After having spent five days in Sintra, Jürgen and I had easily reached our palace quotient for the year... and it was still early January. But we couldn't possibly leave Lisbon without visiting the Palácio Nacional de Queluz, just fifteen kilometers outside the city.
With its castles, hills, fog and forests, Sintra looks as though it was ripped straight from the pages of a fairy tale. For centuries, this was the preferred retreat of Portuguese kings, and its beauty has been celebrated by legions of poets, painters and authors. In order to properly soak up the atmosphere, and to visit everything it has to offer, we decided to spend a week there.
Having completed our circuit of the Arrábida National Park, we found ourselves in the small town of Azeitão, known throughout Portugal for its fine wines and cheeses. Here, we would visit a summer palace, which was once home to royalty, and today acts as a small vineyard for the Bacalhôa wine company.
The small town of Mafra, 40 kilometers to the north of Lisbon, is home to one of Portugal's most monumental palaces. Built between 1717 and 1750 by King João V, the Palácio Nacional de Mafra is jaw-dropping in its dimensions, and seems as large as the village of Mafra itself. We laced up our sneakers, stretched our quads, and prepared ourselves for the herculean effort of visiting the palace.
What is it about rich people, always choosing the highest neighborhoods in which to live? Do they have to literally lord it over the rest of us? Apparently so, because in a hilly town like Lisbon, you can bet that the highest hills are going to be populated by the richest people. It's a law as immutable as gravity, and should you be in doubt, then please check out Lapa. Just make sure to step out of the road as the Porsche SUV blasts by.