High up in the mountains of Sintra, a charming town located thirty minutes outside the city of Lisbon, sits a beautiful castle overlooking a number of small villages and surrounded by a lush, green forest .. Sound like a fairytale yet?! Well, I could hardly believe my eyes as we approached the bright red and yellow façade belonging to the legendary Portuguese castle known as Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena), a real-life fairytale castle.
Set high in the peaks of Sintra the charming Pena Palace overlooks an enchanting forest to one side and , in the very distant horizon, the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its location, Pena Palace is prone to a moody weather pattern (sunshine one minute and dark clouds the next!) as I noticed after disembarking from the minibus shuttle which ferries guests up and down the steep hills surrounding the palace grounds. Once the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family (built in the 19th century as their version of a " city-getaway" ) Pena Palace is the epitome of the Romanticism building style.
Besides the breathtaking views from the Palace walls ( and the strong gusts of wind which sent my hair flying in all sorts of directions!) one of the most striking features of the palace is the endless sea of beautiful ceramic tiled walls - a traditional Portuguese style of decoration known as azulejos.Coupled with its brightly coloured walls and intricate designs (which are slightly cartoonish-looking), Pena Palace is very much the picture of a fantasy fairytale castle found in childhood storybooks.
Amongst the eclectic mix of design elements found in the palace, the more dominant features highlight the Moorish or Neo-Islamic design elements found in most historical Portuguese architecture.Looking at the brightly coloured turrets, the exotic plants and intricate towers of the palace, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at classically Eastern or Islamic architecture. For a self-confessed romantic like myself (especially a lover of charming windows and doors) the sheer intricacy of the details and swirls of colour at Pena Palace were a slightly overwhelming feast for my eyes!
While a cool and cloudy atmosphere occasionally swept over the palace, overall we were lucky to have a beautiful sunny sky illuminate the vibrant colours of this fairytale wonderland! Pena Palace is without a doubt a photographer's dream and is the perfect place for someone (hello romantics!) who admits to liking the occasional fairytale experience, like myself!
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