You will have heard of Sintra. A stunning enclave some forty minutes outside Lisbon, filled with palaces and piles and follies of every era, Lord Byron called it “Glorious Eden,” and started “Childe Harolde” at Lawrence’s Hotel, on the Rua do Consiglieri Pedroso. (There is now an Escadinhas Lord Byron just outside its doors.) Tourists have been flocking there ever since.
We visited the Palácio da Pena with its majestic views, and the pink-hued Palácio Seteais, and the fourteenth-century Palácio Nacional de Sintra and the Gothic pleasure gardens of the Regaleira Estate, rich with grottoes and gargoyles and secret passages. We ate at the Queijadas de Sintra. It was very much the Lucy Honeywell school of tourism, but wonderful all the same. We were part of a multinational throng. I was vaguely aware of being a failure as someone who experiences life to the full, and probably the worst kind of American imperialist to boot. I studied my vocabulary list diligently.
In the afternoon, I visited the Toy Museum, lured by the sight of a six-foot Playmobil woman beckoning me in from a wrought-iron balcony. Some visitors seemed disappointed by the somewhat haphazard collection (“Where are the teddy bears?” demanded one disconsolate British tourist. “Where are the rocking horses?” implored her companion.) Read More