On an Unplanned Journey

When we started our trip, Sintra (SEEN tra) wasn’t on our radar – not even a thought. While on a free walking tour in Barcelona, a couple from New Zealand highly recommended it for our stop in Lisbon.

The cruise ship had tours to Sintra, which several of our dinner-table mates took, but we love to explore on our own. Fortunately, we had American travel guru Rick Steves’ Lisbon book along, which included Sintra – so we followed his suggestions, thus saw sights our fabulous dinner friends didn’t – so this post is for them. (Can you believe I didn’t tell them on the cruise that I was a blogger? … but I have sent them an email about this post.)

Back in the day, the aristocracy loved to retreat to Sintra. The vegetation, hilltop views, the narrow-valley setting turned the area into a collection of palaces and mansions. Lord Byron described Sintra as “glorious Eden”.

It was a 20-minute walk from the ship to Rosario station, where we caught the train to Sintra (11 Euros round-trip for two). After the nice 40-minute ride to the end of the line, we searched for bus #434 that Rick told us to find (10 Euros for 2 on the entire loop) – so up the mountain we went to the first stop. Again, following Rick’s suggestion, we purchased the combo ticket in order to avoid the lines at the next stop – and it worked!

The Castle of the Moors is a Portuguese national treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Moors constructed the castle in the 8th century, and remained in control until the 12th century.

It’s location atop the Sintra mountain provides wonderful views in multiple directions, including the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. The town of Sintra is directly below (with the National Palace), plus one can see various palaces and mansions.

From this location, we could see our next stop sitting atop a nearby mountain – the Pena National Palace – another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Pena started as a chapel in the late 15th century, and eventually became a monastery. In the 19th century, Portuguese royalty expanded it into a palace of multiple designs and color.

The inside was predictably opulent.

… and we could easily see the Castle of the Moors.

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Before ending this post, here’s a quick tour of town. Sintra quaint with many shops. The National Palace (the coned towers) is from the 15th century , was active for 500 years, and is still used today for ceremonial occasions. That palace is in the center of town (see the views from the castle.) Can you spot the Castle of the Moors in a pic?

On My Wow Moment

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La Sagrada Familia, the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, is one of the many great landmarks in Barcelona. For me, it was a must see, so before leaving home, we purchased our timed advance tickets during the first full day after our arrival. I left the facility stunned and moved.

I’ve been to St. Peter’s (Vatican), St. Mark’s (Venice), Duomo (Florence), St. Patrick’s (NYC), Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, stunning churches in St. Petersburg, Russia, and many other wonderful churches – but to me, La Sagrada Familia is the most moving religious place I’ve ever visited.

Famed local architect Antonio Gaudi (Gow DEE) designed the project, and the first stone was laid on in 1882. Gaudi worked on La Sagrada until his death (1926), and he is fittingly buried in a crypt below it. Historical and political events impacted construction, which is ongoing with hopes of completing the project in 2026.

La Sagrada Familia hovers over the city and its surroundings, thus easily seen from most vantage points.The outside is both striking, gaudy, and odd – it even reminds me of the towers one makes at the beach by dripping wet cone as an inverted cone. Close examination displays a detailed story and incredible intricacy with the sun providing an interplay of light and shadows playing an integral role with different direct light and shadows throughout the day.

Inside is a different story, and that provided the moving experience. Gaudi had a deep faith, was a keen observer of nature, and a strong believer in using natural light. Instead of going on and on about the interior, I leave readers with these three quotes by Gaudi to help understand him – then enjoy the pictures.

There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.

Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic.

The amount of light should be just right, not too much, not too little, since having too much or too little light can both cause blindness.

NOTE: Here’s a past post that has two wonderful videos about La Sagrada Familia.

On a Visual Feast

I loved Barcelona … vibrant, charming, eclectic … so much to see … so much to do. We used our time well for the portion of 3 days we had there, yet I am confident we could spend another 3 days and see all new things – and still no museum time.

Barcelona is a continuous visual feast. The eyes never stop moving, thus always finding something that is striking to the eye.

No matter if in the Old City ….


… or in the portion of the city that grew during the late 1800s and early 1900s

… or in the unique forms of the Modernist architects of the early 1900s …

.. even in the more recent designs …

Barcelona is a visual feast. Although I loved the diversity of its architecture, its balconies continually captured my heart.

On a Walktober 2015

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Robin (Breezes at Dawn) celebrates October by proclaiming Walktober. Her posts typically feature her wonderful photos of nature, but Walktober invites others to lead a walk. I’ve participated the previous two years featuring a walk in my now-old neighborhood (2013) and a walk in my town (2014). I even turned other photos from my 2013 walk into another post featuring seeds from ornamental grasses.

Robin is a gracious host and a long-time visitor here, so Walktober has been on my mind, especially because I was out of the country during the first half of the month … but while on a tour, the setting for my Walktober became clear.

Welcome to Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex in Granada, Spain (southern Spain in the Andalusia region. Granada is 90-minute drive inland from the port of Malaga.)
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The Moors ruled most of Spain for over 700 years, and constructed Alhambra as a small fortress in 889. In the 13th century, a Moorish emir expanded the fortress into a walled town containing a palace. Towers looked over the city of Granada below.
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At its peak, over 2000 people lived within the walls. Moorish poets described it as “a pearl set in emeralds”. Although Napoleon’s forced leveled many of the homes, their foundations and passageways remain.
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Not only did Alhambra include a palace and homes, gardens filled with fountains brought peace to the complex.
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The Moors viewed water as precious, so they constructed various pools of water that was gathered by an elaborate water-collection system and stored in a reservoir.
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Overall craftsmanship (especially in the Moors’ palace) is impeccable as numerous designs catch one’s eyes – ornate stucco, scalloped designs, beautiful tiles, various colors, and more.

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After the conquest of Granada by the Catholic forces of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile (1492), Christians rulers used the Alhambra, and eventually built The Palace of Charles V with Alhambra’s walls (1527).
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Some consider Alhambra to be the greatest of the Moorish palaces in Europe. Today, Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions. Its website includes an interactive map, photo gallery, history, and more.

Thanks for walking along – and consider taking other walks.

Robin’s Walktober 2015 with pingbacks to other walks
My 2014 Walk
My 2013 Walk
My 2013 Seeds Walk

On Updating a Return

Hooray … I’m happy to say the motion reaction is done as this may have been the best step-down process I’ve had. We returned last Friday, therefore Sunday and Monday were the most critical days. By the time I posted, I was on the homestretch of recovery. Thanks again for all the best wishes.

Since returning from the trip, besides the medical issue, I’ve been keeping busy. Instead of immediately returning to my normal posting routine, I hope to ease into the flow with some posts about the trip. I’ve got one ready for tomorrow.

While driving to the grocery store yesterday, I was listening to the Coffeehouse station on Sirius-XM (Channel 14) … and this song (that I’ve never heard) caught my attention. It was perfect because I loved Barcelona! Please enjoy this song by George Ezra along with the images of a city that captured my heart in many ways. In time, maybe I’ll do my own video to this song.

Stop by tomorrow for my celebration of Walktober. Have a good weekend.