Cascais by the panoramic road
By Douglas Hughes, in Voyages 20-08-2021 01:00:00 0 Comments
In the last post, I mentioned visiting Sintra, Colares and Praia das Maçãs before finally heading to the fashionable town of Cascais, home to the rich and famous.
The drive along the winding road from Cabo da Roca to Cascais is a real treat. The road is quite high in places so there are some great views to take in along the way. The road eventually meets the rugged coastline and sand dunes of Praia do Guincho. As soon as sea level is reached, the landscape naturally flattens out as the road closely follows the coastline towards Cascais.
Along this route there are stunning seascapes as well as incredible views towards the Sintra Mountains. It’s easy to understand why this region is often referred to as the “Portuguese Riviera” and how it has become one of the most desirable areas in the entire Iberian Peninsula.
We have all undoubtedly seen images of terrifyingly beautiful beaches, glorious vineyards and divine sunsets in glossy vacation brochures. Is it sometimes tempting to think that such pictures are a little too good to be true? Until we actually get to Portugal and witness it for ourselves.
The coastal road to Cascais offers some of those scenes perfect for vacation brochures. There are all kinds of photo opportunities along this stretch of coastline. Images that could easily convince any potential traveler that Portugal is indeed a wonderful destination. The beaches are truly stunning, often with trendy seaside restaurants and bars flanked by gently swaying palm trees. All of this even before reaching Cascais itself.
As you approach Cascais, it becomes more and more obvious that this is truly a sought-after place. There are plenty of luxurious beachfront villas with pristine lawns, lush flower gardens, and stunning infinity pools. Some of these properties can be rented on Airbnb (or similar). They are dotted amidst rows of very exclusive gated mansions, some of which are hidden behind ornate perimeter walls or beautifully manicured floral hedges.
It’s easy to say that Cascais is occupied by very proud locals. No stone has been overlooked to create a near-perfect image wherever you look. It’s just so remarkably well maintained. Every small store and every large building is whitewashed to perfection. Even the intricate wave-patterned cobblestone sidewalks are a sight to behold. Not only do these cobblestone and cobblestone areas testify to the skill of those who so painstakingly created them, but they also do a credit to those who now keep them so meticulously clean and tidy. Plus, every green space is on fire with fragrant flower arrangements flanked by shady palm trees and refreshing fountains. Some call this region the “California of Europe” and it’s easy to see why.
It is quite a task to convey adequately how beautiful Cascais really is. But it really is a town with something for everyone, whether for its beautiful old buildings clinging to the rocky shore, or for the picturesque ‘cookie box’ view of the blue and white striped lighthouse of Santa Marta. . Some may appreciate Cascais for its impressive marina, while others may prefer to spend their free time simply enjoying the sunny delights of the magnificent beach which is a short walk from the excellent amenities of Cascais. It is not a city that will leave anyone with nothing.
So Cascais seems to have it all. Postcard backdrops, pretty beaches, epic bars, charming cafes and an endless choice of excellent chic hotels and restaurants to suit every taste imaginable. You can literally feast on whatever you fancy in glorious Cascais. Choose from good old English classics or maybe prefer a French gastronomic corner? You might even want to indulge in an authentic Italian fayre or choose to spice up your evening with a tangy Indian curry? You name it. Everything is available in Cascais with all the traditional Portuguese culinary favorites to boot.
And if all that isn’t enough, there is an absolute labyrinth of brightly lit streets to wander around. They offer late night shopping and a great place to enjoy that all-important after-dinner walk. Maybe even treat yourself to a little nightcap to end a perfect day?
Shops, market stalls and cafes will remain open as long as there are people around enjoying a taste of Cascais hospitality.
I never tire of Cascais and I always hesitate to leave. But the delights of Avenida Marginal (the coastal road to Lisbon) inspire me enough to return to these open roads.
Heading east along the rugged coastal road (N6) there are still other wonderful beaches such as Praia de Carcavelos which lies at the mouth of the Tagus river. The sparkling aqua-marine waters and epic views of Almada provide a truly breathtaking backdrop from the palm-fringed highway that gradually meanders to the many delicacies of the Portuguese capital.
Back in Lisbon, why not take a stroll along some of Lisbon’s amazing river bridges, between Ponte 25 de Abril and perhaps the Tower of Belém.
The bridge in itself is an incredible sight and an awe-inspiring feat of engineering, but I find walking under it quite an unnerving experience. This is because the bridge behaves like a huge booming instrument that resonates with a permanent and distinctive “buzz” – like a massive swarm of giant bees. This happens when hundreds of tires roll along metal grids on the pavement above.
Avenida Marginal follows roughly the same route as the Lisbon-Cascais railway (Linha de Cascais). Old British trains (built by Cravens of Sheffield in the 1950s) provide regular and affordable service. I said “aged” because electric rolling stock could best be described as having a fairly “classic” (but chic) look. A bit of shabby chic perhaps? As dusk falls over Lisbon, dimly-lit cars slam as old trains pull away into the twilight, leaving a calm air of nostalgic contemplation as they blend into the distance.
With Ponte 25 de Abril in the background and the enormous Cristo Rei monument towering over Almada across the Tagus River, there is a definite allusion to the New World right here in the Old World. The very place from which intrepid sailors set off on their fabulous voyages of discovery and adventure.
Because of the bridge, I can see how easy it has been for writers to make so many comparisons between Lisbon and San Francisco, with just a hint of Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro taking place in Almada.
All in all, these are places that simply cannot fail to impress even the most tired traveler in the world. Whether bathed in the Portuguese midday sun or masterfully lit by starry glory, these stunning panoramas of Lisbon will forever remain etched in the hearts and souls of all who come to discover them. Of this there is very little doubt.