We’ve long wanted to visit Lisbon, Portugal, but we don’t enjoy staying in a city so, having consulted the map, we opted for the coastal town of Cascais (pronounced Kashkaish) which is just 30 minutes by train from the capital. However, the charm of this small, fishing town was such that Lisbon didn’t stand a chance. We made one trip there and then spent the rest of our ten-day holiday pottering about in the Spring sunshine, enjoying the sights of Cascais.
It happened that we were staying on the edge of the museum district and we counted 8 museums and galleries, some large and some small, all within a 10-15 minute stroll of our hotel – Museu Condes de Castro Guimaraes, the Lighthouse and Museum, the Museum of the Sea, the Municipal Museum in the Town Hall, Casa Santa Maria, the Citadel Museum, the Paula Rego Gallery and the Casa Duarte Pinto Coelho – not forgetting the Cultural Centre with its changing exhibitions. And admission is free at all of these places!
In addition there is the Marina which has a few shops but has lots of cafés and restaurants and is recognised in the international sailing world. The Marina lies below the Citadel and just across the road from the Jardin Marechal Carmona Park and we spent several happy hours in the park, wandering along the tree-lined paths and watching the chickens, ducks and peacocks strolling about among the Spring flowers.
My favourite place was the Museu Condes de Castro Guimaraes, a 1902 house built by order of Jorge O’Neill, a Lisbon businessman of Royal Irish descent. The architecture is a mix of mock Gothic and classical Portuguese with Moorish influences and stands impressively on the shore of an inlet of the Atlantic. The interior is decorated with ceramic tiles to great effect. The grounds of the house are now the public park as described above.
The outstanding feature of Cascais for me (I’m partially-sighted) is the ease with which I could move around the town. Many of the streets in the older part of town are pedestrianised and the pavements. although paved with setts, are uniform and even and remarkably clean so that I could walk confidently, although it could be a bit bumpy for wheel-chairs. You will find a small hill or two but these are very gentle.
For the more energetic there is free bicycle-hire courtesy of Cascais Council and it’s possible to cycle along a designated, sea-side cycle path to the resort of Estoril, 3km away.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and we heartily recommend it for those who seek a relaxing holiday in delightful and interesting surroundings.