Cascais Stories and Tips

Cascais

When we had seen the most important sights of Lisbon during our stay at Easter last year we decided to discover a bit of the hinterland. We went to the train station Cais do Sodré and took the local train to Cascais (pronounced: Cash-ca-ee-sh, stress on the second syllable), it’s not necessary to know the timetable beforehand, one doesn’t have to wait long for a train. A return ticket costs 2.50 Euro.

It’s a pleasant ride of 35 minutes with the river Tejo on the left, many kilometres wide here at its mouth, and houses, gardens, parks on the right, it’s nearly impossible to find out where one village or town ends and the next begins.

Although Cascais is situated on the Atlantic, the vegetation is Mediterranean with palm trees, cacti, agaves and umbrella acacias, if we didn’t know better we´d feel like travelling in the South of Italy, my Sardinian husband felt at home.

Two stops before Cascais is the famous village Estoril (Eshtoril), both places are nicknamed ‘regal retirement zone’ because of some exiled European royalty who had lived there when European countries turned from monarchies into republics in the 20th century. The last Portuguese King stayed in Estoril (before he escaped to London) as did the Rumanian King Carol II in the 1950s, the son of the last Italian King, Umberto I of Savoy, and his family lived Cascais after the end of fascism until they were allowed to return to Italy some years ago, and also the Spanish royal family stayed there for a while. In 1956 a tragic accident happened, 18-year-old Juan Carlos, now King of Spain, and his younger brother cleaned their guns and one went off killing 14-year-old Alfonso, who shot has never been cleared up or at least the public don’t know.

Estoril is the noblest and richest seaside resort with a famous casino (an ugly concrete box in a nice park just opposite the train station) and many stately villas, also called the Beverly Hills of Portugal. Well . . .

Cascais is completely touristy but a nice little town nevertheless, the centre is a pedestrian precint with narrow streets, all paved with small square stones in light and dark grey arranged in wide swinging waves which made me dizzy when I looked down but I had to look down because here – just like in Lisbon – stones were missing and I was afraid of stumbling.

We walked down to the small beach and looked at the fishing boats that give the place an air of authenticity, the first tourists from Northern Europe were already in the water! We had been in Cascais when we visited Lisbon the first time in 1984, one event had stuck in my mind and I wanted to experience it again: we had eaten in a simple fish restaurant directly at the seafront watched intently by some seagulls, when the waiters cleared the tables, they threw the fishbones into the air and the birds caught them flying. We didn´t wait for the waiters but threw the remains of our food into the air ourselves, this may not be the noblest behaviour, but I liked it and wanted to do it again, however, we couldn’t find this or any other simple fish restaurant at the seafront, only quite expensive ones in the centre.

In the end we landed in the Restaurante Reijos, Rua Frederico Arouca 35, which had affordable prices, five fat tasty fried sardines with potatoes and salad for 6.50 Euro. We were content when we saw that the other guests were not only Portuguese but locals welcomed by the waiters with a handshake, i.e., not passing tourists who can be offered anything. I’m convinced that the six men were the town council, they just looked it; I hope Cascais is run well, they guzzled litres of red wine during their lunch hour! So, all was well, even if the meal didn’t end with the throwing of fishbones.

One attraction of Cascais is the Boca do Inferno (the Mouth of Hell) out of town on the way to Guincho (a long hike or a short ride by taxi [taxis are not expensive in Portugal]), it’s a rugged rock formation of roofless caverns that roar like the devil himself when the sea is rough or so the locals say, although nobody knows if the devil roars like this or if he roars at all, the sight is quite impressive.

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