We took the bus back to the Lisbon airport and picked up our rental car. As it’d been about ten years since I’d been taught to drive a stick shift, I bought the additional insurance which would exempt me from . and it showed as I spent about five minutes trying to get the car to start by going into third. Driving stick itself was taxing on my nerves enough, but lacking familiarity with the roads and the language the signs were written in made it even worse. The drive to Sintra was not bad, but once there it became much more problematic. Sintra very hilly and has mostly tight, winding, one-way, mostly unsigned streets. The directions I’d printed out to our hotel listed their old location, and so upon getting there we were greeted with an empty building.
We walked over to the Gardens and though it was officially closed, we found an open door and got to view the gardens for a little bit. Unfortunately, however, a groundskeeper saw us and shortly thereafter we had to leave. We walked around some more, going into several little gardens but as it got dark the temperature dropped very quickly, due to Sintra’s microclimate, and we returned back to the hostel. The proprieter of the hostel we were at made a Christmas Ever dinner for all those staying and we had a traditional Portuguese dinner. Much fun and merriment occurred.
On Christmas Day we drove up to the Moorish castle. Because of the holiday the site was closed. While looking at the door we met a group of travellers, an Iranian and a German guy and two Brazilian girls who also wanted to see the castle. We climbed over the sidewall, only a few feet high, and then started walking around. Appearently we weren’t the first ones to have this idea as once inside we encountered several couples that were meandering their way through the park area. As we walked around, we joked about how typical this scene was for American horror movies about travelers – how soon an zealous security guard, obsessed with rules, how the spirits of the dead which once protected this site would come and get us, or how one of the Brazilian girls was actually working for some sort of group that would torture us to death, a la Hostel.
We eventually made our way to the area directly outside the castle walls, but the gate was locked so we had no way to get in. We creeped around the wooded are to the side of the gate and found a two ways of climbing the twenty-foot tall walls. Josselyn and the Iranian climbed at the first and more difficult entry while the rest of us went to the easier one some hundred feet away.
Being alone except for these other four people here at the top of the castle was so spectacular. We walked along the ramparts, looking out onto the Atlantic ocean and into Sintra, talking copious pictures. Walking up and around the hundreds of stairs combined with the strong sun made it warm enough to walk around without jackets.
After Josselyn climbed back down the side, walked our way around to the front and came out of the vegetation we encountered a security guard who was unlocking the front gate to tell us all to leave. He said that we were not in trouble, that this happened every year, and that we just could only walk around in the non-Castle area. Having already seen this, we decided to just leave rather than waiting for our new found companions to catch up to us.