Sintra: life in technicolor…

Pena Palace Sintra

In the Lisbon series there is one more ‘must see’ I want to tell you about, or not…maybe Sintra should be kept more secret as it is already overrun by tourists all coming to admire the city’s cultural and architectural wonders. Its natural and historical value make Sintra in its whole a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like I said, a ‘must see’…

 

Sintra is located 25 km outside Lisbon city centre and is set against the lush pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. Easily accessible from Lisbon Rossio train station in about 40 minutes and included if you have a Lisboa card.

Upon arrival shuttle services await you to bring you to all the main sites, however we chose to walk to the village centre. An easy walkable path offering views on the National Palace with the characteristic chimneys, colourful stands with local handicrafts and an iron throne, well, with a little imagination…

Sintra Portugal

Early mornings can be foggy in Sintra, don’t worry, sunny ‘sol’ does her best and by noon you’ll have clear blue sky!

 

Sintra city centre Portugal

In the above picture, all the way up, op top of the foggy hills, are the ruins of the moorish castle. We’ll get to them later…

Sintra city hall
view on Sintra city hall

First stop for us however was Pena Palace and its gardens. From the city centre we took a tuk tuk that dropped us off at Parque da Pena entrance and from there we made our way up to the Palace, still a serious climb on often cobbled paths!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

Some piece of advice…if you are not interested in castle interiors you do not have to get in line, which can be a very, very long queue…the exterior grounds are perfectly accessible with your entrance ticket without waiting in line or just ask for the cheaper park/outside combination…wish someone had told us that upfront, it certainly wasn’t mentioned at the ticket office…though would have saved us a lot of time! And yes, some of the terraces are only accessible from the inside, however is it worth an hour and a half queuing? That is up to you to decide…

Pena Palace Sintra

Sintra Pena Palace

The palace is a dazzling piece of extravagant and astonishing architecture, where technicolor meets mythology and of course, being in Portugal, tiles are never far away! Not that it was always like that…the hilltop used to be home for a monastery. After the abolition of religious orders in Portugal it was abandoned and King Ferdinand II acquired the grounds in a public auction. So the story goes he was a bit jealous of Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria and commisioned Baron von Eschwege to build him his own dream palace opera-inspired (he later marries opera singer Elise Hensler) and saw to a forestry landscaped garden to hide away in. I’d say mission accomplished!

 

 

Pena Palace Sintra tiles

Meanwhile in city centre…

Sintra moorish walls

I promised blue skies, didn’t I? Fog has cleared and you can see them now…next stop, the moorish walls…

The Castelo dos Mouros was established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra however archeological excavations and studies of the artefacts around 1995 even traced back occupation of the castle slopes to 5000 B.C. by neolithic communities…this place breathes history! In the 19th century King Ferdinand II acquired the castle that had become a ruin by then and converted it into the romantic style of that century through exuberant planting and reconstruction though keeping a certain medieval ruin charm.

Not sure if I would recommend to climb the longer part of the walls with very small children or if you are afraid of heights…the passage is sometimes narrow and there is not always a safety railing…

 

Sintra Moors Castle

The ruin walls offer phenomenal views on Sintra and its surroundings, however, like I said, watch your step, as not everywhere a railing…

Sintra Moors Castle

Sintra Portugal Moors castle
Sintra City Centre shot from the moorish walls

Tired feet and back, hence the tuk tuk back to village…smooth ride and friendly helpful driver, were all I needed to recover and smile again!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

There’s plenty more to see in Sintra, in fact, if you want to explore thoroughly and at ease, it’s probably best to spend the night, more ‘must see’ attractions are the Quinta Regaleira, Palácio de Monserrate, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Convento dos Capuchos,… just check the local tourist office website or office.

Adeus Sintra, until we meet again!

Ingrid

xxx

Sintra Tourist info

Park and National Palace Pena

Moorish castle

we stayed in Airbnb Inglesinhas5 and you can read more on our Lisbon adventures herehere or here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready, steady, go…where?

We had already decided last year that this year, holidaywise, would mean an ‘ in-between’ year. Meaning somewhere between home and away, only not too far or too long: tightening those strapping belts around the suitcases, after last year’s expensive, but worth-wile, USA road trip.

Like the cliché says, it’s not where or how far you go, it’s the journey, the experience and Lady Luck clearly decided to grant us some more experiences as both husband and me won  a weekend break, how much fun is that?!

Some careful planning and scheduling and must admit the calendar looks quite inviting the next couple of months, and after that, well, we’ll see, first mission is surviving Winter and am extremely looking forward to these up-coming Spring breaks!

End of March we are heading for a b&b near Namur, capital of Wallonia, Belgium. Only heard great stories of those who already visited Namur, so am anxious to explore the city and region ourselves, which might also involve a visit to close-by abbey of Maredsous, well-known for it’s beers and cheeses.

In May, somewhere around Ascension, our wandering feet and hearts will bring us to Lenk in beautiful Swiss Bernese Oberland. Childhood nostalagia for my husband who has visited the region as a child with his family many, many times and since the first time I,myself, laid my eyes on the lush green pastures and lovely mountains covered under their snow blanket, it is also my place to exhale and relax! We were always fortunate with the weather when going in May, so do hope the good luck continues, can’t wait to be there again!

img_1379_edited

Somewhere in April of early May, still to decide, we’ll be heading for the Dutch city Den Haag (The Hague) and seaside with a stay on the pier of Scheveningen. You can take that litterally as the hotel with it’s Pier suites is located on the far end of the pier and all suites offer private terraces with perfect view on the North Sea which is just at and below your feet, which should be a unique experience.

