Sintra, a walk through History
The talented travel writer Preethi Chandrasekhar continues to discover Portugal. After falling in love with Lisbon, she went on to explore the wonders of beautiful medieval Sintra.
When Preethi and I started mapping out her trip to Portugal, one place I recommended that was absolutely mandatory, was Sintra! With its majestic palaces, royal history and generations of foreign influence, Sintra seems to be straight out of a story book and needless to say it completely bewitched our travel writer.
Once again, I chose Francisco from Week Break Tours to guide Preethi through the magnificent town hidden away in the mountains.
Whenever someone visits Sintra, they are often excited to start exploring but before they do, I always suggest they stop by the iconic pastry shop “Piriquita” to try the traditional “queijadas de Sintra” (cheese spices and cinnamon pastries) and the local “travesseiros” (puff pastry with egg and almond cream). They are amazingly delicious and with all the walking Sintra requires, it’s good to start your visit with an energy booster!
Following a delicious sugary breakfast, Sintra revealed its different architectural influences, from the moorish fountains to the Gothic/ Egyptian/ Renaissance-inspired Quinta da Regaleira, located on a World Heritage protected landscape; where you can find the Masonic initiation wells, these mysterious underground towers that were used for secretive initiation rites.
No excursion to Sintra would be complete without a visit to Palácio da Pena, the Romanticist castle stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the most important symbols of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
The Palácio da Pena has a mélange of styles typical of the exhuberant taste of the Romanticism: an intentional mix of eclectic styles such as Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance. The Palácio da Pena was adapted to serve as the Summer residence of the royal family. It has amazing stuccos, painted walls in trompe-l’oeil which are part of the numerous royal collections.
An Enchanted Evening
After an extensive tour of the town and its mesmerizing surroundings, Francisco drove Preethi to a palace of her own, the Quinta da Penalva, where she would spend the night.
Quinta da Penalva in S. Pedro de Sintra was built in 1800’s and was the property of the Mello e Castro family. In 1977 it was purchased by its current owners, the Almeida Braga family. In the beginning of the 20th Century, the Quinta received a few interventions by renowned architect, Raul Lino, who created a pigeon house, a gazebo, and a tea-house next to the tennis court. It is said, in fact, that the tennis court was built for Queen Amelia of Orleans, wife of King Charles, so she could practice her favorite sport, in the surrounding of Pena Palace, where the King and Queen would spent their summer. Quinta da Penalva welcomed numerous famous guests in the last decades, among which Formula 1 drivers Ayrton Senna and Emerson Fittipaldi, and tennis player Gustavo Kuerten. The private and beautiful Quinta da Penalva property includes the services of a full-time Butler, private Chef and Housekeeping team.
A hidden gem in the heart of Sintra, perfect for a quiet, private get-away, Quinta da Penalva offers its guests an exclusive stay far from the buzzing center of Lisbon where one can truly admire the beauty of the Sintra hills and its infamous micro-climate. Complete with an orchard, breathtaking views and hidden trails, it allows its guests to disconnect and appreciate the murmur of nature. As most of the Sintra area, the Quinta is adorned with so much flora and fauna that its landscapes resemble the dense tropical rain forests of South America, and the climate adapts to this particular environment. In Sintra, temperatures are always a couple of degrees lower than in Lisbon or Cascais and it’s often that you find yourself in Lisbon with sunshine but arrive in a cloudy or rainy Sintra. Nevertheless, when the sun is out, the radiant town shows its true colors, from bright yellows to greens and blues.
Quinta da Penalva’s exceptional and kind in-house butler João Ribeiro welcomed Preethi to the estate and after getting settled in her private suite, Preethi went on to explore the Quinta and its 4 hectares of spectacular landscape.
As part of the exclusive experience, Quinta da Penalva has an in-house Private Chef who prepares delightful meals for its guests keeping with Portuguese traditions. Dining preferences are discussed beforehand and meals are prepared to the guests’ satisfaction.
As the sun set on this beautiful day, the In-house Private Chef invited Preethi to the dining room and presented his delicious dinner which included typical Portuguese specialities with a twist and of course Portuguese wine:
- As a starter, the Chef served the traditional “Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato” (Clams with white wine sauce, garlic and cilantro) accompanied by a Portuguese green wine “Palácio da Brejoeira”.
- The main course was an exquisite stuffed chicken with mushroom and feta cheese with a side of sweet potato puré, asparagus and tomato salad on a bed of julienned lettuce heart and roasted pepper. The wine was a red from the Douro region “Prazo de Roriz”.
- As dessert, the Chef presented a “Arroz Doce” (sweet rice) with caramelised apples, traditional “pão-de-ló de Alfeizerão” (similar to pound cake but much lighter), Sericaia (Portuguese egg pudding) with plums glazed with a delectable Port wine.
- Coffee was then served along with the typical Sintra pastries, “travesseiros” and “queijadas de Sintra” as well as the ultimate Portuguese pastry, “pastéis de nata”.
Every detail at Quinta da Penalva is thought of with the guests in mind, service is extraordinary, the in-house staff have years of international training and etiquette is paramount! In-house butler João Ribeiro is extremely attentive to every guest’s wish and need and makes them feel completely at home.
A visit to the incredible town of Sintra isn’t complete without an overnight stay at Quinta da Penalva. If you’re interested in learning more about Quinta da Penalva, contact me.
After this incredible visit, the adventure continues for Preethi! Check our future posts featuring her journey to Comporta and the Algarve, amazing shots and locals tips coming your way very soon!
Follow my own Portugal adventures on social media:
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You should also definitely follow Preethi on social media @eagertravele to discover Portugal through her eyes!
Feature image photo credit: @eagertravele