April 28, 2009

I'll have the Dragon Balls

Moorish Castle up on the hill top (Sintra)

Day two in Portugal, James and I took a train to the fairy tale town of Sintra. It was a little town built into the grassy side of a hill. We saw the National Palace with its twin white, conical towers, Moorish Castle way up on the top of the hill, and spent the morning getting lost in the Quinta da Regaleira gardens.

National Palace

I think the brochure described it best: "The garden, as an image of the Cosmos, is revealed through a succession of magic and mysterious places. The quest for Paradise is found in coexistence with a mundus inferus - such as Dante's Inferno... it is the analogy to the metaphysical quest for the Being that is found in the great Epics. In these realms abound references to the worlds of mythology, to Olympus, Virgil, Dante, Milton, and Camoes, and to the mission of the Templars as continued by the Order of Christ, to great mystics and miraculous magicians, and to the enigmas of the alchemical Ars Magna. This symphony in Stone - crafted by builders of Temples, steeped in the true spirit of Tradition - reveals the poetic and prophetic dimension of a Lusitanian Philosophical Mansion."

Quinta da Regaleira, Main House

The garden was a labyrinth of dirt walkways, landscaped trees and flowers, stone walls and towers, chapels, waterfalls, grottos, fountains, wells - and they were all secretly connected by a series of underground tunnels. The first one we discovered led us out through the crypt of the chapel, back on a path toward the Main House - the summer residence of the Carvalho Monteiro family. In the Regaleira Tower, I discovered a doorway that lead back into the dark. I walked as far as the light allowed and then took a picture. The flash from my camera momentarily lit up a bit more of the tunnel but I couldn't see where it ended. All of a sudden, I head a voice from deep in the darkness say, "hey". It scared me half to death. It was just James. He came back out into the light and told me that he walked in pretty far but the tunnel didn't seem to end and he couldn't see anything.

Regaleira Waterfall

We crossed the mossy green lake, which looked like something straight out of Lord of the Rings, and discovered another tunnel behind the statue of a dragon/lizard/fish. This time we were a little bit braver, and James led the way down the tunnel. We disappeared into the dark and griped the stone ceiling of the tunnel to guide our way through the complete blackness. At the time I was worried about hitting my head. Afterwards, I thought about how many spiders and maybe even bats might have been on the ceiling of that tunnel...

Entrance to Underground Tunnel

From within the tunnel, looking back out at the entrance

What an adventure it was making our way through the pitch black tunnel by ourselves, like we were explorers, discovering a secret passageway for the first time. Eventually the tunnel started to get light again, and we came out in the middle of a well. It was pretty awesome.

Underground Tunnel

Initiatic Well

The last thing we did before we left the gardens, was visit the inside of the Main House. There was one room upstairs that had bookshelves covering every inch of wall space. There were mirrors around the perimeter of the floor, that were about a foot down from floor-level, so if you tried to touch the mirror to reassure yourself that it was there, you felt nothing. You had to reach down a good ways below floor-level before you felt the hard surface of the mirror. The mirrors reflected the books and made it look like the walls continued all the way down to the first floor below, and that the black square of floor in front of you was just suspended in space, and might give way to your weight if you stepped on it, causing both you, and the floor, to fall down.

The book-wall illusion

Instead of going straight back to Lisbon. James and I took a train along the coast of Portugal and stopped in a little sleepy fishing village called Cascais (pronounced Kush-kish). It had a little beach right near where the boats were docked by the castle ramparts. It was a cold and dreary day, but I still dipped my toes into the other side of the Atlantic. It was just a brief stop in Cascais, but I'm glad we got to see what a small coastal town looked like in Portugal.


The beach at Cascais

The Atlantic Ocean 

That night, back in Lisbon, we decided to go out and experience the nightlife... even though we had to wake up at 5:20am the next morning to catch our flight back to Scotland. We went out in Barrio Alto, where everyone just crowds the streets with take-away drinks from bars. James and I started out at this place that had €1 shots... we couldn't turn that down. We each took a look at the shooters menu, and the same thing happened to jump off the page at both of us, the Dragon Ball. It consisted of Absinthe, Goldschlager, and Tequila. We each started the night off with a pair of Dragon Balls, and then went from there. James even tried a mixed drink with Cannabis Gin. I'm not even sure how they make that.

Cannibis Gin

Barrio Alto

We got back to our room around 3:00am and fell asleep watching "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" on James' laptop.  It was the episode called "Dee Date's a Retarded Person", because we had been singing "Day Man" all day.

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