Sintra: the unanimous jewel in the crown that is the Lisbon region. When you visit, like us you will take the train from the Estacion Rossio in downtown Lisbon—It’s really very easy. But unlike us, you will purchase your tickets ahead of time as not to miss train after train (They come every 20 minutes.) whilst waiting in a disorderly line that taunts your American need for order: Tourists and locals in a mob, pushing and cutting their way to the ticket counter. But no matter how you get your ticket, a short hour ride and you will be deposited in a fairy tale town so jam-packed with castles, palaces, and all sorts of fantastical structures that you might not believe what is in front of you. More on that later on. For now, we go a bit more off beat.
We arrived just before the lunch hour. While all the tourists went straight once off the train, we doubled back and took an abandoned side street and ended up at Restaurante Dom Pipas, luggage in tow. We were the only ones in the restaurant at the time, save two mature women and the company of the sports channel. We were placed by the window with ample room for our belongings before digging through our bag for our dictionary. The meal was impressive—octopus for him and quail for me.We devoured our meals though the guests next to us were far more accustomed to the routine—which cheese and olives to enjoy from the goodies tempting you on the table that are NOT free, what to offer off the menu, and when exactly port should be served. We’re learning. Once finished, we found our way to the bus depot to navigate to our home for the rest of the trip—Colares.
Our bus, the 403, arrived right on time. We paid on board (about 3 euros each) and I mentioned our stop to the driver and he responded to stay close so he could alert us when we arrived. Perfect. For twenty minutes or so we journeyed through the winding roads of the very green hillside. We passed tiny eateries in villages backed up against the mountains.
We were dropped off on the main road, not the view I expected from the pictures but I wasn’t concerned. With 30 minutes to spare, we headed into the town center for some supplies. The main supermarket, the Supermercado Atlantico had everything: a large selection of wine, olives, cheese, meat (The butchers are so wonderful), fruits and vegetables, and even a little café. A few doors down is an unassuming market called Pomarinho da Varezo with an even better selection of all but meat; go there! I love this little town already.
We turn back and start the climb up the back road to what we later hear referred to as Colares village. Ah ha! We pass abandoned mansions and fields of wildflowers before arriving at the church square and then our apartment building, which is right across from the spring residents fill jugs of water with. After a bit of confusion with accessing the building we find our way to the top floor and are greeted by the sweet Manuel.
The apartment is beautiful and we both agree if it could be ours we would make it so. It’s bright and open with irresistible views in every direction; I must have quintuples of every view from that place. We vow to keep moving so we don’t fall asleep, and I suggest a hike I found to a monastery in the cork forest.
While it may be as magical as it sounds, we never found it. A certain maps app (Google) led us astray and onto private land again and again, including a particularly interesting jaunt onto a grazing pasture for the area cows. The walk was delightful until we (I) veered off course, again and again. My patience was lost somewhere between the cars zooming past us on a busy road not meant for pedestrians and going a great distance out of our way only to be greeted with a large Private: Do not enter sign. Defeated, we headed back, one of us decidedly more dramatic than the other (Guess who?).
Once back in town, we dropped our belongings and headed into town for dinner supplies: wine, olives, sausage, potatoes; comfort food at its very finest. He napped, I wrote and snacked and then gathered dinner together. Despite the snafu in our adventure, we were so content at that moment: sitting at a table for two in a nook surrounded by windows eating dinner in a tiny Portuguese village. We are very fortunate.
Places to know:
Colares Food and Wine Markets:
Supermercado Atlantico & Talho do Mario (butcher):
Rua da Liberdade 124-126
Pomarinho da Varezo
Alameda Coronel Alinhares de Lima