Sights of Portugal: Monserrate Palace & Gardens, in Sintra

Some beautiful places make me sad. Their beauty is a reminder of the beauty I may lack in my life. A reminder of a life I never had or will. A reminder that society is too busy with being practical. A reminder that any golden ages are way over and of how unequal they actually were.

Monserrate is one of those places. It’s breathtaking but filled with empty rooms. Empty marvellous rooms, likely even more magnificient in those times. I close my eyes and reconstruct all of that beauty, filling the empty walls with oil paintings and golden, aging, frames, the corners with beautiful victorian chairs, vases full with flowers from the garden on top of handcrafted wooden tables. The scene sets. A maid is cleaning the silvers in the cabinet. There is the sound of music. Someone is playing the piano in the Music room. It also smells like summer, because the doors to the balcony are open and it’s July. The sun shines. But maybe I prefer to visit the library, sit by that enormous wooden desk, probably from Germany, and do some reading before the guests arrive for tonight’s ball.

The magic of Sintra has a different enchantment here. It transports you to a different time and place. The gardens are supernatural. Massive, huge trees, as old as time. Ferns coming out of fantasy movies. A collection of cacti from Mexico. There are also plantations of roses, waterfalls and lakes. Oh I could have lived in such place.

The grounds have to be magical. It’s like Gods decided that land had to be chosen to fulfill some mysterious purpose. It’s climate, the nutrients. Everything must grow, everything must be fertile. This is the place of Gods such as Dionysus and Aphrodite. A place of indulgence. A place where numerous personalities would have met to share their interests for the arts and sciences alike. Where being an intellectual didn’t oppose nights of fun and pleasure.

One of the most famous visitors of Monserrate was Lord Byron. He described the place in his work Childe Harrold’s Pilmigrage:

Oh, Christ! it is a goodly sight to see
What Heaven hath done for this delicious land!
What fruits of fragrance blush on every tree!
What goodly prospects o’er the hills expand!

Lord Byron, Stanza 15, in Childe Harrold’s Pilmigrage

but the place changed significantly after being taken over by a wealthy British industrialist James Cook, who was given the title of Viscompte of Monsserrat. The palace maintains today the Romantic facelift Cook left it in.

Love, Nic

Check out what else I visited in Sintra:

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