Caminho Português – Sintra
(24,224 steps – 18.34 kms – 11.39 miles)
We were up at the crack of dawn, ready to put in the first day of hiking. The first stage of the hike was the 2-block trek to the first open café. The proper way to start any pilgrimage journey is with coffee and a pastry. My preferred breakfast, a café americano and the napolitana de chocolate, but an espresso and croissant simple will suffice.
The second component of a proper start to a hike is an instant, endorphins-be-damned elevation gain. Check. Right after breakfast, we started our walk out of town, a couple of blocks on the flat main street. Then we turned left, and up. We ascended out of Sintra, through São Pedro de Penaferrim, and all the way up to the Park and National Palace of Pena. Despite the huffing and puffing and cussing of the ascent, I noticed that this place in which we walked was beautiful.
The flora was rich and varied, I didn’t know there were so many shades of green. First, it was the trees – oaks, pines, and cedars towered above the earth. At the forest’s base, the rich soil was covered with thick ferns and ivies. Flowers of all kinds were intertwined with the ground cover in an explosion of color. Lilies grew wild and were everywhere.
Mixed with the designs of nature, the human designs were amazing and integrated with the natural surroundings – the palaces, the chalets, the rock walls, the cobbled paths – all exquisite. It’s no wonder this place is so popular with tourists.
We walked all around the Pena Palace complex and around the Moorish Castle, it was a great hike! We descended from the castle and into Old Town Sintra. On the edge of town and on the side of the steep hill, we happened across the Hambúrgueria da Ferraria. For those of you not familiar with the Portuguese language like me ;), hambúrgueria basically means hamburger store, a significant find. We were hungry and so went in, but my expectations were low. I’ve had few good hamburger experiences on the Iberian Peninsula. Our server took us to a table on the terrace overlooking the Old Town far below, it was a fine view!
The menu showed a variety of artisan hamburgers and a good selection of craft beers, could it be? We made our choices and then enjoyed the views and the conversation about the day’s experiences. The hamburger was spectacular, far and away the best I’ve had in this part of the world, and the IPA was a solid 8 on the Littleton Craft Beer Scale. The tagline for this place is, “the best hamburgers in the best spot.” I agree.
On the way back to our lodging, I noticed a Lavanderia (self-service laundry). I’ve written before about the value of machine-washed clothes on pilgrimage, so being true to my philosophy, I gathered all my travel laundry and washed it before we set out on the less-civilized part of our journey.
For the second evening in a row, we had dinner at Passione Pizza Sintra. They had a nice selection of really good Italian food, but the best part of them was their hospitality. It was like having dinner at a friend’s house. The hospitality in this part of the world may be my favorite part.
From the first coffee to the fine Italian dinner, and everything in between, I’m convinced more than ever that humans are designed to be in movement and participants (giving & receiving) in the *grace of life!
- Regarding the grace of life – 2 days into the Portugal trip and it seems that inflation, greed, and price-gouging are not a part of the economy of the grace of life in Portugal.