There’s simply no escaping Dutch weather even in Portugal during the summer. It rained in the morning and gradually disintegrated into downpour mode around noon. While we were somewhat protected by being in a hire car, it was a shame to not be able to get around as freely as possible, to stop at will without having to grab an umbrella and not get drenched. When we reached Sintra and got into Pena Palace, I felt like I never left Holland. We were all quite moist.
Our 30 kilometer drive turned a bit long as our very informative driver, who was practically a walking encyclopedia, gave us plenty of details, stopping every now and then to talk about some points of interest along the way. The information he gave was a great introduction to magical Sintra, Pena Palace and the ‘genius’ of Ferdinand, the king responsible for it all. My first glance at the castle showed me that this king had eccentric taste and definitely a sense of humor – it was undoubtedly the most colorful, least staid palace I’d ever seen.
Though a bit worse for wear in places, it was nonetheless an interesting building, and it was really a shame that we couldn’t fully appreciate the palace and its fairy tale aspirations. One of the stories we heard was that Ferdinand was the one who invented a shower over the bathtub contraption and had it crated and shipped first class to his cousin, Victoria, the then queen of England who apparently loved it. He also had 10 children – poor wife – and had many guests over, including King Ludwig of Neuschwanstein fame, who may have gotten some ideas for his own. If that and Pena Palace are any indication, kings can be cuckoo crazy as the rest of us.