Think for the next months, in my book and with a little help of Lady Fortune, this is a perfect match of countryside, mountains and sea. A perfect balance between city and nature, time for new experiences and time to exhale! I am ready…

Ingrid

X

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.
(Hans Christian Andersen)

 

Escape to enchanted woods, a medieval tale of fairies and monsters…

Belgium’s little gem Durbuy, situated in the province of Luxembourg and nicknamed smallest town in the world, could not leave you more enchanted than on the last day of October when the medieval town centre becomes the magnificent open-air stage for the annual Halloween celebration. Think Captain Jack Sparrow parading in the winding cobbled 17th century streets, fairies and witches, jugglers and other costumed street artists performing, lots of food and drinks of course, musical acts and a show with light and sound effects and fireworks to end the festivities with a sparkle.

Château des Comtes d’Ursel, Durbuy



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Some window shopping in Durbuy
Halloween not your thing? No worries, Durbuy and this region have so much more to offer: nature lovers can stretch their legs and catch some oxygen in the surrounding woods or tiny hidden villages. Those searching for some more adrenaline can go kayaking or head for the outdoor adventure parks and if you are searching to excite your taste buds, look no further, this region has a large number of gastronomy level restaurants and chefs using excellent local produce.

img_3837
Chapel St-Hubert, Vervoz, tiny village breathing history and architecture being an ancient Roman colony

Lovely autumn colours

img_3826
Lunch is served!

Typical house in Ny

Hot air balloon experience in Durbuy

img_3803
‘tiny’estate in Vervoz
Being blessed on this little getaway of ours with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 18 degrees Celsius have our batteries recharged. Nothing beats a wonderful yummy breakfast, some nature exploring and lunch and dining al fresco when end of October/early November, right?!

Just like four years ago again we stayed at b&b La Lisière, just outside Durbuy city centre. They have three lovely cosy and spacious rooms, one gîte and one cabin in the garden, all offering nature views. Bénédicte and Stéphane, your hosts, are keen on reducing their ecological footprint, this also translates into fresh local produce at breakfast and promoting local beers which you can enjoy relaxing in the cosy bar.

Panoramic views outside the b&b

img_3813
Panoramic views outside the b&b
Well, Halloween has left us for this year, peace and quiet have returned, but plenty of good excuses remain if you want to plan a trip to Durbuy: November hosts a lot of hunting season concerts and December says Christmas market of course! Just check out the city’s tourist info page for more detailed info on upcoming activities or nature inspiration.

Remember, never stop exploring!

Ingrid

Xxx

Durbuy tourist info

b&b La Lisière

Durbuy region tourist info

town of Vervoz

Resto La Table de Manon

Tapas bistro Resto Sept by Juliette

for a little snack or sweet tooth with great outside terrace, la Vieille Demeure

Stay on these roads

It’s like that quote “it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey”.
Some of you already know we just did an amazing three week road trip through southwest USA, starting in San Francisco and ending in Phoenix. Will definitely post some stories and pics of the wonderful places we’ve visited but today it’s all about hitting the road, literally!

As a chronic back-pain patient the miles to cover between each of our destinations had worried me a lot in advance…was not really looking forward to spending four, five and sometimes more hours in the car…but you know what, the driving part, or co-driving in my case, was so much more fun than I could have ever expected! We stopped a lot, we just had to, not only to stretch legs, back and neck, just too many jaw-dropping moments on our routes…many of those stunning views will be imprinted on my retina forever!

Here are some of my favourite road related pics of our trip, hope you enjoy the ride!

Ingrid

DSC02672
State Route 1, Pacific Coast and Big Sur

 

image
Our son Nick, Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite NP
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Artist’s Drive, Death Valley NP
image
No roadtrip without wheels, right?!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
‘Straight roads do not make skillful drivers’ – Paulo Coelho
DSC03069
Valley of Fire State Park
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Zion NP route to Checkerboard Mesa
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
made my husband stop the car to shoot this one!
image
we all need to refuel sometimes, even cowboys!
DSC03504
must be wildhogs then if the sign says to watch out for animals!
image
Could’t miss out on this one, right?!
image
well, there may be something to tell about the balloon hanging here above the motorway in Sonoran Desert, Phoenix…another story 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an Antwerp thing!

Every year on the 15th of August the historical centre of Antwerp forms the decor for the ‘Rubensmarkt’. More than 200 stalls with food, drinks, clothing, flowers, etc…so far nothing exceptional, I know, but what makes this Rubensmarkt so special is the traditional aspect linked to it: the stall owners are all dressed in baroque costumes and they seem to have just stepped out of one of Rubens’s paintings!DSC03905

DSC03854

15th of August being a public holiday here in Belgium, celebrating Assumption of Mary you can expect big crowds, especially as Antwerp throws in a second celebration that day! Due to a pamphlet written in 1913 by artist Louis Van Kuyck declaring that day a ‘day of all mothers’. Over the years the rest of Belgium and Europe copied the Amercian tradition to celebrate in May, but here in Antwerp, well yess, we feel the need to be different, sorry 😉 In our Household we usually celebrate twice, you can’t have enough reasons to make your mum feel special and appreciated, right?!

DSC03885

If you plan a trip to Antwerp in August one of these years, do try to enjoy one of the typical traditional markets like this one, add some sunshine and great company and you will have a fantastic day!

DSC03870

DSC03876

DSC03874

DSC03902

DSC03853

DSC03857