Queluz Palace & Gardens | Lisbon

Queluz Palace

Before I dip into my trip to Venice from last week, I have one last Lisbon post from last year to share with you. And not any post, this was hands down my very favourite place I visited last year. And it might well be one of my favourite places of all time, actually. Queluz Palace & Gardens oozes so much magic and atmosphere, I’ve had a hard time not to violently pinch myself during the whole visit. The palace has been aptly described as an ‘expensive birthday cake’. I couldn’t have worded it better!

Queluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz Palace

This 18th century palace is often referred as the ‘Portuguese Versailles and as I pushed the entrance door leading to the ball room, the comparison stared at me in the face from the mirrored walls tirelessly reflecting the scintillating chandeliers and the gilded fixtures . There, in front of me, was standing a smaller-scale Hall of Mirrors.
I visited the palace in January last year and I practically had the place to myself. I leisurely inspected (and took one gazillion photos of) the period rooms, filled with intricate objects from the time (I especially enjoyed the porcelain and glassware collection), the incredible frescoes on the walls achieved by French artisans nearly three hundred years ago and the surprising ‘his & hers’ loos.

This temple of rococo was initially the summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. They ended up moving in until they escaped to Brazil following the French invasion in the beginning of the 19th century. Since the 1908, it has been the property of the state and in 1940, the palace was opened to the public. It serves also as a residence for visiting heads of the state.

Even though, the place looks like a beautiful fluffy pink dream today, it was the witness of several tragedies in the royal Portuguese family, from the death of the King on the marigold bed pictured above to the madness of the Queen. She was kept hidden in this golden padded palace of sorts until her death.

Queluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz Palace

When I stepped outside to explore the surrounding gardens, I was met by a display of falconry on the steps of the palace. I watched the hawk going back and forth between trainers for a little while then I headed towards the jardins à la française. I believe there is also a horse show but it probably takes place in the high season.
I walked along the topiary and felt so blessed to be in such a unique place. The grounds looked particularly enchanting that day as a fine foggy mist wrapped the pink palace. Unfortunately as magical as it was, it also meant I had to shorten my visit as I was getting a tad worried for my camera with the humidity. I would love to go back in Summer to see what blooms brighten up the gardens.

Queluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz PalaceQueluz Palace
Queluz Palace

If you want to make the trip to Queluz (which obviously I strongly recommend if it wasn’t clear enough from the above gushing), head down to Rossio Station in Lisbon. There are train to Sintra every 20 minutes or so, hop on one and get off at Queluz (the fare is €1.55/one way). The journey takes about 20 minutes (Queluz is half way between Lisbon and Sintra) and you will need to walk 15 minutes to get to the palace. Alternatively, you can take the bus 157 outside the station.

So this concludes the entierety of my Lisbon posts, I hope you enjoyed them and that you picked up a recommendation or two along the way. The next time you will hear about Lisbon on this blog will be more than likely my guide, hopefully downloadable. In the meantime, you can always check out the mini guide I wrote for Atlas Addicts if you’re leaving for the City of Seven Hills soon (lucky you!). 

Queluz Palace

Practical Information

Queluz Palace & Gardens – website
Largo Palacio de Queluz, 2745-191
Queluz

Opening Hours: 9am-5.30pm (last ticket 5pm)

Admission: General €8.50 / Children <6yo Free / Children <18yo 7€   / Senior 8 € (combined ticket for palace + gardens)
General €3.50 / Children <6yo Free / Children <18yo €2.50 / Senior €3 (ticket for gardens only)

Train: Queluz-Belas stop (on the Lisbon-Sintra Line)

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Quinta da Regaleira | Lisbon

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

When I saw Carrie’s post on her visit to Quinta de Regaleira, I knew I needed to check this magical place out for myself; surely it couldn’t be real, it was some photoshop trick or something.
So when I had the chance to visit Lisbon at the beginning of this year, a trip to Sintra, where Quinta da Regaleira is located, was high on my priority list.
Sintra, if you’ve never heard of it, is this little town, a mere 40 minute train journey away from Lisbon. While it is a picturesque little village very stairs-y and colourful, it is also weird in the way that it is surrounded by so many fairytale castles.
It was my aim to visit as many palaces as possible but that was without taking into consideration my unfit state, the rain and my propensity to take things a little bit too easy. Basically I got caught in a rainstorm in a middle of ascending a hill, trying to reach the Palacio de Pena just before closing time. Moral of the story: take the bloody bus when you see it.

