Wednesday, January 12, 2011

leaving gold

(from Evora, Portugal)

Anyone worth their travel beans is going to make it to Sintra on their trip to Portugal. Though one Evora native claimed there are 59 monuments to see in his town (and it will remain our favorite place to visit here, I’m sure), Sintra really brings in tourism. It may not be the sheer number of sights, but certainly it has the WOW factor.

Still, it’s kind of sad (for me) to leave Evora. If ever there was a lovely place to stay – one where you have it all down solid: where the good treats and foods are, what the sights are like, how to spend one hour at a car rental place waiting for the forms to be completed and really grow to like the experience, how to fill up with a breakfast that will keep you going all day long, where to pick up the hot roasted chestnuts when the craving hits – Evora is it.

I feel almost as if we are leaving family when we say goodbye to the manager – the same guy who had stayed up late into the night chatting Ed up as to why their Internet seemed to hiccup for the past two weeks.

We have our breakfast...


...and our final walk past the great monuments of Evora – Roman temples and walls, ancient cathedrals, a beautiful university and as I later look at my photos, it strikes me that there is so much yellow in each one – as if truly everything we did there was golden.

So, our last walk through Evora (remember, accent on the E and don’t rest too long on the A).



DSC05618 - Version 2


DSC05634 - Version 2


Then, a brief time out on the patio of our Albergaria (all those lovely yellow windows)...

DSC05636 - Version 2



... and we’re off, chugging our bags over to the bus terminal... (past one last good look at the Roman Aqueduct...)


... for the ride back to Lisbon, where we make our way to the train station, to catch the commuter line to Sintra.

(from Sintra, Portugal)

The train from Lisbon to Sintra is packed. Ed and I have this habit of running to get on trains that are about to depart and this is not the first time that one or the other gets wedged in a closing door. I feel the eyes of the commuters are on us as we find a spot to rest our bags for the 45 minute ride.

By the time we reach the final stop – Sintra – we are the only ones left in the car.

We get off and look around.


Sintra wraps itself around deeply forested hills. It feels wet – as if we’re in a rainforest. It feels hidden, too. There is the section by the rail and there are streets, cobbled and narrow, heading up mountains and somewhere there is a center, but we’ve not seen it yet.


Why do I keep thinking that the Sintra is sinister-a?

I talk to the agent at the tourist booth. She’s grumpy and I’m thinking their pay must be horrid because of the three tourist information agents I’ve spoken to in Portugal (the other two – in Lisbon and Evora), two have been very very grumpy. I ask for some literature but, surrounded that she is by pamphlets and such, she tells me she only has one map. I already have that map. She has no further wisdoms to offer and so we move on.

Our small guest house is up the hill and it is one steep climb. My little carry-on has protested all along the ramble through Portugal’s cobbled surfaces and I am wondering if it’ll stand up to the challenge here.

Finally, half an hour later, we are at the Casa Miradouro. I can tell that it is the type of place that will make Ed sulk, because it is beautifully ordered and prim and it puts me in the frame of wanting to reign him in – watch that carpet, don’t crumple the paper... until he retreats to bed with his computer, where he can do no harm.

But the views! If ever there was a room with views, this is it. We have the large balcony room – the one with windows on three sides, looking over the castle, the mansion, the mountains, and seemingly all of Portugal.


(to the east)

We ask our hostess about dinner and she sends us down the hill, by the Town Hall to a place that is a Tea House or a Restaurant or both (A Raposa), in any case, it is the lowest of low seasons and so we are the only patrons and the food selection is limited to three dishes. The cook explains this to us and she speaks quite good English. The waitstaff person (who, it turns out, is also the owner and a tennis champ) speaks Portuguese and Spanish and actually this does not exhaust our potential for communication because it appears that the cook was born and raised in Poland.


A Brazilian restaurateur and a Polish cook. Friends for years (they both lived in Brazil). She’s here with a husband and three daughters and she has the usual love/hate for Poland. (The restaurateur is here with a girlfriend, and he has a love for red wine and young women and a hate for wives, having sampled too many in the past.) Rarely have I met an expat from my homeland whose language (and I mean that in the broadest terms) I understood so completely. (I’m sure Ed found equal rapport with the restaurateur on the subject of the novia.)

The food? Oh, it is excellent. The cook has professional credentials – a former student of the French Culinary Institute in New York, she knows her knives and sauces. Shrimpy noodles, lamb couscous – fantastic!


In between dishes, we talk about what it’s like being from Poland and living elsewhere.

It is a long conversation.

The night is dark, or maybe it’s that light hides completely behind Sintra’s hills. The walk uphill is less strenuous the second time around. Could it be that I'm warming to the place already? Fickle hearts.