10.04.2017 - 10.04.2017
We took a 45 minute train from Rossio Station to Sintra. Once again, we encountered confusing signage in the train station. The lack of clear signage is something Portugal must have shared with Brazil when it ruled it. Sintra is a small town located in the hills outside of Lisbon. The royal family used to vacation here, so there are multiple palaces and castles to tour.
When we arrived, we saw a huge line for the bus to the top of the steep hill where the Pena Palace and Castles of the Moors are located. Since all of cab rides prior to Sintra had been cheaper than Uber rides in Houston, we opted for a taxi instead of the bus. It took about 20 minutes to wind up the narrow one way roads and only cost 13 euros. Once you get to the entrance of the Pena Palace, you have about a 10 minute hike up the hill to the actual Palace. The area is well shaded, and the views from the top are nice. Pena Palace was formerly a monastery converted into a palace and last occupied in the early 1900s. The exterior is brightly painted and covered in colorful tiles. The inside is unimpressive, especially after a 20 minute wait to get in and then having the slowest moving crowds inside.
We then walked five minutes from Pena Palace to the Castle of the Moors which was the old fortress guarding the area way back when the Moors occupied the area. The Castle of the Moors was less crowded, and it offered even better views. I recommend skipping Pena Palace and just admiring it from afar. Also, tuk tuks are everywhere here. It reminds me of India, but a lot safer since the drivers somewhat obey traffic signs (not completely but somewhat) and the tuk tuks are equipped with seat belts. We recommend taking a tuk tuk up and down the hill to the Castle of the Moors as it is the quickest form of transportation since the tuk tuks can weave in and out of traffic. It cost us 10 euros on the way down, and our driver pointed out Yoko Ono and John Lennon's old house in Sintra.
We ate lunch at Cafe Saudade which reminded me of Sweet Eugene's in College Station. It was a cozy little house with various rooms of seating. The Portuguese are big fans of smoked salmon and beers which happen to be two of my favorite foods, and Café Saudade had a delicious beer and smoked salmon sandwich.
For Marshall's birthday, he gave him two tickets to the Lisbon Oceanarium. After Sintra, we took a 45 minute train to the Oriente Station next to the oceanarium to figure out what the heck an oceanarium is. Answer: it is an aquarium set on a platform in the ocean. Ocean + Aquarium = Oceanarium (at least that's what I conclude). It is the largest European aquarium, and it was pretty cool. I found Nemo and Dory, so I was amused for the hour we visited.
We ended the day eating our best meal yet at Sacramento. I tried the bacalhau (cod) finally, and I loved it!
Summary: if you go to Sintra, skip the Pena Palace and visit less popular estates and palaces there. There are a handful to choose from. Also, take a tuk tuk around Sintra to avoid traffic and to feel like you are in Southeast Asia.