Sunday, August 6th, Cascais, Portugal
Time flies when you are
having fun! Back in Portugal for the last 10 days,
we have been going non-stop. We wound up staying
in Peniche for four days, getting to know the town, its
restaurants and internet spots, playgrounds and grocery
stores. It was a 45 mile trip from there down to
Cascais, the base from which we have been exploring
Lisbon and its surrounding suburbs.
Although not a
particularly attractive village, we found plenty to keep
us busy in Peniche. We stayed at the marina for only 23 Euros
a day (gotta love Portugal!) so we had easy access to
shore side activities. The girls could scooter
along the boardwalk within view of the boat, enjoying a
little bit of freedom from old mom and dad. One of
the highlights of our time there was a the day trip into
Obidos is a tiny
village, about one square mile in area, enclosed on a
hilltop by an old Moorish wall. Although it is not
accessible by boat, and there was no mention of it in
our cruising guides, we had heard from several sources
that it is a must see. We ventured off to the bus
station in the company of our friends on Cenou, who also
brought along their guests who were visiting from
Switzerland. We wound up with six girls between
the ages of ten and seven and five adults.
The 45 minute bus ride
deposited us at the foot of a staircase that led up to
the entrance through the wall and into the old city
walls. Although a huge tourist attraction, the
crowds did not detract one bit from the sheer beauty of the
place. We set out to walk around the top of the
old walls, with many cautions sternly delivered to the
kids, as the inside of the wall lacked a railing in most
places. The views made up for all the anxiety.
Inside the walls the red tile roofs and whitewashed
buildings gleamed in the sunlight. The surrounding
countryside revealed neat rows of
crops in a patchwork of
fields decorating the gently rolling hills. This
tiny little village was just as lovely centuries ago.
In 1282, King Dinis presented the fief to Queen Isabel
as a wedding present. For the next 600 years,
every Portuguese monarch continued the tradition and the
area became known as Casa das Rainhas, the House of
Queens. Today, aside from the lovely walk around
the walls, legions of visitors stream through the
streets, lined with restaurants, cafes and shops.
I found myself imagining what it would be like to live
in a little walled city like this, minus the hoards of
tourists, of course.
It was a six hour trip
down to Cascais on the first day of August, where we
anchored among a few other cruising boats in the busy
harbor. Joe went and checked us in with the local
authorities but we decided to hang on the boat for
dinner. The free map of the town that is provided
as a courtesy at the marina showed us exactly where our
first stop, at the girls' insistence, would be the next
This was obviously a
much more international area as we were able to find the
International Herald Tribune as well as a large variety
of restaurants serving up all different kinds of food.
This was a very good beginning.
We explored Cascais on
our first day, stopping by the tourist office to get the
lay of the land and find out about the trains going into
Lisbon. We found some glorious parks, stopping for
our playground fix, a maritime museum and many great
views of the harbor and beaches.
Knowing that tomorrow
would be a big day of touring in Lisbon, we kept our
agenda relatively simple so as not to expend all of the
kids' good will for walking around.
Somehow, we haven't
managed the "early to rise" routine here in Europe and
we caught the 12:08 train to the Cais do Sodre station
in downtown Lisboa. We turned right instead of
left, looking for the big main Praca do Comercio, and
wound up in a dicey section of the city. The
benches in the playground where we had to stop, of
course, were occupied by some folks who need to work on
the "early to bed" side of the equation! The girls
seemed oblivious and the bench-dwellers seemed too out
of it to be worrisome, so we got our ya-yas out before
heading the right direction to the tourist office and
main square. By this time, lunch was the next
order of business and we got to explore the mostly
pedestrian area known as the Baixa in search of an
appealing restaurant. This has gotten easier a)
since being in Portugal, b) since revising our
expectations, and c) since figuring out what is
generally safe to order.
The open-air bus tour
of the city and suburbs proved educational as well as
beautiful. We got to see all the sights without
having to cajole the girls into submission too much.
There was obviously going to be way too much for us to
see it all before we had to head south for the Algarve,
so the two hour guided overview made us feel a little
better about our limited timeframe. After an ice
cream break, we made our last stop the Castelo de Sao
Jorge located on a hill close to the Baixa district.
The views of the city from the restored Visigoth castle
made the uphill trek worthwhile.
We decided to devote
our next day of touring to the Belem district, also a
train ride away, and full of sites. The Coach
museum, Presidential Palace and the Monument to the
Discoveries were all within walking distance. I
felt a certain kinship with the legendary Portuguese
explorers honored in the monument. Although our
adventures were much more modest in scale, we are
traveling the same waters as they did so many years ago.
The Mosteiro dos
Jeronimos, dating from 1496, astounded us with its
intricate Manueline architecture, and we loved the Torre
de Belem, a fort built around the same period to guard
the river passage into Lisboa. This was about as
full a day of touring as any of us were ready for and we
were thrilled to find a taxi for the last part of our
trek to the train station.
We decided to take
Saturday off from touring, and hung out on the boat for
most of the day, cleaning and tidying up for guests.
We were showing the boat to a prospective catamaran
owner that evening, and had also made plans to meet with
some friends of friends who live in Lisbon. We had
been emailing back and forth for a few months and were
excited to finally meet in person. Carlos and
Sandra Amaro, and their 12 year old triplets, Gabrielle,
Daniel and Phillipe, are Portuguese diplomats who are
back home for a spell between assignments abroad.
Sandra and the kids had just flown back from South
Africa the day before, so we were thrilled that they
were up for the visit. We enjoyed a few hours of
introduction and conversation at the marina restaurant
before we managed to convince Sandra, who gets terribly
seasick, to come take a tour of the boat. What a
charming family, and so generous with their time and
help. There is nothing like a native to assist in
finding your way around a new city and Carlos never
hesitated to offer his advice and recommendations.
We hope to see them again in the Algarve where they are
vacationing for the month. Thank you Georges and
Alice for hooking us up with them!
We are off for an
overnight sail to Alvor, where we meet the Fisher clan
on Wednesday. We'll have to save the Gulbenkian
Museum for our next visit, Mary Ann. I almost went
in by myself to see it...
Many thanks to our
friend Craig Homenko for his assistance in setting up
We also would like
to thank our buddy Scott Brunner who has been kind
enough to host the website on his server.