The Mystery and Magic of Quinta da Regaleira- Sintra, Portugal

My second day in Portugal started out at about the same time as the first- that is, way too early at 6am since my body was still adjusting to the time change but it was nice to get a few hours to myself to just chill, send messages to friends and eventually eat a hearty breakfast before heading out to the first stop of the day, the historic estate of Quinta da Regaleira.

Quinta da Regaleria, also know as the Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” was one of the places I was most excited to get to visit, amid all the many others to be found there in Sintra it seemed to be the one with an air of beautiful mystery that just called to be explored. I arrived right after opening at 9:30am and lucked out to a mostly clear day and no tour crowds to be seen yet. I knew I wanted to explore the grounds and most especially to see the popular Initiation well.

I got turned around a few times because to say the estate is sprawling would be an understatement but eventually I found myself looking down at the inverted tower- it’s a “well” in name only as it’s never held water and was used for ceremonial purposes- and debating if I wanted to walk down the spiraling stairs.

I did eventually walk down carefully and the view from below up was definitely worth it. Getting out proved a little tricky as I followed one of the underground tunnels to a green lagoon area underneath a small waterfall and couldn’t quite figure out where to go from there. There was a path of rocks that led across the bright green water to the other side i wanted to go to and though it seems like a foolhardy idea, in my head this must be the way to go, so out I stepped.

It’s probably a minor miracle I didn’t fall into the green goo but I made it across…. only to see a sign from that side saying to please stay off the rocks. Flushed with mortification I carefully hurried away but unfortunately a couple of people had seen me crossing and were inspired to try and recreate my journey back across to the tunnels. I want to hope they didn’t fall in either but I had disappeared into the trees before they could turn to ask for advice.

After about two hours of just wandering around and exploring the grounds I finally took a break at the small cafe and enjoyed the quiet. The crowds were just starting to come in as I finished my break so I figured I should wrap things up with a tour through the main building and then head on to the next stop which was to be Queluz National Palace.

Sadly though, most of the areas inside the building were closed and all of the upstairs was under renovation so I didn’t get to see much or read up on the history of the estate. That was only a slight negative in terms of the whole visit though because the true beauty of Quinta da Regaleira is really in the grounds, all the hidden gems, odd statues and utterly impossible to resist trails leading to who knows what. I could have easily spent a good few more hours here but the rain I had managed to avoid that morning finally caught up with me and I decided the best bet was to move on and see one more place for the day.

The story of how I met the worlds nicest uber driver and how I got yet another phone number from a concerned Portuguese citizen wanting to make sure I was ok traveling alone is for the next post.

~m

The Bridge of Sighs and a Beautiful Goodbye – Venice, Italy

I feel like I write the phrase “it was like something out of a dream” so often on this blog that people must think i’m always half awake when I travel, but the truth is that though I would consider myself a writer of at least some skill- there’s always places that I visit that truly do leave me without the necessary adjectives to describe them in any way that does them justice.

We woke up early that last day to wander our way down the quiet and still sleeping streets to make it to Piazza San Marco and get a chance to see it one more time before we left. Not only did we get spared from the constant drizzle of the days before, but there were absolutely no crowds yet and apart from a couple of other dedicated photographers walking around trying to get their best shots, the area was fairly deserted compared to the last time we had been there.

(credit to the bf for taking the photo of me standing in front of Basilica San Marco, I would almost say he’s looking to challenge me for title of head photographer on our trips  )

The previous two days that we’d made our way to see the Bridge of Sighs, it’d been fairly impossible to try and get a good shot because of the crowds but that morning, we had the bridge that overlooks the canal it’s suspended over all to ourselves. After I had finished looking at the beautiful coastline and the islands on the other side (and wishing we had maybe a little bit more time to make it over to explore them), we walked up to the bridge and there was just one guy there, trying to take a good selfie of himself in front of it. He saw us and asked very nicely if we would take a photo of him and I enthusiastically obliged and snapped two photos from him, after which he thanked us with a big smile and walked off to admire the canal coastline himself and suddenly we had the view of the Bridge of Sighs all to ourselves.

