MOSAICS AND MONUMENTS TO THE MIRACULOUS 


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Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

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The streets are narrow and wind up the hilltop, decorated with bright streamers and other adornments that mimic children’s’ birthday decorations. The little leathered Portuguese locals stand outside their tiny business doors; their lolling posture and gentle stares implying an eternal wait. 

The old #28 tram somehow winds through these streets, hauling loads of tourists packed liked sardines. Which is quite fitting, seeing that grilled sardines are a local staple. Despite the guidebooks’ claims that locals still mainly use the line, one only sees pale arms hanging out of the windows snapping pictures. This is the main reason I refuse to take the train until the following day and, by the time I finally concede, I board the tram like a dehydrated golden-retriever on the final leg to the Basilica Estrela


I wander uphill to Igreja Graca to get a virgin’s orientation of the city. It is vast; with the a spectacular view of the impossing Castello de Sao George perched high over the stacked orange roofs. However humorously unoriginal, the Ponte 25 de Abril is a powerful sight from afar and seems to give the towering Cristo Rei a red carpet entrance.

In an attempt to climb the Castello de Sao Jorge for ‘the best view’, I end up wandering around the little streets surrounding it for over a half-an hour, before finally reaching the entrance to be completely over the undertaking. I would argue that we got a better view from the Igreja for free. 

Walking through the streets, with sand between my toes due to quick spur-of-the-moment trip to Cascais, the possibilities are exhilarating and beautifully overwhelming at times. The little cobblestone streets are enchanting, especially upon the descent to Ria da Liberdad. It is an unexpectedly scenic road, considering it is one of the main thoroughfares jutting through town into the drugpusher’s den aka Praca Pedro. The street has a tree-lined ped-pathway with shaded benches near a multitude of ponds. As usual, I subconsciously decide on a mission without being completely informed (this is also due to stubborn unwillingness to read a map instead of simply looking at a map) and walk to Parque Eduardo VII. The Marques de Pombal is a sweet site but the park’s fountains are graffiti-ridden and one is even tagged joker-style with red mocking lips. 

After the tram ride from Alfama (on which the train got stuck due to lack of uphill speed and had to descend to reattempt incline a second time), I got a taste of the Portuguese gardens while lying in Jardin da Estrella under a willow-tree enjoying some vinho verde before taking a peek inside the Basilica da Estrella.  Warning: Do not get apprehended when you enter the Basilica by the old nuns. They’ll take you behind a tomb to the church’s tourist trap: pay .50 to light up a paper-mache crib of 500 bobble-headed figures.

If you go, you simply must:


Bars, Music, Nightlife:
The Old Pharmacy
PAVILHÃO CHINÊS
Docas- Drink the Sangria
PÁGINAS TANTAS
Tasca do Chico – Bairro Alto- Fado
Sip on capirhinas & ginginha (only from hole-in-the-wall joints)
Elevator de Gloria

Skip: 
Nacional de Arte Antiga, rather disappointing venture and consisted of gory art that is full of blood-spewing decapitated heads. 
the Castello de Sao Jorge
Basilica da Estrella

Sidetrips
Belem
Confeitaria de Belem- eat the pastries 
Jeronimos
Discovery Monument
Pracado Imperio
Muse Collecciao Berrado- Design

Sintra:
Pena National Palace- Visit in the late afternoon and have a drink of wine before closing, and get a chance to feel what it means to be in the clouds…

Cascais:

Craving a beach? This is just a short ride away. It was beautiful, but inquire with locals to find the hidden spots. Bring a towel and buy some fruit from a street vendor and relax by the sea.

Lodging:
Lisbon is known for quality Hostels, they are abundant. 
Where I stayed: Tavira Youth Hostel, safe & clean with community dinners



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