A group of four of us hired a taxi for the day and drove out 40 minutes from Lisbon to the small town of Sintra, filled with palaces and castles, and then continued our Grand Tour with stops in Cabo da Roca (which is the westernmost spot on continental Europe) and then the resort area of Cascrais. (As far as I can tell, that's pronounced "kish-kris".
Sintra started out with a lucky decision. It's a quaint town with a National Palace dominating the square, so that seemed to be the place to go. But after checking inside and seeing some of the other nearby places, we decided to skip it and go instead to the Pena Palace, which was about a 20-minute drive up a winding road into the hills. (We passed the Moorish Castle on the way, which I would have enjoyed seeing, but the others in the group thought it would take time away from the other sites they more were looking forward to.
Why did Pena Palace strike our fancy? A brief story. When we were walking through the grounds, I overheard a woman say something in a foreign language that included the word "Disneyland." Later, back in Lisbon, I was talking with someone there who also said how it reminded them of Disneyland. Actually, I said to her, there is a connection. Pena Palace was constructed (re-designed, more accurately, from a monastery) in 1838 by Frederick II. He was a cousin of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who had built a wide range of utterly extravagant castles, including one named Neuschwanstein. And that is the castle that Walt Disney patterned the famous Sleeping Beauty's Castle that is the centerpiece of…Disneyland!
So, the connection of the Palace at Pena to Disneyland is far more close than they thought.
None of my pictures do it justice. You pretty much need a helicopter doing flyovers, and even then you’d be missing the details. Pena Palace is a spectacular place, which the emphasis on “spectacle.” It’s architecture and design aside, the remarkable thing about the place is how – in that era especially – did they build such a massively elaborate and intricate and sprawling structure in the middle of the forest up a winding, narrow path many-miles from the distant little town.
Much of it from the outside gives a reminder of an Escher painting, with different levels, nooks and crannies all over the place. And inside is a morass of rooms, stairways, nooks, cloisters and connecting hallways throughout the place.
The design is in the romantic German style. But make no mistake, there is no subtlety here, and the outside colors are overly vibrant. But inside there are nonetheless some deft touches, while still having its extravagances.
The view from the outside walkway is certainly is great, with the expanse of land and homes spreading out far, and the Moorish Castle and other palaces below, with the ocean in the distance.
The rest of the journey was a pleasure, but more of a relaxing nature. Cabo da Boca was very low-key (most especially after the experience of Pena Palace), but I think I would have enjoyed just hiking around and relaxing there for a few hours.
As I said, this is the westernmost spot of continental Europe. It’s not that it’s just an invigorating coastline – it’s not – but the rock formation has a majesty to it, and the color of the Portuguese Atlantic is a rich, wonderful turquoise. And with the wide openness of the water in front of you, it’s a great sight.
The IFA event, which is the actual reason for coming here to Lisbon in the first place, finally started this evening. Though it was just an informal get together in the outside garden lounge area. A few more journalists I know from the Berlin show finally got into the city, so it was good to cross paths with them again. The food was mediocre, but a few dishes were tasty, but all was fine. The official conferences begin in the morning. (As a result, I may only be able to post once here tomorrow, Friday -- tomorrow my time, eight hours later than Los Angeles.)
By the way, I must note that the WiFi here at the Marriott Hotel is as bad as any I’ve ever had, and it’s driving all the journalists nuts. Much of the time it doesn’t connect – it isn’t connected now as I write this. I’m not using my website software (since I can’t access) but am writing in Microsoft Word and will cut-and-paste later. The “later” is when I take my laptop and head downstairs to the lobby where IFA has set up its own Internet server, and the connection is good and fast. Given that it’s 12:15 in the morning, that’s not the most convenient thing in the world, but I’ve been doing it regularly. Even sometimes when I do have a connection…because the speed is almost humorously slow.
The elves back taking care of the homestead find all this about the Internet a hoot and keep telling me that the network back at my home is working just fine…