Cascais: Portugal’s royal hideaway.
Cascais, the story goes was a small fishing village of very little note until Europe’s royals and aristocrats turned it into their play ground. This was of course in the late 19th century when Cascais was a habitat probably more frequented by beast than man and the locals were the only folks around. A sense of discovery and Cascais’ natural beauty, however, conspired to transform it into what a wine connoisseur I met in Alfama described as “the Beverly Hills of Portugal”.
Now multi-million dollar worth high end hotels face the sea with all the splendour they could muster. There are plenty of lavish restaurants serving equally lavish, yet affordable meals that could possibly keep you in town, never mind anything else, for a long time!The town has more than 10 golf courses and is a haven for Surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Tourists and travelers can explore the beaches and take a tour to some of the local heritage sites. I got here in mid-afternoon having taken the train from central Lisbon 20 miles away. The journey lasted no more than three quarters of an hour and offered me the opportunity to see some of the more affluent parts of this city. The houses or more accurately half-houses – half-mansions over looking water looked impressive.
The beaches, Praia do Peixe and Praia da Rainha both in the centre of Cascais, were only a few minutes walk away from the train station and as I savoured my surroundings I began to sense why this place was regal enough for royalty. There is a certain calmness and charm about Cascais that I had not experienced so far in Lisbon. There were folks on the beach playing games, swimming or just gazing out to see. The vast majority, however, were and quiet rightly in my foodie view, seated in various open air restaurants tucking into their lunch. I soon joined them, but not until I had spent an hour or so just strolling around in the centre of Cascais and by the seaside. There is the Castro Guimarães Museum, Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, Boca do Inferno (“Mouth of Hell”) to see.
For me, the real selling point of Cascais is as a place of relaxation. I was there for only half a day but truth be told I should have spent a whole day in Cascais. Shortly after my half day allocated time I got on the train back to central Lisbon, but not until getting off halfway through the journey at Belem. Belem is no Cascais. It is where I swapped relaxation for hardcore sightseeing – monuments, monastries and the world famous Pasties de Belem were all here to explore!