Stretching for over 30km west of Lisbon, the Estoril coast makes for an easily accessible and enjoyable trip from the city – the train line that hugs this dramatic coast is worth the trip alone. Much of the coast is backed by a seafront promenade, along which you can walk or cycle, and the lively resorts of Estoril and Cascais in particular make pleasant alternatives to staying in Lisbon.
The first suburb of any size after Belém is OEIRAS (pronounced oo-air-esh), where the Rio Tejo officially turns into the sea. The riverside walkways and the beach here have recently been cleaned up, though most people still swim in the ocean pool alongside the sands. The only reason to stop here is to see the Palácio do Marquês de Pombal, at Largo Marquês de Pombal, the erstwhile home of the rebuilder of Lisbon. Now an adult education centre, the grand house can be visited by appointment only (t 214 465 300, w egeac.pt), although the attractive gardens are open daily (9am–9pm, until 6pm from Oct–April; free).
The next town along the line, CARCAVELOS has the most extensive sandy beach on this part of the coast and is popular with surfers and windsurfers. To reach the beach, it’s a ten-minute walk from the station along the broad Avenida Jorge V. Try to visit Carcavelos on Thursday morning, when the town hosts a huge market; turn right out of the station and follow the signs.
With its fine beach, casino and surviving grandiose villas dotted among the modern apartments, you can see why ESTORIL (pronounced é-stril) was the favoured haunt of exiled royalty during the earlier half of the last century. These days it’s a lively resort, its centre consisting of the palm-lined Parque do Estoril, surrounded by bars and restaurants and the enormous casino. The Feira Internacional Artesanato – handicrafts and folk music festival – is held here in July.
Paula Rego (born 1935) shot to international prominence in 1990 when she was appointed Artist in Residence at London’s National Gallery, and she is now considered one of the world’s leading figurative painters. In 2011, she was listed as one of the top 100 most influential living women in The Guardian newspaper. Although she has spent most of her life in England – she married English artist Vic Willing – her formative years were spent in Salazar’s Lisbon, where she was born. She had a sheltered childhood within the confines of a wealthy family home and she still feels bitter about the way her mother became a “casualty” of a society which encouraged wealthy women to be idle, leaving work to their servants. Her women are portrayed as typical of the servants of her childhood: stocky and solid. Other adults are usually viewed with the unsentimental eye of a child, and she paints hairy, bony, yet powerful female figures. Power and dominance are major themes of her work; she revives the military outfits of postwar Portugal for her men and dresses many of her women like dolls in national costume. Several of her pictures convey sexual opposition, the result of a background dominated by the regimes of the Roman Catholic Church and a military dictatorship. Her images are rarely beautiful, but are undoubtedly amusing, disturbing and powerful.