Pena National Palace

High atop the tallest hill in the Sintra Mountains sits the storybook Pena National Palace. It’s an amazing sight to behold. What used to be the remains of a defunct, simple Hieronymite (followers of Saint Jerome) monastery was severely damaged in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 and left in disrepair until it was renovated into an elaborately decorated royal palace by the then King of Portugal, Ferdinand II. The expansive grounds … Continue reading Pena National Palace

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Luxembourg and Its Castles

Oh my, what a lovely little country. While driving through rural Luxembourg, I thought, “This is what suburban America strives to become.” Every village looked like it was straight out of a planned community brochure. Every little village is pristine, spotlessly clean, immaculate. Every little village is picturesque framed by green rolling hills. Every little village has a satisfyingly organized infrastructure, like buses and community centers. … Continue reading Luxembourg and Its Castles

Jerónimos Monastery, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, and Belém Tower

West of downtown Lisbon, along the shores of the famed Tagus River, in an area of town called Belém, lies even more wonderment. Three sites in particular bear witnessing, all three of which are mentioned briefly in this video by UNESCO. Jerónimos Monastery Followers of of Saint Jerome, known as Hieronymites, himself an ardent follower of Saint Augustine of Hippo (a Punic Amazigh (Berber), I might … Continue reading Jerónimos Monastery, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, and Belém Tower

Lisbon

Of all the national capitals I’ve visited, and there’s been more than a few, none has felt less like a capital than Lisbon, Portugal. Maybe all the various governmental offices are far away from the city center, or maybe they’re just less ostentatious than their European counterparts, but on the whole, the city felt more like a relaxed seaside port than a stiff place of state. … Continue reading Lisbon

Sintra

While the Castle of the Moors and Pena National Palace get all the press, along many other amazing chateaus and palaces in the region, the town of Sintra proper is simply adorable. Not far from the capital, Lisbon, it reminded my of some other towns I had seen in other parts of Europe, such as Southern France and Romania. Thankfully, we were there in off-season. … Continue reading Sintra

Castle of the Moors

Near the brightly colored Pena National Palace, lie the ruins of an ancient castle built by the Moors (North African Muslims) during Islamic rule of the Iberian Peninsula. It’s like anything one would imagine during the reign of King Arthur. It’s rampart battlements snake around an entire hilltop and provide an excellent view of the vast agricultural area it was intended to protect. Built during the 8th and … Continue reading Castle of the Moors

Castro Marim

Just over the Portuguese border from Spain is a little village with a big castle called Castro Marim. Tourist season was over, so we missed the shows that they apparently put on, which include dramatizations of medieval life and fighting knights. Unlike other castles we have visited, this one does well to show what life might have been like instead of just an empty shell which … Continue reading Castro Marim

Collioure

Along the southern French coast is a small town called Collioure that has an incredible castle, a huge Catholic cathedral, a small seaside chapel, and adorable little old town. Unfortunately, I missed the closing time by three minutes, so I was not able to go inside. Still, it was awe-inspiring. Below are photos of the town. Click to see larger versions. Continue reading Collioure

People Are Weird

While in Prague, we visited Prague Castle. It is a massive complex perched atop a hill across the river and overlooks most of the city. Though not as elaborate or as well-organized as Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland, it was still impressive. The buildings were beautiful, especially the Saint Vitus Cathedral with its incredible Gothic architecture complete with gargoyle rain spouts looking eerily from above. Prague … Continue reading People Are Weird