Saturday, 14 October 2017

Travel Diary: República Portuguesa- Portugal Part II

Day 3: Sintra
Take the train from Rossio Station for approx. €5
Pena National Palace

The famous, Disney-like, Pena Palace
Sintra- Home of the famously colourful Pena Palace, it is housed on the top of one of the famous National Parks. You can get a bus ticket that takes you all the way to the top of the mountain for approx 5 euros, and catch the view going up at the same time. The trek to the beautiful palace from the drop-off point is no cake, either, but the view, the air, and the architecture is incredibly worth the trip. 

The view from the top of the Palace
If you're afraid of heights, as I am, you might find some parts of the mountain a little daunting. One the day we went, the wind was incredibly strong and at some points I felt like I was going to be blown right off the palace walls. But the view! The clear skies! The picture backdrops! The municipality goes as far as the eye can see, and you can even catch glimpses of the ocean! 

Day 4: Azeitao and Lisbon

Azeitao is a well-kept secret outside Lisbon which houses most of the country's wineries. 

Main reception building of Portugal's oldest winery

Not a Tourist Trap: Jose Maria de Fonseca, Portugal's oldest winery. We took a taxi from central Lisbon, for approximately €40 (one way). The wine tour itself was booked in advance, and cost a mere €3- inclusive of a tour of the premises and a tasting; all led by a very detailed and well-informed guide. My favourite tip of the day was learning that there was a special cellar dedicated to all the wines the winery has ever produced (since the 1800s!) and whenever a foreign dignitary or VIP came to visit the premises, the door is unlocked to give the visitor a taste of a wine from their year of birth. 
We were treated to a selection of house wines in the warmly decorated gift shop

Portugal is internationally famous for its intricately designed tiles, and so we ended the day visiting the National Azulejo Museum back in Lisbon. 

Traditionally designed tiles-- similar ones can be seen all over the city
More modern/MC-Escher-type tile designs
My outfit colours happened to match with these tiles at the museum!

Day 5: Belem
Tram from Lisbon main square approx €2.75
On our last day, we visited a suburb not far from Lisbon to sample the world-famous Portuguese egg tarts and visit the national monuments in the area. We also rode the tram, and along with a tram full of tourists, learnt that sometimes in Lisbon, things get stuck in the tram tracks and there's nothing you can do about it except wait for a group of locals and tourists to work together to get it unstuck. 

View of the sea from the Tower 
We found ourselves at the Torre de Belém, a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the significance it played in the maritime adventures Portugal went on from the 15th to 18th century. While the queue to get in is long, the view and the historical significance of the site is worth it. Its also worth mentioning that there are a lot of narrow steps and, once again, high locations, so if you're afraid of heights and narrow spaces, you might want to be mentally prepared for this one!
Tower of Belem from afar
Afternoon tea idea- Pastéis de Belém . No trip to Portugal would be complete without the famous Portuguese "nata." I will admit that I personally felt these were a bit to sweet for my taste, but I seem to be in a very small minority. But the popularity and international recognition for these pastries is undeniable- You will have to be prepared to fight through a horde of tourists and seasoned locals to get to these delights.

Pastry shop exterior
Dinner idea- Restaurante Tavares! Here's one for the foodies- enjoy a decadent evening in one of Portugal's oldest restaurants. Savour European style cuisine along with heavy gold decor and a glass of Portugal's famous vinho verde. Let the flavours and food dance along your tongue while you enjoy personalised and dedicated service. Its a true treat, and it was a memorable way to end our trip.

The interior of Restaurant Tavares
We made our way to our 7 o'clock reservation and were greeted by our friendly Portuguese hosts in a beautifully lit and grand dining room.
Cork-bound menu presented by Tavares
Aside from sweet pastries, Portugal is famous of its cork production. Tavares continues that legacy by binding its menu in cork, with the restaurant symbol printed onto the cover. 

Food at Tavares 

Moscatel on the house

Pictures are from a shared photo album

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