Cascais a Game of Kings and Spies
14 July, 2017
Cascais is a Portuguese municipality some 25 kilometres west of Lisbon. It is now a tourist resort with a host of facilities – extensive beaches and secluded coves, a rugged terrain suited to all kinds of sports, culinary offerings based on quality products and endless leisure options. It also has an exciting history, reminding us that this spot in Portugal was once the refuge of royal families and the nobility and a nest of spies during the Second World War.
Today Cascais is a quiet town dotted with small urban beaches and sheltered from the rough Atlantic by a beautiful bay and a formidable fortress. It is well worth taking a relaxing stroll along the beach known as either La Ribeira or Los Pescadores and discovering its beautiful buildings, notably the Palaces of Condes da Guarda and Seixas.
The ocean is one of Cascais' great assets as it supplies the town with its culinary foundations – fish and seafood, prepared in a special way here. Among the most popular dishes in the region are fresh sea bass and white seabream and the delicious Cascais sole, accompanied by fine garnish. They can be ordered in any of the highly varied array of restaurants in the town, from the simplest, economical eateries to the more refined establishments, where culinary innovation is very much in evidence.
In Cascais harbour you can catch sight of luxury yachts, leisure craft and competition boats, as the town and, by extension, the Coast of Estoril, is a worldwide hub of sailing competitions. Apart from this sport, the waters in this part of the Atlantic attract thousands of surfers (particularly to the beaches of Guincho and Carcavelos), windsurfers, paddle surfers and sports fishing enthusiasts, which is increasingly gaining more devotees. The town harbour is also very lively at nightfall as it is full of restaurants, bars and café terraces, ideal for dining or having a drink.
Home of Kings, Land of Spies
In the late 19th century, this region was a pioneer of tourism in Portugal. Indeed, in 1870, the Portuguese royal family chose the Cascais citadel for their summer residence on account of its excellent location. It was also the destination of the nobility and European families of noble lineage, among them Spain’s monarch in exile, who lived in Villa Giralda for many years.
Apart from being a town that breathes tradition, owing to its geographical situation, during World War II Cascais attracted countless spies, including Ian Fleming (best known for having created the celebrated fiction spy, James Bond) and the Serb Dušan Popov, a hardened womaniser whom Fleming is said to have based his 007 character on. The agents who lived in Cascais followed similar routines. They loved lodging at the elegant Hotel Palácio, having tea and delicious Portuguese pastries at the Pastelaria Garrett and burning the midnight oil in the famous Casino Estoril which witnessed more than one row between the secret agents that gathered there.
On the outskirts of Cascais is the natural vantage point of Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth) and, twenty kilometres further north, Cabo da Roca (Cape Rock), the westernmost tip of continental Europe. This privileged spot, “where the land ends and the sea begins”, as the poet Luís de Camões would have it, affords stunning views of the sunset, reminding onlookers that Cascais is the perfect choice for a relaxing getaway.
Book your Vueling to Lisbon and head for Cascais, where you are sure to succumb to its charm.
Text by Tus Destinos
14 July, 2017