D has a thing for water. Rivers, lakes, seas or oceans, it doesn’t matter, she just has to have water somewhere around her. I never got that strange obsession, maybe it has to do something with her staying in beach summer camps for months with her parents as a kid, but nonetheless I don’t get it. Cascais helped me with that.
Cascais is a coastal town located west of Lisbon. It has a charm of a larger fishing village, but don’t be fooled, it has more than 200000 inhabitants and is one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. It also looks like that – It is a place where you could imagine a rich guy buying himself a villa and a 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider in which he would kick back his roof and just cruise around the coast with music blasting from the speakers. I mean, I wouldn’t blame him, I would do it myself.
If you are staying in Lisbon longer, Cascais is the perfect day-trip destination. The train from Lisbon leaves at the Cais do Sodré train station, and a return ticket costs 4,50€ (2,25 € per direction at that time, you can check the prices here). Be sure to sit on the left side of the train, next to the window, so you can have the best view on the beautiful scenery while you travel for 40 minutes.
When you get there, it’s a 3-minute walk to directly jump into the touristic area of the town. The street is full of souvenir shops, jewelries or restaurants. We bought our gifts here, as the ships are much larger than the ones in Lisbon, so you will not get that claustrophobic feeling that these little, always overcrowded shops evoke in you. And just as a side note – the prices are also 0,5-1€ cheaper than in Lisbon.
I was a little let down by this part of Cascais, as it isn’t really all that attractive. We quickly got through the stores as D was searching for a new purse and directly went towards the Praia da Ribeira. It is one of the first bigger places where you will have a direct access to the ocean, and it comes in a form of a pretty sand beach. I guess it will not be all that spectacular for some people, but I had a new, fresh experience there – it was my first time seeing an ocean, and the first time being on a sand beach. I think I set my expectations wrong here as I thought it will be some kind of a Copacabana (or what I would imagine Copacabana would look and feel like), where you would be walking in the burning sun all oiled up, sipping on a coconut drink from your hand, lightly tipsy, blasting a finger gun left and right with some feel-good music is in the background. But I found myself 10 times happier there with my wife sitting beside me with my arm wrapped around her.
Here is a tip – Cascais offer you free rental bikes. Fetch one of those and get on your way towards Boca do Inferno – a breath-taking chasm in the seaside cliffs about 1,6 km away from Cascais. The route should be pretty easy and you will have a hell of a view as you will ride along the shore with nothing to see but the ocean, as the first land you could see is in the U.S. State of Delaware.
When I got there I suddenly understood D’s obsession with water. What impressed me the most was the balance of things, the balance of everything there – you have this fear-inducing force of the ocean constantly crashing against the cliffs on one side, and on the other side that same water makes such a peaceful sound as it is dispersed in the air and retracts in the ocean. The balance between the beautiful, breath-taking landscape and the feeling of being small in the awe of nature is also astonishing. D maybe described my feelings the best as serendipity – I came there expecting one thing but left after finding something valuable I was not looking for.
We were laying in silence there for an hour and sunbathed a little bit (we had 22° at the start of March! And also, a heads up for guys who never wore a ring before – the sun won’t reach the skin under the ring so you will have an unevenly dark ring finger after sunbathing) and just enjoyed ourselves. There are some places to eat there, but the food really isn’t noteworthy or just too expensive. But be sure to try the ice-cream from a little store near the entrance to Boca do Inferno: it is amazing as they only have ice-cream flavors that are authentic to Portugal. For example, I ate an ice-cream with bananas from Madeira and some port-wine-jam-topping. A must-have!
We walked back to Cascais through the museum quarters where we took some amazing pictures of the ocean and the museums. The pictures should speak for themselves. We ate at the Cervejaria Marisquiera Camões, and the food wasn’t that much as a highlight, but the price was right, they recommended us a good rose-wine and they were all-over friendly. I would say you will not regret visiting it, but you should also not expect too much.
As the day was coming to an end I was really sad and had the idea to come back the day after with wine and food to picnic and just hang out there as I was really impressed with the place. But the weather gods were not in the favor of my idea, as it started raining that same night.
Here is one more tip for Cascais: when leaving go shop for groceries in the Jumbo (a large store) which is on the other side of the street when you are at the train station. You will probably have the same experience as we did, with grocery stores in Lisbon being too hectic, overcrowded and confusing. Jumbo is the exact opposite of that, which also the name Jumbo states, as they have a large selection of everything you need and don’t need. From underwear to garden supplies, it was a real blessing, especially as we finally could stock up on some candy and Portuguese olives.
As a conclusion, Cascais is a special experience – a place where, If I ever get the money for that, I will buy a villa and a 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider in which I would kick back my roof and just cruise around the coast with music blasting from the speakers. I mean, if you visit Cascais you wouldn’t blame me, you probably would do the same.