Monday, September 23, 2013

Sintra - Pena National Palace

Do you remember the last post I did on Sintra?  How beautiful the palace and the grounds were that we visited?  Since we only were able to see that one palace the day we came, we knew we had to come back and visit at least one more palace before we left Lisbon.  On September 5th, we made our way by train through 3 transfers to Sintra.  Our goal was to visit the Pena National Palace.  The palace stands on the top of a hill, on a rocky outcropping, above Sintra. Before we headed up the mountain, we stopped for lunch at a cafe near the train station.  Amelie and Liam were making really funny faces while we waited for our food, and I just had to share with you their silliness.

We rode bus #434 to the top of the hill because the thought of walking for an hour uphill on very narrow streets did not sound appealing to me.  Thankfully, the ticket price was for all day bus use, so we didn't have to think about walking down the hill as we had originally planned on doing to save a couple of Euros. It was an excellent price for the service...well worth the 5 Euros. Bobby sat at the front of the bus and was able to capture on video the curvy, narrow roads, while the kids and I sat all the way at the back of the bus swaying and bouncing as we went. After we made the steep ascent from the ticketing booth to the actual palace we were greeted with the sight pictured below.  An English speaker we ran into described the palace as Alice and Wonderland-esque.  With all of it's vibrant colors and attention to detail, I would have to agree.
Before I start in on our day, I thought I would share about the palace's history.  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.  Kings and Queens were very fond of this sanctuary, and eventually the construction of a monastery was ordered. For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.  The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 took a heavy toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins. Nonetheless, the chapel escaped without significant damage.  In 1838, King Ferdinand bought the monastery and 200 acres surrounding it. He set out to transform the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. The commission for the Romantic style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege.  Almost the entire palace stands on rock, so it took many years to build.
Liam fell asleep on the crazy bus ride to the top.  We were able to enjoy the first 30ish minutes looking up instead of looking down making sure he stayed out of trouble.  ;)
One of the entrances had a depiction of a newt, symbolizing the allegory of the creation of the world.
The entrance to the Middle Ages chapel.
Before we headed to the park, we toured in the inside of the palace.  We enjoyed seeing how the royal family lived during their summers in this palace.  Amelie and Liam enjoyed seeing things like the bathroom and the extremely large/old telephone.  Amelie loves princesses so seeing all of the "fancy" things gets her talking.  Liam loves running so he would constantly try to make beelines for different rooms as if this was such a fun game for Bobby and I.  There was a really nice cafe set up on the terrace with an incredible view where we enjoyed a chocolate cupcake snack before we headed into the park.
You can see the cities in the far distance and the Moors Castle on the adjacent hill top.
The exotic taste of Romanticism was applied to the park as it was to the palace. The king ordered trees from diverse, distant lands to be planted there. Those included North American SequoiaLawson's CypressMagnolia and Western RedcedarChinese GinkgoJapanese Cryptomeria, and a wide variety of ferns and tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand.  We loved exploring a small portion of the vast grounds.  It really was amazing being in such a diverse forest.  There were also many points of interest around the park that we walked to including a stone table for the royal family, a cave the monks carved, the Queens chair, and more.

Yes, that is Bobby perched on the rocks near the statue of the soldier.
Amelie and Liam loved being free and roaming around picking up sticks and leaves.

Amelie loves maps.  Here Bobby and Amelie are planning which route we should take next.
This is the Queen's seat carved into a rock overlooking the city and palace seen in the distance.  For some reason, I think it's really cool that the Queen was tramping through the woods to come and enjoy being outside.
One of the many fountain and oasis areas.    We actually found a lot of leeches at this one...eeewww!
Amelie walking on different paths through the Fern Gardens.

Before leaving Sintra, we ate at a local buffet.  I usually turn up my nose at such places, but it was pretty good Portuguese fare.  We were not as lucky catching our trains heading home on this night.  We missed 2 trains by just a couple of minutes which resulted in a couple of hours added to our trip home.  This was the tiresome part of the day and we were all ready to get home.  However, this is all a part of the joys of traveling and using public transit.  It was worth it.  It was a great experience!

1 comment:

Barb Watson said...

how did you find the Pena National Palace in respect to taking the stroller through? How accessible is it? My daughter uses a wheelchair but I really don't want this to stop us from travelling together