Historic Lisbon and Scenic Sintra
21 July 2015
My trip to Lisbon or Lisboa (in Portuguese) was a voyage of discovery. The sight of the Roman Aqueduct spanning the horizon is a good reminder that Lisbon is the oldest city in Europe. The many grand buildings, beautiful squares and magnificent monuments also tell of Portugal’s glorious past. Standing on the banks of the Tagus River I could imagine the founding fathers embarking on their voyages of discovery. Indeed, the Belem Tower, Discoveries Monument and Jeronimos Monastery commemorate the Golden Age. Looking across to the opposite shore, I thought I caught a glimpse of both San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro, for spanning the Tagus River is Lisbon’s Golden Gate Bridge and rising heavenwards is the imposing Statue of Christ. Heading inland, I discovered the old world charm of Lisbon, with narrow, cobbled streets shared by tram cars and other vehicles winding steeply up to the Castle of Sao Jorge and the Cathedral of Lisbon. From up there, I enjoyed a bird’s eye view of Lisbon and beyond, another reminder that Lisbon is built on seven hills.
Just a short drive from Lisbon, nestling in countryside which looks more temperate than Mediterranean is Sintra, home to the monarchy and wealthy in days gone by. The castle, palaces and grand houses testify to a glorious age. Today there are quaint shops lining the steep cobbled streets and displaying native wares. Among the cork products are handbags, bracelets, necklaces and book marks – all too fascinating to tourists. To turn the bark of the cork tree not only into traditional paper of which Portugal is the largest exporter, but also into products for the tourist industry is simply creative. Leaving the highlands of Sintra for the Atlantic coast, I discovered I could not distinguish between sea and sky. They seemed to merge into a beautiful blue. Then rising from the Roca Cape cliffs is a towering cross overlooking the westernmost part of the European continent. Continuing my journey along the scenic coastal drive, I passed mansions and holiday homes, owned by the wealthy and a national soccer player, before entering Cascais, well known as the Portuguese Riviera. I stopped for a bit of shopping and afternoon tea in the picturesque seaside town. My trip back to Lisbon brought me past a mighty fortress built to ward off attacks by sea in days long gone. It was a fascinating day out of Lisbon, discovering scenic Sintra and the Atlantic coast. Another interesting day of discovery.