Sintra, with its whimsical Pena Palace and the mysterious Quinta da Regaleira gardens, is mystical and enchanted any day. But during today's visit, thick fog, chilly mist, and cold rain gave the entire village a haunted, eerie beauty.
We had second breakfast (I know!) at the Cafe Piriquita, where our friend, Paolo, introduced us to sugar-dusted travesseiros -- fat philo dough pastries filled with almond paste. The sprinkled sugar lends just the right crunch to the soft, flaky dough ... and the almond paste, made with lots of egg yolk, is rich and smooth and buttery. We lingered here awhile over pastry and coffee until the rain broke, and then headed uphill to the palace.
The turrets and fairy tale spires of Pena Palace were lost in low clouds, and the dim light leeched all the bright yellows, reds, and porcelain blues from the palace walls. But we weren't disappointed, because Pena had other surprises for us: balconies that appeared to jut out into neutral, empty space ... windows that looked out on swirling banks of fog ... statues and carvings and fantasy creatures that writhed and glistened in the rain ...
The gardens at Quinta da Regaleira were as magical as ever, with secret passages twisting off into the mist, tunnels dripping with moisture, and miniature castles thrusting up into the colorless sky.
I wish I could take you there, but all I can do at this point is share a few photos that I hope will suggest just a little of the metaphysical power of this magical little village.