Visit the Natural Parks and Palaces of Pena and Monserrate

On first March, 2015, two classes of the 11th level, 6 students from partner countries, parents of Portuguese students and teachers, visited Natural Parks and Palaces of Pena and Monserrate, guided by an History teacher, writer and Master in Medieval History (Sérgio Carvalho).

The History teacher explains the different architectural influences on the Romanticism period during the nineteenth century in Portugal, the Sintra‘s romantic symbols that can be observed in the parks and palaces of Pena and Monserrate.

He performed an historical review about the Romanticism of the nineteenth century in Portugal, namely, the Manueline and Moorish influence in Pena Palace in contrast to the Gothic, Indian and Moorish influences in Monserrate Palace and the importance that these two monuments had in this epoch.

This was followed by a guided visit to the interior of the monuments and to the gardens with more than 500 arborous species coming from all over the world and organized by geographical areas.

 Pena Palace is the most famous building in Sintra. Built in the 1840s, it is one of Europe’s most fantastic palaces. It includes a drawbridge, a conglomeration of turrets, ramparts, and domes, and a gargoyle above a Neo-Manueline arch, all washed in an array of pastel shades. The extravagant interior is decorated in late Victorian and Edwardian furnishings, rich ornaments, paintings, and priceless porcelain preserved just as the royal family left them. Other highlights include the spacious ballroom, the marvelous “Arab Room”, and an impressive 16th-century chapel altarpiece (part of an original convent founded to celebrate the first sight of Vasco da Gama’s returning fleet).

Surrounding the palace is the mystical Pena Park, filled with a variety of trees and exotic plants from the former colonies of the Portuguese empire, ponds, fountains, and black swans.

Monserrate Palace was designed by the architects Thomas James Knowles (father and son) and built in 1858, having been commissioned by Sir Francis Cook, Viscount of Monserrate.

This palace, the Cook family’s summer residence, was constructed on the ruins of the neo-Gothic mansion built by the English merchant, Gerard de Visme, who built the first Palace of Monserrate. William Beckford leased the property in 1793, carrying out works on the palace and starting to create a landscape garden.

It was Francis Cook, the first Viscount of Monserrate, who, together with the landscape painter William Stockdale, the botanist William Nevill and the master gardener James Burt, created the contrasting scenarios that are to be found in the park, where narrow winding footpaths intertwine amongst ruins, nooks and crannies, waterfalls and lakes, in what, at first sight, seems to be an apparently disordered fashion.

Spontaneously growing species from Portugal (arbutus-trees, holly trees, cork oak-trees, amongst others) combine with others originating from all of the world’s five continents,   ranging from such countries as Australia to Mexico and Japan. Altogether, there are more than 2500 species.


Colares Wine Route

On March 3, 2015, two classes of the 11th level, 6 students from partner countries, made Colares Wine Route, guided by a Geology and Biology teacher.

The teacher explained the evolution and development over the geological time in Magoito Beach, the cliffs show a succession of almost horizontal layers of grey argillaceous limestone and marl, sedimentary rocks formed millions of years ago, when sea level stood far above the current. The upper limestones are harder, and the marl lower softer, due to the action of erosive agents, the cliff recedes gradually.

At Magoito beach it could be seen a dune formation of great geological value formed about 10000 years ago due to a regression of the sea, which took place during the last glaciation.

The teacher explained the fauna and flora characteristics of the Natural Park of Sintra, the existing flora and the remaining agriculture with numerous traditional elements.

The region has a long history and it is the second oldest demarcated wine region in Portugal dating back to 1908. But the history of wine making in Colares goes way way back to the days of the Roman Empire. But it was King Afonso III of Portugal who actually commanded people to cultivate vines there.

The wine has been important to the region of Colares a long time. In the end of the 19th century the wine bug phylloxera destroyed pretty much every vineyard in Europe, except Colares.

They collected samples of soil where the grapes of Colares wine grow and came into a traditional winecellar where the Colares Wine is produced.

Colares Sand Wines DOC is one of the oldest in the world and is the home of some of Europe’s last remaining ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines, with unique grape varieties Ramisco (red) and Malvasia de Colares (white) grown in trenches in deep sandy soils, although the roots themselves are planted in clay below the sand layers. As the vineyards are in very close proximity to the sea, some of the mineral elements from the ocean spray seem to help impart truly unique flavours to this exceptionally rare terroir.

Visit the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery

On March 5, 2015, a class of the 11th level and 6 students, from partner countries visited Lisboa, Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, with a tourist guide, a student’s mother.

The tourist guide presented the various cultural and historical points in the area and the Portuguese main monuments. She performed an historical review of the time of discovery and the importance that these two monuments had in this epoch.

Belém Tower is a fortified tower located in Santa Maria de Belém a municipality of Lisboa. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the Age of Discovery. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus River and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. The structure was built from lioz limestone and consists of a bastion and a tower of 30 meters of four floors.


Jerónimos Monastery is a monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome near the Tagus River located in Santa Maria de Belém a municipality of Lisboa.

The monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. It was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém, in 1983.

Jerónimos Monastery replaced the church formerly existing in the same place, which was dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém and where the monks of the military-religious Order of Christ provided assistance to seafarers in transit.

The harbour of Praia do Restelo was an advantageous spot for mariners, with a safe anchorage and protection from the winds, sought after by ships entering the mouth of the Tagus.

 In 1496, King Manuel petitioned the Holy See for permission to construct a monastery at the site. The Hermitage of Restelo, as the church was known, was already in disrepair when Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer there before departing on their expedition to the Orient in 1497.

This was followed by a guided visit to the interior of the monuments.


Visit to Praia Grande – footprints of dinosaurs

On March 4, 2015, a class of the 11th level and 6 students from partner countries visited Praia Grande.

Praia Grande is a popular surfing beach that is located on the western edge of Serra de Sintra national park. The beach along the Atlantic Ocean provides massive and powerful waves that are ideal for surfing. As the name Praia Grande (Big Beach) suggests this is the largest beach of Cascais-Sintra coastline. At the northern end of the beach is Europe’s largest salt water swimming pool. The cliffs at the southern edge of the 1,5 km long beach contain fossilized dinosaur foot prints.

The Geology teacher presented the various points of geological and paleontological interest that can be seen in Praia Grande. In addition, it was also explained the evolution and development of the Earth over the geological time, as well as the integration process for biological information in the geological record (the formation of fossils).

It was also observed the footprints of dinosaurs (theropods, sauropods and ornithopods) that provide information for the dinosaur fauna for the Lower Cretaceous period in Europe. The tracks consist of a total of 66 footprints, 51 of which are distributed in 11 tracks and the remainder seem to be isolated. The footprints are preserved in an almost vertical layer which evidences the passage of dinosaurs about 125 million years ago, when Sintra hills did not exist.