Getting around inCASCAIS

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Apr 2018 10:59:44



Once a humble fishing village, Cascais has been attracting vacationers from all over the world. The picturesque city is not short on culture where one can get around walking or cycling...

C ascais is a small resort town located about 30 minutes away from Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. It is located on the Atlantic coast and is a picturesque and quaint town. As I boarded the flight from Mumbai for Lisbon via Paris, I was looking forward to the visit to the city. After a long 9 and a half hourflight to Paris, we had a layover of about 4 hours at Charles De Gaulle Airport and I was thanking my stars that I was not going to Paris as the temperature outside was an inhospitable -10 degrees Celsius at 11.30 in the morning.

I preferred to be in the relatively warm climes of the airport and wait for my next flight to Lisbon. As we landed into the Humberto Delgado Airport at Lisbon, it was breezy and drizzling at that time.

After taking our baggage, I headed for the City shuttle bus which would take us to the train station from where we were suggested to take a train to Cascais. The bus was quite convenient and air conditioned and we reached the central train station known as ‘Cais do Sodre’.

It serves as the terminus of the suburban route to the resort town Cascais. We got on the train and after a 30 minute scenic journey running along the coast, we reached the town of Cascais. Once we checked into the hotel, it was time to explore the city even though we were jet lagged after a long and tiring journey.

However, we thought of stretching our legs and in the process explore the neighbourhood. We learnt that the city is full of undulating slopes and gradients and all the sidewalks are paved with similar cobblestones which we laterlearnt was the ones used all over the country. The weather was quite fickle as it was raining at one instant and sunny at the other. We came across lots of cafes and restaurants serving the typical Portuguese cuisine and it is a Godsend for the lovers of sea food as a big variety is available fresh off the Ocean.

Even in such a remote town in Europe,Iwas pleasantly surprised to find Indian restaurants there and needless to sayIdid have some meals there to check out their fare and can vouch that they were quite authentic. The other observation was that the town had very good public transport and the people were very helpful and courteous. They explained things in detail, be it directions to a particular place or bus routes and often went out of the way to help even if they did not understand English.

Having had done some research on Google prior to our departure for the destination, we planned our trips to the nearby areas and also covered the spots in the city mostly on foot. The resort town boasts of beautiful parks and lively town squares dotted with cafes and eateries of all types. Statues of their heroes are prominently located at various parts of the town and are well maintained. Asthe town is located on the Atlantic coast, it exudes a natural charm and forthe tourists, it is a very welcome sight. There are walkways along the coast and one can walk, jog or cycle around and feel the ocean in their face and ears.

Cascais boasts of many museums housed in magnificent buildings; lighthouses; parks; beaches and lots of green areas which provide an identity to this town. ‘Boca De Inferno’ or ‘Gateway to Hell’ is a scenic ocean front cliff which feature a natural archway and open cave created by pounding waves. It is a must visit place and one can experience the raw beauty and power of the majestic Atlantic Ocean. ‘Casa das Histórias Paula Rego’ isapopular museum which housesthe collection of Paula Rego’s work in striking pyramid shape towers which are visible from a distance.

‘Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães’ houses paintings and ancient artefacts dating back to the 1900s. The Lighthouse museum of Santa Marta also known as the Farol museum is also one of the interesting places to visit in Cascais. It provides great views of the bay and the museum though small provided insights about the lighthouse. The Palace of Cascais Citadel located close by is also a well laid out place with imposing buildings and sprawling lawns. It too is located very close to the beach and therefore provides spectacular views.

The town is full of numerous eateries, cafes and restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisine although seafood is at the top of the table owing to its location. Another observation is that most of the shops, souvenir shops, daily needs outlets are manned by Bangladeshi immigrants. Most of the cafes serve freshly baked bread, coffee and a their famous egg tarts known as ‘Pasties de Nata’. These are available in all the bakeries and cafes and also at the airport, and therefore they are a must eat.Idid try them and then got hooked on to them.

The other famous beverage is ‘Port Wine’ which is available all across the town. Portugal also does produce very good wine and it is not very expensive. We then embarked on ourfirst day trip and that was to ‘Cabo da Roca’ i.e. the westernmost part of Europe and is marked by a monument which nowadays serves as a good picture and selfie point to mark ones presence at that point.

There is a lighthouse too which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. This point is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Sintra National Park which was our next stop. Sintra has amazing castles and Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors are built in contrasting styles with each having their own mystical charm. The Palaces give us a glimpse of the royalty and their living styles and also provide an insight to the era gone by. The Sintra Palace located on the town square itself is also a place worth visiting before one starts the trek to the castles mentioned earlier. They are also accessible by bus which takes you to the doorstep of the palaces. You need to carry good walking shoes, an umbrella and loads of stamina to experience and enjoy the beauty of this place.

The terrain is hilly and is marked by inclines and descents but the sheer beauty makes up for the effort spent in exploring the area. The best way to get to Sintra from Cascaisis by bus which is quite cheap and efficient.You can makeaday trip and return to Cascais by evening. Rounding off the visit to this resort town, we hadahearty Indian meal before catching the train to Lisbon. Before departing from Lisbon, we got a chance to visit the OldTown area of the capital city and were pleasantly surprised to find heritage trams being run for tourists apart from the regular ones and we took advantage and rode it till the top of the hill from where we could have a bird’s eye view of the city.

Lisbon, like any big metropolitan city is a bustling town and is well served by its metro network apart from the efficient public transport system. The painted tiles which are an identity of the country are proudly used all over the city making it look colorful and pretty. Articles made out of cork are unique to this country and a must buy take away as a remembrance or a souvenir. You can choose from myriads of designs of purses, pouches, table coasters, jewelry, key chains etc. which will help the pleasant memories of one’s trip linger on. Table linen is another speciality of this region and the designs are very intricate and beautiful. As all good things ultimately have to come to an end, I boarded the flight back from Lisbon for Mumbai via Paris and came back home with good memories. ■