619-620: Mafra

619 – Sunday 5th February 2017:  Silly Sunday in Sintra

K here: Guilted by the local runners and the perfect path along the coast, I dusted off my running shoes for the first time in about 3 weeks, followed by Pilates.  I wanted to see inside the Palace de Pena, which J and Alison had done, whilst I walked Oscar.  I’d done my homework and identified parkings, but after a near miss with another car and finding our preferred parking was hosting a car show – we offered Jez as an exhibit, but no room.  Of course, it’s Sunday and guess where everyone’s come!?  We cut our slightly frazzled losses and headed up towards Mafra.  

Our overnight stop was an aire in Santa Susana.  J rested and I took O down to the river.  Just as well I’d put walking boots on as as it was slightly muddy, steep downhill and back up … and at times like an assault course, but I saw a kingfisher and many other birds.

Lovely peaceful overnight with just 2 other vans (1 UK) for company. Free aire – with services – can’t beat it…

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The path was a little overgrown in place … I reversed low with my waterproof hood up through the brambles.

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The path was on the left bank …

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… phew made if across without getting wet feet, but I did have a muddy bum!

620 – Monday 6th February 2017:  Mafra

J takes over.  K ran with Oscar in the am – and I rested my back – probably run tomorrow? Brekkied and van all serviced up (although we may stay here again tonight), we sailed towards Mafra – a hilltop town with a huge Palace/Basilica/barracks. Quite a few sharp bends along the way – but nothing Jez has not successfully navigated. Nice wide streets and lots of parking – including our choice – free right beside the Palace. Oscar drew the short straw – and was left guarding the van – a sort of ‘alarming’ dog….


Perfect Parking.

The Palace is immense – built in 1717 – the 300-year anniversary is this year with lots of events planned later in the Annus Mafravelous…..  Unfortunately, all the original furniture was taken to Brazil with the Royal Family and not returned. What we saw presumably was largely sparse reproduction. Rooms and ceilings wonderfully decorated – lots of hunting scenes – the Royals who stayed here had to be heavily into hunting.  We couldn’t get into the Basilica but saw it from an upper floor.  The un-wow factor was a huge room devoted to hunting – more stags and boars heads than we have ever seen in one place – tables and chairs made from antlers and skins – no prize for guessing why this stuff didn’t make it to Brazil – or maybe the Brazilians returned it!  

The absolute mega wow-factor is the Library – the photos show the scale – with 36,000 books – a lot with covers in gold leaf – breathtaking – worth the visit for this gem alone. But otherwise, we were left a tad disappointed – maybe after Sintra and the surrounding Palces, this was slightly out of palace?


The Royal family’s hunting Lodge:  Begun in 1717 in a mammoth spree of wild spending.  The Palace has over 1,200 rooms, over 4,700 doorways, 2,500 windows … At one point there were over 45,000 artisans working on the Palace with 7,000 soldiers keeping them in order.  The world’s largest collection of bells are in the twin towers – 92 of them.  The story goes that the Flemish bell founders queried the extravagant bell order.  On on being asked, King Dom Joao said, “ So cheap?  Double the order!”  Apparently the cost and the use of such a large workforce nearly destroyed the economy, despite the gold that kept coming from Brazil.  All this expense, but it felt soul-less.



The King’s bed.  The Queen had a smaller one in the opposite tower.  Both had their own kitchen etc.


The long corridors with doorway stretched on and on…


The Queen’s bathroom … one of the more appealing rooms.


One of the salons, but it would not look amiss in an English south coast hotel!


A treasure – an C18th pinball machine.


Not a treasure – some of the animal furniture … spot the baby boar’s head on the sofa!

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The top treasure, which made the visit absolutely worthwhile – The Library at 83.6m, built on a church’s cross with books dating from C15-C18.  Many were bound by the monks living there.  It is so precious that the Pope issued a ‘bull’ (law) that no one could remove books without the permission of the King.

Oscar (released from bondage) – once he had stopped pawing Katherine, accompanied us for a very good helping of local ice cream. We would have visited the Tapada – hunting grounds with plantings, but wild boar are not dog friendly!  Enough of Mafra, we took a small division to Sobreiro, where Jose Franco built a miniature village with ‘kooky’ houses that you can walk into – great fun for children. 


The miniature village was complete with bandstand, waterwheel, primary school and castle.


Honestly J, you don’t need to do the washing by hand, we’ve a twin tub! 

Back towards Santa Susana with our 2 redoubtable SillySatNavs – Madge and Colin – we ended up in a very narrow street – with parked cars, sharp turns and an overhanging roof!!!   Luckily, the local neighbours turned out to advise and guide us – the clearance between our roof and the overhang was millimetres – K piloted us to safety and a better road back to our bivouac. Peace reigns and blogging (a short J guitar practice) – and Knitting…….  Now, K nitting – not Knitpicking – is not an exact science – it’s sometimes “Knit 120 – undo 120” – nothing to do with wine Consumption, either! Possibly, unKnitpicking….

605-606: Sintra: Lisbon Days 5 & 6

605 – Sunday 22nd January 2017:  Sintra and Sintrallated

An early start for us via the IC119 and hairpin bends to Sintra – magic fairyland palaces – and wall to wall sunshine although cool enough to be well wrapped up.  AM saw us in the National Palace of Sintra.  Rain over lunch saw us sheltering for soup and bad service in the Cafe Paris.  Afternoon off to Monserrate.  Sir Francis Cook took a leading part in the restoration of Monserrate Palace from 1858 and he became the Viscount of Montserrate. He was one of Britain’s 3 richest men and amassed a huge collection of art and classical sculptures – many of which we saw in the palace. See the black and white photo of his family. 

