Cascais & Sintra

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Tue 8 Jul 2008 08:50
After a week of enjoyable indolence in this pleasant fishing port we are getting the boat ready for the next part of the trip as we think the starter motor has reached Lisbon and could be fitted in the next couple of days.  I have to go back to London for a week, so Ian is heading off to Gibraltar either alone or with help if help can be found.  
We are very drawn to a magical town called Sintra in the mountains 20 km north of here.  It's at the top of the mountain range, built across a series of peaks separated by ravines, packed with oaks, pines and magnolias, and exotic species of trees which have been introduced and flourished such as giant tree ferns and palms.  At the top of the highest peak are the remains of a 9th Century Moorish castle, with flags flying from the battlements which make you think you are back in the Middle Ages.  The town was an escape from the heat and plagues of Lisbon summers and has a view down to Lisbon, the Tagus estuary and out to sea.  The Muslims built the castle and palaces which became monasteries and a hunting lodge for the royal family after the reconquest.  The buildings in Sintra were seriously damaged by the great earthquake of 1755 which destroyed Lisbon and they were gradually rebuilt in the Gothic Revival and Romantic styles of the 19th Century, so that driving in you are reminded of King Ludwig's castles in Bavaria, although the grandest palace, the Palacio Nacional da Pena, was begun in 1830, 30 years before King Ludwig's building spree.  The site of this Palace had been a monastery built where  Vasco da Gama's ship was first seen returning after its first voyage to India in 1499.   We were excited to come across Lawrence's Hotel where Byron and Hobhouse stayed on their Grand Tour in 1809 and which is decorated in an English style with small chintz-decorated sitting rooms and Lord Byron's portrait hanging in the dining room.
I will take up the blog again next week, meanwhile I hope our good Captain will keep you up to date.