Yes yes, I know... our Europe trip was 6 months ago! Right after the trip I wrote my blog posts on Germany, Ireland, and Spain, but then got busy and lost motivation, so I am finally now returning to to finish out my posts on the remaining countries from our Anniversary trip! As usual, I put in my top 5, so here it is. Enjoy!
Jenna’s Top 5
1. Best attractions/activities: Quinta de Regailera & Carcavelos Beach
2. Best Restaurant: Caseiro Restaurant (amazing steakhouse with traditional sides)!
3. Best CrossFit Gym - CrossFit 2725!
4. Best Cultural Tip - Don’t speak Spanish... It doesn't matter that there are similarities, they would rather you just speak English.
5. Best transportation - Busses and trains between major cities, but taxis to small destinations.
Upon arriving in Sintra, Matt and I INSTANTLY got a sense that were going to love it there! It is calm, quiet, and much of it is beautiful countryside or beaches, which was exactly what we were looking for after the busyness of Barcelona!
We flew in to the Lisbon Airport and got on the bus to get to city center and find our train to Sintra. The train station was very easy to find and soon enough we were on our way! By the way, this is MUCH cheaper than taking a taxi (12 Euros compared to 50 or 60 euros for a taxi). We spent our train ride marveling at the beautiful countryside and playing a game on my iPhone called "Take It Easy" where you match up lines for different points and they all have intersections that you have to analyze and anticipate. I won, obviously. ;) I also remember seeing a ton of graffiti on the walls each train station we went through and the creativity of some of the drawings!
We arrived in Sintra and walked about a half mile with our backpacks up the from the train station to the area up in higher in the mountains with the hotels and restaurants. Everything was so beautiful, green, and quaint! After checking in to our hotel I opened our balcony doors and you could hear the sound of the wind, a church bell in the distance, and kids playing in the small cobblestone streets below. Matt and I both commented on how we felt so relaxed and at ease in a small town compared to the big cities (I guess we are small town folk ha!).
We spent most of Thursday exploring Quinta de Regailera, a HUGE estate built by a millionaire in the 20th century. This guy had quite the imagination! The estate was FILLED with mini castles, chapels, gardens, fountains, and underground tunnels that lead to each place! It was surreal at some moments! At one point we were in a tunnel (not knowing at what part of the estate we would pop up at eventually) and we were in complete darkness! Thank goodness I had my super nifty iPhone with the flashlight on it!
After exploring the Quinta (it took an entire day) we walked back to town and found a cute little restaurant for dinner. Friday morning we decided to go see the Pena Palace and the Moorish castle, but there were no free taxis and a crazy long waiting line for the busses! It must have been a holiday or something because it was insane. We decided to go down to Carcavelos, a beach down south for the day instead and were so happy with our choice. It was absolutely GORGEOUS (the sand, waves, & Portuguese Fort on the water) and and just ALIVE. It embodied living life to the fullest, laughter, happiness, and community! There were old and young couples sitting on the edge of the rocks looking out over the water, large groups of kids playing in the sand and water together, and a huge tournament of beach soccer that anyone could join in to... Matt and I loved every moment of it! We ended the day by eating a delicious dinner at a restaurant on the beach.
Matt was working Saturday and Sunday a CrossFit Level 1 Seminar at CrossFit 2725. One thing that I really loved about this entire Europe trip was the the opportunity that I had to meet the owners, trainers, and weekend participants at each gym in different countries! If you are ever near Sintra, go to CrossFit 2725 and get a workout in! Paulo and Andreia (the owners and coaches) are the most amazing people and SO welcoming! We all went out to dinner Saturday night at one of their favorite steakhouses - Caseiro Restaurant, and let's just say... massive amount of the most delicious and tender meat were devoured that night!
On Monday morning we took the train back into Lisbon and then got on our flight to Athens. Our flight first had a layover in Switzerland first though (yea, bizarre), so we wandered the airport, quickly found out how crazy the exchange rate is from the dollar to the franc, then bought some little boxes of very expensive Swiss chocolate and waited to board our plane for Athens. Next destination: the island Santorini in Greece to celebrate our 2 year anniversary!