was busy as we walked upward (what else) on a Friday afternoon.

There was no stopping for more pastries either.

We bid farewell to Isabel. I highly recommend Isabel’s company for a few hours in Sintra. She was enlightening, funny and very informative. Thanks Isabel!

We walked the short distance back to our hotel past another fountain.

I guess the pastries weren’t filling enough, so we had a late afternoon snack of Pringles, which I had not eaten since our 2009 trip to Rome, and some vino.

Dinner was a short walk to 100 Tachos, which had been listed as the #1 restaurant in Sintra. Tracy intimated that she’d be happy if we could purchase either one of these places.

The town hall looked good as evening dawned.

We were meeting friends and our Southern California neighbors, Bob and Maria. Maria is Portuguese and they recently purchased a house in Sintra. Arriving at the address of 100 Tachos, the restaurant situated there was now named COMO. We were told the restaurant had recently changed hands. It must have been pretty recent because it hadn’t been that many days since I made our reservations.

We sat on the patio, and things started out well. I loved my pumpkin soup starter.

However, in what would be a continuing theme on this trip, the restaurant was out of the steak I had wanted and only had two pork cheeks left. That seemed rather odd since the restaurant had just opened a half hour previously, and crowded it was not. That should have sent out a warning bell. Maria and I ordered the last two pork cheeks.

All of us ordered, including Mary who had chosen the duck. Everyone’s dinner arrived except for Mary’s. Surely Mary’s duck would come out soon. We all started eating (except Mary). We’d ask about Mary’s meal and were assured would be out “shortly.” By the time Mary received her duck, most of us were through with dinner.

Since I attempt to Accentuate the Positive, if COMO has gotten its act together, the food was actually good, at least the food that came out on time.

We bid “adeus” to Bob and Maria and returned to the hotel for a glass of port and a good night’s rest.

Tomorrow we’d finally hit the Quinta de Regaleira, which truly does have a magical atmosphere and where we would spend the entire morning. After lunch, we would Uber about 30 minutes to the Pena Palace, where we had timed entry tickets. Getting back to the hotel would prove to be challenging. We’d end the evening at what we all considered the best restaurant we had dined at yet on this trip.
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Old Dec 29th, 2022, 02:53 PM
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Great report! This will be very helpful when we finally get to Portugal some day.
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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 08:36 AM
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"Great report! This will be very helpful when we finally get to Portugal some day."

Thanks KT, I'm happy we decided on three days in Sintra instead of just a day trip. Too many things to see, and you never know how plans can be altered like ours did on Day 1.
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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 01:30 PM
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Love your report and photos of Sintra! Gorgeous photos! And I like your descriptions and information about the palaces. We visited Sintra as a daytrip from Lisbon. We added on 5 nights in Lisbon to our trip to France because at the time TAP had the Portugal Stopover special (not sure if they still do) where you could stop over for up to 5 nights at no additional charge in airfare. This was the end of a 3-week trip, and I was feeling lazy so we spent all 5 nights in Lisbon. I was also too lazy to take the train from Lisbon to Sintra, so we actually did a group bus tour which we don't usually do. The tour included Pena Palace, a short amount of time in Sintra center to have snacks and walk around, and then a drive to Cascais with a 15-minute stop and a drive through Estoril. Not the way we usually travel. I now wish we had the time to spend a couple nights in Sintra. We hope to return to Portugal some day and my plan is to start with a couple nights in Sintra.

That is so sad about the woman who passed away.
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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 03:21 PM
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Beautiful photos. The poor woman though. Ever since I twisted my foot on the steps of the church in the Alhambra (I thought I could go through my purse and walk at the same time) I've been extra careful about avoiding multi-tasking -- especially on vacation.
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