Sintra: West Coast Best Coast

My second track event was a day trip out to Sintra, which is on the west coast of Portugal some 20 miles west of Lisbon. I wasn’t sure what to expect as we weren’t given much information prior to the event. I made sure to wear clothing appropriate for a hike and long outdoor adventure, which proved to be a good idea. We boarded the 10 AM train from Lisbon that headed west to Sintra. On the train, we were stuck next to an accordion and hand-drum with bells duo. While the music was a good thought, early in the morning after jogging to make it on the train, we weren’t exactly feeling it. Thankfully, they moved to another car. The rest of the train ride some 45 minutes later was uneventful just as it should be.

We arrived at the station, got off, and made our way to a nearby parking lot where we discovered we were going to ride in military-style jeeps! We piled in to three difference vehicles 7 apiece, and our guides drove us into the small town of Sintra and then up the nearby mountains. The road was winding, narrow, and at times nearly off the side of steep cliffs. The cute, historic buildings gave way to an alternatively rocky or green terrain. In the distance, we could see one of the castles that was built several hundred years ago. It was subsequently destroyed by a massive earthquake and rebuilt in the 1800s. Our first stop was a lovely observation of this and nearby trees and forests with old buildings and castles scattered among the hilly landspace.

 

We hopped back on the jeeps. The all-day ride continued up the mountainside where we snaked our way through hills and valleys in the bright sun. However, the hot rays gave way to cool cloud cover. This area is known for its microclimates which can vary greatly even just over short distances. We settled down by a beach with picturesque rock walls and formations. The gray cloud cover and breeze combined with a turbulent sea churning multi-foot waves was breathtaking in itself, and we were all in awe at the natural beauty contained here.

 

On our way, we took a long break for lunch at a small restaurant in the village in the middle of our expedition. To my surprise, they had a vegetarian option that I could eat! We enjoyed a three-course meal complete with more green wine and friendly conversation, learning more about each other and our thoughts on this day trip, which was awesome so far.

The next stop on the ride took us out of the low-lying beach back into the clear sky and warm sun. We drove up the mountain and finally stopped at a high observation point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with more beautiful rock formations below which the Ocean’s waves crashed upon. This view was also magnificent, capturing the beauty of the natural landscape and rocky coast of Portugal’s most western points.

 

Our third stop was, in fact, to the most western point in congenital Europe. A monument and plaque indicate this, and another high view overlooks another breathtaking view of the Ocean spanning endlessly towards the horizon ahead. Don’t climb over the railing and fall over! It was a long way down to the water, and you might hit some rocks on the way down.

 

Finally, we made our way down to another beach – this one now enshrouded in bright sunlight and a climbing-friendly rocky area adjacent to the sand. I headed over the rocks in an attempt to get some pictures of the still-active sea crashing waves upon the earth below. I got some really neat photos and was able to have just a brief adventure climbing over rocks of all sizes and shapes at all angles. We then made our way to the beach to soak up some sun and take more photos of the summer landscape.

 

The end of the day finally rolled around, and our jeeps took us from the beach down to the train station. The lengthy ride was fun, and at times we had 3 shirtless dudes (one from each car, including myself!) standing up and braving the risk of falling off the truck to capture some great photos from a perspective you don’t get every day.

The day trip to Sintra was a massive success. I think everyone in our group felt like it was one of the best track events, even better perhaps than the cooking track. Some Kubs stayed behind to grab beer or food while some boarded the next train back towards Lisbon (albeit we had to catch an Uber for the last leg home). A day full of adventure picked me up even further and gave me many epic memories that I shall carry forever.

To Spain, To Be Continued…

I planned a short side trip to Spain while in Lisbon. I have heard great reviews about both Madrid and Barcelona from various friends and acquaintances over time and figured that while I’m in Europe, I should try to venture to as many places as I can. I was looking to establish myself and get my feet on the ground on Belgrade, so I stuck around there the entire month. While Lisbon is pretty, I wanted to take advantage and make my way to Spain to see these great cities while I was close.

Wrapping up on this note, I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop in Barcelona writing this blog post. Spain is beautiful, picturesque, and rich in history over the ages. Madrid has many tourist attractions and things to do, while Barcelona has a great vibe and coastal beaches that are only about 25 years old, built specifically for the Olympic Games in 1992. I have a bit more exploring to do. I am trying to balance that with work responsibilities as well as trying to plan my way back to Lisbon. I don’t really want to take the overnight train back anymore, but more on that in another post…


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