Portugal – Final Days

The final full day of our vacation and to be honest a little holiday fatigue was beginning to creep in but Setúbal is a big city, one of the largest in Portugal, so with time running out we needed to get back out on the streets.

The city is one of great contrasts, it is a major industrial city and the fourth largest port in Portugal, it has a thriving fishing quarter and fish processing industry, a thriving modern city centre, an adjacent old town that is not doing so well and a fortress.  We had a busy schedule ahead so we started with the fortress.

Best to get this one out of the way first I thought because it involved a walk out of town of about two miles or so which wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem but also involved a very steep hill, which can sometimes lead to a lot of complaining and feigned deafness.

I took this picture of an information board…

The Fort of São Filipe de Setúbal was once an important link in a fortified  ring of fortresses and castles defending the town and the Sado estuary from pirates and military attacks.  Today it is no longer required for its original purpose of course and is now a luxury Pousada hotel.  There isn’t a lot to see but we were able to walk along the battlements, enjoy the view across the city and to stop for a while for a first drink of the day before the much easier walk back into the city.

This brought us into what is loosely described as the old town, a small area of neglect and decay, abandoned properties, graffiti and destined either to fall down in time  or be gentrified sooner.  Who knows?  Anyway, we spent  an enjoyable thirty minutes or so prying into people’s houses, admiring their washing lines and the cooking aromas before we conveniently found ourselves at a small square with a local bar selling cheap wine and bits of tapas like food.  We liked it there.  The traditional always beats the modern in our opinion.

The old town spilled out directly into what you might say is the city centre and square and I  liked it, a large public area with bars and restaurants and streets leaking off into the shadows flanked by shops, a mix of old and new, traditional and modern, rather nice I thought.  We saw the resident beggar and just like every other day that I passed by I gave her another euro; she may well be a millionaire, I don’t know, but it made me feel vaguely charitable and philanthropic for a second or two.

We retreated to the apartment now for lunch, Kim rested and I walked to the train station to purchase tickets for our return to Lisbon the next day.  Job done in no time, I was an expert at it now.

Mid afternoon and we walked out again, through the city centre and out the other side to the Monastery of Jesus.  It is one of the first buildings in the Manueline style, the Portuguese version of late Gothic.  I could tell you about it but my blogging pal Jo has made a better job of it than I ever could…

You can read the post here…

I liked the church, it had some interesting features but I much preferred the small museum next door (free entry for seniors) which had some interesting artefacts and the story of the most famous man of Setúbal Manuel Maria Barbosa l’Hedois du Bocage who is celebrated all across the City.

Bocage was a poet of the romantic movement of the late eighteenth century, a bit of a lad as it turns out, a sort of Portuguese Lord Byron and he lived a similar life and suffered a similar end – an early death as a result of over-indulgence.

I haven’t read his work of course but apparently it is a bit racy and maybe because of the sheer rudeness of some of his verse Bocage is still a genuinely popular figure today in Setúbal. The subversiveness of his poems has meant that for much of the last two hundred years they have not been (officially) available in Portugal and his erotic (mucky) poetry was only first published anonymously towards the end of the nineteenth century.

The museum told his story and included this painting which tried to explain what influenced him.  Apparently the original painting was so rude that it had to be touched up (if that is an appropriate phrase)  before it was considered suitable for public display.

Later for our final meal we dined in traditional restaurant close to the dock and I was talked into buying a large piece of fish.  It was delicious but I always worry about fresh fish and how much it is going to cost but I needn’t have concerned myself because it turned out to be well within budget.

The next day we took the train to Lisbon and the flight home to UK. I was glad to be home but already looking forward to my next time in Portugal.


12 responses to “Portugal – Final Days

  1. Setubal looks like an interesting place, without, perhaps, the hordes of tourists that might spoil it.


  2. It’s great to look at the city from your point of view, Andrew, and catch up with the bits we missed. Aside from chocos I think we’re pretty much in agreement about Setubal. Thanks so much for working me into this very nicely written post. See you next trip!


  3. Like the look and sound of the old town despite it being somewhat dilapidated. In fact I like it precisely because it’s dilapidated. Our outline plan for 2023 currently includes time in Portugal so we may follow in some of your footsteps.


  4. I can see how the poet might have been a bit on the racy side, Andrew. I chuckled when I read “also involved a very steep hill, which can sometimes lead to a lot of complaining and feigned deafness.” Feigned deafness, eh? Grin. –Curt


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