A nice thing about settling in for a few days in one location is the chance to poke around at leisure in the neighborhood, which for us was The Chiado in Lisbon. I hadn’t connected all the dots beforehand, so a sense of serendipity accompanied our realization that the Café A Brasileira—a well-known Fernando Pessoa haunt—was nearby. Continue reading →
National Palace of Sintra and surrounding town from Castelo dos Mouros
Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah, me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?
(from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,Canto I, Stanza 18)
João Cristino da Silva, Cinco artistas em Sintra (1855)
Ah, those Romantics! Surely no one does awe-struck better. Time has moved on since Romantics of all stripes waxed lyrically about Sintra, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site it seemed we should not miss. Cloudy skies, a chilly wind, and no clue how far (and how far up) we’d have to go induced us to buy tickets for a hop-on hop-off bus tour, something we usually go to lengths to avoid. The efficient tour bus operation made short work, for the most part, of longish Easter break lines of tourists, and off we went, uphill all the way. Had Lord Byron seen Sintra as we did, I suspect his waxing might have waned, but we were grateful to preserve our “museum legs” for the sights themselves. Continue reading →
To get at even a modicum of what I wanted to know about Portugal, which I visited for the first time this March, would have required a good bit of research, preferably in the context of a university course. (I wondered, for example, what impact Portugal’s colonialist history and the Salazar dictatorship might have on its current collective mind.) Continue reading →