“via purifico”

6/22/10   –   11:49

Current Location: Madrid

Lucky for you, if I don’t write everything down in here, I forget what happened, which spurs me to update daily. I didn’t do so yesterday because I lacked internet access and I was en route to Madrid. But yes. Yesterday’s itinerary was the town of Sintra in the morning and back to Lisboa in the afternoon.

Sintra is about half an hour’s train ride west of Lisboa and as Lonely Planet puts it: “[Sintra] may seem like a historical theme park of sorts.” This is true, to an extent. All there is to do there is look at the palaces that people built up there in the hills. Not to say that it wasn’t interesting. I actually loved it, even though I only ended up going to two places.

The first place was Palacio Nacional de Sintra, which was free with the Lisboa card. Nothing too exciting there, except for the two chimneys which dominate one side of the palace. They can be seen pretty much anywhere in town. They’re attached to the kitchens and they’re reminiscent of that one room in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory where Charlie stole that drink that made them float. Except this time there isn’t a deadly fan in store for people that just happen to rise up to the top.

The next place had a 4 euro entrance fee but it was infinitely more interesting and awesome. I would definitely recommend a visit to Sintra solely to see this compound. It’s called Quinta da Regaleira, it was constructed in the 1900s, and the architect was insane. Not literally, I don’t think, but I wouldnt’ be surprised if he were. It’s built on a hill on the outskirts of Sintra and it has extensive gardens modeled on a theme of exploration and the occult. It has statues of gods and goddesses, animals, and a series of underground passageways and grottoes that lead this way and that. There’s a villa on the grounds which is equally as crazy. It’s a museum and throughout the exhibits, you can hear intense operatic music [Mahler? Wagner?] that creeps me out because the whole place is dramatically low-lit, and there are narrow staircases that keep shrinking as you near the top floor. There’s this one room that I found very impressive [and also creepy]. It’s a library and the walls are filled from top to bottom with books. However. It doesn’t stop there. It appears that the floor is actually a floating platform and the books descend below you all the way down. This tricked me at first and I got a bit of vertigo as I tried to pass this room into the next one. It’s actually a set of mirrors embedded in the floor and the door to continue on is only accessible through a tiny break in the mirror-flooring. I felt like I was going to fall. -_-;;

Once outisde, nearing the top of the hill you pass by waterfalls, the chapel, complete with full crypt and a labyrinth of underground chambers, and finally the well, which is 27 meters deep and has a staircase that spirals all the way to the bottom. The crypt underneath the chapel has a secret passageway leading back to the house and also a series of hallways that aren’t lit. They’re only for real adventurer-tourists who brought flashlights with them. I got creeped out because the floor started to flood with water and I couldn’t see anything. ::shiver:: Yeah. There was also a path from the Eastern grotto to the Well. The lighting in there makes it look like magma. Even though it is actually freezing in the tunnel. The exit of the tunnel ends in the bottom of the well and all you can hear are drips of water coming down. I felt a connection with Okada from Murakami’s The Wind-up-Bird Chronicle being down in that well. It was a little past noon so I couldn’t see the sun, but it still filtered in. Apparently, the architect wanted “the connection between earth and sky to be intensely felt.”

This place honestly made me feel like I was in an RPG. Final Fantasy VII Temple of the Ancients style or one of the dungeons in Tales of Destiny. All the areas were so mystic-feeling and they even had names to match. The Initiation Well, Grotto of the Virgin, Entrance of the Guardians, Terrace of the Celestial Worlds. Yeah. I felt like the other palaces in Sintra couldn’t really top that [and I was sort of tired] so I got on the train back to Lisboa after wandering the side-streets looking for some cheap food [which I ended up not finding]. Instead, I just ate the rest of my hazelnut chocolate and the Portuguese Super Bock beer that I didn’t open yesterday. I took a nap on the ride back.

Then I did more Lisboa wanderings! Here’s some random thoughts:

– I was on the tram to Belém and I saw this little girl who was traveling all alone. I don’t know why the parenting standards are so different here. I don’t feel any more or less safe here than I do at home, but here’s this seven year old girl holding a puzzle box in one hand and a pink rolly back pack in the other, using public transit by herself. Would we call this bad parenting? If I were her parents, I’d be worried sick. I don’t know.

– Way to rape North Korea, Portugal. 7 – 0? Shit.

– Oh, yeah. Yes. I trammed all the way to BFE Belém. You know why? I wanted my maracuja flavored fanta. And as far as I know, that one side-store is the only place in the world that sells it. I bought two cans. I also made a half-hour side-trip to a chinese store so I could get this Jasmine tea drink. I am serious about my beverages.

– I ate dinner at Casa do Leão. It’s a buffet place that specializes in Portugese dishes. Somehow I had this image in my head that Portuguese food would be really exotic and different but then I realized that I couldn’t expect it to be any less similar than the Spanish food I’ve had. Honestly, though. It was great. However, I hate that I couldn’t express that I needed tap water, so they made me pay 1 euro for a bottle of water that I could get for ,12 next door at the supermarket. Dammit. I stuffed myself, though. I haven’t eaten anything since that meal, which makes it around 20 hours since I last ingested anything. Now that I think about it, I’m getting a little hungry…

– Just this small stint abroad has made me realize that I don’t think I can be an expat. I enjoy America too much. I’m too used to it and the way things work there. This has grand implications for my future career choice, but I think I’ll work that stuff out when I have time to actually think about it. I don’t know how my parents did it. My mom uprooted herself for a year or two to work by herself in Saudi Arabia and New Jersey. My dad joined her only later when we all went to Florida. Props to them. This is probably why my mom was totally ok with me going this alone. My dad wasn’t so pleased, but now he knows and it’s fine. As long as I’m safe.

– I would hate to have to worry about being sunburnt. I’m glad I don’t burn.

– I remember a conversation I had on AIM a long time ago when I was a little overwhelmed and I needed to go someplace very. very. far away. I remember suggesting fleeing to Portugal right then and there. And you know what? It just happened. And I’m glad it happened. I like how when I made that statement, I didn’t know that it’d actually become a reality. Maybe I’ll suggest going someplace more exotic next time.

– I’m taking a personal health day today. I haven’t got a reservation here at this hotel where I”m stealing their internet, but ISA is trying to fix it up for me. Until then, I just need to rest. And shower. Madrid can wait a day.



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