Quinta da Regaleira

Luckily though, I made one wise decision and that was to visit Quinta da Regaleira upon my immediate arrival to Sintra. And I’m happy to report Carrie’s pictures were telling the truth. Quinta da Regaleira is truly a magical place. What I liked about it the most is it’s not only magical in a fairytale kind of way, it also has a dark and creepy side. When I got a first sight of the palace above the wall from the street, I had the feeling that I was facing the Portuguese Manderley. Maybe it was the January chill or my vivid imagination, but I couldn’t help shiver a bit.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Although owned for many years by the Regaleira family, the estate became the oddity it is today when a Brazilian millionnaire bought it and with the help of an Italian architect, remodeled the place after his interest in the occult during the first decade of the 20th century. He drew his inspiration for the garden features from secret societies like the the Freemasons, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians while also using symbols from Alchemy. The result is one of the most enchanting and mysterious place I ever seen, it kinda made me wish to be 10 again and have a massive hide-and-seek party.

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The gardens are laid out on a hillside, they feature underground tunnels, grottoes, fountains, ponds, turrets and a chapel. But the pièce de résistance is without a doubt the Initiation Well, which is inspired by the masonic rites. As you go down the spiral staircase, you can see on the bottom of the well, the Knights Templar’s cross.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Unfortunately the house felt a bit like a disappointment after the amazement of the gardens. The actual features, feminine frescoes, beautiful tilework and intricate woodcarving, offered an interesting contrast to the dark character of the gardens, and while they were certainly pleasing to the eye, I couldn’t help but be a little underwhelmed by the use of the rooms. They were some objects displayed under glass and architecture drawings you could flick through, but nothing quite captured my imagination as the otherworldly landscape outside.

With that being said, I visited Quinta da Regaleira in January and as I understand it many rooms were closed as well as the balcony which I would have loved to stand on and enjoy a panoramic view on the estate. So my advice would maybe skip the indoors during Winter season if you’re in a hurry, unless you have a thing for romantic wall paintings, they’re really quite beautiful.

Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira
Quinta da RegaleiraQuinta da Regaleira

Top tip: Bring a torch or some powerful source of light to explore the underground tunnels. The one leading up to the Initiation Well is lit up with fairy lights but the rest are dark as the soul of the tea. I didn’t have any light on me but was adamant to try to explore one of them near the pond, it only took a few steps until I freaked out… yep, definitely not the adventure backpacker travel blogger you were looking for here.

Quinta da Regaleira

Practical Information

Quinta da Regaleira – website
Rua Barbosa do Bocage, 5
2710-567 Sintra
Portugal

Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm (Nov-Jan) / 10 – 6.30pm (Feb-Mar & Oct) / 10am – 8pm (Apr-Sep)

Train: Sintra Station

Admission Fee: Adult 6€ / Concession & Children >14yo 4€ / Children <9yo Free / Children <14yo 3€

Kew Gardens | London

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
I thought that since I showed you the third most beautiful garden in the world last week (according to National Geographic), I would post today about Kew gardens, which rank at number two on the list (Versailles is number one FYI, but I haven’t visited it… yet).

I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens 2 years ago and I had to kick myself for not checking them out earlier, despite living in London for a little while. It almost instantly became one of my favourite places on Earth. The fact that it is a little ‘off the beaten track’ might have explained why it took me so long to finally cross if off my ‘London list’. But still, it is not an excuse as the English capital’s transport system is so efficient, it is in no way a pain to get there. I’d definitely recommend that you’d schedule a whole morning or an afternoon if not a whole day to visit Kew Gardens, if you like me enjoy a good glasshouse or two. I spent a morning and the early hours of the afternoon there and only managed to cover half of the park. It is pretty big! The map they give you at the entrance is definitely essential to your visit.

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens is just under a fly path, planes fly so low I felt like I could almost touch them; not going to lie it got me a little nervous at times

I didn’t have a plan when I got there so I just walked where my feet led me. I walked toward the huge Pagoda and hung out for a while in the Japanese Garden, then crossed a beautiful field of daffodils. I then tried to battle my fear of heights on the Treetop walk, a sort of transparent-ish suspended bridge at the top of very high trees. It didn’t last long until my legs started to shake and I had to go down the stairs, holding to the banister for dear life #chicken.

