For your eyes only

The old caretaker’s house.

I’m about to show you something that tourists in Sintra never get to see. Even if you live in Portugal it’s not easy to get access to it. So when Parques de Sintra accepted my request to visit Quintinha de Monserrate and write a post about it I was, needless to say, one very happy blogger!

An outdoors amphitheatre.

Right now in Sintra there are numerous efforts being made to preserve the local fauna and flora, but also the local culture, appealing mostly to children – the adults of tomorrow. So why not take an old small farm located near one of Sintra’s most well-known monuments, give it a makeover and make it both fun and educational for kids of all ages? That’s exactly what the people at Parques de Sintra did.

vista geral

The Quintinha de Monserrate (literally, “little farm of Monserrate”) is an area of about 2 hectares (roughly 4 acres), with local fauna and flora, as well as its own water stream, which used to be a real farm where goods were produced for the family living at the Monserrate palace.

A view to part of the vegetable patch.

Tó is the name of the man in charge of taking care of the animals, the vegetables and the fruits. Some of these are used in workshops and others are used to feed the animals – nothing goes to waste, teaching kids the importance of reusing what’s “old” and reducing waste. They even have compost piles as well as their own solar panels and other “green” ways of using the energy from the sun and the wind!

vista geral hortaIn line with this idea there’s a totem, which was once an old eucalyptus. Being infested by fungi and with no possibility of surviving, it was decided to turn it into a 7,5 meters high (about 24 ft 7) totem representing 17 different species of local animals and plants. This totem was created by the Welsh artist Nansi Hemming in only 10 days with the use of… get ready for it… a chainsaw! Amazing, right?

totem1Some of the animals represented include a Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), a lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), a stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) and the well-known European badger (Meles meles, if you’re curious).


owlThere are several programs to choose from but, although they have different characteristics depending on different age groups, they all aim at letting kids know more about life in the country, animals (both farm animals and local fauna), sustainable agriculture and life before technology as we know it today. That includes answering some basic but vital questions: Where does milk come from? Where do eggs come from? How did people live before electricity and how did they manage to entertain themselves without all the gadgets we have today?

Ribbit ribbit!

Besides the animals living on the farm – which include bees, salamanders, frogs, rabbits, chickens, goats and Chico, the donkey – there are also cousins! Yes, cousins! 🙂 Actually, they’re actors playing the role of the “countryside cousins” who show kids how people, in the old days, did all the things that we do today with the help of machines: from doing the laundry, to cooking bread, to baking biscuits and, of course, playing cards to entertain themselves after all the work was done!

Beehives at the Quintinha.
Meet Chico, a natural cutie!

Grown ups, however, don’t need to be sad. There are also workshops to teach them about organic farming – no funny cousins included, though!

interior casa
Inside the caretaker’s house. Notice the old sewing machine.
vaca loura
A pile of wood? Actually it’s a kind of luxury home for our friend the stag beetle.

abrigo salamandras

Here be salamanders!

I’d like to thank Parques de Sintra for the opportunity to visit this wonderful space and I’d also like to send out a special “thank you” to the Communication Department and to our amazing (and very patient) guide! 😀

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  1. Great place! And I love the totem pole. I’m just not clear from your post if this is actually open to the public… if you had to ask for special permission, how does the average tourist/visitor get to visit? And is it any good for non-Portuguese speakers?

    • Thanks, Julie! Like I said in the beginning of the post this is “something that tourists in Sintra never get to see” because… they don’t! You can’t just buy an entrance ticket.
      Like I said there are several programs to choose from and there are workshops as well but they have specific dates and there’s a whole organization behind it. So, in a nutshell, the average tourist/visitor does not get to visit – unless you’re in Portugal and you take part in one of the activities. I know they also do children’s birthday parties, so that might be an opportunity for grown ups to sneak in!
      Concerning non-Portuguese visitors I can’t really tell… if you’re interested in Nature you’ll always find it interesting. On the one hand I wanted to share this because it is a shame that a lot of people don’t get to see it; on the other hand I could feel, from my visit there, that this is a project which is very much cared for, there’s a lot of love and work put into this – which maybe is why this is kept almost a secret!

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