Sintra is a resort town in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near the capital, Lisbon, and the first centre of European Romantic architecture. Ferdinand II turned a ruined monastery into a castle where this new sensitivity was displayed in the use of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance elements and in the creation of a park blending local and exotic species of trees. Other fine dwellings, built along the same lines in the surrounding serra, created a unique combination of parks and gardens which influenced the development of landscape architecture throughout Europe, such as the Palace of Seteais, Quinta de Regaleira, and the Town Hall. The major landmarks such as the Palace of Pena, the Moorish Castle, the Palace of Sintra, the church of São Pedro, Penha Verde, the Cruz Alta, the Estate of Regaleira and the Palace of Seteais, that interact with one another and with the landscape, have been restored and retain their authenticity.
An Italian architect named Luigi Manini designed the Quinta da Regaleira estate, and is believed to hide symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, Knights Templar, and Rosicrucians in the Roman, Gothic and Renaissance style, it started in 1904 and was finished by 1910. Found on a hillside, the gardens reflect the style of the building’s architecture, including, as one might expect, statues, fountains and grottoes and includes a chapel and an aquarium and looks natural in the rock.
Designed by engineer Xavier Esteves, representing “Science” and “Art.” Along with a stained glass window bearing a monogram of “Lello and Brother” with their motto Decus in Labore (“Honor in Work”), are plant motifs and geometric shapes. Opened in 1906, Livraria Lello is an established bookstore, but it has certainly aged well over the years. It is consistently named one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It’s just a few minutes walk from downtown Porto. In 2010, Lonely Planet named it the “Third Best Bookstore in the World!”. It begs one to ask, “just where is the best bookstore in the world?” .. The twisting staircase was the inspiration for the Harry Potter books, which JK Rowling partly wrote in Porto while working here as an English teacher from 1991 to 1993. The €5 entry fee is redeemable if you buy a book.
Known for the unbelievable landscape, Monsanto sits on a mountaintop in the Portuguese countryside with incredible vistas, and has been a strategic military position since it was discovered. The Castle of Monsanto, a Templar castle, adorns the peak. Franco-Spanish forces was responsible for the installation of a military garrison at this location in 1813, resulting in major works on the castle, but in 1815, there was an explosion of the magazine powder keg, resulting in the partial destruction of the castle. Having stayed virtually the same for hundreds of years, Monsanto has earned the reputation of being more like a “living museum” and as a result, it cannot be changed. The streets wind steeply past cottages hidden against mossy boulders, some of which have been made doors leading to homes carved from the rock.
* Based on a typical trip for two (2) for seven (7) nights including hotel, food, entertainment, local travel, Approx. $3,400 CDN.