Showing posts from 2013

Hiking and Walking

I have not blogged for awhile for it has been hectic and wonderfully busy.

The last month was vey busy with walkers/hikers from Finland who came with the Matkamieli company from Finland. It was a busy, wonderful time, with lots of new things for us as well.  Though we often have groups visiting, rarely groups that take up all of the space for several weeks in a row.

It was a marvelous time, I often went along to the hikes, and enjoyed company, other than Pandora, on the walks. I was reminded what a wonderful region this is for hiking, and what varied terraine there is.  One of the days the groups walked through small villages, another through a forest to the other side of the mountain, to Cascais, another yet high up on the cliffs along the Atlantic coast.  In fact I have now mapped many of those walks on Sports Tracker and Map My Walk for the benefit of others, knowing the distances, changes in altitudes and also recording photos of the key spots.

So inspired was I that I have, toget…

Up, up and above Sintra and Cascais!

When I think of visiting Sintra, I immediately think of walking & hiking, taking the horse & carriage, maybe even the old tram.  Recently however, I have seen Sintra in two very different ways: both from above.

The first was the Sintra Canopy, or the local zip-line.  13 stops, 11 zips and a draw bridge.
The trip starts between the entrances of Pena Palace and Moorish Castle, and then zig zags across the valley to the other end of the Moorish Castle. Fantastic views and a whole lot of fun!  I went with two other ladies and we were very well instructed.  Two of us had never done anything like this before.  Mind you, I don't go to the edge of a high balcony, and now I volunteered to stand on a 2x2 m platform 30 m above ground, feeling the tree on which the platform was suspended sway slightly in the wind.   But I felt safe all the time, well looked after.  There were two instructors with us all the time.  One in the front, one in the back.

 And while we were on the platform…

Gluten or lactose free? Vegetarian or Vegan? Some choices in Sintra!

Many of our guests are still surprised when they order their breakfast and we ask if they prefer gluten or lactose free products - or if they want tomato to substitute the ham when they say they are vegetarian.  This is not common in Portugal.  Though the Portuguese bread is fantastic and cheeses are really tasty, unfortunately many places in Portugal  fail to recognize that there are increasingly many people with a condition that prevents them from enjoying these things, and thus would like an alternative. We seem to make an exception here, offering both lactose free and gluten free products in our breakfasts.
There is a similar situation with vegetarian food - if you want anything other than a salad, know that the Portuguese do have excellent soups, and often even the coffee shops have a soup of the day option. Many places in town offer an omelet or a pasta as a vegetarian option, but not so many where you can safely order your food if you are a vegan (butter and knorr cubes may be…

What's with all the trees?

'What's with all the trees?' has been a frequent question this year.  In January I was in extreme weather conditions in Finland:  -31C temperatures when driving to the Finnish travel fair.  At the same time Sintra had its own extreme weather, a very rare cyclone, as 130-140 kms/hour winds swept through  Sintra and Lisbon area.  In a few hours Sintra lost roughly 2500 trees.  About a month later, heavy winds hit us again and even more trees went down, weakened allready by the previous storm.

3000 trees is alot.  Yet when you look up the mountain, it looks the same.  It is only when you are actually in the mountain, walking through the parks and the paths that the reality hits you. When I returned from Finland I thought I would give it a few weeks for the workers to clean up and then I would walk up again, and did my morning walks in town and on the beach instead.  Three weeks after the storm, after listening to the chainsaws day in and day out, I thought the paths would be …

Two elderly ladies in Sintra

I have written a lot about walking, visiting and riding the bikes - but what if you arenot very mobile?  We recently had two separate clients with a walking stick due to an injury, and also some clients with bad knees.  How did they do?  Well, there are lots of alternativeways to walking in Sintra.  I asked the ladies with the bad knees to share theirexperiences for the benefit of others in similar situations and this is their accountof their holidays.  Hope you enjoy it!

It had been well over ten years since I had been to Sintra. Then I was muchyounger and my knees were so much better.  But getting older and weaker didn´t weaken the attraction of Sintra in my mind. So when my friend expressed her wishes to visit Portugal and especially Sintra, it was not very hard for her to talk me into making travel arrangements. 
At first I didn’t even remember how steep the streets are and how everything isbuilt with stairs and steps. I spent some time going through my photos and started to wonder…

Quinta da Regaleira, the mystical place of masonry, art and master landscaping

One of the most visited places of Sintra is right there, opposite our pool, on the other side of the valley.  Quinta da Regaleira is probably the best ranked monument to visit in Sintra by our visitors. It never was a royal anything.  A private house, used as a summer residence,  of Carvalho Monteiro, who bought it in 1892 from the barons of Regaleira and transformed it to its glory with the famous architect Luigi Manini, known for his theatrical works.  There is a lot to be said about Quinta da Regaleira, or Palácio dos Milhões, as it is also called.  It is not only beautifully built in neo-manueline style with strong ties to the discoveries - the 4 hectar grounds are beautifully landscaped, going from very groomed and formal to progressively wilder, almost primitive as you advance from the palace towards the mountain.  After several changes of owners, Sintra city hall bought it in 1997 and in 2002 it was declared a building of Public Interest.

There are many facets to the Quinta. Ar…

The beaches of Sintra

Inspired by the recent new publication of Sintra Tourism Office, entitled Sintra Beaches, I write this blog entry.  Sintra is not primarily a beach destination, but it does have some great beaches.  Golden sand, beautiful round stones and magnificient cliffs.  Surfing, tanning, walking.  Great restaurants, dinosaur footprints, paragliding and fishing. Attention though - the beaches are Atlantic beaches, so the water is not as warm as the Mediterranean ones in the Algarve - and the waves are stronger and more dangerous as well. The long Atlantic Walk passes on the cliffs over all of these beaches.   I will start from the Southern most beaches and work my way up.

Praia da Ursa - The southernmost of Sintra beaches got its name  from the enormous rock that reminds one of an animal sculpted by a giant. Down below, in the sand, there are many rock formations and the effort of the descent is well worth it. The beach is only reached through a path from Azoia, on the road to Cabo da Roca (whic…