Lisbon’s oceanfront cousin Cascais is the “coastess with the mostess”, says Danielle Mustarde
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIELLE MUSTARDE. LEAD IMAGE VISIT CASCAIS
Which city comes to mind first when you think of Portugal? Lisbon? Porto, perhaps? Unless you know the region well, it’s likely these two diverse and welcoming cities are the first to pop up. But what about the coastal town of Cascais?
Roughly a 45-minute drive from Portugal’s colourful capital, Lisbon, if you’re looking for sun, sea and outdoor adventure then Cascais, in LGBTQI-friendly Portugal (ranked eighth in the most recent ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe list) could be the destination for you.
In a bid to get off Lisbon’s loveable, but oh-so-beaten track, DIVA’s Danielle Mustarde spent a short-but-sweet weekend cycling, hiking and paddleboarding her way across the golden-hued town…
There are plenty of ways to get to know Cascais (pronounced “Cash-caish”), and nearby Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, whatever your fitness level. For one thing, Cascais doesn’t have the steep hills that Lisbon is famed for – a topographical feature which makes cycling a particularly great way to get around.
Arriving into Cascais from London at midday, we make a beeline for lunch in the town centre, settling on (vegetarian-accommodating) seafood joint, Maria Pia before jumping on two wheels courtesy of local tour company, Extremo Ambiente.
Led by a local guide, we peddle our way to Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth), an open “chasm” in the seaside cliffs where the turquoise sea froths white as it thrashes the cliff face below – it really is that dramatic. From Boca do Inferno, we take it uphill and visit some of the town’s popular graffiti spots. “Glocal”, a gorgeous pastel blue and pink portrait of a young girl by artists Telmo & Miel, is worth looking out for.
Trading in our wheels, we make our way to nearby Praia da Conceição beach, one of the town’s largest and most popular – there’s also a ramp, making the beach accessible. Keeping the momentum going, it’s time for a stand-up paddle boarding lesson!
Now, I’ve surfed before (in southern Spain, to be precise) and wasn’t an immediate fan, but SUP? I can 💯get onboard with – literally. Being able to paddle in both a kneeling and a standing position means you can take it at your own pace. Legs wobbling a little? No dramas. Kneel down and find your groove again.
At one point during our session, I even find a moment to lie back and close my eyes, floating gently on the sea: the sun warm on my skin, the only sound the waves and distant voices on the beach. That’s the sweet stuff, right there.
After a day spent soaking up the sun, it’s dinner at The Mix at Farol Hotel. With gorgeous views of both the sea and the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum, if you don’t mind spending a pretty penny – eat here. It’s Mediterranean-come-contemporary dishes are “muito bom!”, as the locals say.
After a good night’s sleep, it’s a bright and early start before beginning our four-hour hike in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Just a short drive from our hotel, we kick off at Cape Roca where, “the land ends and the sea begins” with our lovely guide, Francisco. The westernmost point on continental Europe – and there’s a monument to prove it – Cape Roca marks the beginning of an ancient fishermen’s path leading to nearby Ursa Beach.
It’s a windy and dramatic, but beautiful coastline with plenty of local flora and fauna to see along the sea salt-thick route. Oh, and Ursa Beach? She’s worth the hike.
From the coastline, we shake things up a little and decide to drop down into the lush, deep green forest. While we walk, Francisco tells us stories of local legend and folklore and, just as our stomachs begin to rumble, we’re done. Late lunch is at the family-run, beachfront spot, Restaurante d’Adraga on Adraga Beach. The sand is golden and the food, largely sea food of course, is incredible.
We finish off the day with a full-body massage back at the hotel – perfect after a day’s hiking – before meeting for dinner at Reserva da Villa, a gorgeous spot overlooking the town square and serving up some top, local cuisine.
All too soon, it’s Sunday morning – and time for our sunrise yoga class. More usually held on the beach, this morning our hosts at The Salty Pelican Surf & Yoga Retreat, suggest keeping it studio-shaped as an early-morning rain shower is due. The class, a restorative Yin Yoga (read: very relaxed) is the perfect Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and, an hour later, we’re all feeling royally zen (and that little bit smug) for our last day in Cascais.
Nicely limbered up, our first port of call is the town of Sintra: all mustard and terracotta, intersected with cobbled streets and hole-in-the-wall-sized gift shops at the foot of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains. A long-time getaway for local royalty, this miniature, mountain-cradled town is quite wonderful. Best of all, it’s home to Piriquita pastry shop. Founded in 1862, this 157-year-old, family-owned business serves up the best Portuguese pastries in town. Pastel da nata fans, eat your heart out.
After filling up at petit Piriquita, we spend our last couple of hours in the region visiting the gorgeous Monserrate Palace and Park. With Gothic, Indian and Moorish influences, as well as plant species collected from all over the world, the architecture both indoors and out is incredible. (Think Wes Anderson meets the Mediterranean).
And, just like that – our weekend in Cascais came to an all-too-sudden close. My advice? If you can, stay for a long weekend at the very least – a week’s break would have been just right. For more, head to visitcascais.com
WHERE TO STAY
On a budget: Salty Pelican Surf & Yoga Retreat
Fancy perfecting your downward dog, learning to surf, or simply staying somewhere reasonably priced? Then look up the Salty Pelican. A beautifully decorated, well-lit hostel, it’s a great spot for solo travellers – or anyone keen to make friends on the road. Plus, it’s just a 15-minute drive from Carcavelos Beach, one of the best-known surf spots in the area. Need convincing? Watch their promo video at here. From €45 per night including breakfast. saltypelican-cascais.com
Hey, big spender: Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel & Spa
For those who like a little luxury, with pool-to-sea views, impressive architecture and a full-spa experience on offer, Grande Real Villa is your gal. This is where we stayed and boi, oh, boi did I sleep well. Oh, and if you stay here or not, keep the hotel’s spa in mind – their full-body scrub and massage are enough to soothe the sorest of surf legs. From €140 per night including breakfast. granderealvillaitalia.realhotelsgroup.com
Danielle flew from London to Lisbon with TAP. Prices in August 2019 began from £92 return per person. This piece was originally printed in the August 2019 issue of DIVA magazine – get yours here!
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