Heavenly Palaces and Pastries (Sintra: Part II)

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the town of Sintra, Portugal was almost the playground of my youth; for sure, visits here each summer were a highlight.  

Ma Marta and Joana in Sintra retouched

(My father took this picture of my mother, sister and me with the Palacio da Vila – Town Palace – in the distance.  I’m the one nearest the trash can.)

Back then the world seemed a little more black and white to me, and I got used to thinking that the palace was supposed to look worn and grey.  Years later when I visited and saw the two conical towers (chimneys above the palace kitchen) looking like this…

Palacio da Vila2

I thought someone had “Disney-fied” the view.  Now I know better and am grateful that this palace (and the town) has been designated a World Heritage Site; and, as such, is lovingly looked after.

Palacio da Vila

On our previous visit to Portugal seven years ago, my husband and I took the guided tour of the inside of the palace which is well worth seeing.  This time, however, we chose to spend most of our time at Quinta da Regaleira (to see pictures, click here).  On our way to the Quinta, we passed through the center of town with its pristine houses…

flower boxes against yellow house in Sintra

And quiet cobblestone streets.

street in Sintra

After exploring the grottoes, tunnels and gardens of Quinta da Regaleira, we continued further up the hill to see the Palace of Seteais.  Now a Tivoli hotel, you can actually book a room here.

Seteias 2

Walk through the archway…


And you’ll come upon a panoramic view over the gardens to the Atlantic Ocean.

view to the Atlantic from Seteias

Turn back around and the view of Palacio de Pena is perfectly framed by the arch!

view of Palacio de Pena from Seteias

(Here’s a closer look.)

Palacio de Pena

After such a strenuous day of sightseeing (life is so hard when you’re on vacation), we of course needed a break, so we headed to Piriquita, one of the best Pastelarias (pastry shops) in Sintra.  The specialty sweets here are the Travesseiro – literally, meaning pillow- and the famous Queijada, or little cheesecake.  The former is a puff-pastry confection filled with egg and almond cream; the latter, a small tart made with Requeijão cheese, eggs, cinnamon and sugar.

I think this is what they serve in heaven!

travesseiro and queijada

(P.S. Want to satisfy more of your virtual sweet tooth?  Then come back tomorrow for my post about the most famous dessert from Belém, Portugal.)


Filed under Influences, photography, travel

The Happiness of Pursuit and What I’ll Be Pursuing Next…

Usually when I travel, I make the mistake of bringing too many things to do – too many books, too many drawing supplies, etc. – only to bring them all back home, together with a dose of guilt for not having been more “productive.”

On my recent trip to Portugal, though, I wised up and took only ONE book…

Book photo


Which I was fortunate to have received an advance copy of from author and blogger Chris Guillebeau.  (The book actually launches officially today, so if you’re interested, you can pick up a copy here.)

I’m not exactly a stranger to the concept of quests – my 365 days of A Design a Day jewelry design posts on this blog was a quest of sorts for me – but I’ve been feeling a bit rudderless of late.  So this book was the perfect read for me.  First off, I love, love the title – and reading a book written by someone who had the courage, patience and persistence to travel to EVERY country in the world was inspiring and reassuring as I braved some of the more stressful moments of my trip to Portugal.

Will I be undertaking my own world trip soon?  No.  Mastering the sport of kick-boxing before my next overseas trip?  No (but it might have come in handy when I was almost robbed in the subway station in Lisbon…but more on that in a later post.)

No, my next quest, while still somewhat ambiguous in my mind, will revolve around building confidence…my own!  As I figure out the hows and whys, I’ll keep you posted.

Stay tuned…


Filed under Influences, motivation, travel, wisdom

A Visit to Regaleira Palace (Sintra: Part 1)

Sintra, a picturesque mountain town just northwest of Lisbon, is one of my favorite places on earth.  As a child, I often made the short train trip from my aunt’s house with my family  to pass the afternoon wandering in the town, eating the traditional pastries (more on those in a future post!) and seeing the sights.  Boasting castles, palaces, royal retreats, estates, mountains and nature parks, this place is “magical”…and even that term seems too weak a description!

On my recent visit to Sintra with my husband, we visited the Quinta da Regaleira, a romantic palace, chapel and grounds.  Dubbed “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” – a nickname based on its best known former owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro – the architecture of the palace and surrounding buildings is exuberantly Gothic.