Kew Gardens
Kew GardensKew Gardens
Kew Gardens

What I was looking forward the most were the glasshouses and especially the Palm House. I had seen pictures of the beautiful white wrought iron structure and couldn’t wait to take some pictures inside. It was actually my first proper ‘big camera’ outing and looking at the pictures today makes me realise how much I learnt.

Kew Gardens
Kew GardensKew GardensKew GardensKew Gardens
Kew Gardens

I finished my visit to the Kew Gardens with a yummy lunch break in the café’s terrace, soaking up the sun rays of baby Spring 2012 and then had a browse in the cute little shop full of beautifully designed objects, not too dissimilar from Avoca actually.

Maybe for my next visit, I will be more organised and go straight to the giant lily pond or Kew Palace; or I’ll just succumb to Kew’s magic once again and get wonderfully lost.

Kew Gardens

Practical Information

Kew Gardens – website
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond, Surrey
TW9 3AB

Opening Hours: check out website as they are updated every year

Admission Fee: Adult £15 / Concession £14/ Children <16yo Free

Underground/Overground: Kew Gardens (on the District Line)
Train: Kew Bridge
Bus: 65, 237, 267, 391

Powerscourt Gardens | co. Wicklow

pegasus powerscourtiron garden gate

I visited Powerscourt Estate for the first time last year after a long and cold Irish winter that coincided with a long and dark season in my personal life. It was April and I was starting to wonder if it will be sunny ever again. It looked pretty bleak, it even snowed the week before.
But somehow, the miracle of Spring happened again and as sun rays pierced the thick clouds, I decided to finally visit that place I had heard so much about. Lonely Planet listed Powerscourt as one of the greatest houses and this year National Geographic voted it the third best garden in the world.
Pretty impressive, right? Those titles are definitely not unearned, the estate brought back some needed magic in my life. It made me realise that I have all those amazing places practically on my doorstep and I needed to start exploring, look for my Spring and stop waiting for it (which is a message I’m trying to convey through this blog, everyone’s backyard is worth exploring).

powerscourt housepowerscourt statues
powerscourt house + sugar loafjapanese garden
fountain powerscourt
iron chairspink azalea

Powerscourt Estate goes back as far as the 13th century and has been a work in progress over the years. Today, when you visit the estate, you’re met with an impressive mansion holding an array of shops that boast beautiful Irish design and craft within its walls. If you’re in the market for gifts, souvenirs and local delicacies to bring home, this is a brilliant place to shop as you have so much choice on hand. Not an Irish product but I was super excited to see that the shop Avoca stocks some of Rifle Paper Co‘s divine stationary.

On the first floor, you will find Tara’s Palace, one of the greatest doll’s house in the world, in the Childhood Museum. Click here to read about my visit there.

The terrace café is a lovely place to have a slice of cake (or two) as the views on the Wicklow Mountains are stunning. Outside you’ll be met with the beautiful Italian Gardens and a panoramic view over the estate. There is so much to explore: Japanese gardens, a pet cemetery, a walled garden, a greenhouse, the Pepperpot tower, a deerpark and the highest waterfall in Ireland.

french gardens
gilded garden gate
greenhouse
flower parterre
powerscourt house + mountains
wicklow mountains powerscourt

Did you know?: Stanley Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon in Powerscourt House. Powerscourt has actually been used as a filming location many times, check out IMDB for the full list.

My favourite part was the walled garden, not surprisingly, and especially the gilded iron gates which reminded of pictures I saw of Versailles’s gates.
Although I’ve been to Powerscourt twice already, I’ve quite a bit left to explore. There’s the pet cemetery, it might sound weird but the stones’ epitaphs are said to be heart-warming (I kind of avoided it last time as my dog had recently passed away and I was worried to lose it); and also the waterfall and the deerpark.
This time, I’ll do a favour to myself and not wait for Spring to visit Powerscourt again.

powerscourt estate

Practical Information

Powerscourt Estate – website
Enniskerry
Co. Wicklow

Check out their website for the events programme

Opening Times: 9.30am – 5.30pm; During Winter, gardens close at dusk
Closed on December 25th & 26th

Admission Fee: Adults 8.50€ / Studens, OAP 5 € / Children < 16yo 3.50€ / Children <2yo Free

