Satisfied we hadn’t missed anything in Obidos we cleaned, left only footprints and exited the apartment and headed west towards the coast.
Our first destination was the peninsular of Peniche which I imagined to be a wild sort of place on the Atlantic Coast but which turned out to be an industrial/fishing sort of place which didn’t especially appeal to me. It had some interesting rock formations recklessly sculptured by the wild Atlantic winds and waves and then some sheltered sandy beaches next to industrial units where we stopped for mid morning drinks before quickly moving on south.
Sadly, I have to say that it wasn’t very exciting, nothing special at all. Beaches obviously, beach bars obviously but all surprisingly quiet, September now and recovering perhaps from the now passed Summer blitz. Hotels closed down for the year already. We stopped a couple of times but didn’t stay anywhere long and we moved on directly to the coastal town of Ericeira, stopping off at supermarket Lidl on the way to pick up essential supplies and after lunch in the apartment we explored the small town and seafront area.
Portugal is one of the poorest countries in Europe and behind the attractive tiled walls we could see that the houses were really rather basic, but it is the seventh safest country in the world and the fourth biggest consumer of wine, after France, Italy and Germany and so, with the sun beating down we choose a table at a café close to the beach to help them maintain this important statistic.
It was early afternoon and really quite hot and the town had a soporific feel that made me think of my favourite Al Stewart song ‘Year of the Cat’:
‘She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a water colour in the rain, don’t bother asking for explanation she’ll just tell you she came from the Year of the Cat… By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls there’s a hidden door she leads you to, these days she says I feel my life is like a river running through, the Year of the Cat’
As the day got hotter the time was approaching the afternoon siesta as we sat and surveyed curiously deserted streets as though someone had declared a national emergency and everyone had left town.
Across the narrow lanes abandoned laundry remained hanging on overloaded balcony rails, starched and bleached by the sun to a perfect whiteness that had me reaching for my sunglasses, occasionally a loose shutter kissed a window frame and a whispering wave crashed gently onto the beach. Even the surf of the sea seemed to go quiet out of respect for the siesta.
Sitting at the pavement bar it was so quiet that I could hear the paint lifting and splitting on the wooden doors, the gentle creaking of rusty shutter hinges, the squeaking complaints of rattan as sleeping residents shifted a little in their balcony chairs and the faint crack of seed pods in the flower planters.
Eventually we made our weary way to the Fishermen’s Beach where boats that looked barely seaworthy, held together by DIY repairs were hauled up next to huts where swarthy salt streaked fishermen with ship-wreck faces went through the process of gutting and preparing fish for preparation and salting. .
The reason that fishing is such a major economic activity in Portugal is because the Portuguese people eat more fish per head than any other people in mainland Europe. In recognition of this achievement it has been granted an ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’, which is a sea area in the Atlantic Ocean over which the Portuguese have special rights in respect of exploration and use of marine resources. For the record it is the second largest Exclusive Economic Zone of the European Union, after France and the eleventh largest in the world.
The Portuguese may eat a lot of fish but not I suspect, from places like this, more likely caught and processed in massive factory trawlers operating hundreds of miles away in the North Atlantic.
Never mind, it was all very entertaining and I captured some reasonably good pictures…
In the evening we walked further, this time along the surfing beaches. I didn’t know this, how could I ,but Ericeira is the surfing capital of Europe named alongside Malibu in California, Freshwater Beach in Australia, Huanchaco Beach in Peru and only a handful of others. The only one in Europe as it happens. Three in Australia, Four in South America and two in USA. We watched the brave people riding the surf as they mounted their boards and then promptly fell off. It doesn’t look like a great deal of fun to me but then some people I know don’t like golf.
An interesting factoid. A pod of seals is called a BOB and that seemed completely appropriate as people in black wet suits floated around in the sea like popped corks.
Another interesting factoid. Saint Christopher is the Patron Saint of Surfers. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen.
This isn’t Saint Andrew it is a fisherman looking after his salted skate wings…