"On The Way To Pena Palace"

I have been to Portugal on several occasions as a guest of the Portuguese Tourist Board, the National airline TAP and a few other interests. I fell in love with Portugal from the moment I arrived. The fascinating variety of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and every other human sense was enough to boggle the mind with possible choice. Where to go, what to see, what experience to savor first. My host on my first visit to this marvelous country was John Gabrielle of the Portuguese Tourist Board, he made all the arrangements and was determined to show me as much of his country as humanly possible in the rather small time space of just one week.

I will be sharing a number of great memories born for me in Portugal but for this time I want to introduce you to an experience that happened to me on our first day. We were staying in Lisbon, an incredible city in every way and John decided that we would take about an hours drive to a place called Pena Palace.
Pena Palace
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Pena is not all that far from Lisbon and takes you on a drive through some of the most scenic delights the world has to offer. It is a fascinating collection of architectural styles, the most prominent being Moorish. In actual fact it looks almost as though it had been designed by several mad men and built by magicians, it is really quite incredible.

As luck would have it, the biggest car that John could rent in Lisbon was a Volkswagen "Rabbit" and it is not much bigger than a rabbit. I suggested that he may want to get two so I could have one for each foot and I could wear them like roller skates while he rode inside. For me, trying to squeeze into a Rabbit was like trying to squeeze an elephant into a walnut shell but with some grunting and expressions of pain I managed to get all of me in the front seat and off we went.

The Rabbit

It was a beautiful drive. We could see Pena Palace high on a hill, off in the distance. Before long we were at the base of the mountain the top of which was occupied by Pena Palace with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

The road up the mountain was steep and winding. About half of the way up we encountered a line of stalled traffic. Four men, quite small in stature "not too many big people in Portugal" were in mortal combat with a tree branch that was hanging down onto the road from another branch and interfering with the traffic flow.

They had secured a rope to the offending branch and the four of them would give a great heave in unison and to a man be dragged back with their shoes kicking up dust from the road as they slid along the pavement. We watched this men against tree conflict for what seemed like about half an hour and finally, like many other onlookers became bored with this fruitless tug-a-war. It appeared that the branch was not about to give up to the puny efforts of man.
Palace Front
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At that, I opened the door of the Rabbit and began the effort of squeezing myself. It must have looked like a ridiculously small car giving birth to a monster. The four tree warriors and a bevy of onlookers took on looks of absolute shock as I grunted and groaned my way out of the car. I must have looked like King Kong climbing out of a baby carriage. Needless to say, I very quickly became of far more interest to all the people on the road that day than the tree branch.

I walked over to four men in the road crew and said, with a smile of course " give me the rope" which they did happily. I wrapped it tightly around my wrist, pulled it taught and then with all my weight gave one hell of a yank. The combination of my pull and weight as a combined force proved to strong for the branch and tree to resist. Not only did the branch hanging over the road come down, the larger branch to which it was in turn attached broke right off the trunk of the tree. It came crashing down to the road with a large bump and it was over. I took the rope off my wrist and threw it to the ground by the branch.

I turned to a thunderous round of applause and looks of utter disbelief on the faces of the four men who had not managed to beat the tree with all their valiant efforts. When I returned to the Rabbit, my friend and host John was cracking up. The men in the road crew rushed over before I made my less than dignified entrance into the Rabbit because they all wanted to shake my hand.
Palace Statue
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As we continued up that mountain road, John said " there will be a legend in the village about the day a giant got out of a tiny car and tore a tree apart with his bare hands." We both chuckled at the thought, just another one of those crazy, Big Jim travel memories.

As you can see in the pictures, the Pena Palace turned out to be one of the most unusual visual treats I have encountered anywhere in the world. It has a fascinating history that you may want to check out on the net.

Palace Side
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Palace Window
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