There are large gardens, lake, springs, fountains and grottos. Lush greenery abounds with rare species of trees and plants. A photographers dream…

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Sintra Palace:  Holiday home (and as a plague refuge from Lisbon) of the Royals since C13 and fairly uninspiring from the outside except for the two kitchen chimneys, which were originally built in C15away from the Palace due to the not inconsiderable likelihood of them setting fire to the palace.

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Inside had some amazing C15 and C16 tiles and wonderful ceilings.  This one has 27 gold collared swans.  One ceiling of magpies … the story goes that the queen found the King trying to kiss one of her Ladies in Waiting … he replied with “Por bem” meaning all for the good.  The queen forgave the King, but the ladies in waiting gossiped about it, so he had the celling repainted … one chattering magpie for each lady.  And each with the inscription “Por bem”!

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The Coat of Arms Room with the 8 children and 74 leading C16 family coats of arms … including the Costa shield, from which Alison’s family are descended.

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The Chapel ceiling … C14 oak and walnut and very rare.


Monserrate Palace and Park 

The park and use had been sold to the Government in 1949 and largely left to fall into rack and ruin.  They have undergone extensive renovation and opened to the public in 2010.  The gardens especially had a wow factor.

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The Study.

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The long corridor with the ground floor room off on either side.  All the walls and ceiling had had the plasterwork repaired.  Strong Gothic and Moorish influences.

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Papa made his money from textiles and bought the palace in the 1850s as a summer holiday residence.  

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605 – Monday 23nd January 2017:  Sintra and Scintillated – again…

For the main Palacio Nacional de Pena, I walked up (some very steep hills) with Alison to the Palace – Alison’s tennis legs will have improved their stamina immensely – Roger Federer watch out!

K stayed with Oscar – who appreciates his very own Jez Palace – especially when it’s dogs dinner time!  More sumptuosity and grandiloquence – we’re into the big words today, readers….

For the Moorish Castle, K and I swapped roles and K and Alison walked up – yes – more steep hills – for spectaculouruberantial views again.

Back down to Sintra old town for coffee and fountain photographs. Another splendid day by all. 


Palacio Nacional de Pena


The palace was built by the artist Ferdinand II from 1840 (Consort to Queen Maria II and grandfather to the assassinated King Carlos II … getting my head around Portuguese history now).  He employed a German architect and you can see the Germanic influences in the towers.  The interior is described as ‘kitsch’ and the rooms are pretty much left as they were when in use by Amelia for the short 2 years when used by Queen Amelia after her husband’s assassination and before she and her younger son fled to England.





King Carlos II



Castelo dos Mouros


Some steep climbs around the reimports but with great views.



We hunted out the two fountains described in our guide book … both still used for drinking water by locals.  This one is the Fonte Mourisca – quite evidently.

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But this one is called the Fonte da Sabuga and the gide book describes it as …’ the water spouts from a pair of breasts’ … funny looking boobies!



Oscar’s Diary (2)

Hello folks

Yes it’s me again – I wasn’t sure about continuing, but I got 3 positive feedbacks – Boo, Poppy and Kensey – so that’s OK – we may not get to double digits (I suppose I could count the owners…).

We are still in Portogoose Land (K and J tell me) – not a portly goose in sight though. Anyway, what’s grease for the goose is sauce for the gander (I think).  I must watch my sneezing this time – so no more shoe problems – actually, s’not a problem at all.  My ‘owners’ are still developing nicely – I am trying some games with them – they don’t really fancy the ‘shoelace’ game – they tie the laces and I untie them – what’s wrong with that, I ask?  I like it when I pretend to be bored and they get me to lie on my back and one of them tickles my tummy – I of course make suitable noises so they continue, James tried this game with Katherine lying on her back – she just laughed and the whole van was shaking…  I think they have their own games… that’s OK, too. 

I can’t quite figure out some of K’s little sayings – like when she bangs her finger on something – she says “f***k, arse bum tit!”.  I think it’s a happy phrase – “never mind, eh?” – now I’m catching her ditties.  We were in Lisboa yesterday in the Alfama area – great for alternative types like wot we are…  Met a lovely lady from Denver in Coloradoshire – her dog (a Labrador) is called Jules.  Now we played nicely on the cafe outdoor terrace – until Jules picked up my lead in her teeth and tried to take me for a walk on the street!  I had to let her know who’s in charge – a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do and all that. 

They’ve regressed in one area – leaving me on my own in the van again – I thought I had cured that by rearranging the furniture.  This time, I sort of realigned K’s coats – to keep myself busy. How was I to know the sticky hook on the wall wasn’t properly glued on? Cheap soupergoo.   She insists on leaving her full coffee beaker in my path when I’m walking across the dining table to get to the window?   I couldn’t lick it all up without getting my snout stuck in the doorwell – so some evidence remained… kitchen roll is great – even when it wraps itself around my neck.  

I hope I’m not painting a glum picture here – they’re really nice people (for humans) – OK not many of their kind have complete Kninesight – but they come close.  Meals arrive on time generally and there’s lots of play time – so chins up – and doze to the grindstone, old chum…(time for a nap, now).

Happy travels all…