Our last day in Lisbon, we daytripped to the “must-see” village of Sintra, where, against my wishes, I was forced to hike up an entire mountain wearing someone else’s flip flops.
We had read online that there were walking trails and castles. I pictured a remote, empty seaside town with sandy paths and old, abandoned ruins.
What we found, instead, was Portuguese Disney Land.
Throngs of people exited the train, grabbed tour maps,and spilled out into cobblestone streets lined on either side by cute boutiques, souvenir shops, and restaurants. Where no brick and mortar stores existed, vendors spread out their jewelry and artwork along the low stone walls bordering the sidewalks.
We stopped for lunch (and Super Bock mixed with Sprite), and then debated what we wanted to see. There were three castles: one was right in the heart of the commercial center, and the other two high up the mountain: The Palace de Pena and the Moorish Castle. Since the Moorish Castle looked like a boring fort and was approximately a million miles away, we chose the Cinderella-esque Palace de Pena.
We entered a “nature trail” that would take us to the park’s main ticketing station, but I swiftly realized that I was in major trouble as the path went up, up, up. I had already switched into AshCap’s spare flip-flops because my own cute sandals were rubbing my feet painfully. The other three had somehow known to wear sneakers, which, in my defense, I’d worn to the beach the day before when hiking was actually on the agenda.
Breathless, done, and with flops full of mulch, we reached the ticket stand. To enter the main park itself cost 7 Euro, so we figured we could skip the inside tour, wander the vast acreage, and walk the perimeter of the castle.
After another fifty miles uphill (I almost died, let me exaggerate!) we reached the palace. It was absolutely beautiful, painted in bright yellows, blues, and reds. Unfortunately the only part we were allowed to enter was the gift shop, where we finally got to take our “On a scale of one to jelly I don’t think you’re ready” picture. It’s an inside joke based on a song by Beyonce, and I’m sure people thought we were weirdos taking a photo with an assortment of gourmet jams. Whatever.
Felipe’s biggest “must-see” was the High Cross, a statue of ..yep, a cross, which sat at Earth’s closest proximity to the sun. The map was not giving me confidence that I would actually reach any of these destinations. Why didn’t they tell you this was intense mountaineering on the website?? Sheesh!
We walked a bit further, then a little more, still ascending. We rapped Eminem and danced to Hotline Bling, which actually helped generate energy. Felipe studied signs quizzically, and then, with the smile of someone who’s gotten their way, led us “just a little bit further” to the High Cross.
I meekly protested that I’d need my feet tomorrow, but I’d already come this far, so up we went.
The view was worth it.
The way back, though long, was mostly downhill. Five hours later (Yes. Exaggerating.) we made it back to the bustling village and plopped down for coffee and Pastel de Natas at the local Ale-Hop.
We rode back in companionable silence. I was pooped. Luckily our agenda for the night was pizza and wine at our AirBnB.