Sintra & Ribeira d’Ilhas – Spain & Portugal Tour 2009

The day dawned cloudy and we decided to head back inland towards Lisbon to visit Sintra. Sintra’s Palacio Nacional was once the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family – Sintra is close to Lisbon but up in the hills where the weather is cooler.

The Palacio Nacional at Sintra is more impressive inside than outside...
The Palacio Nacional at Sintra is more impressive inside than outside...
...see? Here's a typical ceiling
...see? Here's a typical ceiling

These days, Sintra is a major tourist attraction. Along with the 16th century Palacio Nacional, the town also boasts a Moorish castle, on a nearby hilltop and a second palace, the Pena Palace. The day we visited was wet and foggy – to the extent that we couldn’t see the castle on the top of the hill from Sintra town. Understandably, this put us off the idea of walking up the hill so we contented ourselves with a walk around the National Palace and a coffee and cake in a café next to the station.

Don't confuse these with the usual tourist tat. These are original 'azulejos' and decorate the wall of one room in the National Palace at Sintra
Don't confuse these with the usual tourist tat. These are original 'azulejos' and decorate the wall of one room in the National Palace at Sintra

Incidentally, if you are thinking of driving into Sintra and parking, good luck. It’s possible, but finding the right car park is tricky. As we were only in a small van, we were able to fit in regular car-sized spaces and ended up parking in short term pay and display parking outside the railway station, at a cost of just €0.50 per hour (maximum stay of 2 hours). When we were walking round to the palace, we did spy a large, free car park with a number of motorhomes in it, but we couldn’t quite work out where the entrance was.

Needless to say, the situation would probably have been much worse in summer – and the traffic in Sintra was amongst the worst of the whole trip, even in late April.

On leaving Sintra, we decided it was finally time to see some of Portugal’s famed Atlantic coast. Having read many good things about it we had high hopes for both beaches and weather and were not disappointed.

Ericeira beach - our view at lunchtime. Would you believe it's only around 20 miles from Sintra?
Ericeira beach - our view at lunchtime. Would you believe it's only around 20 miles from Sintra?

The weather transformed itself as we neared the coast and it soon felt like summer again (at least by UK standards). Blue skies, sandy beaches and lots of sun – what’s not to like?

Ribeira d'Ilhas is a top surfing spot and our overnight stop
Ribeira d'Ilhas is a top surfing spot and our overnight stop

Our final stopping point for the day was Ribeira d’Ilhas, a noted surfing spot just north of Ericeira, where we stopped for lunch in a car park overlooking the sea. Cold showers were present by the beach but still turned off as it was out of season (although the bar/café was open and the beach was reasonably busy).

Distance driven: 34 miles

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