Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sintra Day Trip

On Sunday April 19, I met with We Hate Tourism Tours in Rossio Square in Lisbon to go on a day trip to Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca. Our guides Miguel and Tiago, split the groups into two. I was sorted into Miguel's group. We loaded into two vans and headed on our way. I was happy to find that most of the people in my van were travelling solo just like I was. I think Lisbon is a very easy solo destination and met several other solo travellers on my week there.

We drove from Lisbon to Sintra. The drive not taking very long at all. Our first stop was Queijadas da Sapa. A queijada is a little cheese sweet that are very delicious. I tried both the queijada and a travesseiro. Enjoying them both with a cup of coffee. Two desserts and a cup of coffee for only a few euros. I was sold.

After enjoying this delicious snack, we walked from the bakery to the centre of Sintra. We were given freedom to roam its streets. I wandered around, stopping in a shop to sample some more cherry liquor. This time from an edible chocolate shot glass.  Loading back into the vans, we headed through the winding roads towards Monserrat Palace. We stopped at a beautiful view point that was located at Hotel Tivoli Seteais. The view was amazing.

We travelled in style in our unsafety car and headed off to Monserrate, to visit its palace and gardens. The gardens won the European Garden Award in 2013 for best development of a historic park or garden.  Sintra itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The price for the park and palace is €8 and I find it well worth it. My new friends and I explored the gardens before heading up the grassy hill to the palace. I snapped away happily at all the beautiful flowers blooming in the garden.

The lovely hill we climbed to reach the palace which was built as a summer estate by Francis Cook in 1858.  The architecture inside the palace was beautiful, a perfect match for its gardens.

After exploring the palace and more of the gardens we jumped back into our van and headed off to a local market that was set up alongside the road. The fruit and vegetables looked amazing, I had to stop myself from throwing my euros around. In the end I walked away with chocolate salami, two different types of cheese, chorizo and a pastry with nuts in it. We had a lunch alongside a truck selling delicious breads with chorizo inside. This was all downed with several glasses of wine and enjoyed alongside olives.

Back into the van we went and our next stop was Cabo da Roca which is the most Western point of mainland Portugal and continental Europe. The weather was still amazing and we wandered around the cape, taking in the views of the coast, the ocean, the wildflowers and the other tourists milling about.

My new friends, Jewels and Matt. We had a fun day together exploring the gardens and palace as well as Cabo da Roca.

The chocolate salami from the market was enjoyed as we drove down the coast. It was a cookie made to look like salami. Very delicious, I wish I had purchased more.

We stopped at an amazing beach with a crashing surf. I would have loved to have been in my bathing suit, laying on the sand soaking up the rays for all of time for the view. It was only my second day in Portugal and I was falling in love. Our next stop was Cascais(CASH-KYS), which I forever struggled to pronounce. Cascais is a coastal town, an easy day trip by train from Lisbon for only a few euros.  It is one of the richest municipalities in Portugal and you can tell by how well maintained everything is.

We only had an hour to soak up the sunshine in the town but we left wanting to return. The beaches, boats and sea a wonderful mix. We boarded the unsafety vehicle one last time and headed back into Lisbon. Our guide Miguel stopped at Pastelaria Aloma in the Campo d'Ourique  neighbourhood where he hopped from the van and rushed inside to get us pastel de nata. The beautiful pastry was still hot from the oven and we all quieted to focus on our treat.

Dropping us by Largo de Camoes, we said goodbye to Miguel and the unsafety van. A few of us headed to the Mercado da Robeira to have a few beers and enjoy some tasty food.  We tried the Super Bock beer experience and pulled our own pints. I sampled delicious sushi from one of the many food vendors and we sat and chatted about our lives. Two Americans, One Canadian and One Australian.  I had to try Santini's gelato and I was not disappointed.

With my belly full and my heart happy, we all walked from the market and headed back to our respective homes in Lisbon. It had been an amazing day and I enjoyed every second of it. We Hate Tourism Tours did a wonderful job and I highly recommend them to anyone heading to Lisbon. They also have several tours in Lisbon, not just day trips. Of course these places are easy to get to by train or renting a car. Explore Lisbon and Portugal in your own way or choose a tour. You won't be disappointed.

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