Sunday was day trip day again, a weekly tradition we’re trying to establish after we liked our excursion to Sintra so much last weekend. This one was also a huge success: we took the short (45 minute) train ride out to Cascais, the small beach resort town on the outskirts of Lisbon. During the summer, I’m sure it’s oppressively full of tourists, but yesterday it contained nothing more than the usual quiet Sunday bustle and a few other Lisboans joining us for a mild November day at the coast.

We’d taken the Cascais train before, but as it was at night for our friends’ dinner party, we’d missed its beautiful views of the river Tagus and the ocean. Same as we did before, we arrived at the station with just barely enough time to buy our tickets and run up the stairs at full tilt to catch the train. We slid on with seconds to spare and collapsed into our seats, laughing and breathlessly wondering if there’s any other way to leave for Cascais.

As soon as I caught sight of that ocean though, all I could do was stare. It’s been two months since the last time I saw the ocean, which was when we left Wales and drove back to London at the end of our time in England. For a Cali girl, that’s a long time without the sea. That was one of the things that made my time in London the hardest — the nearest thing to the sea was the Thames, and that dirty gray expanse of water just didn’t cut it. Being this close to the ocean would have made the world of difference during that time, but oh well. At least I have it now.

We arrived in Cascais in the early afternoon, hungry and excited to explore this new part of our adopted territory. Like Sintra, it looks much like a smaller, cleaner, richer version of Lisbon, with the same picturesque streets, tiled buildings, and little shops, but all a lot… shinier. That’s what tourist money does for you, I guess.

We ate at a small restaurant overlooking a little beach, which we found within minutes of leaving the train station. Even though we had to move inside when it started to sprinkle slightly, it was a good meal nonetheless. It felt somewhat like eating on the wharf in Monterey or Capitola, with a phalanx of kayakers going out, the fishing boats at anchor, and the usual interplay of tourists and locals meandering by the windows en route to the beach. I kept expecting to see sea otters bobbing in the kelp, and then had to remind myself that it’s not that kind of ocean.

After refueling, we decided to stick to our feet instead of grabbing a couple of the free bikes they offer just outside the train station. (We will return for those another time, never fear!) We set out for a place called Boca de Inferno, the Mouth of Hell, which the guidebook promised was a short twenty minute walk outside of town. With all the photo opportunities and distractions that walk offered though, it took us more like 30 or 40 minutes, but the destination was well worth it in the end.

When you see Atlantic waves, you’re reminded of how the Pacific earned its name. Atlantic waves are enormous, and since Portugal is the western-most country in continental Europe, these waves are coming very long distances indeed to smash themselves on our shore. They were truly magnificent, huge, boiling, frothy, curling things that demonstrated their anger at having to stop their long journey by hurling themselves furiously onto the breakwater around the marina and the rocky shore north of town.

The Mouth of Hell is part of that shore, and is so called because the formation of rocks and cliff faces at that point conspire to send the waves’ fury straight up into the air, twenty or thirty feet overhead at times, as they crash with massive booms onto the cliffs below. It was impressive and duly humbling to stand underneath those plumes of water as they shot upwards, often blocking out the light of the sun.

Of course it being Europe, there were no barriers of any kind preventing people from walking out as far as they wanted onto the cliff face. There was one meager fenced-off area, and apparently even that is a recent addition. Gotta love the lack of liability laws here.

So out we walked (but not too far, moms!), and stood in awe with the other tourists, all of us trying with varied levels of success to take pictures of the waves at their full height. Over and over again, the water roiled massively below us, the huge boom sounded, and then the spray followed close behind.

At one point, I turned around to go and look out through the fenced-off area to see what that vista had to offer. Gabe stayed behind, and next thing I knew, I turned around to find him coming up behind me, absolutely sopping wet. Soaked through, from head to toe. As he’d turned around to follow me, a freak wave had come even further up over the cliff than usual, and drenched both him and the people sitting on the rocks in front of him. Even after wringing out both his sweater and his T-shirt, he was still damp when we got home three hours later.

Luckily, it had turned into a fairly mild day by this point, so we were able to laugh about it and make our way back to town. Even so, his inundation served to cut our excursion short, and we had to marvel at the fact that both of our day trips so far have ended with one or both of us cold and wet through. What are the chances?!

But we couldn’t go home without another stop for refreshment, especially after Gabe’s ordeal at the mouth of hell. So we stopped at a pasteleria for coffee (which given that both us had a rather broken night of sleep, I’m questioning if it was actually decaffeinado as requested), a couple of pasteis de nata (our favorite gooey custard pastries), and two sandeis, which the guidebook had informed us are the local specialty in Cascais. They were all delicious, and a good way of restoring ourselves before hopping on the train and watching the sun set over the ocean as we headed back in to Lisbon.

Now another week is beginning, and I know that the holiday will make it a difficult one. To make it easier for both of us family junkies to be away from home though, we will be celebrating the holiday in our own expat style. I’m getting my hair done today, and am planning to give myself the day off and go shopping on Thanksgiving. That night, I think we will go to Indian or maybe Himalayan food, just to eat something as different and iconoclastic as possible, and on Friday, we’re hosting a few of Gabe’s colleagues for our own little celebration here at our flat.

So we have plenty to look forward to this week, but even so, with all my family arriving at my mom’s house today, I already know that my mind will be a little less in Lisbon today and a little more in Cali. Sometimes, that’s just the way of things.

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