Sunday, 31 July 2016

Cascais and Sintra

The sail from Berlengas to Cascais was typical, trying to make the most of every puff of wind to maintain our speed, followed by 25 knots (with full sail) during the last hour into the harbor.  For a 50-mile journey, we only motored for 1 hour and maintained 5 knots, so we won’t complain (but those blustery arrivals need to stop!)

Cascais waterfront: superb houses and apartments, a commercial fishing dock, and crowded beach.

Not sure if St. Tropez has as much commercial fishing activity around the main beach.
Cascais has been called the St. Tropez of Portugal, and we’d been warned that the marina was outrageously expensive.  But having spent the last few weeks in modest marinas, we decided to splurge for one night before heading on up the river towards Lisbon. Our experience went something like this:

Marina Staff: “ … and the cost for you boat will be 36 euros per night.”
Us to each other: “wow, that’s not too bad… I was expecting much worse. Let’s stay 2 nights!”
Marina Staff: “… but now I have to add a 23% tax, which brings your total to 44 euros per night.”
Us: “er, um, we’ll be staying one night.”

Later that afternoon:
“This is really a rip-off.  The marina is large and quiet (no other fools around to fill the marina) but the showers aren’t that great and the internet sucks.  But we’re both tired and we’ve been pushing for the last month.  We’ll just stay 2 nights and then move on.”

Walking around town:
“Wow, this is really charming.  Look at all the little streets and arts / crafts shops!” 

Later the next day:
“What a market!  This is the best farmers’ market I’ve seen since we left France.  So much produce, fish, meat, cheese…and all top quality! WOW!!  Paradise!”  

After the market, sipping sangria in the market square:
“You know, we really are tired.  Maybe we should stay another day.”

Having coffee with a french couple now settled in Cascais:
“Oh, you must visit Sintra.”
Us: “We will.”  To each other: “Okay, one more day.”

After coming home from Sintra:
“We can’t possibly leave tomorrow.  We’re pooped and the tide to get into Oeiras means we have to sit out at anchor for 2 hours.  Let’s stay one more day.

And that is how a 1-night stay turns into 4.

Sintra was … interesting. We visited on a Sunday, which one such evidently never do.  The roads were so crowded that the buses were late running their usual tourist hop-on/hop-off circuit and planning anything was impossible.  We went from the train station to a bus to get up to the top of the Moor’s Castle.  This was the highlight of our trip.  Lazy photo-journalist confession time again -  you can look up the history of this area if you’re interested.  Next we walked up to the Pena Palace, which was so kitsch and over-restored that it felt like a Disney exhibit.  We hopped back on the bus for a descent into town, walked around a bit, and waited for a bus that never materialized to take us to the train station.  In all, we spent most of a very hot day riding buses and trains.  It’s hard to imagine what Byron saw in the place.  Sometimes heavy-handed restoration and being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site can ruin a place.

Moor's Castle, Sintra, half-way up...

Pena Palace from Moor's Castle

Pena Palace, not Disney land.