Day 23 – Sintra #3 – Palácio Nacional da Pena and Castelo dos Mouros

Day 23 = Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hello from Sintra, Portugal! If you are just joining us, you may also want to read Sintra Part 1 and Sintra Part 2.

Discouraged by the time we wasted looking for Sintra’s apparently non-existent Modern Art Museum, we raced up to the Palácio Nacional da Pena on a hillside overlooking the town. This place is amazing. It was built from 1842-1854 by Ferdinand II (who was a cousin of Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert), who had married the Portuguese queen Maria II. He built upon the ruins of a monastery and chapel that dated to around 1500 AD, and he included vault arches and Islamic elements in the design. The resulting façade is a fabulous mix of colors and styles.


We hiked up a big hill through lovely lakes and gardens (with a very frustrated Miss Quinland, who was not thrilled about the hike when there was a closer parking lot) until we reached the colorful castle. We braved the windswept terrace, climbed the walls, and poked about to get the best views for our photos. Everyone’s favorite room was the Queen’s bedroom, but we were not allowed to take photos in the interior of this castle. So sad! The biggest hall is currently being restored; it was cool to see the workers sitting right there, working on cleaning and repairing the furniture.

From Palácio da Pena, it was a mostly-downhill hike to the Castelo dos Mouros (that’s an especially good one: Castel-oo doosh More-oosh). David and I had been here before, back in 1994, but I didn’t remember it well.

The castle – in true Portuguese style – had no safety rails or railings anywhere, and you were warned to climb around at your own risk.

D and Q made it up into one tower, then sent me up higher to get more photos. Okay, I volunteered. I love that stuff. The only time I felt a bit queasy was when I had to descend a stone staircase with uneven treads, no railing, and a switchback in the middle, all while carrying the big camera in one hand. I am not ashamed to say I sat right down on that one for a while.

See the switchback? See the fall from a great height if you don’t negotiate the switchback properly? Yikes!

When I got down off the walls, David used his long legs to go get the car while Q and I hiked back to the road.

Stay tuned for even more Sintra goodness! Heck, we should have stayed in Sintra for three weeks!

Carnival madness

Carnival At Speed
Photo by StuSeeger

I am the best mom ever.

I know this because Quinland and David told me so.

What made me the best mom ever? I took Quinland to the carnival down the street here in Hannover, and I went on the rides with her.

Not any rides, mind you – I went on a ride that strapped you in and then spun you around. While spinning you around, it went back and forth like a pendulum. Ultimately, it went upside down – over and over and over again. Each time, it would hold you at the top, upside down and spinning.

Now, here’s the thing: I like scary rides. I always have. But this one was just way too much of a good thing. The dang ride went on and on and on. After the novelty and excitement wore off, it was like, “Come on… again? This is just trying to make us sick!”

It did stop, finally, and I survived. Of course, then I did something extremely foolish. (Some would call this a second foolish thing.)

I went on the swings.

I love the swings. But going on the swings directly after that Screaming Eagle-style ride was a bit much. I got seriously dizzy and my head started to pound like crazy.

When we got off, Q got a slushie, which she graciously offered to share with me.

Yeah, you can tell where this is going: BRAIN FREEZE.

After this trifecta of brain joy (and a good 15 minutes of sitting down), I decided not to go on any more rides. We gave the rest of our tickets away to a very surprised young couple and watched them happily go on the swings.

It was all worth it. Quinland was thrilled by the carnival and repeatedly told me so.

(I also developed some pretty good street cred by being the only old lady on the craziest ride. That’s always fun.)

Daily/Weekly Check-In:

  • I’m grateful! for having had the chance to spend a week with our good friends Mitch, Nicole, and Maude. I love those guys.
  • I’m lighter! I sent home a bag of stuff with Nicole and trashed some stuff as well. We also acquired a scooter, a hair dryer (thank goodness) and some FC Bayern dice, so we may be at a net of zero.

Day 23 – Sintra #2 – Toy Museum and around Sintra

Day 23 = Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We are still in Sintra! If you missed the first installment, look here.

After a break for some sandwiches, we headed one block over to the Toy Museum. This was an unexpected treat. We began on the top floor, which was dedicated to dolls. David and Quinland were quickly creeped out, but I loved it. They had everything from antique dolls with china heads and cloth bodies (which I will admit do have a creepy, staring look about them) to Shirley Temple dolls, to modern designer-clothed Barbies. I especially liked the dollhouses and the miniature kitchens. That section included a hospital for toys which reminded us of the guy who repairs Woody in Toy Story 2.

After getting my fill of dolls, I walked down a flight to find David completely engrossed in looking at toy soldiers. Nazi toy soldiers, to be exact, the existence of which neither of us had ever thought of before. Talk about creepy!

There was an amazing collection of Star Wars action figures (Remember the brown cloth robe for Obi-Wan Kenobi? It was tough to get his arms into that thing…) as well as Playmobil, some original Lego sets, old board games, and toy cars. I definitely lingered more than D or Q, trying to read the Portuguese descriptions on each case.

After the Toy Museum, we walked into the “new” section of Sintra in search of the Modern Art Museum which was supposed to be there, according to our guidebook.

We searched the streets and quizzed the locals, but no one had any idea of where we might find it. We did see a lovely collection of art along the way, however.


We’ve all been taking turns using the new fancy camera. I really need to read the manual so that I can use it in something other than “Auto” mode.

Stay tuned for even more Sintra, coming soon!