On Friday Sue, Deborah and I were attracted by a reference in the Lonely Planet about a nearby town called Sinta which is situated in the hills just outside Lisbon. It was described as a page out of fairy tale. However, to get there meant that we first had to navigate the Portuguese train system. Our efforts to purchase three return tickets from the station machine proved to be quite frustrating. When Deborah managed to get through the ticket barrier, leaving Sue and me stuck on the outside, we eventually had to revert to standing in a queue to purchase more tickets from an annoyed railway attendant, whose facial expressions seemed to indicate that we were not the first stupid foreigners that he had had to serve that day.
On arrival in this magical town these early hassles quickly disappeared at the sights before us. We had a choice of visiting a mountaintop castle or a renounced garden called Quinta da Regaleira which was located closer to the town. We took a vote, and after two days of solid walking up and down the steep hills of Lisbon, it is not hard to guess which of these attractions won! After a picnic lunch beside a lake we spent a couple of hours in the astounding garden which, apart from rhodedendrons, ferns, magnolias and fir trees, included a series if waterfalls, wells, tunnels and towers, as well as a 27 metre deep subterranean tower that is supposed to link heaven and earth.
An icecream on the way back to the station helped to distract those of us who were beginning to count the number of steps needed to get to our destination! Back in Lisbon on the way to dinner we witnessed very unusual street theatre in the form of a man covered in copper paint, who appeared to be suspended about 8 inches off the ground. Try as we might (and we are all clever women) we just could not fathom how he did it.
With the benefit of a very friendly local couch surfing acquaintenance of Ruth (with whom we had reconnected in Lisbon on the previous day) we were introduced to a deeply traditional Portuguese form of entertainment called Fado. This is very soulful singing accompanied by guitar and lute. The delicious meal included traditional dishes such as Bachalau, seafood, pork sausages and calamari. Getting a tad lost on the way homeincreased our walking time by an extra 30 minutes. Sue’s pedometer reading for that day was in excess of 20 km! We didnt get to bed until after midnight, a bit latter than expected given that we had an early start on Saturday for Oporto…