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Cascais and Sintra
Iberian Adventure:
To the Edge of The Earth
(Dispatch #7)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

the port at Belém

s Belém fades away in the rearview mirror and those delicious Portuguese egg tarts linger a little longer on my palate, the Insight Vacations' (Insight) luxury motor coach hangs a right and heads up the Estoril Coast, setting its sights on the other two points of this triangle-shaped day trip: Cascais and Sintra. Together, they bookend the "edge of the earth."

travel journalists and photographers alighting from Insights Vacations coach

Along with the other 28 travel journalists and photographers – collectively known as the "band of merry media" – I'm a guest of Insight, invited along to experience the "art of touring in style" on its Iberian Adventure, an abbreviated, seven-day, premium-escorted journey through Portugal and Spain.


Laura, Insight's Lisbon-based expert

As we glide past luxury beachfront properties and gate-guarded golf communities, Laura, Insight's Lisbon-based expert, explains that unlike many other Mediterranean seaside resorts that sprung up following the mass tourism boom during the first half of the 20th century, Cascais was already on the map as an established holiday destination.

She adds, that thanks to King Luís I, who, in 1870, strode out from a sandy beach and dipped his toes into the Atlantic, Portugal's royal family fastened its proverbial hammock to Cascais, followed by many of Europe's exiled and wealthy kings and queens.

beachfront at Cascais

As the Insight motor coach drops anchor just in front of the marina, Toni, aka El Guapo (The Handsome One), our Insight tour director, informs us that we'll have two hours of shore leave to grab lunch on our own dime, or explore Cascais, or do both.

With only 120-minutes to take in as much of this former fishing village-turned-royal playground as I can, I decide to keep my pie hole shut and my camera lens wide open. Care to join me?

Cascais scenery

In between Cascais and Sintra lies Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca), the western-most point of continental Europe.

Insights Vacation bus at Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca)

In his 16th century epic poem, The Lusiads, Portuguese poet Luís de Camões described Cape Roca as the point "where land ends and the sea begins." It's a must-see photo op and Helmer, our skipper, accommodates our pleas and brings the Insight galleon to a full stop in clear view of the edge of the earth, a distant granite cliff stretching out into the blue Atlantic.

Cape Roca

With stopwatch in hand, Toni again puts us on the clock and gives us five minutes – 300 seconds – to hustle down off the motor coach, lay claim to a patch of the rocky terrain and fire away at coordinates 38°47?N 9°30?W.

I milk the hour glass for all its worth, bringing up the rear and clambering back aboard just as the door closes shut and the coach motors off towards Sintra. Talk about running a tight ship.

oversized umbrella from Insight Vacations

Along with its business-class legroom seats and WIFI, the Insight motor coach is well stocked with oversized umbrellas. They're being doled out right now as heavy rains greet us upon our arrival in Sintra.

scenes from Sintra

The holiday destination of choice by Portuguese royalty for more than half a millennium, Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is dotted with ornate palaces, villas and churches, quaint cobble streets and shops, and an artistic heritage that includes Lord Byron, who described Sintra as a "glorious Eden."

the Palácio Nacional (National Palace)

The dominant architectural feature of Sintra's historical center is the Palácio Nacional (National Palace), with its iconic twin conical chimneys and lavish interior.

The palace, with 14th century Moorish origins, has been expanded several times over during its lifetime, adding Gothic and Manueline touches along the way.

Whaddaya say we get out of the rain and go inside for a look?

exterior and interior view of the Palácio Nacional (National Palace)

Umbrellas unfurled, our "band of merry media" makes it way across the wet mosaic pavement to the awaiting motor coach for the short drive back to Lisbon's five-star rated Dom Pedro Palace Hotel. The heck with room service, I'm ordering dry cleaning. I'm soaked!

Iberian Adventure brochures from Insight Vacations

For complete information on Insight's premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Iberian Adventure and 112 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

See you bright and early tomorrow morning when we cross the Tagus and head deep into Portugal's captivating Alentejo region to sample world-class wines, visit a Roman temple and count bones inside a 16th century ossuary. Boa noite!

Related Articles:
Framing Lisbon's Mosteiro dos Jerónimos; Pastéis de Belém; The Age of Discovery Began in Belém; Walking the Decorative Cobble of Lisbon; Bem-vindo a Lisboa (Welsome to Lisbon); Iberian Adventure

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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