Iberian Adventure: To the Edge of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAs Belém fades away in the rearview mirror and those delicious pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts) linger a little longer on my palate, the Insight Vacations‘ (Insight) luxury motor coach hangs a right and heads up the Estoril Coast, setting its sights on the other two points of this triangle-shaped day trip: Cascais and Sintra. Together, they bookend the “edge of the earth.”

Along with the other 28 travel journalists and photographers — collectively known as the “band of merry media” — I’m a guest of Insight, invited along to experience the “art of touring in style” on its Iberian Adventure, an abbreviated, seven-day, premium-escorted journey through Portugal and Spain.

Vamos!

Iberian Adventure: To the Ends of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAs we glide past luxury beachfront properties and gate-guarded golf communities, Laura, Insight’s Lisbon-based expert, explains that unlike many other Mediterranean seaside resorts that sprung up following the mass tourism boom during the first half of the 20th century, Cascais was already on the map as an established holiday destination.

She adds that, thanks to King Luís I, who, in 1870, strode out from a sandy beach and dipped his toes into the Atlantic, Portugal’s royal family fastened its proverbial hammock to Cascais, followed by many of Europe’s exiled and wealthy kings and queens.

Iberian Adventure: To the Ends of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAs the Insight motor coach drops anchor just in front of the marina, Toni, aka El Guapo (The Handsome One), our Insight tour director, informs us that we’ll have two hours of shore leave to grab lunch on our own dime, or explore Cascais, or do both.

With only 120-minutes to take in as much of this former fishing village-turned-royal playground as I can, I decide to keep my pie hole shut and my camera lens wide open.

Care to join me?

Iberian Adventure: To the Ends of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.comIn between Cascais and Sintra lies Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca), the western-most point of continental Europe.

In his 16th century epic poem, The Lusiads, Portuguese poet Luís de Camões described Cape Roca as the point “where land ends and the sea begins.” It’s a must-see photo op and Helmer, our skipper, accommodates our pleas and brings the Insight galleon to a full stop in clear view of the edge of the earth, a distant granite cliff stretching out into the blue Atlantic.

Iberian Adventure: To the Edge of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.comWith stopwatch in hand, Toni again puts us on the clock and gives us five minutes — 300 seconds — to hustle down off the motor coach, lay claim to a patch of the rocky terrain and fire away at coordinates 38°47′N 9°30′W.

I milk the hour glass for all its worth, bringing up the rear and clambering back aboard just as the door closes shut and the coach motors off towards Sintra. Talk about running a tight ship.

Iberian Adventure: To the Ends of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.com

Iberian Adventure: To the Edge of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAlong with its business-class legroom seats and WIFI, the Insight motor coach is well stocked with oversized umbrellas. They’re being doled out right now as heavy rains greet us upon our arrival in Sintra.

The holiday destination of choice by Portuguese royalty for more than half a millennium, Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is dotted with ornate palaces, villas and churches, quaint cobble streets and shops, and an artistic heritage that includes Lord Byron, who described Sintra as a “glorious Eden.”

Iberian Adventure: To the Edge of the Earth | ©thepalladiantraveler.comThe dominant architectural feature of Sintra’s historical center is the Palácio Nacional (National Palace), with its iconic twin conical chimneys and lavish interior.

The palace, with 14th century Moorish origins, has been expanded several times over during its lifetime, adding Gothic and Manueline touches along the way.

Whaddaya say we get out of the rain and go inside for a look?

Iberian Adventure | ©thepalladiantraveler.comUmbrellas unfurled, our “band of merry media” makes it way across the wet mosaic pavement to the awaiting motor coach for the short drive back to Lisbon’s five-star rated Dom Pedro Palace Hotel. The heck with room service, I’m ordering dry cleaning. I’m soaked!

For complete information on Insight’s 112 premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

See you bright and early tomorrow morning when we cross the Tagus and head deep into Portugal’s captivating Alentejo region to sample world-class wines, visit a Roman temple and count bones inside a 16th century ossuary.

Boa noite!

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

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