Day 15 - A Return to Cascais and a Night of Fado
When I was 14, my father worked for a typewriter company and spent some time in Lisbon on business. He asked my mother and me to visit for one week in April and we ended up staying for a month. We stayed in an apartment in the Hotel Cidadela in Cascais, a popular seaside village 30 minutes north of Lisbon.
Today we went back to visit this place I have not seen since the 70's. Much as you want things to be the same, they never are. My memory of Cascais was a small fishing holiday resort with cafes and shops. On the waterfront fisherman pulled in their nets full of fish which they sold at the fish market there, and women sold white linen embroidered tablecloths which flapped in the breeze on the seawall. My mother kept telling them we did not have a round table, we had a rectangular one and sure enough, within a week they had made a beautiful one for her.
Today the area is now very touristy with hotels all up and down the coast. There's a huge modern shopping mall and grocery store, but the little plazas with cafes are still there. You just have to look harder to find them.
One place that has not changed is the Hotel Cidadela, but what once was a beautiful hotel now looks trapped in the 1970's when I knew it. The staff greeted us warmly and gave me a little hotel welcome package with a booklet about Cascais. By the pool which has long ago been replaced, I looked at the steps where I once photographed a standard poodle named Lucky Girl who lived there with the president of TWA. She was named Lucky Girl because she flew all over the world. I liked the dog so much that I bought a miniature Steiff poodle for a souvenir back then and still have it today. The place where Lucky Girl stood is now covered with pineapple palms. The street in front where donkey carts once stopped daily to sharpen kitchen knives or sell farm fresh vegetables, is now full of modern shops. We took a train back to Lisbon. The Cascais I knew was no longer there.
Tonight we went to Canto de Camoes which was recommended by Rick Steves. It had a delicious fixed menu salmon dinner and Fado. Fado can be traced back to the 1820's in Portugal. Songs are often mournful and longing about peope at sea. There were three singers and two men on guitars. Each set was three songs and the program was outstanding. Although I knew of Fado from my dad's old LP records, it was the first time for me to see this type of show.
Can you ever really go back and find a place you knew long ago to be the same? The answer in this case is no but had I seen donkey carts and women selling tablecoths it would have looked fake. I wish Cascais did not have a shopping mall, but progress can be a good thing too. "I think you'll see many changes," the man at customs said three days ago. He was right and that is okay. We have seen so many beautiful places here. Tomorrow we leave for France. We'll miss the friendliness and hospitality of this country