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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Blue for Summer

As summer knocks at the door of a cold and dank winter, beach towns in Portugal get hotter with sun, writes Annie Datta in From the Varsity.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2005 15:37 IST
Annie Datta
Annie Datta

As summer knocks at the door of a cold and dank winter, beach towns get hotter with sun and swimsuits. The tourism industry in Portugal is well developed and contributes sufficiently to the country’s economy. The western littoral, one can say from acquaintance and description, is the land of vineyards and sea. The Costa de Prata, as it is called, has some of the premium beaches in the country and these are the most sought after by local and foreign tourists. Peniche is the nearest from where I live.

It is an ideal place to spend an afternoon on the sands of the Atlantic or practice water sports. The beaches of Baleal or Super Tubos are the favourite haunts of surfing enthusiasts while the Consolação Sul beach is well known for its medicinal properties. Medical practitioners, I am told, recommend the rocky stretch of beach for those suffering from rheumatic or arthritic pains. “Effective!” it is asserted with conviction. Silver stretches of sand and deep blue sea enchants visitors with sensibility and those who look for adventure away from a taxing routine. I have observed people working non-stop with machine like persistence and precision.

Leaving the walls of the medieval town of Óbidos on a sunny weekend, I set out to trace the Portuguese coastline in the western region.  I went in the direction of Lagoa of Óbidos, a lagoon bordered with pine trees. The Lagoon which is surrounded by woods and a thick green cover is an extremely relaxing place. Continuing further one ventured on a rough track, off the main road, to the beach of Cortiço. A lonely restaurant by the sea offers a variety of fish and other delicacies like clams and octopus salad with a dash of lemon. Delectable was a draught of black beer with stir fried prawns in piri-piri. The Praia d’El Rey Golf and Beach Resort that offers 18-hole course is located nearby.

Stretches of sea, sandy beaches, cliffs, dunes and a constant sunshine urges you to drive on and on. For early risers a boat trip to the distant Berlenga islands is an exciting possibility. The group of small islands off the main coast shelters great variety of flora and fauna. Boat trips from Peniche make the islands accessible for tourists wishing to spend an undisturbed afternoon in untamed nature. This coastal rim of Portugal is gifted with dazzling scenic beauty.

Weekend options are plenty. We have friends who always wish us “Bom fim de semana” meaning a happy weekend every time we take leave of them. The Portuguese people grab their weekend with greed and there is little parking space in and around the beach towns. A Sunday mid-day spent over a glass of beer on the Foz de Arelho beach accessible from the city of Caldas da Rainha, is a favourite pastime for residents. There are plenty of bars that offer snacks and a view of the sea. One can drive in the direction of São Martinho de Porto and take part in the local camaraderie. The approach along the coastline is still wild and uninhabited. This beach town offers you the feel of another world inhabited by beach lovers. One could go for a dish of snails, bread and beer for 12 euros in a wayside restaurant overlooking the conch-shaped sea dotted with boats. Such is the love for the sun that people do not mind tanning themselves brown as if the sun was there to ripen them to happiness. They chase the sun over the Atlantic till it dips lower and lower into the ocean leaving streaks of purplish gold in the western sky long after the spectacular sunset.

Nearby Nazaré is another beach town worth a visit. A trip around the town is an option. One comes across seven-skirted fisherwomen lending the place a traditional charm. There are any number of restaurants serving crabs and lobsters. Regional arts and crafts are retailed linking all traditional cultures in one collective heritage. Seven-skirted dolls is a must buy. The authorities at Nazaré have introduced traditional games almost forgotten amidst playstations and videogames, carting and Disneyland cultural cognates. A tram links you to the two different Nazares. The sprawling town on the beach and another on cliff top where one shares a seagull’s eye view of the place. Leisure itself becomes cloying as one basks under a bright sun tempered by cool sea breeze with only hunger and thirst nudging you to move.

Littoral Portugal is beautiful. I prefer to end the day with the breathtaking view of the Atlantic at sunset. You enter the impressionist colours of Claude Monet as the sun kisses the ocean goodbye before disappearing to surface elsewhere. I am not alone in my admiration of the Atlantic. Nelly Furtado shares my joy when in one of her songs she says: But the smile is bigger than the Atlantic sea/And it happens to bring out the Atlantis in me … Is it the way the sun hits my face/Or is it your memory which I cannot trace.

First Published: Jun 04, 2005 00:00 IST

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