Palm Beach, Portugal - Sintra - April 19

Trip Start Apr 01, 2009
Trip End Jul 13, 2009

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Where I stayed
Travellers House

Flag of Portugal  , Estremadura,
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Today, I got a very late start to my day after a big night out in Barrio Alto! I headed to the train station, which is only a 5 minute walk from my hostel, for a quick 45 minute ride to Sintra. I arrived in Sintra around 2 PM to a beautiful day! When I got off the train, I decided to walk to the town rather than take the bus because of the lovely 75 degree weather! After a wonderful 30 minute stroll, I got to the center of town where I grabbed a quick bite to eat at one of the many outdoor cafes before heading out to explore the many castles that surround the area. I must admit that I did something that my bunkmate called a sin in Portugal, I ordered a hamburger! It was not good! Big mistake, but I really wanted a burger! Anyway, after a burger and cafe, I got a recommendation from the waiter on what to see before heading out. He recommended a castle roughly a 15 mintute walk away, so I headed out!

After cruising up a small hill, I came to one of the most stunning sites I have seen in Europe, the Palace of the Millions. I walked into the entrance and bumped into some girls who I met at my hostel. After entering the castle grounds, we quickly began to explore the mysterious gardens. We intially came across a beautiful pond, but after further exploration we noticed a grotto and went in to explore. It turns out that the garden is covered with a very intricate network of grottos, caves and wells. The best way to describe it is a sort of Willy Wonka garden for everyone! Luckily, someone at the hostel recommended that I bring along a flashlight because the caves go back hundreds of yards into the mountain and can put you out very far from where you initially entered! The castle gardens were so fun, we played around in them for almost 2 hours. The girls had to leave to catch a train and it was getting late, so I decided to head up to see the massive moorish castle as the sun was setting!

I thought about walking up to the castle, but thankfully the bus to the top passed me on the way up. It took the bus about 15 minutes to get to the top, so I'm very happy I made the decision to be lazy! The moorish castle is absolutely amazing and the view is worth a million bucks! When I entered the gates, I kept hearing a loud noise. When I began to climb the steps to get to the outer wall of the castle, I realized the noise was the flapping of flags in the wind. When I got to the top of the wall, I understood why the noise from the flag was so loud. The wind was blowing at roughly 30 mph; hard enough to make me hold onto the side of the wall when I was walking. The outer wall of the castle is massive and stretches for, in my estimate, almost a mile! Additionally, the castle is perched so high on the hill that you can see the Atlantic Ocean and the 25 of April Bridge, both of which are 30 km away! I spent almost 2 hours on the walls snapping photos and simply admiring the view. After getting my fill of some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen, I headed down the mountain to catch the train back to Lisbon.

I arrived back in Lisbon and headed out to dinner with Tim and Axel at a very good Indian restaurant. After dinner, I headed back to the hostel to pack my bags for my flight to Barcelona the next day,

As a side note, I had one of the most interesting and memorable conversations with my bunkmate Katarina Mikikova who is from southern Russia. She is from a part of Russia called Dagestan. The town she is from sits only 5 km from Chechnia and about 150 km from the country of Georgia, which she referred to as the 51st state of the United States. Katarina is getting her masters in Political Science at a school in Germany, so we mainly discussed American and Russian politics. I found it so interesting when she said to me, "aren't Americans supposed hate Russians because Russians do not like Americans." I told her I could not recall ever casually discussing a dislike for Russians nor could I recall ever hearing any American expressing a general dislike for Russians! I told her it that was Cold War era thinking! She seemed absolutely flabbergasted! I had my passport in my hand, so I asked Katarina if she had ever seen an American passport and she said with great excitement and curiosity, "oh, no, but I have always wanted too!" I handed her my passport, which she started flipping through with amazement and said, "is this your international passport or your country passport?" I told her we did not have to show a passport to move through different states in the United States. Again, I got such an incredible look of amazement, it is hard for me to describe. I then asked her if she had ever spoken to an American before and she said, "No, you are the first American I have ever spoken too!" Pretty cool!
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