Today's piece of advice is... just because you've found a sign pointing you in the right direction for something you'd like to see, that doesn't mean it's only just around the corner.
I took a train from Lisbon's Rossio station today, all the way to the end of the line at Sintra. That's a journey of about 40 minutes for the ridiculously low price of Euros 3.50 return ! Sintra is a photogenic little town which UNESCO designated a world heritage site about 15 years ago.
Again, I went without a guide book or a map. It was easy to find the town centre by foot from the railway station. In any case, there were plenty of tourists who did have maps, and I could have followed them ! After wandering around narrow cobbled streets and taking a look at the Palacio de Sintra I decided to find the main attraction, the Palacio de Pena. It was built in the 1840s and 50s by the King Consort Don Fernando II and was inhabited by members of the Portugese royal family until 1910. A fairy tale building of various shapes and colours set in a park on the top of hill, and with a castle close by on another peak.
Did I mention the hill ? Oh yes, 500 metres up. I had spotted the sign and thought "I'll head up there and have lunch afterwards". So I followed the signs, up, and up. Walking up, on a road with no pavement. Stopping frequently to make way for cars. Now, I didn't time myself going up - but coming down later took 50 minutes. Down, as you may realise, is easier than up. I imagine it must have been about an hour and 20 minutes of good exercise on the way up. Well worth it, of course, to get into the grounds and see the building. I stretched out those calf muscles once I'd descended back into the town.
And that lunch I was going to have after taking a look at the palace ? There was a cafe right beside the entrance, where I had a juicy chicken baguette and a Cornetto ice cream. Very generously, the prices were no higher than anywhere else I've been buying food.