The trip started at 9:30 a.m. from Sintra by bus to Azenhas do Mar. Two Scotturb buses were going to that direction, the bus 440 and 441 and their timetable can also be found online. You can go from Sintra directly to Praia Grande and Praia das Maçãs and other coastal villages in the vicinity like Cascais and Cabo da Roca, but the last two would wait for the final days of the trip. We decided to go to Azenhas do Mar because it looked spectacular on the internet and really sounded promising.
The village is situated on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean. It has two shops, a few restaurants and bars and a beach but everything was closed yet since it’s early spring. There are some beaches like Praia das Maçãs and Praia Grande which also can be reached on foot. When we arrived after about 20 minutes by bus from Sintra, the village seems dead. There were no people in sight, and we were the only two tourists. After the lady bus driver set us off at the bus stop, it started to rain, and the wind was practically sweeping us off. There was a small shed at the stop and a serviceable toilet next to it. We went down to the tiny beach, but unfortunately, the restaurant next to it was closed. We brought some bread and something to drink so we could tank up a bit. But the place looks fascinating even at that unholy weather. It provided us with a different impression of the area. There’s a small pool next to the restaurant on the cliffhang. The cold wind was getting strong, so we decided to leave.
After a few photos, we walked towards the other beach, the Praia das Maçãs which lies about 3 kilometres away. We passed by along the way some angler who tried their luck on the rock at the roaring Atlantic.When we arrived at Praia das Macas, it was like returning to civilisation. The place was already busy and the numerous restaurants, cafes and shops were open. We went down first to the somewhat larger beach which was just literally a stone’s throw away, then onto a restaurant which serves seafood. I’ve ordered my fish and my companion, just fries. After a breather, we were again on our way to the magnificent beach, and I had to muster strength yet as Praia Grande was still about 3.5 kilometres away. The waiter from the restaurant said that it was indeed not far, just follow the main road and then turn right at the first crossing where the street also directly leads to the long beach. Before we finally left, the chef from the other restaurant made a little presentation of some lobsters they got. Unfortunately for him, it was too late, and we were done eating.
We had to hurry a little because we wanted to take the earlier bus back to Sintra. It was still cold at the time, so there was eventually no plan to stay long at the beach. On the way up to the hilly street, we already saw the long beach, hence the name Praia Grande. There was this big hotel next to the beach, which we actually thought about booking because of the big pool but we were glad we didn’t since the weather wasn’t perfect during our stay in the area. The selling point of the hotel was actually the huge pool, and my companion would have gotten the crisis if he could not use it.
The place seems remotely located, but I could imagine how overfilled it would be in summer. For us, a day trip would have been enough. We waited for the bus and drove back up to Portela de Sintra which was the last stop of the line and perhaps look for the bus that will take us to Mafra, where there’s a huge national palace. We, unfortunately, found nothing but I really wanted to breathe a city air so it was decided that we would make a day trip to Lisbon.
On the way back to our hotel, we walked through the new town centre and made a stop at some grocery store, but unfortunately, they had a limited supply. The food shops also didn’t have the things we needed, so we went back to our place to rest. It was still early in the afternoon, so we decided to go to the next attraction, the Park and Palace of Monseratte. The 30-hectare garden was created in 18th century by wealthy merchant Gerard de Visme, then enlarged by landscape painter William Stockdale (with help from London’s Kew Gardens). Its wooded hillside bristle with exotic foliage, from Chinese weeping cypress to dragon trees and Himalayan rhododendrons. There’s also the Mexican garden with palms, yuccas and agaves as well as the bamboo-fringed Japanese garden with blooming camellias. The park was nicely laid with winding paths, ponds, giant ferns and other plants. The chapel ruins were also incorporated in the design of this beautiful English landscape garden.
The neo-gothic castle which actually looked more like “Moorish-inspired” palace was built by another wealthy Englishman, Francis Cook. It is really one of a kind. The palace itself was not that huge, but you can just go in on your own and discover the many beautiful rooms and interior design. The real gem was the long corridor, the fountains inside and the ornaments. Outside was also the fantastic landscaping where we went back to the gardens and out to the gates.
We waited for the bus (€ 6 roundtrip ticket) and back to the Old town. We walked back to our hotel from the old town passing by the showcase of numerous sculptures on the road, the stunning town hall, “Camara Municipal de Sintra. Then it was time for dinner at the nearby (diagonally opposite from Monte da Lua hotel) Pizza Hut. The price was a bit much for the not so good pizza though.