Thursday, 26 January 2012

Where ever we may roam...

We let the day unfold with no big plans. Our initial though was to start at the market in Caldas da Rainha, however we had a very relaxing start to the day. We slept in a little, leisurely had breakfast, took showers, packed a bag for the day, and before we knew it, it was nearly noon. As we drive towards Caldas, I remembered a post from the blog "Emma's house in Portugal". She mentioned the market shuts down by mid day, so we redirected to Peniche.

My husband recalled Peniche as a little run down when he was here 5 years ago, but indulged my desire to go based on what little info I found on the internet. We were both pleasantly surprised as we drove into town. A large hotel is situated on the peninsula to have both bay and ocean views. The docks, probably heaving in summer were quiet on our visit. Kiosks for the boats out to the Berlenga, a small group of islands off the coast, we're unmanned but displayed lovely posters of the potential summertime sights. This is said to be the way to see dolphins off the Silver Coast.

We walked along the dock, then towards town via the walled seafront. This is not a sea wall to prevent erosion, it is a seawall to defend a nation. As the western most city in Europe, Peniche has played a valuable role in defense for hundreds of years. I found one of my favorite beaches within the walls of Peniche. It is only accessible at low tide, so we were very lucky to have stumbled upon it. Literally, I twisted my ankle slightly on the cobbled and weather worn steps down to the beach. I found myself sitting on the steps with my pride injured more than my body, but the beach was well worth it.

After walking through town and back to our car, we stopped on the Atlantic side to see if any surfers were out as Peniche is supposedly a surfers haven. Only one lone surfer braved the waves. He didn't catch any swells, just paddled about on his board. Better him than me, too cold for me to get much more than my toes accidentally wet!

After Peniche we decided to head towards Lisbon to Sintra. My husband recalled a UNESCO world heritage sight there and thought I would be interested. Once arriving in Sintra, you are immediately aware of the towering spires at the top of the mountain (I think it's a mountain not a hill). The silhouette of the massive walls against the sun left us no doubt of out destination. We wound up the narrow road, thankful my husband was driving, towards anything that looked like an entrance. Finally we came to a "Cabine de bilhete" (ticket booth), so we parked the car and looked at the map. We realized we needed to walk uphill a bit further to find an open ticket booth. We asked for the best views and the attendant recommended the Moorish Castle.

Not sure of what we were going to see, we took his word and went towards the Moorish Castle. Along the path to the castle there were a few signs regarding the history of the grounds but nothing to indicate what you were about to encounter. We passed large boulders, some scaffolding, a new archeological dig, and a chain link gate into the walls.

As we approached the walls and began to climb the steps we were in awe of what man had built in the 9th century. It's location is obviously a good place to see approaching foes. However, the leap from thinking to building an enormous fortress so high atop a mountain peak long before machines were available to move rocks, is beyond my imagination.

Completely happy with our purchase, we traversed the walls and gazed down on Sintra and up to the Pena Palace. The "Castelo do Mouros" is definitely one of the seven wonders of Portugal and well deserving of its World Heritage status. I would call it a must see for anyone visiting Portugal

As i am uploading the pictures from the mobile app, they do not seem to stay in order.
The first picture is the Atlantic side beach sign in Peniche.
The second and third are the Moorish Castle of Sintra.
The last two pictures are the walls of Peniche.

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