Our rest day in Sintra started with a latish and leisurely breakfast after which we all went our separate ways. It was pleasant for Maree and myself to just wander about together for most of the day. Our first visit was to the Sintra National Palace which was the 'holiday home' of King Joao and other royals. Compared to some palaces in Italy, France and England it is pretty small and simple but there were some exquisite tiled walls and many spectacular ceilings. By adding an extra passage and opening up a couple of doors the palace can be viewed in one continuous direction.
We followed up with a visit to the Quinta da Regaleira which was the summer residence of the Carvalho Monteiro family from 1893. The exuberant decorative style involved some of Portugal's best architects,artists and garden designers. Work on the gardens began in 1896 and continued until 1946 when the property was sold. It is now owned by the municipality of Sintra. The extensive gardens are traversed by numerous paths leading to whimsical structures, towers, grottos, fountains and waterfalls. There is a promenade of the gods with appropriate statues and a large cistern which holds the water to irrigate the whole place. An 'Initiate Well' which sinks 27m into the ground is surrounded by a helical staircase which takes one from the top to the bottom. A number of underground tunnels some more than 50m long lead to a point halfway up the well. The whole garden is really amazing and must take a lot of maintenance. Within the garden is the house itself which is lavishly decorated with tiled walls and ornate ceilings. It's whimsical turrets and spires give it a sort of fairy castle appearance. There are elaborate fireplaces and intricately designed door and window frames.
On our return from this garden we stopped by another entry that advertised free entry to a garden and gallery. Upon entering we found that, although there was an interesting looking garden, the free entry only applied to a tiny little portion. Nevertheless we decided to pay the fee and spent another half hour or so exploring a different garden which was very peaceful and featured an old cork tree which had numerous ferns growing on its branches. This tree had been referred to by a number of British writers and poets who used to come to Sintra for the winter. Another thing we noticed were all the moss covered benches throughout he garden which were picturesque but no longer practical for sitting on.
On our return the town we had some lunch and then explored the Sintra natural history museum which, although small had some interesting fossil exhibits. We set out to find another museum but were side tracked by the local botanical garden through which we wandered for another pleasant hour or so. Throughout the day we bumped into others from our cycling group and swapped tales of what we had seen and done.
After a bit of a rest we went out to dinner with Bruce, Gina, Richard and Colin at a small restaurant in the old town. The meal was adequate but nothing special but what else can on expect in a tourist town.