Oeiras is on the entrance to the Tagus River which heads up to Lisbon. As we had visited Lisbon on a previous road trip, we decided not to head further up the River.
Oeiras is within easy distance of Sintra, a town within the National Park, in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains and home to the Sintra National Palace, the hilltop Pena National Palace and the spectacular Moorish Castle. We made some enquiries regarding car hire and found that the easiest and cheapest option to hire a car was to head to Cascais. We walked along the sea front to the train station and caught a train. Cascais was beautiful, with tree lined streets,smart restaurants, shops and a Marina. We spent the day exploring the town and then collected the hire car late in the afternoon ready for the following day.
Sintra is some 30 miles north of Oeiras. We arrived, parked the car in what we thought was a convenient place and headed, on foot, up towards the National Palace, pasting pieces of art along our way.
We took a tour around the National Palace with it’s stunningly decorated rooms and artwork. The Palace kitchen was larger than the average house with two huge conical chimneys to extract the smoke from the burnt toast!!! Copper utensils that would be the envy of many a chef.
On the recommendation of Alistair’s brother David, we decided to walk up to the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle. The first part of the walk took us through a lovely wooded area but this eventually brought us to the roadway. Why were we the only ones walking? We walked and we walked and we walked…….we had a car which we could have used but this was parked at the bottom of the hill!!! As luck would have it we spied a couple of Tuk Tuks parked down a small lane with their drivers having a sneaky rest. Perhaps they would take us to the top! £5 was their quote so we took it! At the top, £10 was the charged - £5 each!
The Pena National Palace was originally a monastery. No doubt the royal family in the valley bellow didn’t enjoy being overlooked by their neighbours so commandeered said monastery and turned it into yet another royal palace. The upshot was that each room was unusually small compared to most royal palaces but the tiled decoration and the views from the Palace were spectacular. This area was one of the highlights of our trip so far.
The Moorish Castle, close by, was yet another spectacular monument with views overlooking the valley and surrounding plains. We spent another hour or so exploring this and then made our way back down to the car.
The following day we headed for Mafra. Mafra is a small town 28 km from Lisbon with yet another Royal Palace. The construction of the Palace of Mafra was started in 1717 and finished in 1755. There was a daily average of 15,000 workers, but at the end of construction this had grown to between 30,000 and 40,000 workers. In addition 7,000 soldiers were assigned to preserve order at the construction site. There was even a hospital onsite, although a total of 1,383 workers lost their lives during the construction. The façade is 220 m long (Buckingham Palace is 110 m long)with the whole complex covering 37,790 sq m, with approximately 1200 rooms and more than 4,700 doors and window, 156 stairways and 29 inner yards and courtyards. The Palace is the most important baroque monument in Portugal with unusual decoration in a number of the large rooms.
We spent an hour or so walking around the Palace but were not nearly as impressed (apart from the size!) by this palace as our visit to Sintra the day before. We made our way back to Money Penny along the beautiful West Coast stopping off to explore a couple of beaches and began to look forward to move on in the morning.