Portugal

The Portuguese Palace

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The second stop on our Sintra trip was to the Parque e Palacio da Pena. Yes you’re Portuguese is fantastic – that’s the Park and Palace of Pena.

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To reach the palace we had to get to the top of a very steep hill. This would have been about an hour’s walk, which wasn’t too appealing on a chilly afternoon so we considered other modes of transport. There was a bus, but at 5 euros it seemed a bit pricey. We then discovered that there were TukTuks travelling up for the very same price and, well, it was an easy decision – it’s not every day that you can hop in a TukTuk…

Riding in a six-seater TukTuk up a steep, cobbled hill on a windy sunday afternoon was my highlight of 2015 so far. It was terrifying, hilarious fun and the fact that our driver insisted on turning around and chatting rather than watching the road only added to the adrenaline-fuled excitement.

Pena sits on the top of a hill and is a considered one of the greatest expressions of 19th century Romanticism. Built by King Ferdinand II, the palace is colourful, ornate and an intentional mixture architectural styles. Basically it looks like a disney castle, it’s stunning.

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So, a TukTuk ride up, exploration of a magical castle, TukTuk ride down. It was an unforgettable day spent with lovely people and I couldn’t have been happier. Thanks to my lovely friend Helena for traveling with me (and for some of the photos!), you’re the best. You can read more about our adventures exploring Lisbon here, or Sintra part one hereUntitled

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Quinta de Regaleira

As described in my previous post, Lisbon is gorgeous. This seems to be a recurring theme with Portugal actually, because Lagos was equally stunning in an entirely different way. On our second day in the capital we took a 30 minute train to Sintra and were amazed once again, by what we saw. IMG_9791

Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site just outside of the capital and it’s magical. There’s a little village of cafes and shops at the base of the hill, then a winding path leading up to various stunning palaces and gardens. The first one we visited was Quinta de Regaleira.

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Quinta de Regaleira is comprised of a palace, chapel, towers and ruins, all set within a mysterious, woodland garden complete with caves and waterfalls. The whole place was fantastic to get lost in; there were stepping stones, hidden passages and spiral staircases leading to turrets with views over the sprawling forest below.

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One of the most incredible features was the Initiation Well, a 27 metre-deep well with a spiral staircase leading all the way down. The old stone was covered in moss and it was all very otherwordly and enchanting.

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The cloudy weather seemed only to enhance the ethereal setting and the grey skies made the forest look even greener. I’m certain that this is the type of place that will blow you away whatever the weather and I’d highly reccomend a visit to Sintra for Quinta de Regaleira alone. Keep an eye out for my next post on the Palace of Pena, featuring a TukTuk ride and a real-life disney castle… Happy Sunday! Untitled

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As I type, I’m sat home alone in my apartment waiting for the plumber to show up. This is proof that the year abroad isn’t always as ideal as my Instagram posts might suggest…

Our hot water stopped working yesterday and since phoning Antonio the Plumber (with whom I am on first name terms) I’ve been housebound, in eager anticipation of a hot shower and clean hair. My flatmates are in Madrid and Cáceres respectively, so I have no option other than to man the apartment until Antonio’s return.

Fortunately, I’ve put all this waiting to good use and started planning some future adventures with the intention of never spending an entire weekend inside these four walls again. With spring approaching, I can look forward to discovering more Spanish destinations and venturing further afield to surrounding countries.

So, without further ado, here’s my Spring travel itinerary (because if I publish this to my blog then it’s more likely to actually happen.)

  1. Salamanca – I plan to do a weekend break in this city later this month. I’ve seen some beautiful pictures of the main square and been told by many Spaniards that it’s a must-see destination. It’s also got a huge student population and with the inhabitants of my current town being either school-age or over 40 (and literally nowhere in between) I think it’s about time I interacted with some fellow youths.
  2. Lisbon – Living so close to the Portuguese border I can’t not visit Lisbon. When I travelled to Lagos in October I was not disappointed and Lisbon is known for being the best Portuguese city. It also has trams. I love trams!
  3. Morocco – I have wanted to visit Morocco for about five years now. With southern Spain’s proximity to Africa I simply need to take a bus and a ferry to get there – which is a lot cheaper than flying from England. The ‘blue city’ of Chefchaouen looks breathtaking and I can’t wait to take 1028441239 photos.
  4. Granada – Before I came to Spain, Granada was my number one on my travel hitlist. I’ve seen numerous photos of the Alhambra and I’m desperate see it in person. In fact, I’m thinking of ticking this one off the list for my 21st birthday in May. It would make a wonderful contrast to the previous six revision/exam filled birthdays that I’ve celebrated. It should be gloriously sunny there too.
  5. Cadiz – For a bit of beach action I’m thinking of heading to Cadiz. Cadiz apparently boasts narrow streets and spacious plazas with plenty to see and do. The city has an old town, a modern area AND a magnificent coast. This means I can sightsee, shop and sunbathe all in one weekend – amazing!

Any advice regarding places to stay or things to do in these locations would be great. Alternative recommendations are also welcome; I have approximately nineteen weekends left in Spain and I want to see as much as possible!Untitled