Sintra Portugal – National Palace and Quaint Streets

When traveling with a tour company, one thing to be expected is early morning departure times as a matter of the daily routine. The goal is to see as many sights as possible and when appropriate, leave time for independent exploration.

We were up early for breakfast and departure on May 10, 2018 when we left Lisbon, Portugal for Sintra. The morning was cloudy with scattered showers as the group disembarked the bus and walked to the center of town. The streets are very narrow and large vehicles cannot stay in the central area.

A gloomy morning in Sintra

A gloomy morning in Sintra

The main attraction for our group was the very well preserved National Palace of Sintra which dates back a thousand years or more. It is mentioned in many historical documents and fell under Portuguese rule in 1147 when the city was conquered by King Alfonso Henriques.

Like many of the old and ancient buildings in Portugal and Spain, there have been alterations and changes throughout its history as new residents took occupancy much like contemporary renovations for those who purchase a legacy house. After all, doesn’t everyone want the latest and greatest?

The National Palace in Sintra

The National Palace in Sintra

The Sala dos Cisnes (Swan Room) generally used for grand receptions, banquets, etc. is one of the largest rooms in the palace. Of special interest is the painted ceiling which is composed of 27 octagonal sections each containing a white swan and from which the moniker of the room is derived. Looking closely at the paintings, tourists will note that each of the birds is different than the others and wears a gilded collar perhaps indicating the privilege of wealth.

Sala dos Cisnes - Swan Room

While walking through the rooms at the National Palace, we also noted the nearby beautiful and colorful mountainside …

beautiful and colorful mountainside

beautiful and colorful mountainside

and exterior views.

exterior views

Portugal has been known for its Hispanic-Moorish tile work and there were abundant displays of this tile artistry throughout the building. Some depicted courtly events and hunting scenes.

tile work

Here is a closeup of one panel.

tile panel closeup

We cannot judge this art form by standards we have today because technologies and techniques are much different. The difficulty of working with tiles to create a scene is that the tiles don’t always meet in the most appropriate and best-fitting manner. The tour guide pointed out how the seam-lines in the section below somewhat mar the face of the woman in the panel.

example of a misaligned tile picture

There were many kinds of beauty to be viewed in the National Palace. Some of them were more subtle while others were quite opulent. The Coats of Arms Room (Sala dos Brasões) is said to be located at the highest point in the palace. The center section of the ceiling pictured below shows eight panels each of which contains one of eight coats of arms of Portuguese royalty. The gilded artwork was quite impressive

gilded ceiling in the Coats of Arms Room - Sala dos Brasões

The Palatine Chapel (below) captures visitors eyes immediately upon entrance as the offset square fresco pattern of white doves with olive branches resting on a light, reddish-brown background draw the eyes to the chapel’s altar.

Palatine Chapel with doves

The architectural artwork in the palace had numerous unique elements. Manueline Hall was obviously a very formal room with a sizable chandelier. Archived pictures show that a large table is often placed in the middle of the carpeted floor area although absent during our visit. What impressed me almost as much was the amazing stonework rope design around the entranceway.

stonework arch of the Manueline Hall

Another example of the tile work in the palace is shown below. The corn (on top) is used to symblolize success and prosperity. It may be hard to visualize, but sections of the tiles are created in relief, i.e. three-dimensional.

three dimensional corn tile work

Seeing the various rooms and learning about their history was interesting, but I was also drawn to look out a number of windows to view the colorful and aged courtyards with their planters, staircases and interesting designs.

outside courtyard with planters

One of the last areas visited in the Palace was the large kitchen which was restored in 2016.

the Palace kitchen

You may have noticed the huge coat of arms above the main archway leading into the kitchen.

