Friday, June 13, 2014

Travel Diary: Lisbon and Sintra

It's a mystery why Todd and I both woke up before dawn on our second day in Portugal. It would have been around midnight back home, and neither of us had slept well that night. But we decided to get up and take a hike to a nearby miradouro (overlook).

It was a Sunday morning and the streets were completely empty. We had the city to ourselves until we reached our destination, where another couple sat waiting for the sunrise; they'd obviously been up all night. We watched the color of the city change as the sun rose. On the way back, we stopped at a small cafe where a sleepy owner served us coffee and creamy pasteis de nata.

It was still early when we walked to the train station, bound for Sintra. About 30 minutes from Lisbon, Sintra is home to a Moorish castle, elaborate estates, and forests that feel right out of a fairy tale. When I was researching the area, I wondered if a place that looked so much like Disney would feel cheesy. But though there were plenty of tourists, it still felt both magical and authentic.

I'm not sure how many miles we walked, but my feet didn't recover for several days. When a man in the village told us it would take hours to walk to the castle, we took it as a challenge and discovered a quiet, quicker (and steep) way there. Rather than take a bus between two castles (above and below), we walked between them. And rather than hitch a ride down the mountain, we followed the overgrown path beside the centuries-old castle walls until we found our way back to the village.

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