Sunday, June 29, 2014

[CASCAIS] Go to Hell

So you’ve finally arrived in Lisbon and you're feeling down and blue. You're alone. You don’t know anyone in the city. You feel depressed. You’ve had enough of awesome grilled fish. What'd be your best option? Lisbon has many tourist attractions worthy of your time and money but the best tip I have for you is to simply relax. Or you can always go to hell.

No, I don’t hate you. All I am trying to say is that the mouth of hell is located in Cascais and the good news is that it is less than an hour away from Lisbon by train. Don’t worry, this is not a one-way trip to meet Satan. You can always catch a bus going back. As to why the locals of Cascais decided to refer to such a cool attraction as the “Mouth of Hell” I really have no idea. It is a cliff but it does not look like hell to me. Anyway, welcome to one of Cascais’ main tourist draws, the Boca do Inferno.

Cascais is popular because of its beaches and proximity to the capital. Tourists and locals love to spend time here after dealing with history and culture overload back in Lisbon. But I’ve already been to Algarve and I'm hard to please when it comes to beaches. This is why I decided to ditch the beach and go to hell, but not before I had my daily dose of good pasta. Yum, yum!

From Lisbon, take a train from Cais do Sodre to Cascais. Comboios de Portugal will charge you around 5 euros for a round trip ticket and it takes around 40 minutes to reach the beach. I have not confirmed if this is true but I guess basing from experience, it is: the all-day ticket for the Metro is not honored for the train going to Cascais so don’t bother buying one.

Once in Cascais, you'll then have to find the bus going to Boca do Inferno. It might be confusing at first but you will find your way. I did! But then again, pasta comes first. The train station is close to the beach so it is not uncommon to see people in beachwear, although there were few when I was there because the wind was rather chilly. As mentioned, I ignored the beach and went to Cabo da Roca. Okay, this means we go back to Sintra for an hour or two.

Cabo da Roca is another cliff but with a better reputation. It is considered to be the westernmost edge of continental Europe, meaning if you fall down the cliff you'll be left to battle the waves of the Atlantic on your own. Who knows, you might just end up on the other side of the ocean. Hello, New York! The thing is, if the Titanic failed to do just that, you probably would too. So no jumping off the cliff, please! Cabo da Roca is part of Sintra but almost always included in tours of Cascais because it is just nearby.

Yes, we will still go to hell, okay. Excited much? Cabo da Roca is just a mini detour. Take Scotturb bus 403. It won’t take half an hour to reach Cabo da Roca. The bus trip is not that boring because you will be treated to generous views of the cliffs and ravines where you would end up if the driver turns out to be suicidal. There are buses plying this route on an hourly basis and you can catch another Scotturb bus from there to go all the way to Sintra if you have not done the obligatory palace hopping just yet.

There is nothing much to do at Cabo da Roca apart from admiring the scenery. The wind might give you the chills so dress appropriately. Don't push tourists off the cliff. I know they're in the way of that perfect landscape photo but let’s try to be a bit more diplomatic here. There is an obelisk thingy with a cross on top and you will have to contend with how many tour buses of East Asian tourists to get a solo picture. Be patient, you’ll eventually get your turn.

After taking gorgeous photos of the cliff and the ocean, it’s time to go sunbathing somewhere because it can get cold here. What, I saw a Chinese guy doing exactly that on the grass! Keep yourself warm while waiting for the bus. There is a restaurant in case you feel sudden pangs of hunger but given that it’s the only restaurant in the place, I assume it'll be overpriced. There is a souvenir shop by the way, but nothing really special there unless you can read Portuguese. To go to hell, you will have to go back to Cascais first to catch another Scotturb bus.

The bus going to hell is Scotturb bus 427 and it takes around 20 minutes from Cascais. If you had to spend 3.25 euros one way to go to the westernmost point of Continental Europe, be glad to know that it only takes a euro to reach hell. A euro and 20 minutes, sounds like a real bargain to me! Once you get off at your stop, you'll be greeted by shops and food stalls aplenty. Buy yourself a sandwich or two before going to hell.

The Mouth of Hell has a lot of big rocks and couples engaged in blatant PDA. The place seems more like a good location to shoot scenes for a mermaid telenovela rather than the end of the world. The waves are not even that wild, for crying out loud. Whoever named the place must have been very depressed, on drugs, or just hated the locality that much to come up with such a flattering moniker.

So which cliff is the better choice? Well, I’d choose Cabo da Roca anytime because it has a more majestic feel. I don’t know why, I simply can’t explain it. Boca do Inferno seems all plain to me, neither repugnant nor breathtaking but still worth your while if you just want to chillax and be emo. The Mouth of Hell also has more choices when it comes to food given the abundance of shops by the entrance. It is closer to Cascais too! But yeah, in terms of scenery, Cabo da Roca wins.

The bus ride going back to Cascais introduces you to its beaches, and the tourists that infest them. The beach quality does not seem on par with the awesome ones I’ve been to. I mean, Algarve will win this contest hands down. But then again, it is that relaxing atmosphere that matters when you go beach hopping, and I believe Cascais has that feature along with the apparent azulejo addiction that the Portuguese suffer from.

You go back to Lisbon via the same train you took earlier. That means another 40 minutes of rail travel for you. Staying overnight in Cascais is not necessary. Chances are, you'll find cheaper accommodations in Lisbon, and with just 5 euros to spend on a roundtrip train ticket, going on a daytrip is your best option.

Sorry to disappoint you but no, you won’t see Satan at Boca do Inferno. :(

[CASCAIS] Go to Hell

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