Smiling despite the kitsch

Postcard: Sintra, Portugal
Postcard: Sintra, Portugal | Art by Todd Berman

There’s an ugly side to Sintra, Portugal. It confronts you on many street corners and from most doorways. You can feel it stare at you as you walk by, cold, lifeless eyes following your every step.

Everywhere in the main part of town ghastly, tacky statues of pirates, poets, pizza men, and beer-drinking dunkards decorate shops and restaurants. The business owners of Sintra should be shackled and spanked for their thoughtlessly kitsch décor choices.

Otherwise, the outlying, heaven-reaching hills of Sintra are as perfectly picturesque as their UNESCO World Heritage Site designation implies. It’s perfect and unreal. It’s one of those places that looks like a well-done piece of theatrical backdrop has been put on display to keep the tourists happy.

And we are happy as we explore the grottoes, wells, and caves of the Quinta da Regaleira and as we climb the highest step of the summit-topping Castelo dos Mouros.

The sun, the sky, the scenery, it’s all here for us – to make us smile.