Before going to Lisbon, I had seen an intimidating number of photographs of Sintra. They're almost always of the same things (that staircase at Quinta da Regaleira, Pena Palace atop a hill, coloured tiles) and they give the impression that the town is perhaps too twee, too packed with tourists.
In Portugal, I first heard Sintra mentioned as a friend of a friend drove us, on the Friday night, out of the city toward his seaside suburb, Cascais, where we were having dinner. "That's the mountain of Sintra," he said, waving his hand toward darkness. It is, apparently, always surrounded by fog, usually much colder than Lisbon, and known for pagan rituals.
Sintra is twee, but feels (or felt, after hearing it described by a Lisbonite as 'the Magic Mountain of Fairies and Fauna') oddly charged, as if a step off a path and into the jungle could have otherworldly consequences. There was a cat, seated on a rock near the entrance to the Moorish Castle, who gave the impression of being somehow more ancient than any cat I'd seen before. Sintra's shadows and cold sunlight felt like a kind of warning not to stay past nightfall.