My boss gave me an extra day off in addition to a Holiday week, what ever shall we do? It didnt take us anytime to decide we were going to take the 4 day weekend and get out of town but where? Well, we had a few places on the bucket list and Portugal just made the most sense. Away we went into our travel plans using our favorite go to air bnb and rented a car for 4 days. We called Cash's sitter and she was able to take care of him while we were gone.
We planned all of this in just three days and left on Friday evening to begin our adventures. This was Treys first time driving in Spain so he was looking forward to taking on the open road. We arrived at the rental car spot to pick up our car and walked right up to the counter. We have learned that you should always arrive earlier than planned because in Europe there is always a line at the rental car place. We gave or reservation number and the clerk asked us for a method of payment. I pulled out my travel card and she apologized and said it was declined. There was no way we had plenty of money in it but the card was declined anyways. After deliberation, hesitation, and running around the airport for a phone to try to figure out why our card was declining we went back with a new plan, use another card! After we waited another 45 minutes we were back at the counter and gave our Spanish Bank account card and it worked! Off we were with our keys in hand 2.5 hours later than we were supposed to leave.
The drive was nice, open road and darkness all around. We were free and having a good time. Trey bought a phone charger so that we could continue to charge our phones while in the car. We plugged it in and nothing. The charger didn't work! We were 1/4 through our trip and about to lose phone power. This combined with the fact we were late already was troubling. The trip was not off to a good start. We were still stressed from our time in the city, late, and soon wouldn't know where we were going. I wrote the directions to our house on a note card and turned off both phones to try to conserve battery.
We continued along, making good time but not good enough to make up for being late. Took one pit stop the entire trip and back on the road. We got into Portugal and turned on the phones and realize we don't have cell signal outside of Spain. It is 4:30 in the morning, we have no map, no cell phone, and everything is closed. We start using the notecards and the first exit Trey misses. We now are lost in Portugal. Trey sees an exit for a hospital and says they must be open so we start going there. I don't want to go to the hospital for directions but we are already in route. We get off the exit and finally get into a small part of town. There are cops everywhere with blue lights flashing and they direct us another way. Trey stops near them and tries to get his bearings. We don't speak Portuguese and are concerned about what is going on in the neighborhood. We decide to get back on the interstate and keep going. When Trey goes to get back on the road the cop stops him. Where are you going the cop asks in Portugese. Trey doesn't know and looks really confused. The cop then asks us if we speak Portugese. We tell him in Spanish we speak English and he goes and gets his colleague who does speak English. We talk back and forth about directions. Sintra we tell him and give him the address. Oh, you are a long ways away he says and keeps pointing back towards Lisbon. Finally Trey understands they are trying to get us back to Lisbon and again says the house is in Sintra. Ah! Says the police officer and he realizes he is giving us wrong directions. With happiness he says you are quite close. Go down the interstate for 10 kilometers, get off on this exit, do this and you are there. Whew! Away we go, now even later than before.
We are taking the directions from the cop and they are great. We keep going, of course miss the final street twice but finally get it. We start to pull into our neighborhood. The road continues to narrow and the houses look more like huts than homes. We are quite confused as to where we are. About that time lights come on to a car and someone gets out. Not sure what is going on we keep going. We then realize we have to turn around, do so, and the person in the car flags us down. The woman says, Chelsea! We made it! Our host was so accommodating. She waited on us three extra hours than she needed at 5:00 in the morning! She led us to our room, showed us what we needed to know about the house, gave us directions to the things to do around town and left, telling Trey to relax since he was quite pumped up from the day on her way out. Off to bed we go, sleep never felt so good!
We had made a tentative game plan before going to sleep and woke up refreshed around 11AM. Time seemed to slow so much. When we first woke up we felt like we had been sleeping all day. Our host had coffee, bread, butter, and juice for us in our place. We made our first breakfast, checked out the cool renovated garage we were staying in, and ate out in the yard underneath the walnut tree. As we got ready and were about to walk out the door to check out the beach we were amazed that only an hour had passed by.
