Cascais, Portugal

If you find yourself in Lisbon for 48hours+ I would highly recommend an afternoon trip to Cascais. You will also read about Sintra, which I can’t vouch for, but Cascais is a little closer (only 30-40mins by train from Cais do Sobre) and absolutely charming. A fishing village with a beautiful port and sandy beaches, it used to be a popular escape from Lisbon amongst the 19th century nobility. You’ll find run-down buildings right next to some much grander ones, and plenty of family-run restaurants and ice cream shops.

Take a right out of the train station and wonder through the centre of the village. The tiled pavements lend an exotic feel; if you didn’t feel ‘on holiday’ in Lisbon, you sure will now. The main street is perhaps on the verge of tipping into an abundance of postcard shops and tourist traps, but if you duck into any of the side streets, that disappears almost instantly.

Boats of all sizes bob up and down in the harbour, as the water of the Tagus estuary empties into the vast Atlantic. Once at the port, take a left and walk back on yourself along the beach, diverting onto the mainland or promenade when necessary.

Cascais is a treasure trove and even a couple of hours here will leave you feeling refreshed, restored and ready to tackle the city again on your return. If you’ve got itchy feet like me, there’s probably not quite enough here to keep you overnight but on a leisurely trip to Portugal with all the time in the world, it would be a wonderful seaside town to use as a pitt-stop.

Mum and I walked all the way along the coast to Estoril, where we caught the train back to Lisbon. We’d built up quite the appetite, so went in search for sustenance. We’d heard a lot about Cevejaria Ramiro (as featured on Rick Stein’s Long Weekends: Lisbon) but sadly it was closed on Mondays, so we plumped for Sea Me instead. A completely different vibe, much more modern and less ‘traditional, family-run’ but oh so brilliant. A shining star(fish) on Lisbon’s culinary scene!

We perched at the bar and picked a few dishes to share between us. The scallops with mango tartare and sea salt were triumphant. The menu is Asian-inspired to give the food an original twist but it’s very subtle. There’s fresh sushi on offer which we didn’t go for this time but will be top of the list next visit.

The clams with heaps of butter, garlic and lemon, however, we did order, and truly sensational they were; one of the best dishes we had on the whole trip. Served with bread to soak into the wonderful sauce, I could have eaten portion after portion.

Our waiter was such a character and he made the experience what it is: a brilliant last evening meal in a city we had slowly fallen for, big time. He distracted us with his engaging conversation to such an extent that I turned my camera lens to him, and away from the food. So you’ll have to take my word for it that we had a couple of other dishes, including the tuna tartare which was very good.

At the back of the restaurant you can hand pick your fish, all freshly caught that day. We had indulged too much in the set plates from the menu so we didn’t take advantage but the display is extremely impressive and certainly worthy of a photo or five.

A perfect meal, all topped off with a chocolate mousse (an a shot of the local liqueur – rum, I think).

Having made a new friend, we left the restaurant feeling happy, with a tinge of sadness that it was our last night in this fabulous city. Not since Copenhagen have I been to a place I believe I could genuinely by happy to call home. The Lisboans, they’ve just got it right.

Final post tomorrow, and then I’ll compile them all into a city guide for you!