Quinta Regaleira facade

Quinta Regaleira

walking along the balcony of Quinta Regaleira

architectural details at Quinta Regaleira

From inside the palace, there are spectacular views of the surrounding forest and mountains…with the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) not far away!

through the window at Quinta Regaleira

The Palácio da Vila (Town Palace) seems also a stone’s throw away.

view of the Palacio de Villa as seen from Quinta Regaleira

As interesting as the inside of the palace was, I found the gardens of the estate even more fascinating and memorable.  As we climbed through the grounds, formal paths…

statue in gardens at Quinta Regaleira

Gave way to a rambling forest and towers with turrets…

photo of turret at Quinta Regaleira

Where you could get a bird’s eye view…

the view from the top

And see all the way to the Atlantic!

view to the ocean from Quinta Regaleira

The grounds also contain several initiation wells.  Used for ceremonial purposes, including Tarot initiation rites, these wells are like inverted towers and never contained water.  The air was dark and cool as we descended in a spiral into the well…

halfway down into the well at Quinta Regaleira

Leaving daylight far behind.

Well at Quinta Regaleira

While we could have climbed back up to exit, we chose instead to explore the series of underground tunnels that link the Initiation Wells, lakes and grottos.  It took a moment to adjust our eyes…

lights in tunnel at Quinta de Regaleira

But there was light at the end of the tunnel…

tunnel at Quinta Regaleira

And we emerged to find a waterfall and small lake!

waterfall at Quinta Regaleira

lagoon at Quinta da Regaleira

Back into the tunnels we went, and while I expected to emerge on the other side of the lake, we came out in a very different spot indeed!

Joana in the turret

(Want to learn more about Sintra?  Then come back tomorrow to see my pictures of the Palácio da Vila and Seteais…)


Filed under Influences, photography, travel

Versailles, a la Portuguesa…

Often referred to as the Portuguese Versailles, the National Palace of Queluz in Queluz, Portugal was one of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe.  The palace was conceived as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Braganza and his wife Queen Maria I.  On our recent visit to the palace, my husband and I had the place almost to ourselves and could take it all in at a leisurely pace.

I had visited the palace years ago with my family (I’m the one in yellow)…

MirandaFamily at Queluz for blog

(Credit for the beautifully restored photo goes to my good friend, Pamela Frame)

 But my memories, like some of the palace’s exterior paint, had faded over time.

Palacio Queluz

Palacio Queluz3

Palacio Queluz 2

Once inside, I was amazed by the grandeur of the ballroom…

Ballroom at Palacio de Queluz

And wondered if any of the people in the portraits could be my distance relatives.

Portuguese relatives at Palacio Queluz

Each room was a feast for the eyes, from the ornate chandeliers…

hallway and chandelier at Palacio Queluz

 To the charming paintings on the ceilings.

cherubs at Palacio Queluz

Who sat in these throne chairs?

throne room at Palacio Queluz

And did the heavens really smile down upon them?

throne room ceiling at Palacio QueluzIn the “Sala das Mangas” I ogled the gorgeous tiles…

blue and yellow tiles in hallways at Palacio Queluz

(Although capturing their beauty adequately in a photo was almost impossible.)

Blue and yellow tiles detail

In the grounds outside, we were in the company of frolicking statues…

angel statues in QueluzAnd surrounded by hedges and flowers.

red geraniums at Queluz


It was an afternoon very well spent! 


Filed under Influences, photography, travel

Friday’s Thought – Expressing the Inexpressible

ceiling painting in Palacio de Queluz

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

(Aldous Huxley)



Filed under art, Influences, photography, wisdom

Where in the World Did Joana Go?

For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you know that it’s rare when I take an extended break from posting.   The last break (see here) happened unintentionally due to my computer getting fried in Copenhagen. This time around, fortunately, there was no frying (unless you count the amount of sun I got); only more overseas travel and a planned break from the internet for both my husband and me.

And just where did we go?  To my homeland – Portugal!

Now that I’m back, I invite you to pull up a chair…

chairs in Lisbon

And come for a ride through the streets of Lisbon!

Elevador de Bica in Lisbon

Built on a series of steep hills, there are ample opportunities for a bird’s eye view…

Looking toward the Tagus

Castelo de Sao Jorge

Lisbon as seen from Alfama

Although, just as beautiful are the views from the ground up.

vivid yellow and blues in Lisbon

blue and yellow tiles

window with tree in Lisbon

lantern against pink house in Lisbon

yellow building in Lisbon in the late afternoon

It’s my hometown and I’m always happy to be back!

shadow on the cobblestones

(Like this post?  Come back tomorrow for more pictures from our visit to the Palace of Queluz.)



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Friday’s Thought – The Passage of Time

first autumn leaf

“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.”

(Hal Borland)


Filed under Influences, photography, wisdom