The wisteria is blooming a month earlier than normal. Winding and dancing its way around fences, stonewalls, and abandoned villas and thickening the air with fragrance in the fairytale town of Sintra, forty minutes north of Lisbon. While I am normally quick to lose patience with masses of tourists, it outshines their presence and makes any visit to Sintra worthwhile. I’d come to see just the flowers, no need for a castle visit, as long as I can take in all the flowery goodness here! Stay away from the center, and you won’t have to fight the crowds. Wander down side streets and through tree-lined lanes, exploring old houses and forgotten estates. The unruly masses of wisteria abound at every corner, whether entangling themselves with pastel pink Cecil Brunner roses, or taking on an old house with masses of unkept geranium and pittosporum, for the most heady perfume imaginable! Having never lived in such a sunny place before, I’ve never known such fragrant air, or such an early explosion of spring flora. To have roses, and lilacs, and wisteria all at once is like some sort of heaven to me. In a year so full of turmoil on both a grand and small scale, these reminders of beauty are such tonics for the spirit!