We needed a break from the boat yesterday after learning from the local Ray Marine expert that some of our electronics will have to be upgraded (already!) or maybe even replaced. For those of you not familiar with boating, this sort of news always means a painful outlay of cash--urrgh!. So I suggested we hop on a bus and go to visit Sintra. Sintra is a charming medieval town at the foothills of a splendid park spread out over a series of hills and forest about ten kilometers from here.
Among other things, It was the summer residence of the royal family and has several castles, estates and buildings from as far back as the 8th century perched on top of the hills or tucked away in different corners of the park with the National Palace in the center of the town. Many artists and writers have passed through here, notably Lord Byron, the famous British poet who stopped by in the 18th century, writing that the town is "perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe," and calling it a "glorious Eden" in his epic poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. It is truly an extraordinary place now protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
We found the main square in town too packed with tourists poking around souvenir shops and just too busy for our current mood, so after having lunch, we headed for the park and hiked around the ruins of a Moorish castle. Let’s pause here for a brief history lesson: This part of the world was taken over by the Moors (Arabs) in 714 AD and was only taken back by the locals (Christians) in 1147 during the second wave of the crusades. The castle is perched on top of several hills with a spectacular view of Sintra and the surrounding area. We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon climbing and scrambling around the ancient ramparts and parapets while breathing in the clean pine scent of the forest and drinking in the beautiful vistas.
Feeling thirsty and peckish, we returned to the center of town in time for tea, which we took ‘Sintra-style’ at the famous Piriquita Cafe which serves fresh-squeezed orange juice and a their speciality, the Travesseiro. We hesitated before ordering this rather ordinary looking pastry, but after one bite, we were hooked. I don’t often rave about desserts, in fact I think the last time I did so was when I discovered sticky toffee pudding at the Bridge Hotel in the Lake District in England in August, 1997. Yes, that dessert was so amazing I remember when and where I first had it and I confess that I also remember I ordered it every night of our stay!
Anyway, the lowly little Travesseiro turned out to be something so amazing we’re sure it was made in heaven. Imagine the most incredible, lightest, melt-in-your-mouth puff pastry filled with a touch of almond cream, with a lemon curd consistency, surrounded by a satisfying crunchy sugar coating, fresh out of the oven. Very very moreish! We bought a box of them to take back to the boat with us. At least we’ll have something to cheer us up when the guy from Ray Marine comes back tomorrow morning with the electronics estimate...
*British slang meaning, “so good it makes you want more.”
Debbie is first mate of Taka Trois as well as head cook and chief provisioning officer.