Early this morning, approximately 4 am, I, Ryan, got up to use the bathroom down the hall. At least I tried to get of the room to go down the hall for a while, but I was thwarted by the old school Portuguese door lock for about 10 minutes. The key is one of those classic long brass kind with the fancy end and big teeth on the business end. Looks really cool, works really terribly. Eventually, after doing the same thing for 10 minutes, I was free and able to walk down the squeaking old wooden hallway to the bathroom before going back to bed for a little while.
The night before we had packed all of our stuff up into our bags so that we could move into another room in the official hostel section of the hostel, as our room was booked. So after our little breakfast of bread and jam we walked over and told the current desk staff that we were here to check into our other room. Well after some confusion we learned that whomever had booked our previous private room no longer had a reservation and it was in fact still free. So we decided to just stay in our private room with the nice view of the plaza/praca. So we checked back in, to our room, picking up our keys from the little drawer we had left them in. Moral of the story, check to see if you’re room is available, BEFORE, going to bed and packing all your stuff up again.[singlepic id=791 w=320 h=240 float=left]
Following this little morning musical rooms we headed out to catch the train to Sintra. We did this by walking east into the Baixa and then North until we made it to Rossio train station. Once there we told the ticket guy where we were going and he gave us two of the green transit passes with our return tickets now on them. We had tried to get the transit passes the day before but given up as the machine was too complicated and the English wasn’t clear, but now we had some to help make the rest of transiting around Lisbon and area cheaper. They cost .50 € each and are good for a years time, or less if the little computer chip in them stops working.
Once on our train, which was fairly easy to find as there are signs everywhere telling you which train to go to, we sat down in the dark. That should have been a clue though. After a few minutes of us sitting there along with another couple from somewhere else in Europe a Portuguese woman came in and told us something in Portuguese that essentially translated to you can’t sit here, move. So we all got up and moved farther up the train to sections that actually had the lights on. In hindsight, it was probably a separate train parked right beside the dark one so it all kind of looked like one long train. Finally seated in a proper seat our trip through Lisbon and some surrounding area to Sintra began. The view was all right, nothing overly spectacular. It looked the same as most train rides around cities in the world, lots of walls, lots of graffiti, periodic views of the city around. It was nice to see a bit of the difference between the old tourist area and the more modern suburbs and the more run-down, low cost suburbs. Overall the city still looks rather nice compared to places like Africa.[singlepic id=789 w=320 h=240 float=right]
We chatted briefly on our train with an old couple from the USA. They had apparently come over from New York on a cruise that takes two weeks so you can adjust slowly to the time zone changes. Aside from the whole cruise part, the slow adjustment sounds nice, particularly since I’m waking up at 4 am and fighting to stay awake at 3 in the afternoon. Apparently when you are retired you have 5 weeks to spend traveling by cruise ship and touring around your destination 🙂
[singlepic id=790 w=320 h=240 float=left]I had done some research about Sintra before coming and knew it was going to be pretty fun to see, and that it was built on a hill or three and that I couldn’t walk my pregnant wife up to the castle and palace and still have her happy to walk around them when we got there. Luckily there is a bus that seems to be designed just for this. For 5 € each you can buy a hop on and hop off pass for this bus going in one direction from the train station, to the Village of Sintra, then to the Moorish Castle, and then to the Palace of Pena, and then back to the Village, and finally back to the train station. You have to get off at the point, so DO NOT think you can ride it around in a one way circle forever. They empty the bus and punch your ticket so you would need to by another one to go again.
[singlepic id=793 w=320 h=240 float=left]We got on the bus at the train station and it took us the 1 km into the village of Sintra. It is your token set up for tourism little village, at least on the main drag and few streets around it. If you were to walk down, or up, for a while you would start to hit people’s homes and start not finding as many souvenir shops and cafes/restaurants. We were hungry once we got there so we immediately headed down a side street away from the crowds and around a corner into a cafe called “A Pendoa”. It was this little run place by a couple of middle aged (whatever that means) women. The cafe was nice enough, a bit cold inside due to weather and stone and air conditioning, and it also seemed to double as a shop as the walls were lined with sweaters and souvenir type things. We ordered some soup (sopa) each which we had quickly discovered was the affordable choice, and a rather common choice for everyone, for lunch. We also split a chicken steak. If you are unfamiliar with this it is essentially a chicken breast that has been smashed and squashed until it is much wider but pretty thin. Usually has a flavour of oil it was cooked in and if you’re lucky some salt or pepper, but unlikely. Ours came with a few strands of chopped onion, a couple tomatoe slices and a plate of fries (This would turn out to be the most veggies we got with a tipico dish). We are now discovering what tipico (typical) Portuguese food is and it sadly leaves a lot to be desired. This itty bitty meal still cost us over 12 Euros, and we had no drinks as we are smart enough to be carrying tap water in bottles with us everywhere.[singlepic id=794 w=320 h=240 float=right]
There was a little tv up in the corner that the ladies were watching quite intently. First it was some sort of talk show with a dance troupe doing what seemed to be hip hop, but not really. It was rather hokey but they seemed quite into on camera. After that was a news broadcast that involved a lot of horses and tractors moving down a country road in what appeared to us to be some sort of parade? We asked our cafe ladies and they told us that it was a festival in the farming region.
[singlepic id=795 w=320 h=240 float=left]Lunch over and paid for we headed back up a little into the village proper to walk around the shops a bit and see what was there. It was a very, very cliché tourist shop area. Comparable to going through downtown Banff, Granville Island, Fort Langley, Disneyland shops, but much closer together in old stone buildings and shops. We walked into a few shops but there was just too many people everywhere to make anything enjoyable. We decided to walk up hill a bit and follow a road to see where it lead and it just so happen to lead to a miradouro (viewpoint). So we stopped there temporarily and took some photos. Then I handed Lindsay my camera backpack and walked into a super tiny shop so I could try some Ginja in a chocolate cup for 1 €. Ginja is a cherry flavoured liqueur. Quite tasty and does not taste like cough syrup like all the other “cherry” flavours of the world.
[singlepic id=796 w=320 h=240 float=left]At about this time we figured the bus might be coming soon so we headed over to the bus stop we had been dropped off at and waited a few minutes for the bus to come by. Not too long later, and after a bit of close by wandering to take photos of doors and such, we got back on the bus. Then the interesting drive up the hill (mountain to some) began. The roads were obviously designed for a horse and carriage, so a city sized bus is a very tight fit. Kudos to the bus driver who manages to squeeze past old stone walls with out running into neighbouring houses or trees, or off the side of the road itself. At one point as you’re leaving the village the bus drives straight towards a wall and then stops, backs up and does a 3 point turn in order to get around the corner. It’s a one way road and there is barely enough room for the bus. Fun ride, nice views and then before you know it you’re up at the ticket booth and entrance to the Moorish Castle.
Check out the next post for details about the Moorish Castle and the Palace of Pena, two really fun and interesting places. These are must do attractions if you’re in the area.
– Faas-Track Travel