Sintra is located 30 kilometers from the bustling city of Lisbon. Known for many romantic moments of architecture from the 19th century it is also home to several of Portugal's Royal palaces and was dedicated as a World Heritage City by UNESCO for the very reason.
Visiting Sintra and the colorful hill top palace of Pena National Palace has become a very popular day trip out of Lisbon.
My circumstances in coming to Portugal couldn’t have been more out of the blue. But in any case, I had made it to this amazing land of wine, beauty and cuisine. I had heard many things about Portugal and within moments of arrival was convinced this would be one of the best trips of my life. After a week in the islands of the Azores and Madeira I had made it to the mainland. After the emptiness of the tiny Atlantic Islands stepping into the hustle and bustle of Porto’s main train station was quite the change in scene. Porto however would have to wait because my journey was taking me farther West to the land of vineyards.
No trip to Portugal would be complete without a trip on the Douro to visit some of the worlds’ most famous makers of port and Portuguese wine. The Portuguese have been making wine and port for hundreds of years. In the 14th and 15th centuries the English contracted with the Portuguese to produce and ship them wines. As Port and Madeira wine were what the English noblemen drank during their business dealings. This partnership changed the way Portugal was developed and shaped its history and future.
After a week in the far reaches of Portugal’s islands and two days tracing our ancient human roots near the border of Spain. I was excited for my last stop in the amazing city of Lisbon. I had heard many great things about this ancient, coastal, capital city. I just hoped that I could muster enough energy to experience it all during my short 36 hour stay.
I arrived via the train from Porto. After a week spent bouncing from Madeira island to the Azores to the Douro and Coa Valley. Porto had amazed me with it’s perfectly preserved buildings from the 1500’s, amazing churches and one of the most beautiful train stations I had seen anywhere filled with Azulejo tile showing the history of Portugal’s past.
I knew Lisbon would be more of a metropolitan city as it had sustained a devastating earthquake that leveled it to the ground in 1755. After that the city had been completely rebuilt.
With nine islands to choose from an eco -adventure in the Azores will mean island hopping between volcanic paradises. Just some of the amazing activities include hiking Portugal’s tallest peak, walking the rim of a giant ancient caldera, or discovering hidden hot springs and ancient volcanic lakes. You might exhaust yourself walking and chasing the endless herds of cattle but don’t fret you might just stumble upon a place where a waterfall of hot water meets the roaring waters of the Atlantic.
Then you can indulge in an amazing locally sourced dinner of sausages, octopus or fish. A glass of locally made wine and a star filled sky to soothe away your sore feet will be next.
It won’t be hard to slow down when visiting the islands of the Azores. Where a typical traffic jam is caused by the neighborhood cows and your only hurry will be in getting changed to jump into a hot spring.
In 1419 ships on a mission for Henry the Navigator hit the coastline of Madeira. Located just 250 miles from the coast of Africa and the Canary Islands this 286sq mile Island is one of Europes' best kept secrets. Known for Madeira wine, gastronomy, history, culture and some amazing old growth forests. I was excited to delve into this mountainous and culture rich island.
I left Los Angeles bound for Portugal. Stopping in Berlin and Lisbon I was finally on a TAP Portugal flight bound for Madeira Island. After traveling for more than 20 hours I arrived into the city of Funchal. Madeira Island is a unique place and a great escape from the bustling cities of Europe. With high mountains, interesting history and amazing coastline its warm year-round temperatures will welcome you any time of year.
I arrived around 8pm and headed straight for the rental car lot; Even in the dark I could tell that the island was beautiful. Departing the rental car lot, I headed East out of the airport to the tip of the island. The road takes you through tunnels that seem to stretch under the hills of the whole island. It took about 20 minutes to reach my hotel for the first night, Quinta do Lorde.
This open air resort and marina has won many awards including being named Portugal's Leading Green Hotel. My large room with spacious bathroom and patio overlooked the ocean and the warm air off the ocean was a welcome feeling after such a long day. I stopped by the restaurant for a buffet dinner before walking the grounds. The resort is tucked into its own corner of the ocean, with lighthouse, jetty, marina and several restaurants. One of the 4 pools has an infinity edge right into the ocean and was built into the surroundings seamlessly. It was strikingly beautiful and has everything I might have needed. A private beach tops it off. It is certainly a great place for a family vacation with sailing, scuba diving, a kayaking center, small grocery store and free parking all on site. I settled in for the evening and tried to come up with a game plan for my first day in Madeira.