We get to the beach and it is crowded. We keep the confidence up that we will find a parking spot and WOW there is one more spot in front of a five star hotel with over looking the ocean! We get out and smell the salt air. We walk to the ocean and get some great pictures of the rocky shoreline and breathtaking views. Once we are done taking the scenery in we start to look for somewhere to get a bite to eat. The hotel has a great lunch but is too expensive. We keep going and find a nice restaurant overlooking the water that is just the right price. We decide to share a bottle of Cava, a tradition in our travels we enjoy, and both get a fish lunch. The lunch time is almost over since it is around 4PM so we have the place to ourselves. We are overlooking a beach with a break and we talk about life, travel, Portugual, and plans looking at surfers riding waves while we sip on our Cava and enjoy our meal. Once we finish we head to the beach and put our feet in the sand. There is a girls boogie board competition going on so we watch that for a few minutes. The tide is coming in and there are more surfers getting into the water in their wetsuits. We watch the sunset, the birds play in the air, people and dog watch, and watch the surfers at a tranquil and quiet beach. On our way back up there is a kamikaze air plane pilot doing all sorts of crazy stunts in the air that we watch until we get tired of the craziness and get back in the car. What shall we do next? Well, we go up the mountain to the castle where there is a huge wall. We get there and they are about to close. We walk along the walls of the Castillo de Los Moros in the dark and looked out over Portugal's skyline. Beautiful! Having had enough for the day we loaded back in the car and down the mountain to get back to our accomidations. We were in the car and making our way back to the casa when, Road Block, the main road to our house was blocked off. We tried a few alternate routes and kept getting blocked. We were stuck. We decided to stop and get a glass of wine and figure things out. We found an Italian/Indian fusion restaurant that was busy and decided to give it a try. Our glass of wine turned into dinner. We were then full, GPS relocated, and finally back to the casa. A bottle of wine, time looking at pictures, talking about the day, and then bed!
Trey got up first and prepared our toast, butter, coffee and juice breakfast again while I slept for a few more minutes. Today we are going to the main reason we decided on Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, located up the mountain near Sintra's historical town square. We were told to get there early because it gets crowded quickly and our host sure was right. The mansion opened at 10AM and when we got into Sintra around 10:30 it was already bumper to bumper. Not so bad while we were flat but the road began to incline and narrow as we got into more traffic and closer to the destination. The parking lots were full and cars were zooming all over. Us in our manual car shifting up and down making our way up the mountain. We went all the way up to the mansion looking for a spot and nothing. Then we could go no further and had to turn around. It felt like we were on a one way road going up and now we had to face the traffic going back the other way. Trey relaxed and maneuvered through traffic, guard rails, sides of the mountain, and pedestrians until we got back to the fork. This time he took the other way and a car pulled out as we pulled up. Yes! We got a parking spot. Trey parallel parked our VW rental car like he owned that spot, put the parking brake on and took the key out of the ignition. Trey was now inducted into the driving in Portugal club. He learned then what to do and was fine in the narrow, steep inclines and curvy dirt roads the rest of the trip.
We got to the mansion and decided to take a break and get a coffee and pastry at the cafe. There we meet a new friend, a regal looking cat, get our route planned for the day, and take pictures of some amazing views from our table. We then leisurely walked through the expansive winding grounds going through labarynths, aqueducts, secret stairways, lookout towers, perfectly manicured lawns that look like they were out of a fairy tale, a greenhouse, and the mansion itself.
Once finished in the on the magical grounds we walked down to the center and had a nice lunch while listening to a man play his guitar and watch the locals and tourists blend while we took in the life. Looking at our watches it was still early. Time moved slowly for us and gave us the time we needed. We got home, enjoyed a bottle of wine and a home cooked meal on the propane stove, took time looking at pictures, talking about the day, and then bed!
Up again, breakfast ritual again, and today Palacio de la Pena. A Park and Palace located atop a mountain overlooking Sintra and Lisbon. We arrived around 11, pulled right up to a parking spot in front of the ticket office, collected our tickets and off we went. Up the mountain about a half mile was the Palace. It was beautiful and we took so many pictures because the entire place was breathtaking. We really enjoyed our day roaming the Palace and the grounds. We brought our own lunch and ate quinoa salad on a quite bench and relaxed before going back down. In Pena the royalty was very into time and they had sun dials, expensive clocks, and a sense of time. While here I wondered if they had figured something out in Portugal because again when we were done we still had hours before our next event, dinner. Thanks Portugal!
We have learned it is a really good idea to make reservations for dinner. In Europe they give you a great table and you walk right in. On this occasion the restaurant we chose from a limited selection ,since most restaurants close on Monday in Sintra, was giving 50% off. We weren't expecting them to honor it but they did. We sat in an old stone building eating exquisite meat and vegetables. A group of musicians with guitar, acordian, and singers serenaded us and we ate under candlelight. We took it all in and closed the place down, sipping our wine and talking into the night. Knowing tomorrow was our last day and we really didn't want to leave. Knowing once we got back into Spain the rush would begin again and we would be back to wondering how it was midnight again already when we felt like we just got up.
On our last day we cleaned the accommodations up as we do, stripped the bed, washed the dishes, wrote our wonderful host a note, and got back on the road. We had planned a trip to IKEA in Madrid to get our last bit of household items for our apartment in Madrid. Since we had the car we could take advantage and drop the stuff off at home on the way back to drop the car off. We weren't far out of Sintra when we see a sign for IKEA in Portugal. We went for it and made the trip to Portugal IKEA. We got our stuff and then back to Spain. Just as we expected time flew again, we were an hour late dropping our car off, and then it was late when we got home, unpacked, and crashed to bed. Tomorrow we wake up and back to the routine.
Portugal we thank you for the time, the pleasure, the wonderful weather, and the beauty. We hope to see you again someday!