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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Portugal Trip-- Magical Sintra!

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Hello dear readers!

Here is the second installment of our anniversary trip to Portugal. The sweet little town of Sintra is less than an hour's train ride from Lisbon, and we spent days 3-5 of our trip there.  

 

Our first Sintra destination was Quinta da Regaleira.  While planning our trip, I'd read about this place, and was captivated by the words everyone used to describe it. 

 The adjectives: magical, mystical, fantastical, surreal, hidden, delightful, mysterious, whimsical... 

 The nouns: nooks, niches, grottos, secret doors, symbols, archetypes, gardens, towers, tunnels, waterfalls, labyrinths, springs, fountains, fairytales, myths, wells...


(If you've read my books, you know I eat this stuff up!)  So, based on the gushing of others, I guessed I'd love this place... and I did, oh I did! And so did Ian.  

It brings out the adventurous kid in you... wandering around these enchanted gardens and discovering secret passageways behind waterfalls, venturing down a dripping tunnel to find yourself at the bottom of a spiral-staired well. (How was it, we wondered, that we'd never heard about this place before planning our trip!?!)

 

It was full of delight and whimsy and wonderment, and we happily spent the afternoon there. (It was designed over a century ago by an Italian opera set designer named Luigi, as a commission for an eccentric Brazilian coffee tycoon, and eventually, about a decade ago, became open to the public.)


It's hard to describe this place in a tangible way, but basically, it's several hilly acres of verdant gardens with footpaths throughout, leading to towers, turrets, palaces, grottos, waterfalls, secret passages... and magnificent views.




Everything is packed with mythological significance, like this well that symbolizes a journey of intiation... (We're standing at the bottom of it here.)


The gardens and paths were deliciously lush and green...



The flowers were vibrant...



See those arches by the water? Secret tunnels abound inside of them-- a kind of labyrinth hidden in there!


We had a lovely lunch on this columned terrace...

 

Wine at lunch was a nice thing about traveling, just the two of us.  So luxurious.  And the Portuguese wine we drank was called vinho verde-- I'd never had it before, but it's really good-- light and fresh and a little bubbly.  It was only 2 or 3 bucks a glass in Portugal, and here in the States, we discovered it's only 8 or 9 bucks a bottle.  (The brand we got is Casal Garcia.) We're no wine connoisseurs, but we agreed that on a summery day, this stuff is the bomb. 

 

In the US, I usually drink green tea, but in Europe I can't resist those teeny cups of espresso... which is part of the reason we went to bed well after midnight and slept till late morning.  Again, so luxurious compared to my before-dawn-wake-up schedule here in Colorado (thanks to Lil Dude's early rising...)

 

Our guesthouse was Casa do Valle, at the edge of town, surrounded by gardens and views of castles and countryside... 

 

And breakfast was served on our private balcony.  (This inn was a bit of a splurge for us, but totally worth it... and, as a side note, lodging and meals in Portugal were more economical than in the US, which made splurging easier.)


Our kindly innkeeper, Virpi, told us about this gorgeous forest walk to the castles.... We do lots of hiking in Colorado, but there's something so special about hiking in Europe, next to ancient aqueducts and crumbling walls...


You can see the medieval ramparts in the distance through the trees....



The first palace we went to was the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, colorful and extravagant, and accessed through beautiful gardens...





Breathtaking views of the countryside...



Then we went to the Castelo dos Mouros-- a picturesque ninth century Moorish castle.  We walked all along the ramparts from one tower to another, and I have to say I was glad Lil Dude wasn't with us (although he's really into knights and swords) -- there were many places where he could've plunged to his death with one wrong step-- eek!  Woulda made be a bit nervous...


Yes, it was all very romantic and perfect for an anniversary trip... ;-)


On the way back from the castles, we walked down these sweet, wisteria-draped cobbled lanes no wider than an arms' span...


You know how when you're traveling and you see a place for sale, you start day-dreaming... 
 hmmm... if we were rich... just maybe....

Well, this was *that* house on our trip... across from the guesthouse at the edge of Sintra.  It was gorgeous and a little spooky, all run-down, with broken windows and whatnot, but look at it!  So much potential, no?  Ahhh ... fun to dream...



Thanks for reading! I'm planning on two more installments of Portugal photos-- Porto and Aveiro, and more of Lisbon.  Now I must prepare for a middle school visit in south Denver tomorrow.  (I just finished a fun visit to the bilingual school Irish Elementary, here in Fort Collins-- they read Star in the Forest.  I LOVED hearing their impressions and connections-- makes my heart full!) A happy spring day to you!

xo,
Laura

************UPDATE***********

Many readers have been asking me if Portugal will be a setting in an upcoming book!  Wellll... as you know, I don't like to divulge much about a book before it's even written (not good for my creativity), but I will say that one reason I chose Portugal for our trip was because of the coastline, castles, and mysterious gardens... all of which play parts in the two new YA manuscripts I'm currently working on.  I'm having lots of fun with it.  For me, it's so important to engage in a setting with all my senses, to really make it come alive for readers.

Anyway, thank you all for asking, and I hope you like the books that will eventually materialize from this latest travel adventure!

6 comments:

  1. Wow! I want to travel here immediately.

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  2. Highly recommend it, Melissa! The magical gardens, especially, would be so much fun with kids, too...

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  3. Your books and blog are great! Fresh, interesting throughout. I'm so happy that I found this blog after reading Red Glass.



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  4. Thanks, Daniel-- that means a lot to me!

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  5. Ricky Hanson says, great photos, Sintra is amazing, so beautiful. I can't wait to visit there again someday.

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  6. How cool that you've been there, too, Ricky! I don't know anyone else who has...

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