A really rather popular tourist attraction in Venice, the Bridge of Sighs is a beautiful enclosed arch bridge built in the 17th century as a way to connect the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doges Palace. The general consensus seems to be the name of the bridge comes from the idea that convicts crossing the bridge to the prisons would get one last glimpse of the lagoon through the covered windows and heave a despairing sigh but…. historically there doesn’t seem to be much credence to this. Personally I can attest that the view is limited from inside the bridge as the glass panels are very cloudy and also crossed with steel bars on the inside, but I can also say that if I was crossing any bridge as a prisoner, I would probably let out a good number of sighs no matter what.

The walk back to our hotel was unhurried as we had already packed up the night before and had our transportation to the Venezia Santa Lucia train station arranged by the staff, so we had plenty of time to marvel at all the unique and beautifully colored buildings that surrounded us.

Once back at the hotel we tucked into breakfast and then time seemed to rush on by until suddenly our water taxi was there and it was time to check out and begin the journey to Rome.

A thrilling and beautiful ride on a lovely water taxi, bright morning light streaming in through the windows as the city rushed by us made a pretty perfect way to say goodbye to Venice.

~m

The Completed Palace and A Walk In The Rain- Schloss Linderhof, Germany

Linderhof Palace, located near Ettal, was the only one of the three palaces commissioned to be built by Bavarian King Ludwig II that he lived to see completed. Ironically, it was the least crowded of the three, at least as far as Julia and I experienced. That, combined with it’s gorgeous beauty and the immense fun we had wandering around the park made it our favorite of all three even if it was softly raining the whole time we were there.

After leaving Füssen, we made the relatively short drive here, winding our way through rolling green hills and red-orange dotted mountains in the background, autumn colors painting the whole landscape in lovely shades. Immediately as we pulled into the half empty parking lot, we know the experience here would be different than at the other two castles we had visited so far.

The architectural queues that signify it’s Versaille inspiration are less overt here than at Herrenchiemsee. Though Ludwigs deep admiration (what some would call obsession) with the French Sun-King are still very present here, in general everything feels more…private and intimate. This probably has to do with the size, as Linderhof is the smallest of the three palaces but maybe also with the fact this is the one he spent most of his adult life in, as a retreat from the world he didn’t quite wish to be a part of.

Same as with the other castles we visited, you can only go inside with a guided 30 minute tour and taking photos of the interior is strictly prohibited. Once again though, we lucked out with a relatively small group that day and we had a chance to linger a bit longer in the rooms and really look at all the exquisite details in each. This virtual tour of the palace is pretty neat at giving you a good idea of what we saw inside, though of course the feeling of almost being overwhelmed by the grandeur is hard to replicate (I highly suggest you google the search term “Porcelain chandelier Ludwig” and see what I mean)  .

Once we were were done with the tour we headed back out and while we saw plenty of people head back out to the parking lot, probably because of the sprinkling rain, we stayed behind to wander around some more. Statues, fountains, pergolas, majolica vases- it seemed every time we rounded a corner or took a step to the side, there was yet more to see. And since it was at the end of the day we had most areas almost all to ourselves to lean in closer to all the little details, to fall further into the lull of this fairytale like landscape.

Eventually though, the rain went from a light drizzle to something more persistent and with closing hour approaching fast, we made one final photographic effort and climbed up the stairs facing the palace to have a chance to look out over it all. Rain falling down over us and our hands cupping our cameras to keep the droplets away from the lens we stood there, legs more than a little tired from all the walking we had done that day and just…took it all in. Perhaps summertime would have been a nice time to visit, weather-wise, but looking a the brilliant riot of colors that fall had brought to the landscape, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful time to have been given the chance to come here.

As we made our way slowly back to Julias van I knew it was going to take me a while to actually well and truly believe that I had visited a place like this. I’ve said it numerous times in the posts i’ve written about this trip but, that feeling of being somewhere else- in a fairytale or in a whole other world- its hard to shake off when you visit places like this. This would turn out to be the last of King Ludwigs II’s castles we would visit, as the weather took a turn for the worse the next day but having this be the last one I got to visit, there were no regrets whatsoever lingering in my mind when I departed Germany two days later. Besides, getting a a chance to explore a rainy picturesque Mittenwald and learn more about the Partenkirchen side of Garmich-Partenkirchen the next, it more than made up for missing anything.

~m