The nearest beach was about three miles away to the west so we laced up our shoes, packed our bags and set off.
First stop was the city market, said to be the largest covered market in all of Portugal, which was a wonderful experience, so much better than next door Pingo Doce supermarket, especially the fish section at the back with slabs and slabs of fresh fish and more varieties than I could ever have guessed at. And it was selling fast as local shoppers gathered around squabbling over choices and prices. It was like a rugby scrum. So we thought that it might be a good idea to come back later and make our own selection for our evening meal.
Next, a second market down on the sea-front, this one exclusively fish and also enjoying brisk trade and then past a harbour of fishing boats where rugged men with weather beaten faces and hands with broken knuckles were cleaning down and mending nets in preparation for going out to sea again later.
Unsurprisingly this was an area full of fish restaurants and some interesting street art including a boulevard decorated with leaping dolphins and we examined the menus in anticipation of lunch later on.
We were heading for the Praia Portinho da Arrabida and I was fairly confident that I could plot a course along the sea front to get there but sadly I was badly mistaken and a couple of dead ends required retracing our steps turning the three mile walk into a five mile walk and all the time Kim’s patience slowly draining away and then after only a short while quickly draining away.
We came across some beaches but there was no one on them and there were warning signs saying not to swim there. They didn’t explain why but the skull and crossbones persuaded us to carry on to our intended destination.
A seafront statue/tribute to the fishermen of Setúbal …
So eventually we arrived at the beach, a rather sad and deserted beach as it turned out and although we rather liked the idea of a swim the previous warning signs had put us off, that and the fact that no one else at all was in the water. So we went to a beach bar instead, Kim had a coffee and I had a beer. I refuse to buy tea or coffee because I consider it to be extortionately overpriced. Why buy a coffee when it costs more than a beer? It doesn’t make any sense.
Another Portuguese navigator/explorer – Jose João Besugo
With the beach plan in tatters we had to rethink our day now and as we sat and chatted we went through the menu and we wondered why something called Choco Frito was doing there; we had assumed that it was something like a deep fried mars bar but Google came to our rescue and explained that it was a cuttlefish dish which turns out to be a local speciality. We agreed that on the way back it was only polite to try some.
No chance. This being Sunday everyone in Setúbal was out eating and every café/ bar/restaurant had a line of people waiting for a table. I thought there was a global cost of living crisis but obviously not in Setúbal. We had spotted a place we liked the look of earlier down a grubby back street close to the fish market. Not a hope in hell, the place was overflowing, the queue was a mile long and selections were being regularly wiped off the chalk- board menu. So we moved on.
Back to the city market which was now closing up for the day and most of the fish had gone. I know that they eat a lot of fish in Portugal but this was quite something and slabs that had been overloaded this morning were now quite empty. Another plan that now required a rethink.
On Setúbal seafront boulevard we continued to search. At one we were lucky, there were a lot of people in groups of four or more but a waiter called us through for a table of two. What good fortune.
I don’t as a rule take pictures of food but in this case I made an exception…
We ordered the cuttlefish of course, everyone else was, we declined the optional starters which was a good decision because the main event was huge, a big helping of Choco Frito, a really large portion of fries and a massive plate of salad. I have to tell you that it was delicious, I like squid and octopus so it was inevitable that I would also like the cuttlefish.
The size of the mid afternoon portion ruled out any thoughts of evening meal so we finished off the chicken from the previous evening with a simple salad.
Later we walked to the sea front again and watched the twinkling ferries making their way back and forth across the waters of the estuary and agreed that tomorrow we would make the crossing in search of a proper beach.
Later, I walked to the supermarket for essential alcohol supplies and by chance passed by a McDonald’s. I am always interested in what McDonald’s have on their alternative menus across the World and wasn’t so surprised that in Setúbal I came across fish fingers…
A regional variation in France. is served on a baguette..
And in Spain inevitably there is patatas bravas…
In Greece the burger is served in a pitta bread which looks rather tempting..
but Poutine in Canada looks like slop and needs a leak-proof box…
What is your favourite McDonald’s meal? And I don’t believe anyone who tells me that they have never been there and tried one!