Cascais with new friends

Yesterday Yan (Ian in English), Emily and I agreed to meet around 10:00 AM at the Cais do Sodre terminal for the train to Cascais. After my obligatory coffee at A Brasileira in Chiado, I walked down to the station to meet my new friends and we boarded the 10:20 train for Cascais, a 40-minute ride. The ride was along the Tejo and then the Atlantic, passing under the 25 de Abril Bridge, built in 1966 and very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge. We also passed the upscale resort and community of Estoril. When we walked out of the Cascais station, Joanna was there to meet us and we jumped into their venerable 2000 Audi A4 wagon with 300,000 km under its belt. Pedro grew up in Cascais so we really were in store for a guided tour with true locals.

First stop was a magnificent beach inaccessible to tourists without a car. The sand was white and clean and the waves were just right. Ian, Pedro and Joanna waded into the surf, but Emily and I dove right in. The water was cool but refreshing. We spent about 15 minutes diving under the waves and then it was time to head to our next destination. Pedro drove us up a mountain road to a viewpoint with 360 degree views of the Atlantic, Sintra and much of Lisbon. The Serra de Sintra runs 16 km from Sintra to Cabo da Roca on the Atlantic and is said to be the ancient hunting grounds of the Roman goddess Diana. From the mountains, we headed back to town to the Lidl supermarket, since we decided to forego a restaurant meal and grab picnic foods instead. Again, I was amazed at the huge selection of superb bread and rolls, most of which were under a Euro.

From Lidl, we headed to a great spot in the forest overlooking a lake and laid out blankets and enjoyed a great picnic lunch, sharing regional ghost stories. We then drove to another peak in the Serra for more panoramic views and photos before heading to the city of Cascais.

Our fantastic hosts walked us through the marinas and a lovely city park. We then walked along the waterfront past 800 Euro per night hotels and estates to the historic town center, where we stopped at Santini, which is said to be the best ice cream in Portugal. No one argued against that claim. I had a small cup with a scoop of Framboise and Vanilla. If I lived there, I’d gain 20 pounds!

Pedro showed us the yacht club for which he sailed competitively for years. His team came in third in an international regatta. He’s still a member, which makes his sailing father happy since the initiation fee is quite steep.

It was finally time to drop us off at the train station so we could catch the 8:40 train back to Lisbon. I spent almost ten hours with new friends and was grateful to have befriended locals who graciously spent their Sunday showing us Cascais and its environs. Fortunately, I’ll see Pedro and Joanna in three weeks when I’m back in Lisbon. Ian heads back to Montreal tomorrow and Emily flies to Italy for a few days in Cinqueterra tomorrow.

On the train ride back, we discussed the electoral systems of Canada, the US and Australia. I think they finally understood our Electoral College system, which baffles most non-Americans. We bade each other good-bye at the station and headed back to our respective places. Quite the marvelous day!

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