Showing posts from 2012

Chalet Biester - the film set for Johnny Depp's 'Ninth Gate'

Just a bit above the village, in our view, there is a mansion called Chalet Biester.  Its black roof with turquoise trimming causes a lot of questions and awakes the curiosity of many Sintra visitors.  No, it cannot be visited; yes, it is a private house.  No, I don't know who lives there now; yes, it is where the Roman Polanski  thriller 'The Ninth Gate' was filmed, starring Johnny Depp.  There and a bit of everywhere in Sintra.

Ernesto Biester, a Portuguese journalist and playwright of German origin, famous in his time,  ordered this mansion to be built in around 1880 from the architect José Luis Monteiro.  Its interior was conceived by the famous Italian that worked on Quinta da Regaleira, also in Sintra, and the sceneries of La Scala Opera in Milano, and theater São Carlos in Lisbon: Luigi Manini - and the sculpture Leandro Braga.  Biester asked Monteiro to use the English style  called 'Queen Ann' style, a mixture of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romantic. The result is …

Walking and Hiking

Sintra is perfect for walking; spring, summer, fall and winter.  Take it from me, I usually take at least an hour's walk 5-6 times a week in the mornings, every season.  When I can, I take longer walks, and most often I am accompanied by my  now two-year old Great Dane Pandora.  Dog or not, the roads and mountain paths are safe.  I just like to walk with her to have company and someone to talk to!

I will be writing in this post very generally, intending to write more in detail later about some of the paths, with more pictures.  Just hoping that this will inspire you whilst planning!  Some general information first.

The first important point:  we are on the Sintra mountain.  There is very little straight to walk.  In addition to lots of curves, it is hilly.   In some cases lots of steps and even climbing.   Second point, there are not very good detailed maps easily available.  Yet, the paths are usually quite well marked.  And the locator of the iPhone seems to always be helpful in…


Looking up from the pool, and almost everywhere from the grounds, you see Serra de Sintra, the Sintra Mountain.  On the top of it, a colourful palace is erected.   What now is one of the most visited monuments in Sintra and in Portugal, used to be a chapel, constructed in the middle ages,  dedicated to our Lady of Pena. A monastery was built around the chapel and for centuries  it was a quiet place of worship.  The 1775 earthquake reduced the monastery to ruins - and it stayed that way until King Consort Ferdinand the 2nd bought it and the surrounding lands, including the Moorish Castle, and had it built in a romantic style by Baron von Eschwege.
The construction took 12 years, the palace was decorated by Queen Mary and the Palace became the Royal family's summer residence.  After the queen died, King Ferdinand remarried, and after his death, the palace fell out of royal hands.  Later King Louis bought it back from his father's widow so that the royal family could continue re…

Autumn is here!

As autumn sets in, we are still enjoying afternoon temperatures of app 25 degrees.  However, it is obvious that we are in autumn as leaves are falling, the fruits are finishing and the night time temperatures start dropping.  This is a wonderful time.   There are less people about so it is easier to get to places, less queues and still great weather.  The pool water is still over 20º, and we have people swimming daily in the afternoons. For anyone who likes photography  this is prime time; the sun is not so overpowering that the shadows are easier to deal with. Also, you get phenomenons  that are special for autumn and winter; the morning fog is thicker and tinted by the rising sun. This is indeed the perfect time for the participation in the garden photography contest with a special price for the pictures taken in the Parks of Sintra.

In the fall, the events are lesser, but there are still a few concerts and cultural events worth mentioning.  In Lisbon 10-12 of October there is a Fl…

Update on Moving About

The Lisbon Metro now goes all the way to the Airport.  July 17th the extension of the red line was opened. This line, completely accessible, now goes between the airport and S. Sebastião.

