Long way down!

On route to the gorges we pass by just one of the stunning beaches to be found on the island.

This is the pretty beach of Porto seen from high up above as we passed through the Calanques de Piana.

The beach overlooks the Golfe de Porto and is a pristine little stretch of sand.

All along the west coast road there are lovely vantage points where you can enjoy the stunning views.

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Mini Mykonos

From the big city buzz of NYC our next trip couldn’t be more different – to the tiny Greek island of Mykonos.

We grabbed a week long package holiday in July to celebrate my birthday (and honeymoon mark 2!)

The reality is that New York was so expensive to eat out in that we just filled up on our free breakfast – leaving most of our spending money unspent! So it came back home with us and actually paid for this bonus week in Greece!

We stay in the pleasant Amenos Apartments in Ornos.

It’s a two minute walk to a busy town beach where you’ll pay a fortune for a beach bed (which develops as a theme across this tiny, expensively chic island)

The pro tanner enjoys a swelter around the hotel pool below!

There is not a great deal to do in Mykonos beyond its stunning old town (more of that later) which is the main reason I wanted to visit and a plethora of lovely beaches to suit all tastes.

Apart from Mykonos town itself there is only one other major ‘town’ which is Ornos where we stayed and Ano Mera, a little hill top settlement.

You can see all the main sights in a couple of days on a quad. Beyond that it’s a case of soaking up the sun and watching the beautiful people spending a fortune on posing on the beach.

We’re close to Agios Ioannis – the beach made famous in the 1980s film Shirley Valentine. So our first trip is a half hour walk from Ornos to check it out.

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I’ll share a few more snaps of this pretty stretch of beach in the next post – just looking at it makes me feel sun burnt and sandy!!

Fairytale Sintra

Finally we arrive at the town that inspired the entire trip – Sintra! Sintra is known for its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments.

One of the most eyecatching is the Pena Palace, perched high above the town it is a Disneyesque riot of colour and architectural quirks.

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We visited on a perfect sunny day, the blue of the sky contrastingly stunningly with the child’s paintbox colour of the palace.

The palace is a national monument and is one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world.

The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and unsurprisingly is also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

The palace had humble beginnings, starting as a small chapel it then became a monastery before being reduced to ruins.

In 1838, King consort Ferdinand II, he decided to acquire the ruins, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors and a few other estates in the area.

He then set out to turn the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.

The commission for the Romantic style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege.

The palace really is an architectural and photographic dreams. It has a wild mix of styles in line with the exotic taste of  Romanticism. The intentional mixture of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance.

References to other prominent Portuguese buildings such as the Belém Tower are also present.

The construction took place between 1842–1854.King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II had quite a few opinions of their own on matters of decoration and symbolism.

Among others, the King suggested vault arches, Medieval and Islamic elements be included in the sprawling, epic design.

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Over time the colours of the red and yellow façades faded, and for many years the palace became entirely grey.

But thankfully at  the end of the 20th century the palace was repainted and the original vivid colours restored.

In 1995, the palace and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Lots more photos to come!