Europe's train systems make it possible to reclaim a sense of adventure--and still be back in time for dinner.
LISBON TO CASCAIS
In the 19th century, King Luís I of Portugal made Cascais, a small fishing town just 16 miles from Lisbon, the site of his summer residence. As it is wont to do, the aristocracy followed, building sumptuous palaces along the coast. The train to Cascais runs along the Tagus River estuary to the Atlantic Ocean, and the sightseeing is impressive (especially if you remember to sit on the left). From the train station, a footpath leads to small sandy beaches. At Praia da Duquesa (Duchess' Beach), you can rent sun beds and umbrellas for $7 a day. You can choose your lunch straight from the fish baskets at the Duche-Bar, on Duquesa. Try the fresh grilled sardines with potatoes and grilled green peppers and a jar of ice-cold sangria. Spend the afternoon touring the central park and city by horse-drawn carriage or strolling through Cascais, with a stop at the Praia dos Pescadores (Fishermen's Beach) to watch dozens of men repairing their nets at the bottom of the old fortress. In Largo Luís Vaz Camões (the main square), several cafés have terraces ideal for drinks and perhaps even dinner.
A pack of Areias de Cascais, traditional buttery cookies, from Pastelaria Bijou pastry house.
The Duche-Bar: Praia da Duquesa, 011-351/21-483-1379, sardines $9. Cascais carriage tour: 011-351/21-486-9287, estorilcoast-tourism.com, $54, leaves from Jardim Vizconde da Luz. Pastelaria Bijou: Largo Luís Vaz Camões, 011-351/21-483-0283, $7 a pound, about 10 cookies.
It's a half-hour ride from Lisbon's Cais do Sodré station to Cascais; trains depart every 15 to 20 minutes from 5:30 A.M. until 1:30 A.M. The Cascais Line charges by zone: You'll need a round-trip ticket valid for three zones to get there and back; it can be purchased at the station on the day of travel ($4). The LisboaCard offers unlimited use of public transportation and access to museums and monuments for one, two, or three days; it covers the train to Cascais (from $20). Schedules at cp.pt.