Yesterday was AMAZING!!! And amazingly tiring. :-) We spent the day in Sintra, a small mountain town northwest of Christy's house.
We got back on the marginal and followed the highway along the coast. About 20 minutes into the journey, Christy pulled off the marginal and drove 2 minutes to Boca de Inferno, the Mouth of Hell! I have seen so many times on National Geographic and other similar places, but I had no idea it was so close! Just 2 minutes off the main road!!! Boca de Inferno is a beautiful rocky cliff that has a VERY large hole that leads to an opening you can look down into. We were there when the waves were small. Christy says that when the waves are larger, it is much more violent and louder. We stopped by a small cafe and had coffee and traditional Portuguese pastries: nata and salamao.
After breakfast, we got back on the marginal and continued up the coast and into the mountains. The road were rather narrow and everyone drove really fast. It was somewhat similiar to Vietnam except people tend to stay in their own lanes. :-) When we arrive in Sintra, we realize that we have taken the longer, curvy-er, more mountainous route, and that there was a shorter, more straight forward way to get there. Oh well, the drive was stunning.
In Sintra, there is an old Moorish castle and a Portuguese palace. We drive around looking for signs to lead us there. At one point, we come to a fork in the road with a sign that says we can get to the Moorish castle either way, so we go left. Later in the day, we find out that the left route took you to a road you could park at the bottom of and walk up to the castle from the bottom of the mountain. The right route took you to the parking lot at the top of the mountain.
So we park and begin walking up a cobblstone road. When I say up, I mean UP! This road was STEEP!!! After about 20 minutes of walking uphill, we arrive at the most remote entrance to the castle grounds. There isn't even anyone stationed there! Only a sign telling us the ticket booth both selling tickets to see the inside of the castle was another 750 m (.5 mile) up the side of a mountain. So we trek onwards!
After another half hour or so or walking we begin seeing outbuildings. At one of the outbuildings, we ran into some NC State students! I was wearing my sheatshirt, so we stopped to have a short conversation (and catch our breath!) before continuing up the mountain. We finally arrive at the ticket booth and get our tickets to explore the inside of the castle. All that is really left were the outer walls. So we walked along them and looked out at the Portuguese countryside. Absolutely stunning!
The lady in the ticketbooth said that the palace was "an easy 10-15 minute walk" away. I think we have very different opinions of what an easy walk is. Or it could have been that we walked up the mountain instead of driving like most people. :-) So we head off toward the palace, and after a moderately uphill 15-20 minute walk, we arrived at the gates to the palace grounds. The palace was another 5 minute uphill! Are you seeing the uphill trend? :-) So we stop for a water, beer, and a snack at the cafe just inside the gates.
Then, we were off (slowly) to the palace. The Palace of Pena was a resort for Portuguese royality until about 1920s or so. It is now a natural park that has a lot of trees from around the world, even Sequoia trees from western US. The Palace itself was beautiful. Unfortunately, we only have pictures of the outside. Photography was prohibited inside the palace to protect the artifacts.
Just before dark, we headed back down the mountain to Christy's car. Walking at a rather speedy, downhill rate, we made it back to her car in about 35 minutes. We returned to Cascais via the more direct highway route and met Christy's German friend, Sandra, for dinner. After dinner, we decided that since we had had a productive day, we would turn in a little early and spend the following day at the beach.