We went on a day trip with Inside Lisbon which was great because we didn’t have to worry about renting a car and it was great having a guide take us through. After about a 1-2 hr drive, we reached Palácio da Pena at the top of the mountain. The gardens around the palace were really peaceful to walk through but, only because all the groups of tourists opted to take a very short bus ride up, completely bypassing the gardens.
Guide: “Olá, my name is Jeaux-oww-ohh but, you can call me John.”
Me: “What was our guide’s name again?”
Jenn: “Jo-ah? J-o-a-o.”
Me: “Sounds like 좋아.*”
*좋아 means “good” or it indicates “I like it” in Korean.
On the top of the entrance archway is a sculpted hand (not pictured), signaling that all are welcome. If only I could’ve taken that stone hand and slapped the current POTUS in the face with it several times…
The palace was built as an expression of Romanticism with domes inspired by Indian architecture and tiles by the Moors. The colors gave it a Disney World feel and I almost expected to find candy-making machines operating inside. Instead, we found most of the stucco work and frescoes to actually be drawn onto the walls in 2D and painted in such a way to give it a 3D feel. The restoration almost had me fooled.
Above another archway lies a triton who’s half-man and half-fish with land above him and the sea beneath, making this the “Allegoric Gate To The Creation Of The World.”
Definitely tile scenery worthy of a palace.
From the back of the palace, we could see Castelo dos Mouros and the view beyond. We walked along the edge of one of the turrets to get a better view and to see parts of the old monastery (destroyed by lightning and the 1755 earthquake) on which the palace was built.
João: “This part is a little bit more complicated because it’s narrower and it’s higher, okay? So, stick to your right [by the wall], okay?”
HyeMi: “Oh, Jenn, it’s not bad.”
João: “It gets worse, okay?”
HyeMi: “Don’t say that!”
João: “No, sorry! I’m being honest! Just for you to expect it.”
It really wasn’t scary (for anyone who gets vertigo or is slightly afraid of heights). But, we just found João’s responses and demeanor to be so endearing. Perhaps it’s the accent and his chill vibe.
We walked through the interior for about 30 min through a chapel, bedrooms and an entertainment room. But, of course, our favorite room of all was the…
…medieval Ina Garten-style kitchen. You could tell that we’ve reached our 30s when we talk excitedly about real estate, home decor, and kitchen goals.
We then headed into town where we were allotted about an hour to meander along the alleyways to souvenir shop and eat.
João: “Over there is Piriquita. It’s one of the oldest bakeries which King Carlos I visited many times. ‘Piriquita’ means ‘parakeet.'”
João: “Well, it was the nickname the king gave to the baker because she was short.”
João: “Yea. But, when you go there, order the ‘pillow’ and the ‘cheese.'”
João: “Well, if I say it in Portuguese, you won’t get it. Travesseiro and Queijada.”
He was right. Portuguese does not sound like how it looks sometimes. Add a bit of Spanish, add a bit of Russian flair, hold your nose for a nasally touch, and you’ve got it. Kind of.
The white cone things on the left are chimneys for the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. Nearby this viewpoint, we stopped at an empty outdoor cafe for a quick bite and a cheeky glass of wine. We still had about 40 min and we thought ordering sandwiches would take little time. But, in true Iberian Peninsula fashion, it took 10-15 min for us to get our drinks and the full 40 min to get the sandwiches. It was literally cheese, ham, and sliced bread, toasted. The only technical aspect, I suppose, would be the toasting. Thirty minutes in, the cafe had filled up some more and the waiter became frantic.
Us: “We’ll just take the sandwiches to go.”
The waiter nodded his head ambiguously. Ten more minutes passed and we really needed to go. João was parked in a zone that only allotted an hour. So, we split up to conquer duties. HyeMi and Christina headed off to Piriquita to grab some pillows and cheeses, while Jenn and I confronted the waiter and paid the bill.
Jenn: “Um, we really need to go.”
Waiter: “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
Face palm. By the time we got the food, the waiter looked like he needed a cigarette break.
Cabo da Roca
On the drive to Cabo da Roca, Jenn, HyeMi and Christina all fell asleep and João kept peeking at his rearview mirror to make sure that there was at least one person still awake listening to him talk. Everyone awoke by the time we reached this westernmost point of Europe.
I title this piece, “Christine by the Lighthouse,” a composition by Jenn, the artist formerly known as JYP.
The area was covered in succulents, the most comfortable “grass” you could ever lay on. No lie.
We ended the day at Cascais (pronounced Cas-kah-eesh) where we situated ourselves along the beach with seafood and beer. Oh, and ice cream at Santini.
We all passed out on the ride back to Lisbon, leaving João by himself with his thoughts.