Day 103

Sometimes heaven on earth manifests in the form of a fluffy pillow and being lost, covered under big snuggly blankets. Thats how I feel right now. After all the hiking, wandering and exploring I did today being absolutely still and cozied in bed is all I could ask for. And while I’m excited to drift off to sleep I’m a little sad to wake up tomorrow. It means I will leave Rui, Bono and Sintra.

Sintra, Portugal is where I’ve taken up my adventures since yesterday. I left Lisbon Monday afternoon and after a 40min train ride was met by my Couch host Rui at the train station in Sintra. It was the predictable first time meeting. We both looked at each other,…it being obvious who each of us were,…yet we didn’t say or do anything…until finally the … “are you…” “yeah…and you” …”yeah!” and then we left in Rui’s BMW.

Rui graciously accepted my request to surf, and fortunately responded. Sintra wouldn’t be the same without him! He explained that he actually lives maybe 15 mins outside of Sintra, but right away drove me through town explaining a few points of interest for the next day. Sintra is relatively small, especially when coming from Lisbon, but has a very charming Portuguese feel to it.

I am normally against stereotypes, with a few exceptions like on Tosh.0 or when they are the ‘good’ kind. With that in mind I would say so far that Portuguese people are very friendly, warm and helpful, and have an appreciation for food- especially sweets. What a great stereotype! Rui only helped to confirm my suspicions that this is truth by being very friendly, warm and helpful and also feeding me well! I mentioned to him shortly after meeting that I hadn’t eaten anything all day,…his solution was invite me to his family’s house for lunch!

What a beautiful way to spend a lunch, but with a Portuguese family, even right down to the adorable 92 yr old grandma! Rui’s family was very welcoming and we all sat down together to eat some Bacalao (very Portuguese! but found in Spain as well. Its a white fish), and a few other dishes. All accompanied by some of the most delicious Portuguese wine! Lunch was fantastic, I liked everything, and as I thought it was coming to an end, Rui’s mother suddenly brings out 6 different desserts left over from Christmas! I was really impressed by that!

Well after eating and saying goodbye Rui took me by car on a little tour of some more harder to access locations, including a city that is carved into the side of a mountain,  some waves and sand of a fishing beach, the spot that is the western most tip of Europe, and driving around beautiful winding roads and stoping to take some photos and walk around a bit. I saw so many breathtaking views of coasts, cliffs, forests, hills and villages. It was truly a great day and I felt so happy and excited to be there.

We then went back to Rui’s home where I met Bono, his cat and we became friends right away (even the Portuguese cats are more friendly!). Rui cooked tasty pasta for dinner and we listened to music, went on FB and youtube, talked and watched T.V. . It was chill. It was perfect.

Today was another fine day as well. Woke up a little after 8am, out the door at 9. Rui had to go to work but dropped me off at a Palace, which is not only a palace (awesome) but has especially beautiful and elaborate gardens. This Palace happens to be perched high on top of a very high hill and is surrounded by lush vegetation with trees and vines and ferns and plants growing everywhere. The air is so fresh and crisp it was great to be around so much nature. It reminded me of Chiapas a bit.

The Palace was good to visit. It had the standard extravagance one would expect from a palace. One of my favorite things I learned was about King Ferdinand II who lived there, first he married an American Opera singer (she was Swiss-German and had moved to Boston ) and second, a sign in one of the rooms mentioned that the King had tried his hand at leadership and military success with little luck…..BUT was very skilled at drawing and ceramic paintings. Well at least thats something I suppose! One room had his artworks all around. The was pretty decent. Decent enough that I later bought an overpriced magnet of one of his paintings on the wall…naturally as you would almost expect its a half naked Nympth in a sunflower field.

The Palace gardens were constructed to be as a park intentionally elaborate with different species of trees ( I saw a Sequoia today!!) and lots of hidden paths that cross and diverge all over the place, but because the area is so expansive one hardly runs into another person maintaining a calm serenity that only adds to its magic.

Only at one point diid the sound of chainsaw distract my experience, luckily I had my ZUNE with me,..and turned on some Classical music. Thats like the secret punch to make a magical Palace even more magical!  Looking at the Palace is the distance, I twirled around in my skirt  like a Princess to the melodies of Brahms and Schumann and admired God’s nature.

I spent around 4 hours in that place but had to leave to discover new things. Actually one thing mainly.

Like the Palace, the Quinta de Regaliera is UNESCO World Heritage Site and interestingly enough was constructed with symbols and enigmas related to Masonry and alchemy. Cool cool. What is even cooler is that in addition to a residency home there is a chapel, and a few towers, and a park on the grounds, but also a few underground tunnels that link some of the things together. These caveish walkways are creepy mysterious and magical with symbolism in some areas linking the underworld to the living world. I read some other symbolism things around the parks and house, where scenes and references from Operas, plays and stories like Mac Beth or the Divine Comedy exist, and faces trapped in the stones, or rooms dedicated to different elements.

It was a really fascinating place, but unfortunately it took some time getting there and so I didn’t spend as much time there as I would have liked to. It was quite the hike from the Palace, and I got lost for a bit. Here’s something I don’t do everyday,….ask the owner?gardner? of the house that was in the movie ‘The Ninth Gate’ with Johnny Depp directions on how to get somewhere. But I did and he was right and that house is amazing, and has a very nicely attended to garden.

Its getting really late now and Im getting very tired. Gotta rap this up.

My day was fantastic. Fresh air. Great scenery. Interesting things. Rui took and bought me outta this world pasteries AND cooked dinner. Sat around the fireplace and chilled and played with Bono some more. I love Sintra but my legs hurt.

Why didn’t I just say that from the beginning? hahah I would have saved so much trouble! But its all the truth. Im going to miss this place, but tomorrow I’m taking a train back to Lisbon to take a bus to Evora…with another Couch Surfer. A professional body piercer. I’m sure I’ll have a story to tell.

Sweet dreams. Its bedtime for me!

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