Cascais, Portugal

Do you need a break during your vacation? Sounds crazy. But hold on. Whether you’ve been driving the I-95 Corridor between Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. or jumping on and off trains to see Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris, you’ve been spending most of your trip in big cities. The food and language–or at least the accent–may be changing with each stop, but you’re still surrounded by crowds of people trying to capture a postcard-perfect photo of the same monument.

Photo: N Preseault
Photo: N Preseault

If you can barely remember if you’re in Seville or Lisbon by the time you reach Portugal, it’s definitely time for some solitude and fresh air. Preferably salt air. Only 20 miles outside of Lisbon, Cascais is just a quick train ride from the city center. Yes, another train, but this time, just a short commuter train with views of the Estoril Coast.

Photo: N Preseault
Photo: N Preseault

Originally a small fishing village, Cascais became a resort for the royal family. Now it’s a cosmopolitan beach town whose mild weather lures visitors the entire year. There are cobblestone streets and pastel-colored buildings. The Church of Nossa Senhora da Assuncao, with 17th century paintings, and the Museu do Mar, which tells the city’s story. Old fortresses and new yachts. A boardwalk and a lively fish market. And beaches. Praia da Ribeira, Praia da Rainha, and Praia da Conceicao are all in the center of town, just steps from the train station.

Photo: N Preseault
Photo: N Preseault

Go shopping for traditional baskets and ceramics or browse the latest upscale fashions. Eat seafood soup and squid. Go surfing, windsurfing, or kitesurfing. Any type of surfing really. Bar hop along the boardwalk. Check out the casino in Estoril, the neighboring town. Or not. Plop yourself on the golden sand. Find secluded coves. And forget how close you are to a major city. A good vacation just became an extremely memorable one.

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