We loved Lisbon, but our day trip out to Sintra was certainly the highlight of our vacation. This small town closer to the coast has drawn kings and tourists since the Moors. The climate is cooler and the greenery more abundant. And while it is a small town, there is not a shortage of sites, including numerous romantic castles and gardens. Certainly more than could fill just a day, and we are determined to return for more.
A short, hour-long train ride took us right into town. The Park and National Palace of Pena was our pick of attractions for the day, and to beat the summer rush, we jumped right on the bus that would weave us up the hill top to our destination.
Pena Palace was built relatively late in the castle game, during the 19th century. It served no defense purposes, but only to bring to life the dreams of the Queen’s consort, King Ferdinand II. It is colorful and full of romance, and looks straight out of a fairy tale. Our resident expert thought it was most reminiscent of Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid. The views of the Atlantic, the nearby Moorish Castle, and surrounding countryside are some of the best I’ve ever seen. I would build a castle there. There was a quick walk laid out through the interior, and a castle wall walk for those who dare. For the less daring, Cora thoroughly enjoyed inspecting the tiles while eating cookies.
From the palace, you can walk back to town through the Pena Park, which is dotted by stables, fountains, and other fun surprises. We set off searching for the stables, but quickly lost our way, rewarded by flowers in full bloom and a tree canopy unlike any we’ve seen in the Iberian Peninsula. The kids and I had recently finished watching the David the Gnome series, so we felt inspired to search for gnome friends among the trees. Charlotte picked a treat to lure in a gnome, which disappeared during our lunch break at the Park’s café. Did a gnome sneak off with it? Either way, the garden was full of magic.
We didn’t walk the entirety of the park, catching a short ride to the main eating/shopping area of town. Following instructions from a town employee earlier in the day, we took advantage of our family status to jump to the front of the line, much to the dismay of many of our fellow tourists. While we weren’t the only ones to do so, I still felt guilty. But everyone got a seat, so there should be no blame. And ultimately, it is the law, as we kept being informed by those in the know. I must say I appreciate it too, as should all others. No one wants kids hanging around longer than need be. Let’s get the screamers in and out. Get tiny ones off the side of the road and make sure they get seats on buses that bump and twist around hairpin turns. Wouldn’t people do that anyhow?
Next, we enjoyed a good romp on the town playground. While the kids were occupied doing what kids do well, I was able to pop my head into a few stores. All shopping streets should have a playground. Then, we wrapped up our stay with gelato and dinner, in that order. It was perfect.