Portugal: the palace at Sintra, up the coast from Lisbon.
I am not sure whether to call this a palace or a castle, though the Portugese refer to it as the Palace of Pena. I have seen many many palaces and castles and on the whole feel thoroughly palaced-out and totally castled-out, so wasn’t overkeen on visiting this one. It has to be said, however, that it does invite you up the hill to have a look. Perched as it is at the edge of the charming little town of Sintra, not far from Lisbon, it forces you to look up and exclaim “hey, look at that!” (or words to this effect).
We had our caravan on tow, as you do, and the road up to the castle is very steep and narrow. We hooted vigorously at every bend, a sacrilege in itself in the beautiful tree-filled escarpement that fell away to one side and climbed Heavenwards on the other. We passed people walking up to the palace – lots of them, young and old – but no fat. Once an older man exclaimed loudly, as we negotiated a 100-point turn at the wrong corner, that it was folly to bring a caravan up here. Another flagged us down and asked for water. Yet another wanted a lift which we’d willingly have given but we were totally loaded up with pottery souvenirs for our garden.
When we got to the top there was a fork in the road. No sign. Which way ? we asked each other. This way, I said. Wrong. More negotiating tight bends, another 100-point turn. Some workmen were repairing a section of road. Where’s the bloomin’ palace gone ? we exclaimed. You’re going the wrong way, they replied.
As I say, I am pretty-much palaced-out, but this was definitely something to see. An extraordinary mixture of gothic, psuedo-gothic, Renaissance, Belle Epoque and I-know-not-what architecture, heaped and jumbled amid towers and turrets and parapets. The rooms were surprisingly small and ran one in to the other – I wonder how they had any privacy ?
The grounds were gorgeous and vast. It was a beautiful hot day and I sketched and sketched. The big advantage to towing our caravan up there was that we could make a cup of tea. We’re British, we explained.
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Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are on Amazon and Kindle, or can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries. More about Catherine Broughton, to include her sketches and her entertaining blogs, on http://turquoisemoon.co.uk
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