Where We Be
Pena Palace -- Sintra, Portugal
Pena Palace is a colorful confection of turrets
and watchtowers and walls. It looks like a fairy
tale castle -- and it was more or less built with
that romantic notion in mind. A monastery
stood here since 1511, but it wasn't until King
Fernando II bought it in 1838, extensively
renovating and expanding it, that it became
what it is today -- a homage to Romanticism
akin to Mad King Ludwig's castle in Bavaria.

The setting atop a high hill is extraordinary to
start with -- then you add bright colors and
whimsical adornments and you’re left feeling
like you've walked into a Disneyland of the late
1800s; except Portuguese royalty actually did
summer here, so it’s not just a fairy tale castle
but a real one. The rooms within feel regal
enough, what with their fine furniture and
porcelain and such, but it’s the exterior that
really captures the imagination. The fun mix of
red, yellow, and white paint with blue tiles
makes it a photogenic favorite for travelers
from around the world.
Pena Palace never served a real day in its life as a medieval stronghold,
but it's a visual delight -- and Portuguese royalty really did live here
This was our first clear view of the palace from below
The intentional mixing of eclectic styles was very much in the spirit of Romanticism. In this
one picture you can see an onion dome, a Moorish keyhole gate, and crenellated towers.
High walls help keep the riff raff out!
The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal
Here we are at the main entrance, elaborately decorated
in a style that might today be termed "Disneyesque"
A plumed helmet adorns the top of the main entrance
Serpents smile toothily just above your head as you enter
Yikes! This is the elaborate Arch of the Triton. The Triton is
half-man and half-fish and looks pretty ticked-off about it too.
This photo gives a good idea of how wonderfully
situated Pena Palace is at the top of a high hill
That's the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. All around the palace
are green forested hills. Closer in you can see a patio for dining.
The interior is lavishly decorated, befitting
the summer residence of a royal family
Little touches make the interior special, like this
lovely detail work above one of the doorways
This painted ceramic plate bears the image of King
Ferdinand II -- who made Pena Palace what you see today
The Great Hall of Pena Palace looks like a lovely
place to sit and relax, if only they would let you
The statues holding golden
lamps are wonderfully kitschy
Stained glass was a passion of King Ferdinand II. After many years in storage,
his collection from the 15th to the 18th centuries is once again on display.
Banquets were prepared in this enormous kitchen.
We read that all the pots are marked with PP.
Arches Terrace offers a fine view of the surrounding countryside
As we walked over to Castle of the Moors, we
caught this splendid view of PP high above us
You also get a terrific view of the
palace from the Castle of the Moors itself
This final image from Castle of the Moors shows
just how spectacularly situated Pena Palace is
We were interested to learn that King Ferdinand originally had the palace painted as we see it now, but
over time the vibrant red and yellow colors faded away and for years it was mostly gray. It wasn't
until the end of the 20th century that the palace was repainted and the original colors restored.
This is our favorite shot: Pena Palace in all its exuberant
glory, with Robin celebrating atop one of the turrets
Our day began with a steep 45-minute hike from the town of Sintra. We pushed up a long series
of stairs and switchbacks, passing this guard tower on the way up to Pena Palace. We never saw
another soul during  the hike -- tourist bus #434 being a much more popular way to get there!
And this rabid guard dog looks ready to bite