Lisbon: A Day Trip to Sintra
If Madrid is the city that took my heart, Lisbon is the city that took my breath away. After meeting with Kristine at the Lisbon airport, we managed to successfully navigate through Lisbon’s metro system and when we emerged from the Baixa Chiado station, we were greeted by a stunning view of the city. For some reason, I had come to Lisbon thinking that there wouldn’t be a huge difference from Spain, but I was so wrong. (…and extremely ignorant!) Lisbon is often referred to as San Francisco’s sister city, which is an accurate comparison because of the city’s steep hills, its use of trams, and the Pont du 25 Avril.
After checking into the Living Lounge Hostel, Kristine and I decided to do some exploring. I will admit that I initially disliked the immediate area around our hostel. First, it is a popular tourist neighborhood, which made finding food under 8 euro almost an impossible task. Second, it may have been because it was a Wednesday night, but the neighborhood seemed weirdly empty and reminded me of the desolate city in Inception. Granted, it was gorgeous! But it just had some weird vibes and of course, it didn’t help that I was still broken hearted over leaving Spain. So I went to sleep questionable about Lisbon and if it could ever compare to Madrid.
The next morning Kristine and I began our day trip to Sintra, which we signed up for through our hostel. After not paying for a single activity in Madrid, it was definitely painful shedding out 30 euro, but it was worth it. We were greeted by our guide Diogo and began our drive along the coast of Portugal. We drove through Alfama and then made our first stop in the town of Belem. We stopped at Pasteis De Belem to try Pastesis De Natas. These pastries are flaky crusted tarts and this bakery uses a recipe that was give by monks 100’s of years ago. Not only were they delicious, but I thought it was cool to hear that it inspired the making of Dan Tats by the Chinese!
We left the bakery and continued down the coast until we found our way to Guincho Beach. Driving along the coast made me think a lot of Hawaii and I was reminded of how much I love being by the water. (Emphasis on ‘by’ and not ‘in’). Before we began to drive into Sintra, our last stop on the coast was at Cabo de Roca. This westernmost point of Europe boasted a spectacular view of Lisbon’s rolling hills and the peak of the coast. Up until then, I was already impressed, but when I stepped out of the van, my jaw literally dropped. It was such a stunning sight and I couldn’t help but be completely floored by the beauty before my eyes.
We finally drove into Sintra and stopped at Quinta de Regaleira, a massive historical estate in Sintra akin to a national park, where Kristine and I explore/hiked through different paths and underground tunnels. (The magnificent estate included a beautifully eerie underground labyrinth!)
One of the highlights of the trip, however, was lunch, which was included with the tour! The owner was incredibly gracious and allowed us to try both of the dishes of the day; one with codfish and another with pork. Before our entrees came, we had chorizo grilled on an open flame in front of us and then served with bread. Both dishes were extremely delicious, but I have to say that the codfish won me over. (Seafood pretty much always wins me over.)
The rest of our trip is a bit of a blur as it was an extremely long day, but there are many gems from what I can recall. After lunch, everyone had a choice to explore one of two places, one being an ancient Islamic castle from the 8th and 9th century . . . and so Kristine chose the castle. She made the right choice because this ancient castle was not only saturated with remnants of history, but it had the most incredible views of Lisbon.
After doing a Port Wine tasting, we finally headed home after a long, but wonderful first day in Portugal. Although the tour was a bit of a splurge, I think it was worth every euro between having a knowledgeable tour guide and being driven around Lisbon. As much as I love itineraries and planning, it was definitely nice to be able to experience the day without the stress of being in a new place.