We pretty well haven't stopped moving since we packed up our belongings several weeks ago and as a result I've woken every day feeling like I've run a marathon. Galleries, museums, castles, palaces, fantastical gardens, castles, castles and more fucking castles. And turrets? I'd be happy to not climb another damned turret ever again. It's been amazing but mummy it hurts.
We were due to go from Sintra to Lisbon but plans changed at the last minute. We climbed the Moorish Castle on the mountain in Sintra dating from about the 8th century (unfortunately electronic communication in Sintra also feels like it dates from the 8th century... we couldn't even get the public phones to work), checked out the palace (soo high up) and the friend we we were going to meet in Lisbon said she was coming to Sintra and wouldn't mind going to one of the coastal towns, so right now we're in a place called Praia das Maçás, a bustling little beach town about 40 minutes out of Sintra on the chilly waters of the Atlantic. It's great doing it like this – just changing plans and destinations on a whim. We're here for two nights then the plan is to head back to Sintra, on to Lisbon then... not sure where then. We'll probably spend a couple of days in Lisbon (great – more castles and palaces I suspect but I swear in the name of the Holy Father I'm not going up another turret) and then head back to Spain. But who knows?
Who knows anything? I mentioned in the last hastily written blog post that I'd used a bidet for the first time. It was a startling and strangely pleasant experience. It puts the “Ooh!” into Pooh. I think I may have a problem. I think I'm developing an addiction. I've started using the bidet even when I don't need to go to the toilet. The Dreaded One keeps banging on the bathroom door and shouting “Lee – what are you doing in there?”
“Nothing. Nothing, I swear.”
“You're on the bidet again, aren't you.”
“I'm not. I'm... I'm just doing normal bathroom things. Leave us alone!”
“Us? You and the bidet?”
“You leave the bidet out of this!”
Hmm. I feel another Grumpy column coming on.
So what have been the highlights of the trip so far? It's very hard to say. Leaving was stressful and that came out when we got lost in Madrid and we had our usual getting lost arguments. We didn't really feel kind of normal, or as normal as you can feel when you've sold your home, quit your job and left indefinitely. But then Madrid and it's art was amazing; Boom was awesome; it was a stroke of luck coming to Sintra because not only is the historical town a gorgeous, cobblestone tourist mecca that buzzes by day with day-trippers and empties out at night, but the palaces and gardens and that Moorish Castle ruins are quite amazing. The castle is so big and it's really quite a workout to get to the top, and you can't help but be entranced by the history of the thing. The Arabs just came along, built this massive fort-like thing in another country which has been taken over at various times by various armies, and climbing the thing you have to wonder how it was possible for any army to storm such an imposing and majestic fort.
But the main highlight in Sintra has to be Quinta da Regaleira, this grand, magical estate with its secret caverns, grottos, underground towers and meandering tunnels. An honest to God fantasyland steeped in the mystery of the Masons and the legend of The Knights of Templar. It's very tempting to go back for another visit and spend another day wandering about in wonder that such a place was built so long ago and still exists.
Anyway, the sun is coming out here in Praia das Maçás, so enough from the Sintra Tourism Bureau. I don't think a hell of a lot of Maçás – it's just a quaint and bustling beach town with some admittedly nice restaurants with some admittedly über fresh looking seafood and yeah yeah some nice drinking places to sit at and watch the sun sink all pinky and orangey behind the Atlantic... but do you think I can find a decent pair of shoes here? It's doing my head in. There is simply NOWHERE to buy a decent pair of men's open shoes.
For this, I shall never forgive you, Praia das Maçás. Never.