After spending the day with my friend Claudia I headed out on the train to Belém on the west side of town. I wanted to get there later in the day in the hopes of avoiding most of the crowds. The first place I wanted to visit was the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, an absolutely gorgeous monastery built in the 16th century.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
When I arrived I noticed a large group of people but as I got to the ticket booth I was told that was the line up to get into the church of Santa Maria, not the monastery. Whew! It turned out that I was lucky enough to come at the right time. The monastery was pretty quiet.
The monastery is a monument to the Age of Discovery, a time when Lisbon became the mercantile centre of Europe due to its spice trade with India. King Manuel I built the monastery in 1502 on the site where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent the night in prayer before leaving to find a route to India and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for their success. The taxes from the spices he and others after him brought back, helped fund the build.
Inside the walls of the monastery, I was completely in awe of the intricate stone carvings and the large cloister that lay in the middle of this large building. The hallways around the cloister are extremely ornate on both the ground and second-floor levels. The stone carvings are of coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea motifs. It was absolutely jaw-dropping.
Exploring places late in the day can create some beautiful images. Golden hour is not just for landscapes, buildings can benefit from the subtle light. Don’t just look at the light but also look at the shadows that are created. In the image below the shadows created by the ornate columns cast a beautiful pattern onto the walls and door in the hallway.
Intricate shadow on door
As closing time came I had to drag myself out of the monastery. I could have spent hours here photographing the light as it left the sky but I had to move on. In the next post, I will show you a couple of more places I visited while in Belém.
My final destination in Sintra was Quinta da Regaliera, a very interesting estate just outside the historic center of Sintra. As you walk uphill (yup that’s right, uphill – again) to the entrance you pass the grand 5-story gothic palace, giving a glimpse of what might lie in the grounds themselves.
Quinta da Regaleira
Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monterio, an eccentric millionaire, was the brainchild behind this particular estate. The grounds are riddled with secret passage and tunnels along with occult symbols and religious references.
I started slow with this water fountain. The strange fish acts as the spout for the water to flow into the two-tiered bowls.
The grounds themselves are a challenge to navigate as they twist and turn and head off into unexpected directions or dead ends. Needless to say, I definitely walked the same paths a couple of times if not more.
The one place I was looking most forward to was the Initiatic Well. My friend, Jason told me all about it, which is why I choose Quinta da Regaleira as my final destination of the day. The well did not disappoint. Entering from the top I walked down the ten stories to the bottom where it opens up to the tunnels. There is a second smaller well on the property. The wells were used for ceremonial purposes that included Tarot initiation rites. The tunnels connect the wells to one another, in addition to various caves and other monuments located around the park.
Part of the cave system on the property is the Laybrinthic Grotto. For these tunnels, you will need a light source in order to get around because once you leave the cave opening there are no lights to guide you as there are in the tunnels near the Initiatic Well.
There is so much here in Quinta da Regaliera to see that you should plan to spend a few hours here if you can. I spent most of my time here at this estate more than the other two (Pena Palace and Moorish Castle) and I wish I had more time and energy. If I get a chance to get back I will be coming here first.
A short hike (downhill – luckily) from Pena Palace and Park is the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle). Even though I walked downhill to the castle you’ll notice in the photo below that it definitely looks more uphill than down. And if you look at the final image from the previous post you will notice that technically the castle is downhill from Pena. They just don’t tell you that it sits on another peak so you have to walk down and then back up to get to its entrance. Still its a great view from the trail as you look up at those castle walls. (Hey, I’m storming a castle…lol)
I’m convinced that the grounds and walls of the Moorish Castle are a form of torture with all the ups and downs and then ups again. This is not a place for the weak. I’m also lucky that the temps today dipped from 30ºC + to only about 22ºC. I don’t think I would have made it. Or if I did I would have been done for the rest of the day. Below is the view from one side of the castle walls to the other. What did I tell you? Ups and downs. Like a damn roller coaster except you have to walk.
