Whenever I travel during the winter months, I have one underlying goal: warmth. This trip has had a couple of sunny days but the temperature has yet to break the 70-degree-happy-Josie mark. Until, Cascais. It was 73 when I arrived. Y-E-S!
I checked in at my hotel, which is always fun to do after several weeks of Airbnb stays. The charming, young lobby attendant asked me where I was from, and, upon telling him, asked me to share some Missouri slang. The best I could offer up was “y’all” and “howdy.” He feigned appreciation but I felt like I’d let him down. He told me, “My name is Alfons, but that can be hard for Westerners to say, so you can call me Alfonso.” He also said he’d lived all his life in Cascais. I interrupted him so as to have him repeat the pronunciation: Cash-kay-ees. I had been giving it a far more French flair.
As a vegetarian, Portugal has seen me eating a lot of Italian, Indian, and Thai food. However, one of the top-rated restaurants in Cascais is, in fact, vegetarian! World of Wonder was a labyrinth. I believe I counted six distinct seating areas including three separate dining spaces (meaning separate buildings, not just rooms), a patio (across the street from the main dining area), and a rooftop. I figured the roof would have the most bountiful sunshine and I was right. However, it also had an aviary’s worth of birds.
For the most part, as soon as a table would leave, the restaurant staff would magically appear and remove their plates. Occasionally, a scrap of pita would fall and several pigeons would convene. However, at one point, a pigeon was able to knock over an entire basket of bread after the diners departed. It was pigeon mayhem for several minutes until the ‘big gun’ seagulls started barking and swooped in for their share. At that point, the waiter came out flapping at the birds. But, because it’s a vegetarian restaurant and you have to assume they’re ethical, animal-lovers, the shooing was done in a rather equanimous manner. I enjoyed the show from behind my half-pitcher of sangria and under my sun hat.
My hotel was 50-feet from a beach and given the sunshine, I borrowed a beach towel and headed for the water. The beaches are plentiful in Cascais and the one I chose was a small cove which made the waves slightly less aggressive than their counterparts on view in the distance. However, occasionally, a large wave would drift ashore and soak those sunning too close to the water. I watched more than one group swiftly grab their things as water fought to catch them. There was a large rock in the middle of the beach and several folks had to take their soaking items and lay them out on the rock to dry. It was, yet another, fun dance to watch — especially while donning my swimsuit in the middle of February.
The next day, I headed off in the direction of the crashing waves alongside the train track. They were spectacular. There was a terraced observation point that jutted out into the water. The United States would definitely have regulated against the structure but it was thrilling to sit above the water with no barrier. At one point, an older couple struck up a conversation with me and mentioned the waves were even bigger “down at the lighthouse.” I hadn’t the foggiest idea of where they meant. (See what I did there? Lighthouse? Fog?)
I searched for the lighthouse on Google Maps and found it was walkable, so I went. Similar to Lagos, what I found was a clifftop perch staring out into vast ocean views. I took advantage of my selfie stick and snagged some pretty awesome pictures while also spending plenty of time just sitting and experiencing. It sealed the deal, Cascais was even more lovely than Lagos. No small feat.
Cascais is a small community, and as I spent my three nights there, I enjoyed spotting people I “knew.” Like, the waiter from the previous day’s dinner, walking to work in the morning. The hotel offered free breakfast across the street at a small yogurt shop and I started recognizing the other guests staying in the hotel. Breakfast was also the time when the evening lobby attendant, Maria would swap out with the daytime lobby attendant, Alfons. Both were friendly with me, and on my last day, when I came down late and no eggs were left, Maria went into the back and had a fresh batch made, just for me. I still hadn’t come up with any more Missouri slang to share with Alfons but he was impressed that I was able to call him Alfons and not Alfonso. Seriously, who are these English speakers he’s been meeting?
I headed back to the train station without consulting a timetable and was happy to see a train was due to depart in ten minutes. Up next would be a transfer to the bus station in Lisbon to drive to Fatima, Portugal. I popped in my headphones and listened to the rosary while the train took me away from Cascais and the waves pounded their farewell out the window.