A short 30-minute train ride from central Lisbon - mostly along the river and the coast - takes you to Cascais, a small resort town full of pastry shops, clothing and jewellery stores, restaurants and enough photo ops to burn your memory card.

It was an unbelievable afternoon, crystal clear and 24 degrees. One of those days in paradise that you envision when you set out to travel.

With the train (a mere 3.50Eur round-trip) from Cais do Sodre station to Cascais stopping pretty much right on the small but cozy beach, a long promenade that runs for many kilometers along a rocky coast just to the west, ancient castles and fortresses all around and an improbably perfect park nearby, it made for a memorable day.

There are hundreds of spots to sit amid almost total silence and stare out at a huge ocean, with small trails leading from the sidewalk to any rock to call your own.

So, a new place to add to my list of favorites. And definitely worth a day trip when you come to Lisbon

Below are about half the photos, with more coming in the next day or two.

This could be your daily commute

One of the main streets of Cascais

Belem Thang


(Note: the title makes sense once you learn that Belem is pronounced "buh-laing" in Portuguese)

Below, a few images taken on a nice day in Belem, just a few minutes west of the city center of Lisbon. It is home to a number of museums, cultural centers, and restaurants, all giving way to a ton of green space and gardens before lining the Tagus as it empties into the Atlantic ocean.

The insides of the above cultural spots are on the to-do list - I'm still waiting for a rainy day though...

Lessons Learned


As the serene vantage point from my desk encourages more reflection, some deep (and not so deep) thoughts after one full year away from the native country.

I've learned:
  • Big cities are where it's at. Hence the name of the blog, I suppose. One could spend a lifetime in a place like Paris, Barcelona or New York and always be discovering something new, something (or someone) tasty, or something inspiring. The downsides are of course noise and crowdedness.
Yes, as a newcomer, you can feel at times as anonymous and unwelcome as a fart on an airplane. But normally, both - the feeling and the flatulence - pass quickly enough.
  • That I have an irrational, undefinable hatred for the actor Paul Rudd (and his inexplicable success) that dates back to his days on Friends and that transcends international borders.
  • To let go of setbacks much quicker. Staying put for years in the same place causes us to dwell on so much useless nonsense. I think this may be out of sheer boredom. But after even a few months of travel, you begin to let many daily inconveniences and indignities slide, even the seemingly big ones.
  • The local news back home (wherever home is) really never changes. It is therefore perhaps best to not pay so much daily attention to it and free the mind for more enjoyable and creative things.
  • There are few things in the world as meaningless and useless as a "Maybe" reply to a Facebook event invitation.
  • Fewer Europeans seem to have the angst to get away - really get away long-term - from their current lives than North Americans.
I am still analyzing this one - perhaps the more socialist leanings here (permanent job contracts, larger middle class, more of a social safety net, more vacation days) make them more comfortable, and by extension creates less of an emphasis on status. Perhaps it's the greater offering of things to do/see/learn nearby. Perhaps it's the beer talking. But there is an overall greater satisfaction here that is quite noticeable.
  • Unless it's the World Cup, soccer (football) is still boring.
  • Mobility is key to happiness in a new city - a combination of knowing your way around and having a bike/car/scooter handy if your feet aren't close to the spots you want to be. Lack of mobility, thus, is a major dissatisfier.
  • The world needs to adopt a sole standard for telling time. Consider, say 7:30. This is "Seven-thirty" to many North Americans; "Half-eight" to the Dutch; "Half-seven" to the British, and so on. To convolute things further, a common Dutch way to say 10:25 is "five before half-eleven." We need to come together on this one, world.
As Alain de Botton (no, I'm not his agent - I just think he is the best writer I've ever read) says in "The Art of Travel": "... the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are."

I think it accomplishes this in a number of ways, not least of which is that it frees us from our all-too-familiar surroundings and traps, thereby letting us see things about ourselves more clearly.