From One Wall to Another
A little history: the castle was built in the 8th and 9th centuries and was conquered in 1147 by Alfonso Henriques. It fell to ruin after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake but eventually it’s restoration, by King Ferdinand II, began in the 19th century and continued into the 20th century. Today It is classified as a National Monument, part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The castle walls are quite narrow. You could easily knock someone off. Which would not be so pleasant as you would fall a couple stories down onto hard rock. And that’s the good scenario because falling out of the castle would be a far steeper drop to your death.
When you exit from the castle you have a choice to either go back out to the main road to pick up the bus or if you take a path to the left you can exit the grounds and walk straight back (downhill) into the historical centre of Sintra. I took the path leading straight into town, away from the tourist buses. This also allowed me to see some of the back streets of the town.
At the bottom of the hill I found this doorway. I have a weird fascination with doors, particularly old ones. It’s like they want to tell a story. I wish I spoke door.
Continuing the walk into town (more downhill btw) I tried to figure out my way to Quinta da Regaleira. In the end I had to stop in at the information centre to ask where the heck I was and how to get to Quinta da Regaleira. (I ended up buying a map.) Seems I would need to walk a little further out of the historic centre and most likely uphill. *sigh
On our final day in the Bruce our goal was to photograph the flowers that were blooming this time of year. The Indian Painted Brush can be found by the side of the road south of town and if it’s a good year the roadside will be covered with them. They can be found in other places around the Bruce but I find that this is the best spot for them
We also stopped at Crane Lake, one of my favourite spots for flowers this time of year. It’s where I know to find the Nodding Trillium. Until I started coming up this way I had no idea that there was a Nodding Trillium. And their a tricky one to find since they grow facing the ground rather than the sky.
Of course that’s not the only flower you can find here and some are still opening up to the world.
And you’ll always find the Yellow Lady’s Slipper – these are hard not to spot this time of year. They are pretty much everywhere once you know where to look.
That’s it for our excursion to the Bruce for the Orchid Festival. I’m always sad to leave the Bruce behind but I know I’ll be back again very soon.
We woke up extra early this morning to drive over to the Tobermory lighthouse and get us some sunrise photos. We were eager to see what mother nature was going to show us.
And I had a front seat to the spectacular event.
You couldn’t ask for a better morning. Temperatures were mild, the colours were on point and we had some cloud for the colours to reflect off of. Thank you Mother Nature!
After a hearty breakfast we hopped on a boat and headed over to Flowerpot Island. After such great sunrise, the clouds came in and the drizzle started, eventually turning into a more substantial rain later in the day.
We walked along the shoreline path and stopped to photograph the flowerpots before heading to the lightstation museum on the north side of the island. That’s when the rain settled in so we got into our rain gear before heading back to the trails.
Instead of hiking the shoreline around the island we decided to cut through the middle and take the trail over some more rugged terrain in the hopes of spotting the elusive Striped Coral Root orchid. It wasn’t until we reached the main trail again that we spotted the orchid. I was thankful that I had the rain gear as I was down on the ground a number of times to get photos of almost every flower we spotted.
By the time we got back to our Airbnb we were both wiped and very damp. Not to mention excited to see what we had captured. We have one more day here in Tobermory and it looked like we may have some better weather.
I’m with my friend Nigel on this weekend trip to explore the Bruce and attend the Orchid Festival in Tobermory, Ontario. We’ve decided to go on a sunset cruise with Blue Heron Cruises. The only time I’ve taken one of the Blue Heron Cruises was to get to Flowerpot Island (which we’re doing tomorrow!) so this will be an interesting experience.
As we puttered down the coastline I wondered to myself where the Bruce Trail would be in all this beauty. I know that some of it was along the shoreline and occasionally I would get a glimpse of a possible trail. Hmm…one day soon I will be hiking there.
When you see a cave, do you wonder what’s inside? Do you want to get over to it and explore more? I wonder if anything lives there – maybe a bat colony? Maybe a bear?
I wanted to capture something a little different during the cruise. I was on a boat after all so why not do a shot through the boat of the other passengers enjoying the sunset. This couple was in the perfect position to allow that sunburst to come through.
Look at those lovely colours! We had a great time on the cruise and it was a different way to see things that we might not normally get a chance to see.