To the Edge of The Earth
Story and photos by Tom Weber
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."
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
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
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
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
In between Cascais and Sintra lies Cabo
da Roca (Cape Roca), the western-most point of continental Europe.
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.
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
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
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 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?
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.
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!
Lisbon's Mosteiro dos Jerónimos; Pastéis
de Belém; The
Age of Discovery Began in Belém; Walking
the Decorative Cobble of Lisbon; Bem-vindo
(Welsome to Lisbon); Iberian