I wasn't "travelling" as such, since the reason for the visit was to simply spend a relaxing time with a very good friend, so I'm afraid I can't report much on what to see and do in this area of Portugal, but I wanted to recommend Sesimbra as an interesting stop-off point to anybody who intends on passing by this way.
As mentioned above, Sesimbra lies just south of Lisbon from where you have to cross the Tagus (or Tejo in Portuguese) river on the spectacular 17km-long Vasco da Gama cable-stayed bridge. It is basically a small fishing village, overlooked by the serene 13th century castle which dominates the landscape from the top of a nearby hill and guarded by a 17th century fort near the beach.
My 4 days there included Easter Friday (a national holiday in Portugal) and the following Monday (a work day) as well as the intervening weekend, so I could easily appreciate how the village is transformed by the hordes from Lisbon as they swell the local population at weekends. The contrast with the immense tranquility of Monday was quite exaggerated but even so, the crowds weren't excessive in any way. Monday showed Sesimbra in its true light ... a simple fishing village with a truly relaxed (and relaxing) pace of life.
The local population still relies heavily on the fishing trade and this is to be seen in the large number of small bars and restaurants offering seafood and fish dishes along the beach. I thoroughly enjoyed sampling the local produce accompanied by good Setúbal wines and the weather was nice enough to do this at some of the numerous terrace tables looking out to sea.
The beach and water are both very clean, the fine sands a whiteish yellow. On the first day I put on a brave face and dived into the cold Atlantic waters for a VERY short swim amongst the thousands of small fish just below the surface. The rest of my time was spent enjoying the company of my friend just lazing on the beach, going for short walks or sitting out at the terrace cafes.
On the way back to Lisbon we stopped off at Cabo Espichel, from where marvellous views of the coast up towards Lisbon are to be had, with rolling hills and craggy cliffs. Here a 17th century sanctuary (Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Cabo) provides architectural interest and apparently has been used several times as a location for filming.
In summary, a wonderful and relaxing weekend in a quiet coastal village in Portugal.
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