Hello, hungry ones!
We’ve been here for almost a month and we are slowly but surely adapting to our new life here in Paço de Arcos. Two weekends ago, when the sun shone, we explored our new surroundings with the help of Google Maps (read: no tour guides, because we like our DIY trips). And the other weekend, we went to Porto with my high school mate, and the last weekend, we were with our besties Siz and Son but I digress, let’s talk about our first Sintra and Cascais experience.
Sintra and Cascais are part of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area along with 16 other municipalities. They are two historic towns that boast beautiful archaic architecture and very distinct surroundings: Sintra being up there in the mountains with all the forests and castles, and Cascais being a coastal town with the beaches and sand dunes.
According to Wikipedia, the Sintra-Cascais National Park is 145 km2 and since it is only 25 km from Lisbon, it is pretty popular to tourists. Well, it is definitely closer to us (vs Lisbon) and that’s one of the reasons why we chose to explore it. There are a lot of attractions that are located within the park:
· Azenhas do Mar
· Cabo da Roca
· Castle of the Moors
· Convent of the Capuchos (Sintra) (Convent of the Friars Minor Capuchin)
· Cresmina Dune
· Palace of Queluz
· Palace of Sintra
· Pena Palace
· Praia do Guincho (Guincho Beach)
· Monserrate Palace
· Quinta da Regaleira
· Ramalhão Palace
· Seteais Palace
We were quite keen on visiting the Cabo da Roca as it is continental Europe’s westernmost point. We planned our trip to go there and told ourselves that if there are any attractions we’re gonna pass by, we would stop. That attraction turned out to be Quinta da Regaleira. It’s a beautiful castle in a mountain forest (and it is full of tourists), but unfortunately, no dogs were allowed in the court. We did spot a Tivoli hotel there and it was open to the public, and we took Bo there. He loved it so much that we wanted to jump off a wall and into a labyrinth!
The drive to the castle (and Cabo da Roca) is wonderful. My childhood imaginations of castles, knights, magical forests and quaint towns suddenly became real. Despite the fact the we didn’t get into the castle, it was satisfying. It felt surreal walking around these places which I only once imagined. I don’t know if it’s the same for westerners walking around the Angkor Wat (for example) if their Tomb Raider imaginations became real to them as they strolled in the temples, but for me it was a joyful occasion. It’s like a part of my mind became alive, or at least affirm my ideas.
Going to Cabo da Roca, we passed by a town with a cute little market in its mini-plaza, situated amongst restaurants and a tiny bridge with ducks and fish underneath it. It felt as if I was in a Little Golden Book with my husband and dog. It was dreamlike to be in a storybook-perfect place with my family, with my reality. Surreal.
Anyway, I really needed the loo then, and also my husband wanted some coffee so we decided to park up near a cafe so I can do my business and order a coffee-to-go as Ash looked after Bo outside. Happy to report that the toilets were nice and the staff were friendly but they did seem to be puzzled when I told them that the coffee was to be taken away. The server even asked me if it’s okay to put the drink in plastic cups because they don’t have the usual paper cups. I said, yes, but felt bad as I felt like a weirdo! The Portuguese do not have that take-away coffee culture. They actually sit down (or stand up) and drink the brew, and maybe even read a book. They are so laidback it’s unbelievable (and enviable at the same time)!
It was a lovely, sunny drive full of “wows” and “aaaahs” going to the Cabo da Roca. Reaching it was also a “wowzers” experience as it was magnificent. I mean, we were on “Continental Europe’s westernmost point”! Weird as it was, one of my thoughts were, “We’re still in Asia, too! It’s Eurasia!” and felt another surreal, “OMG I am still connected to Asia,” realisation and suddenly felt really small and insignificant compared to this land that I was standing on. I traveled on it, stepped on it, spent money getting from Point A to Point B (as in countries), but it’s still this one massive piece of land, and here I am, celebrating, for getting on its westernmost point. It was humbling.
It was full of tourists there, though. Whatever personal, existentialist thing you feel will only last for about a minute as you’re reminded of the present: you’re in a crowd, and you are probably in the way of a family’s souvenir, for-posterity photo shoots.
Fortunately, my husband is a manly-man (gets things sorted and doesn’t eff about) and found us a nice, quiet and colourful patch of greenery by the side of a hill. OMG IT WAS JUST POSTCARD PERFECT. I can never get tired of that view:
We got hungry then and because the bread from Spain got moldy, we had strawberries and bananas for baon/lunch. How mindful lol but we are lucky we had those for a nibble.
We had to go back and head home for the afternoon then, and we went against the SatNav to go inland and went for the coastal road. We were in for a surprise! There was a fantastic beach with sand dunes on it and went there for more panoramic views. I mean, mira:
I really enjoyed this day trip. It was exhausting climbing hills and all that jazz, but it is also one of the most sublime experiences I had with nature that I remembered God (I’m not the best when it comes to religion but this brought me back to it). It really humbled me, and I think you will be too.