How to get there (from Dublin): Take the Dart to Bray then the Bus 185 (the departure stop is directly outside Bray Dart Station)

More information on the Waterfalls and Tara’s Palace, Museum of Childhood

Altamont Garden | co. Carlow

altamont house

Hello hello! How was your long Easter week-end? Mine was super lovely thanks for asking :) It was (mostly) sunny and great time were had outside and particularly in the ole countryside, thanks to my friend Magda who kindly took me along for a little adventure (go check her post of the day, she took fantastic pictures!).
We went to Altamont Garden, which is best known for its snowdrops but we were a bit late for those unfortunately (we actually meant to visit the garden that day we went to Wexford, but ended up being short on time). I think the best time for snowdrops is actually mid-February.
Anyways, the Altamont Garden were all-the-same breathtaking on this morning of April. The Spring flowers were in full bloom and I reckon come Summer, the roses must be as enchaning! The Altamont Garden bears the title of the most romantic garden in Ireland and I can see why, there is many a bridge to be serenaded on and nooks and cranny a-plenty if you want to whisper sweet nothings to your lover’s ears, away from prying eyes.

gardening shed altamont garden
magnolia tree and tulips altamont garden
peahen altamont house
azalea bush altamont garden
window magnolia tree altamont house
magnolia tree and lamb altamont garden

An added surprise for the animal-obsessive I am was that the place featured a good dose of cuteness, what with it being lambing season. Also present were cows and calves and a majestic peafowl couple (the peacock seemed rather aware of his charms and kept checking his reflection in a window).

peacock's reflectionplant shop altamont gardenewe and lamb fieldwalled garden altamont gardenpeacock altamont gardencow altamont garden
rose and temple altamont garden

At the back of the garden, there is a woodland area where we walked along a charming little brook that gained strength as we got closer to the River Slaney. We left the little forest and crossed a field, stopped at the temple where we admired the stunning views of the Wicklow mountains. Last stops were the gorgeous walled garden and the colourful plant shop. We rested at the café in the company of chubby hens before it was time to hit the road again.

Hope you all had an as equally pleasant Easter!

P.S.: Don’t forget to check Magda’s drool-worthy blog. You won’t regret it!

altamont house and garden

Practical Information

Altamont Garden
Bunclody Road
Tullow
County Carlow

http://www.altamontgarden.com

Admission: Free

Opening Hours: 9am to 7.30pm

Horniman Museum & Gardens

skeleton reflection 2
horniman natural history museum

Located in Southeast London, The Horniman Museum is a fascinating place. Its existence is due to one man’s passion for collecting and travelling: Frederick Horniman, a tea trader. He commissioned the building at the end of the 19th century where all the collected items from his various travels could be displayed for the public’s enjoyment. The collection is divided in several sections: natural history, anthropology and musical instruments. Today, you can also visit an aquarium as well as temporary exhibitions.

The section of the museum I was most excited about was the natural history room where dusty stuffed animals and skeletons coexist in a frozen harmony behind windows. I was especially eager to see the museum mascot in real life, an overstuffed Walrus, but the strange beast was unfortunately on holidays at the time of my visit. Still, the dark room didn’t disappoint and I was happy (if not slightly chilled) to see  oddities like a half-skeletton/half-skin bat or a baby koala up close.

stuffed birds
moths
half bat
chameleons
stag's and other heads
starfishes
skelettons
baby koala
half turtle
evolution of teeth
giant locust

Be sure to have a wander around the garden after perusing the museum. The building is standing on 16 acres of land and it sure feels great to breathe the fresh air and sit in the grass after being surrounded by taxidermy. The garden features a medicinal plant patch, giant instruments, a bandstand, but the star of the show is the impressive London skyline rising above the trees.

horniman gardens view

Practical Information


100 London Road

Forest Hill
London SE23 3PQ
http://www.horniman.ac.uk

Bus: 176, 185, 197, 356, P4, 122, P13, 363
Overground: Forest Hill

Entrance: Free (a chagre is made for the aquarium and the temporary exhibitions)

Museum Opening Hours: Daily, 10.30am-5.30pm
Garden Opening Hours: Mon-Sat, 7.15am – sunset/Sun & Bank Holidays, 8am -sunset
General Admission: Free (but you’ll have to pay to visit the aquarium/temporary exhibitions)

Closed: 24-26 December