What some people don’t realise is that when you’re a crew member of a ship you’re technically not getting paid to travel the world; you’re getting paid to work, and the travel is a side bonus. On the day in question that we arrived in Lisbon, sailing down the river to be greeted with beautiful layers of rooftops across the hills of the city in the glorious afternoon sun, I wasn’t allowed off the ship until we’d finished rehearsals at around 7pm- leaving me the rest of the evening to explore the city until the next day arrived, when we would still be docked in Lisbon but I was, alas, forbidden from leaving. Up until then I’d done my fair share of exploring Lisbon every once in a while as we were passing through, but in all honesty my only nighttime foray into the hilly streets had been thwarted by a cripplingly painful bladder infection (awkward), and I’d definitely never made it out of the city before.
A pal of mine, therefore, had a grand plan to escape. A little to the West of Lisbon is the coastal town of Cascais, a seaside-lovers’ paradise that I’d seen pictures of but never realised how easy it is to reach from the Portuguese capital. To get from Lisbon to Cascais by train takes a mere half an hour (ish), and having visited before, this pal of mine declared that he would be heading back and I should totes join him. Well, who am I to turn down an invitation to somewhere new and intriguing like Cascais, after all!?
How do you catch a train in Lisbon?
We walked through an industrial area next to the river, crossing an extremely busy main road to reach the railway running parallel on the other side; I’ll be honest, we weren’t exactly sure we were heading in the right direction, but soon after we arrived at the station, a graffiti-clad train pulled in and we jumped for joy at the seemingly perfect timing of the whole shenanigan. It did however, totally suck, that we couldn’t work out how to make the doors open. The train gave an electric hiss and pulled out of the station, leaving us bemused on the platform, with a half hour wait for the next one.
It began to drizzle.
Eventually a second train arrived and this time we watched and learned from our fellow passengers, finally heading for the coast as darkness fell around us.
Related: What Not to Do in Lisbon
Steak and sangria, and empty streets
Even at night, you can tell that Cascais is a cute town. This is a classy beach resort, with beautifully patterned paved streets and classic colourful Portuguese architecture. If you’ve ever been to Portugal, you’ll know- you just can’t go wrong with some brightly coloured Portuguese buildings, oh no siree! As it was October when we were travelling through, the streets were fairly devoid of people- particularly the touristy sort- and altogether it felt a bit like being in a parallel universe, to see somewhere only at night, with no people in it.
No people on the streets anyway, because the majority of the population of Cascais were clearly in the steakhouse that we were headed to. This was no quiet local vibey restaurant though guys, it was a full on roaring room packed to the rafters with Portuguese families out to eat all-you-can-eat Brazilian steak carved straight from the spit, by the waiters who were doing laps of all the restaurant. I’m not even a big meat-eater, but show me a decent piece of steak and I AM THERE. The restaurant was actually a buffet-style affair, but we basically filled up on steak and sangria and that was about all I needed to keep me going for the evening. JOYS.
Jazz Central Station
Steak and sangria mission complete (a combination which needs to happen more often, frankly), we headed out towards the beach to the mysterious Cascais Jazz Club which my pal had been to years before. I was honestly beginning to think this place no longer existed, when we heard the sound of a piano being blasted out from some speakers outside a building, like a very jazzy call-to-prayer through the darkness.
We followed the sound, which led us down some narrow steps to the basement of a building, through a door and directly into a candle-lit room filled with people sat in silence at little wooden tables, watching and listening to a man in a Panama hat expertly plinking away with strange rhythms on a piano in the corner. A glamorous lady draped in costume jewellery made her way towards us from the other side of the room, beckoning grandly with a ‘sshh’ to gesture us out to a side-room which contained a few more cozy chairs and a bar.
‘My darlings, you are here for the jazz?’
We nodded ‘yes.’ I was entranced by her jewellery, which was glistening in the light with every grand sweeping gesture. There were a lot of tassels going on with her overall ensemble, and I was a true fan.
‘Now you will write your details here, and if we have a sudden inspection while you are here, you will tell them you are interested in becoming members. It’s ok with you?’
I felt a bit like I was walking into a prohibition-era speakeasy, although I’m pretty sure no one had to fill out their details back in those days. We wrote our names down anyway, because we really wanted to listen to some jazz, ya know?
‘Now darlings, I will show you to your table, I will bring you some wine, relax, enjoy the music, have an incredible evening, ENJOY THE MOMENT!!’
This woman- whose name was María- clearly loves music, and loves her little jazz club. She wouldn’t have been out of place as the compère of the Moulin Rouge, because everything about her mannerisms was just downright spectacular, and several times over the course of the evening she began to join in with the pianist, scatting like never before over the music. It was downright brilliant, I am telling you! I’m no jazz buff, but instead I’m pretty much just a fan of any live music at all– and this place did not disappoint at all.
Related: One Day in Porto, Portugal
Having decided that we should probably get the second-to-last train back to Lisbon, we had to run pretty much as soon as the music had ended, and I mean literally run to the station. By that point there was a bit more of a chill in the air and the rain was more definite about its intentions to hit the ground.
Naturally, we missed the train.
It pulled out of the station just as we arrived.
But you know what, pals? It didn’t really matter. There was another train due to arrive in forty minutes or so, and knowing that there was no way the ship could leave us behind in this particular instance, I wasn’t too fussed about the whole fiasco. Cascais is one beautiful location, and one day I’ll be back to explore it in actual sunlight, and for longer than one tiny snippet of an evening.
- Journey time from Lisbon to Cascais by train is around 40 minutes on the Linha de Cascais, which runs almost parallel with the river to the coast.
- A return ticket Lisbon-Cascais is currently €4.50 (2019)