Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I returned to Madrid last night after a weeks worth of traveling to Portugal, Scotland, and a 7 hour trip to the Guinness factory in Dublin--had to do it!
Lisbon, Portugal is an amazing city, situated right on the ocean, the majority of the city has tiled streets and awesome weather. We arrived in Lisbon on the 28th after a 1 hour flight from Madrid, and quickly checked into the Travelers House Hostel-- one of the 10 top rated hostels in all of Europe in 2008. The staff at the Travelers House was first class, and staying here was extremely pleasant. The night we arrived, we ate dinner at the hostel and headed out to the bar area of Lisbon called Bairro Alto. In Lisbon, you are permitted to drink on the street as long as it is out of a plastic cup, and this took the concept of bar hopping to a whole new level. The bar scene was split equally between the street and the inside of the bars, and this allowed for us to meet some cool locals.
The next morning, we woke up, ate a home cooked breakfast of eggs, toast, and cereal (all of which was included in our hostel stay of 16 Euro a night) and headed to the train station for a 40 min train ride to Sintra where the Palacio Pena, Castelo dos Mouros, and the Palacio National rests. It was absolutely amazing to find this small town of Sintra with three different castles/ palaces to explore. The Palacio National is located in the middle of the town, and although it was not as glamorous at the Palacio Pena, it was still extremely impressive. After visiting the Palacio National, we went on a 2 hour hike up the mountain to the Castle of Moors and the Palacio Pena. In hindsight, it would have been much smarter to simply take a bus to the top of the mountain, but the inner Dick Fike in me kicked it and my friends and I spent the next 2 hours walking along side the road in the pouring rain--the girls were not too happy with that decision. Anyways, once we reached the top, the Castle of Moors was the first area we explored, and was by far my favorite. The Castle of Moors was built between the 9th and 10th centuries out of stone, and at the top I could see the entire town of Sintra and all the way to the ocean. I cannot describe this place as anything other than mystical, and as I stood on top of the highest point of the castle, I was completely in awe of my surroundings. From the Moorish Castle, we walked a little further up the road and visited the Palacio Pena. The Palacio Pena was similar to the Palaces one might see in the movies. It was inspired by European Romanticism and everything inside the Palace is simply royal. Unfortuanately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the Palace, and the rain started to pour down once we got there so we did not spend as much time as we would have liked exploring this palace. After our long day in Sintra, we headed back on the train to Lisbon where a keg crawl with the hostel awaited!
The next morning, we woke up and decided to get on a tram to Belem-- a small town 30 min outside of Lisbon. In Belem, we went to the Jeronimos Monastery which was built in the 16th century, and contains the tomb of the famous explorer Vasco de Gama. The monastery was an extremely spititual place, and I felt like I could have sat down in there for hours. After walking around the monastery, we headed across the street to the Modern Art Museum, and then to the local pastery shop to try some of the famous Pasteles de Belem-- essentially mini cheesecake pasteries wrapped in filo dough and topped with powered sugar and cinnamon- I had about 3! While in Belem, we seemed to lose track of time, and had to rush back to the hostel, gather out belongings, and get to the airport before we missed our flight back to Madrid. Luckily we made it on time and arrived in Madrid at 11pm, where we slept for 5 hours, and boarded a flight the next morning to Scotland, which I will write about in my next post.