Saturday 7th May:
There was a magnificent sky with the sunrise this morning but rain soon followed. It cleared sufficiently though to let us walk the 20 min distance to the meeting point for our day tour to Sintra and the beach area of Cascais. The meeting point was outside the Hard Rock Cafe at 9 am and there were plenty of others waiting which, after yesterday’s drama, was a reassuring thing.
Sintra had come as a recommended region to visit given it was the area where the noble class used to head for their holidays. Our tour departed along Freedom Avenue which took its inspiration from France’s Champs de Elysee and, as no surprise then, there were lots of high-end shops and the claim to fame for the street being that it hosted the largest Louis Vuitton shop in the world!
Sintra is located about 30 min by car NW of Lisbon and part of the original appeal of this area came from its access to fresh water but, in more recent times, it was the cool and pleasant climate that drew visitors in. The area around Sintra has been inhabited since Roman times and this was followed by the Visigoths, the Moors and then the Portuguese from the mid 1100s.
Our first stop on the tour was at Pena Palace, built by King Ferdinand 2nd during the period 1842-1854. The Palace was built on the site of an old Convent and was a holiday home for Ferdinand, his wife, Mary 2nd, and their 11 children. Unfortunately, the poor weather meant we couldn’t see much of the outside of the Palace and fully appreciate its grandeur but the inside sure made up for this! The Moorish influence on both the outside and inside of the Palace was significant and has framed ideas and design for my next home…if I ever get to build one that is.
Mark and I went on to visit Sintra Palace during our 90 min lunch stop as there was just too much rain to justify roaming the streets. This Palace began its life as a Moorish Fort that fell under Portuguese control in 1147. The current silhouette is the same now though as that seen since the 16th Century. The many beautiful rooms were decorated with geometric tiles, again reflecting the Moorish influence, and was more food for thought for me with my next house design.
The route home from Sintra included a stop at the most western point of Continental Europe at Cabo da Roca. It was too wet and windy for me but Mark braved the short walk out to the point for a photo opportunity. I chose the cafe however the wind destroyed Mark’s umbrella.
From Cabo da Roca we drove the coast road back to Lisbon and stopped off at Cascais, the Portuguese version of the French Riviera. This is an area of exclusive gated communities for the wealthy and we were given one hour to spend here. It was so wet and cold though that we headed straight to the first hospitable venue, O’Luain’s Irish Pub but only after buying a new umbrella for Mark, the third of our holiday. O’Luain’s Pub, surprisingly given the fact we were in Portugal, was filled to the brim with jovial Irishmen.
On the way back to Lisbon we passed through the town of Esteril where Ian Flemming had spent time and developed the character of James Bond based on a Russian Spy, Petrov. So much of this small country has influenced the world as we know it today.
As we left Esteril the storm intensified and water from the ocean was spraying onto the road, so much so that the Police diverted traffic around certain areas.
The day finally ended with us being delivered back to the Hard Rock Cafe at about 5.30 pm. I spied a lot of huge guys wearing AC/DC shirts and thought this was rather odd. Mark and I then left the cafe so as to buy some water-resistant shoes for me before heading back to Ribeira Markets for dinner. However, there were even more AC/DC dudes at the food markets and a quick Google search revealed that there was an AC/DC concert in Lisbon that night, thus, it all started to make sense!
Mark and I also noted that there were a lot of loud English dudes in Lisbon this night and put it down to it being such an accessible weekend destination spot for this crowd. We left the markets with an excellent bottle of red wine (8 Euro) and made it home by about 8.30 pm.
NB: Fact: In 1974: Lisbon’s Republic formed allowing the female vote. Prior to this time, 30% of Portuguese couldn’t read or write however everyone we have met, apart from being friendly, is seemingly well educated and with a good command of English. They have come a long way in such a short period of time!