So where is São Sebastião?   São Sebastião is two blue-line stops away from Marquês de Pombal and four from Restauradores. Restauradores is the metro stop that has access to the Rossio train station - which is the end station of the Sintra railroad.   
The red line has a connection with the green line - so you can also change to a metro that takes you to Cais do Sodré - the end station for the Cascais train line.
The red line also passes in Oriente  - where the trains to elsewhere in Portugal leave from.  And yes, sometimes there are trains even to Sintra.

So this new metro extension for sure helps the access to the airport from Lisbon.  And it is also interesting for those coming to Sintra, since the new train line Sintra/Azambuja was opened recently.  

This is how you can now travel between Sintra a…

July in Sintra

As the Sintra Festival of Music (Vienna before Mahler: from Haydn to Brahms) continues until the 10th,  Cascais Music Festival is held between the 18th and the 29th of July - it is a series of outside concerts that bring in musicians, international and national, that are in between rock and jazz.  Some of the artists are Pink Martini, Erykah Badu, Morrissey, Manu Chao, Antony and the Johnsons - and the Portuguese fado singers Carlos de Carmo and Mariza.  Tickets are between 20 and 55 euros.  A sampler here is from Pink Martini

Also many other interesting things have been scheduled for the month.  Here are a few:

The Sintra town council is once again organising Sintra's Medieval Fair, which will take place ar the square of São Pedro.  Between the 13th and the 15th of July, the Court's stay in Sintra  in 1428, during the reign of King John 1st will be recreated. A delegation sent by Philip the Good was received in Sintra  - the aim of t…

Great Lunch Quickly

Traditionally, Tasca is a Portuguese word for a place to have good, tasty food: fast and with a reasonable price.  If you travel through Portugal, in the small villages, as well as in the bigger cities, you can usually find a tasca. They are characterized by lack of modern decor, they have large, shared tables or lots of small ones close together. The menu is normally reduced to two or three daily options, and is served as a complete menu: soup, main plate, dessert, coffee - and of course the bread and the olives. Tascas usually have a cheap house wine served in a jug.  The best part of the tascas is that normally the food is delicious, honestly Portuguese and cheap.  Service is fast and without frills. Without the drinks, you will find the menu to be between 7 and 10 euros per person.

In Sintra we still have a few tascas: Tasca do Manel is the traditional kind, where you can sit together with the mayor and the carriage drivers: anyone wanting to eat well quickly. Tasca do Xico is a ta…

Music Festivals

There are plenty of music festivals in the summer in the region - from Classical to Jazz to Rock. Here is a  list of  some of them with short information  of  performers, venues and prices.  All are doable from Casa do Valle and Casa da Vista.  Also, there are lots of individual concerts through the year, in Sintra and in Lisbon.

Estoril Jazz is the first of them - it started today!  In the Casino Estoril, for two consecutive weekends, you can listen to musicians such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Roberta Gambarini and Scott Hamilton.  Tickets for individual concerts are 20-25 euros.  For more information, see their site And a sample of Roberta Gambarini

The weekend after Estoril Jazz Lisbon rocks with Rock in Rio music festival, at the Bela Vista Park.  These concerts are mainly outside, though there are inside stages with Djs as well. 25th and 26th of May and 1st, 2nd…

And when it's raining? What then?

I have mentioned in my earlier posts how much I enjoyed the dry, cold winter.  Naturally, February was supposed to rain quite a lot, but it didn't.  Not at all.  We enjoyed warm, sunny afternoons, had lunch on the balcony and the garden was blooming.  That was supposed to happen in April - and now we are having the February weather in April.  And it seems like we will in May as well.  Temperatures are below the historical average, and contrary to other years, we are still heating the rooms.

Of course there is nothing we can do about the weather. What we can do, is prepare for it so no matter what the weather, there are things to do.  So here are my suggestions to a great holiday in Sintra, for every weather.

 1st - Pack accordingly.  Remember that no matter what the weather, Sintra is on the mountain and has a micro climate. Though we have beautiful beaches, Sintra is not primarily a beach destination.  Even in the heat of the summer, the nights are cool.  And it is always a bit h…