Beautiful Stories: João Pinto Coelho
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João works as a manager at the Onyria Quinta da Marinha Hotel. He wrote his first book when the pandemic hit and tourism came to a halt. His days start with a jog on the Cascais-Estoril Promenade, and he’s tested his limits as an athlete by running the Berlin marathon. This story is about his love for Cascais, the outdoors, and sports.
Why do you live in Cascais?
My parents’ home was in Cascais, so I grew up here, and this is where I’ve always lived. However, I was actually born in Lisbon, probably because 42 years ago there weren’t good hospitals in Cascais — now there are.
What do you believe is unique about Cascais?
So many things… But mainly the sea, the people, over 650 years of history, and being so close to a capital city and to Sintra, which has an extraordinary cultural and natural heritage. When my friends come to visit, they always say that Cascais, Sintra, and Lisbon are unbelievably different, almost like three different countries, and yet so close.
Are there any hidden gems in Cascais you would recommend discovering?
Hidden gems are hard to come by these days. With the Internet, it got very easy to find things. That said, there’s a little village between Cascais and Guincho — Areia — that I really like because it has kept its authenticity. There, you find restaurants with very friendly prices where only the Portuguese go, like O Biscoito and Ataska n’Areia.
Is living close to the ocean as dreamy as it sounds?
It’s amazing, though I must admit it’s all I’ve ever known. I sometimes forget what a privilege it is, but when I go away for work and come back, I’m reminded. Interestingly, in Cascais, the number 2 sport (we all know soccer is number 1) is surfing. And besides that, there’s sailing, being able to walk next to the sea, the great climate that comes with the ocean, the inspiring vistas… the list is long.
What are your favorite things to do in Cascais?
Since I live in the historic center of Cascais, I barely use the car, so my everyday life is here. I take advantage of my location to the fullest. What I like the most is jogging on the Paredão between Cascais and Estoril very early in the morning when it’s quiet. You can only hear the waves breaking against the rocks. This gives me peace and inspiration.
What do you struggle with in Cascais?
It’s hard to say anything bad about Cascais. The truth is that this town has been changing significantly over the years. For instance, the cultural offer got richer with the creation of the Museum Quarter. Also, when I was a kid, all the good concerts happened in Lisbon. Now there are lots of amazing concerts taking place in Cascais. Just the other day, John Legend and Diana Krall were here at EDP Cool Jazz! When it comes to mobility, there was a project that helped improve transportation. As a result, the Cascais residents can use public transport pretty much for free. Another great addition to Cascais was the NOVA University campus.
What’s a Portuguese word that you like and why? You’re not allowed to say ‘saudade’ :).
I don’t have a favorite word, but I’m a fan of Portuguese idioms. To point out that someone has a lot of experience, we say ‘há muitos anos a virar frangos’ (‘many years turning chickens’). Another expression that makes no sense word-for-word is ‘podes tirar o cavalinho da chuva’ (‘you can take your little horse out of the rain’), which we use when we want to tell someone ‘I won’t do that’ or ‘that ain’t happening’.
Do you have a preferred quiet place in Cascais?
The Sintra trails, especially the ones that start in Malveira. Those places are incredibly quiet, you’re among giant trees, and you can only hear birds flying high above you. Another place I’d recommend, but you have to go there early, is Casa da Guia.
What advice would you give to foreign residents in Cascais?
The advice I give is always the same. In our everyday lives, we always have a lot of work and some of us have kids to look after. It’s hectic! The best way to become integrated is through sports, like surf, rugby, soccer, running, or triathlon. Thanks to Ironman Cascais, triathlon is growing around here. But you don’t even have to break a sweat, you can watch sports with a group of people in the center of Cascais. Integration comes easy then because we’re all cheering for the same team or supporting opposing teams, which is also fun. That’s when the magic happens.
Do you imagine living anywhere else?
In my profession, I’m lucky to do plenty of traveling to promote Cascais all over the world. I’ve never found a place that I’d trade Cascais for. That said, I had a great time in San Diego and Laguna Beach in California. That area is beautiful and I remember thinking it was quite similar to Cascais. But I still prefer Cascais (laughter)! If I had to choose a place close by, it’d have to be Malveira da Serra: its natural beauty is stunning, it’s close to Guincho Beach, and it has easy access to the highway.
João is a sharer and whatever life-changing lessons he’s learned, you can read them in his book From Impossible to I´m Possible. He also keeps a blog with local tips about Cascais, his favorite town in the world.