Kitchen Coat of Arms

The kitchen was tiled in a manner that might be considered more traditional according to today’s standards and was the main focus of the 2016 renovation as the older tiles were not adhering well to the underlying masonry. Everything was large in scale. Notice the size of the pots.

kitchen tiles and large pots

When cooking large amounts of food to serve hundreds of guests with the tools available at the time, there must have been a tremendous amount of heat in the kitchen and thus there are two massive chimneys 33 metres in height. The photograph below was taken looking upward through one of them.

large chimneys in the kitchen

By the time the tour of the National Palace ended, the weather had changed for the better as indicated in the picture of one of the kitchen chimneys from across the street.

large kitchen chimney from across the street

The National Palace was not the only point of interest in Sintra. The town itself beckons tourists to explore. Even the doorways exude an aura of Portuguese history.

old, rugged doorway

The beautiful plantings outside and colorful displays in windows of the shops were very inviting. The streets were paved with traditional cobblestones similar to those used in Lisbon proper.

narrow street in Sintra

colorful merchant display

Here is a typical stairway in the central district of Sintra.

streetside stairway

Along the side were large planters with specimen plants.

specimen planters along the stairway

Geraniums were a favorite and festooned a number of walls along the pedestrian byways.

geraniums on the wall

Wherever one travels in the world, there are street vendors and performers. This gentleman had a cart and as I watched him unload, it became apparent that he had a conquistador-type costume with him.

Don Quixote street performer

He began to apply a dark brown skin tone and adorn the accoutrements of a Don Quixote outfit perhaps with the idea that tourists would stop by to take pictures with him and pay a fee for the privilege. Unfortunately, we were called to leave before the transformation was complete.

Don Quixote street performer


Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.


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©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 –

Highway Stonework – Year of Yosemite (YOY) – Day 190

Stonework along the highway at Yosemite

Stonework along the highway at Yosemite

When one considers the ages of some of our national parks, it is astounding that the details created so very long ago still remain intact and in good repair. On the return trip to Yosemite Valley from Hetch Hetchy, we passed this stonework on a bridge that was part of the major thoroughfare.

What struck me are the details used in the building of this safety barrier. The wooden beams could have been set straight across, but instead they are placed on the diagonal to add an artistic flare. Most of the tops of the columns are pyramidal in shape and each vertical column stands as a “pop out.”

The contrast of the gray and brown against the green foliage made for a striking scene. We should be very proud of and pleased with our national parks!

BTW – The National Park Service has put out a list of their Fee Free Days for 2017 and a couple of them cover weekends. You can check out the list of fee free days here:

National Park Service Announces Fee Free Days for 2017

Just keep in mind that the parks are likely to be crowded on these days so make arrangements early!

Do you have a question about our visit to Yosemite? Ask it in the comment section. originally published this post
*All photographs Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with all rights reserved.

See previous Year of Yosemite (YOY) posts HERE. If you want to read the introduction to the YOY series, CLICK HERE.


Meta Data – Day 190 YOY – Year of Yosemite

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Year of Yosemite (YOY) – Day 90 (Trail Maintenance)

Typical view of a Yosemite Trail 

Typical view of a Yosemite Trail

As we visit the national parks, we are always amazed and appreciative of the care that is given to maintaining the trails. As most people know, the parks are not well-funded and are attracting increasing numbers of visitors.

BTW – The photograph above was taken during our hike along the Four Mile Trail at Yosemite…notice the cobble stone-like section.

Certainly there are areas where maintenance is lacking and certain amenities need upgrading, but when it comes to the trails which are often very far away from electricity, running water, roads, etc. they are mostly groomed.

We have been on trails where trees have fallen across the path. In a visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we hiked a loop trail and noticed that on the way out a tree had obstructed a path that was clear on the way in. We understand, however, that not every trail can be reviewed every day or every week or even every six months. I think this is part of the allure of hiking, i.e. one never knows what they will find.

I want to tip my hat and thank those who work on helping to care for our trails in the national parks. We appreciate any effort made to ease our way. Many a stubbed toe has been avoided by these efforts!

Do you have a question about our visit to Yosemite? Ask it in the comment section. originally published this post
*All photographs Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with all rights reserved.

See previous Year of Yosemite (YOY) posts HERE. If you want to read the introduction to the YOY series, CLICK HERE.


Meta Data – Day 90 YOY – Year of Yosemite

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Year of Yosemite (YOY) – Day 37 (Old Stone Bridge)

Old and beautiful stone bridgeStone bridge…old…authentic!

I am a sucker for stonework and Yosemite has more than its share. There are a good number of causeways, curbs and cottages made of stone throughout the park. Using such a natural resource only adds to the beautiful surroundings.

Do you have a question about our visit to Yosemite? Ask it in the comment section. originally published this post
*All photographs Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with all rights reserved.

See previous Year of Yosemite (YOY) posts HERE. If you want to read the introduction to the YOY series, CLICK HERE.


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