We didn’t have nearly enough time in Sintra, a town described to us as a “fairy tale”. After parking in a tiny lot and underestimating the walk to our hotel (steep hills…very steep), we only had a few hours of daytime left to explore. We set off for Palacio da Pena which required a 30-minute bus ride followed by a short but steep walk uphill. The neon-bright colors of the palace emerge instantaneously from thick sections of misty-looking trees, soothing any fatigue from the climb. It was striking and dramatic.
We spent a couple of hours wandering the palace grounds. You can walk along quiet sections of castle wall, in and out of rooms covered in carved wood and full of ornate furniture. Each room felt like a tiny, curated house. From the courtyards you realize how high up on the hill the castle is, when everything including the trees are far below.
Sintra has a fair number of beautiful sites, including ancient ruins, which sadly we didn’t have time to see. It’s important to mention that these sites are fairly spread out, and busses are not always quick. We regretted the lackadaisical drive from Porto that morning that robbed us of some much-needed hours, but here we are. It was still a soothing, serene little town to finish out our trip.
Our hotel room at Sintra 1012 was spread out over an entire half a floor – I can’t say how we snagged it, with our chronic hotel-booking procrastination (think, 2 days before our flight). The floors were a cool stone tile and a small balcony looked out over neighboring houses. It was walkable to quite a few restaurants (mind the cobblestones), which made our trek to dinner low stress.
At night the streets here become empty and mysterious, much like Obidos. A haunted feeling. Roads wind around in snake-like patterns, leading into narrower and narrower passages. Neighbors’ dogs roam around freely, stopping to look at you inquisitively from your heavy open window, in a place where screens are unheard of. There are stars out tonight for the very first time on our trip. A hazy patch of clouds shifts through them, pierced through like headlights. A dog runs up and down the cobblestone steps on our back street before falling asleep on a stoop. A few stray late-night diners wander home, but it’s mostly quiet.
Travel is so instant these days. I can be here and my mind is already back at home. It seems to race ahead of me and right towards what is coming next. But in this moment, I’m holding onto little things. The sleeping dog. The old steps. The cold railing. My body is still here, now, so far from home. I’m lingering physically in that beautiful away.
In writing this at a delay, I can say with honesty that I still remember this moment. I remember the cold of the balcony railing, the shadows draping over the old stone steps a few feet below. It’s always inside me now. I’ve imprinted it.