Back to Cascais
While trying to reduce our carbon footprint...
We decided to spend a weekend in Cascais to celebrate Denise’s birthday. Today we report on using public transportation to get there and a fabulous place to stay.
Arrange Onix Care
While we utilized a local dog sitter when we went to Seville, she was not available to help us for this particular weekend. So we called Ajah, Denise’s masseuse, and Onix’s sitter in Cascais to see if she was available. Lucky for us (and Onix) she was up for a trip down south. (Note: it has been at least five months since Onix last saw/sniffed Ajah. It only took one sniff for the joyous reunion to begin.)
Ajah now lives in Lisbon and does not own a car, so we suggested she utilize one of the charter bus services that would bring her directly to VRSA. We went to the local bus terminal and the agent printed out a long list of options and times. Ajah chose Rede-express. At first glance, it appeared her fare would be about €23 each way. However, her attempts to purchase a roundtrip ticket on the website failed. So Ajah tried (successfully) to book one ticket at a time. Oddly enough, by using this method she was able to reduce the fare to €8 per ticket. A happy accident/computer glitch!
Taking the Bus
Ajah boarded the bus at 10:30 at the Sete Rios (Lisbon) station. All of the bus services we have observed utilize new Mercedes buses, just like the one we took to Porto. The buses are clean, wifi and USB outlets are available on most buses, and the services run very much on time. The company she chose offers five buses each day to VRSA. You can board a bus at 01:00 (that’s the middle of the night) and arrive at VRSA when the sun is rising. If your business keeps you in Lisbon until late in the day, you can board a bus at 19:30 and arrive just after midnight.
Yes, the entire route takes five hours…but it is a very economical, hassle-free way to travel. On her trip, the bus left Lisbon about 70% full. Nearly half the passengers disembarked at Faro. (BTW: vacationers should know that it stops at Albufeira. Vilamoura, Quarteira, and Almancil before reaching Faro.) From there the bus makes stops at Olhão, Tavira, and Monte Gordo before its final destination VRSA. On her trip, only two passengers were on board after passing Tavira.
Circling back to the subject of cost…I asked a local resident, who does not own a car if she ever used the bus to get to Lisbon. She reported she always takes the train because of the senior discount. While the senior discount I found on the website was not as generous as the fare Ajah enjoyed, it does exist…bringing the standard one-way fare to €19,60.
A Car, A Train, 3 Metro Lines, and Another Train
Of course, we made a few mistakes and made our lives a bit more complicated as we attempted to compare the bus with public transit. To be honest we cheated. We could have taken the local train from VRSA to Faro…but because the train takes just over an hour and makes 13 stops, we decided to drive. We also chose to sleep in just a bit later and forfeit the newer, faster Alfa Pendular (AP) service.
So no, the first-class service on the older train we boarded was not that much different than second class. There was not a USB port and the wifi was spotty. We had chosen seats with a table in front, using the website’s online graphic. But when we boarded we found the seat numbers did not correspond to the chosen location … no problem, there was a very adequate flip-down table.
We did find free parking in Faro, on the street just around the corner from the train station. However, when we studied the route we found that the train’s first stop was Loulé. Driving to Loulé would have shaved five minutes off our drive and offered more free parking. So next time, Loulé?
Our biggest boo-boo was to exit the train at Entrecampos, one station short of our intended destination Oriente. Of course, you can get from any of the three Lisbon stops to Cais do Sodre … where you pick up the train to Cascais. I am not sure why we bypassed Sete Rios … instead, we exited at Entrecampos.
It was there that we attempted to recharge our Viva Lisboa cards. (Yes, it would be €20 a piece…probably more than we would spend on individual tickets. But we knew we would be using buses and trains while in Cascais and we didn’t want the hassle.) We first encountered a machine that would only accept coins. Next, we encountered a machine whose Multi-banco feature was not working. But realizing that the cash reader worked … we were in business.
We consulted Google Maps which accurately suggested the correct metro route, but for some reason, the Yellow line turnstiles were locked. We waited patiently with others as a “temporary closure, please be patient” message flashed on the screen. Finally, a green light flashed and the herd moved forward. Three metro trains later we found ourselves at Cais do Sodre, boarding the train to Cascais with one entire minute to spare. Our entire trip took nearly 5 hours and cost just a few dollars less than the bus (due to our senior discount). But of course, this includes the 45 train to Cascais. So to my thinking…it’s a toss-up.
As an Aside: It was during our 45 minutes, crowded, no seats available ride to Cascais that we first realized that tourism has returned to Portugal. Our second clue was when we walked down to the promenade along the beach for lunch. Yikes, there were a lot of people on the beach on a Friday afternoon in May!!!!
You might be wondering where we stayed during our visit. We are fortunate to have friends that had raved about a bed and breakfast/boutique hotel called The Pergola. Smack dab in the center of Cascais, it is less than two blocks from the train station. I had peered through their gates and taken a photo of the place during the lockdown.
But now we got to go inside. The garden leading to the front door is small but very well maintained. It is where we enjoyed a magnificent breakfast every morning. The four-course breakfast includes a fruit course, a bread course, a special of the day course, and dessert. Any single course would satisfy one for breakfast…yet all sounded so wonderful that I typically ordered three. (I didn’t want to skip dessert but I feared a dirty look from Denise.)
The building, once a family home, has been lovingly restored. With only 12 rooms you might have to book well in advance … but trust me it is worth it!
Next Week: renovation twist and turns, and Portuguese and their pigeons.