During our stay in Portugal, we decided to take a day trip to the small city of Sintra. This city is located about an hour west of Lisbon (there is a map of Portugal on my last post). Everyone that we talked to said that Sintra was a BEAUTIFUL town, so we were very excited to see it.
Once we got there we were even more taken away with the town. The first documented year of a town existing in Sintra is in the 11th century, by an Arab Geographer. The Moors built their castle during the 8th and 9th century. Fun fact: Christopher Columbus had even been to Sintra when he was blown off course and had to dock his ship there. There were many tortugas unoportunas (awkward turtles…Urban Dictionary that…) since Columbus had thrown Portugal aside and went to Spain for money to finance his travels.
Let me paint a little picture of Sintra: Imagine a cute, quaint town with one GIANT hill (that happens to have all the sites located on it…) that rises up in the middle of town. WOOF.
So we grabbed the bus and headed to the top of Sintra rock where the Pena National Palace is located.
The palace’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, the construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Soon after a king and queen made a pilgrimage to the chapel, the chapel was damaged by lightening, then after the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 completely destroyed the chapel. Then in 1838, King Ferdinand decided to set up shop at the ruins of the chapel and built what is now the Pena National Palace as a vacation home for the Portuguese Royal Family. Despues (later) once the palace had become more infrequently used the government had it a national monument. Even then, the palace wasn’t kept up, and at one point the palace turned gray!
Here is the start of our tour. I should preface that there were no guards (again!)…
Once we had gotten our kicks out of the Palace we headed back down the hill to the Moorish Castle. The castle was built in the 8th and 9th century when the Arabs occupied the Iberian Peninsula (AKA SPAIN AND PORTUGAL). The Arabs inhabited the place until the Christians took Lisbon by force in 1147. Once the famous 1755 Earthquake happened the castle was let go and slowly deteriorated.
However, one of the cool parts of why we REALLLLLLYYYY climbed ALL the way to the TOP, was for the wonderful views of Sintra:
Then we continued back down the hill, only to continue back up to the other side to see the Monserrate Palace. Which is really just a big old house with what I consider THE REAL secret garden. Anywho, the area in which the house is built upon has changed hands throughout history. While the Moors were still around a knight from another culture decided to built his house there…well the Moorish king didn’t like that and decided they were to duel for the land. Sadly the knight lost and the land was claimed once again. As time went on chapels were built, destroyed, built again in dedication to Our Lady or her second personality Our Lady of Monserrate. Once the land was released from the Church, it was rented out to various families who built grand houses on the land, but soon abandoned them; letting them deteriorate.
Then enters England (they always seem to stick their nose in EVERYTHING!), in 1790 a wealthy Englishman Gerard DeVisme, made a great deal and received the land. He built the first Palace on the lands, but only to destroy it later to create a “romantic air” about the area (umm what?). Then enters William Beckford. Beckford was, at the time, England’s richest man and he used a part of his fortune for construction work within the Palace and other properties around the estate, as well as for the creation of a landscape garden…but alas he decided to peace out of Portugal and his house was abandoned.
Are you finding a theme yet with this area?? HINT: People come and shove a lot of money into this area and then just abandoned it soon after! QUE TRISTE (How sad!)!
THEN THE MOST EXCITING THING HAPPENED:
During 1809 Monserrate was visited by Lord Byron, the famous poet, who regaled the about the beauty of the area in ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, lamenting only that “A huge thicket” cost him the permission of entering “the empty rooms with their doors open” (referring to the Palace) and who considered the Farm of Monserrate to be the “fore-most beautiful place in this kingdom.”
The last family to own the area was the Cook family…led by Sir Francis Cook, ANOTHER English millionaire. Cook was the one to create what exists today in the grounds, and even spent 66 years (1863 to 1929) making the garden what it is today! Alas, 1947 came and the Cook family could not longer afford to keep up the place (again…building it up to a wondrous place and then having to abandoned it because of money issues…), so they sold it to the Portuguese government and a random family. Nowadays, the whole area is owned by the government of Portugal, and slowly they are working on fixing the Palace back to what it was during the 1900’s.
If you can’t tell by now my favorite place we visited we the Moneserrate Palace. It was so calm and relaxing, and just SO amazing. I also think I was missing having trees, grass, plant life in general around (in my pueblo, there is literally no plant life.). Sintra is a refreshing town that is so unique and different than Lisbon. Even though we had to climb what we thought was Mount Everest, it was worth it! Again, Portugal was such a pleasant surprise! I can’t wait to have the chance to explore it more!
In the line up:
Day-trip to Niebla a pueblo near Bollullos!