We are zipping down the Portuguese coast, not giving it the time we gave to Galicia. But it was always our plan to not spend more than two or three weeks on the west coast of Portugal, due to the lack of anchorages and the expense of marinas. The changes in landscape and economy as we move south are noticeable. From Leixoes, just north of Porto, we sailed 100 miles to Nazaré. Along the way we passed an extensive stretch of sand dunes, running almost this entire section of coast.
The huge beach at Nazaré was littered with sun-bathers, beach parasols and sun loungers as we passed on our way into the harbour. We had reached package holiday territory. The land is more arid and dusty here and, as we walked from the harbour into town, Julian and I remarked on how much it felt like other resort towns we had been to in Lanzarote and Sharm-el-Sheik – white buildings, shops selling cheap holiday tat (beach balls, beach towels, flip flops, dresses and shirts and skirts in gaudy colours that seem like a good idea when on holidays, but that you never wear again once you return home). There were Irish pubs, signs for English breakfasts, restaurant menus in multiple European languages. Gone were the restaurants (on the sea front at least) serving local fare and in their place hamburgers, pizza and chips.
A few streets back from the front we found the municipal market – an immense and lively building where vendors sold their produce in long rows of tables. The colours and smells of those luscious fruits and vegetables made my mouth water. Around the edges of the greengrocer stalls were butchers, fish-mongers, bakers and cheese-mongers. Julian and I went our separate ways and, when we bumped into each other in the middle of the market, he excitedly showed me the three carrier bags of fruits, vegetables and salads he’d bought. ‘Guess how much I paid for all this?’ he challenged me. ‘Less than a fiver?’ I asked. He nodded. ‘Less than four? Less than three?’ For that bounty of fresh locally produced food he had shelled out €2.05! Back in Britain it would have felt like a bargain if we paid £10.
After one night in Nazaré we sailed south to Peniche. The harbour there had scant facilities – indeed we are finding the lack of Internet and laundry facilities in Portuguese marinas somewhat trying on our patience! However, the staff at Peniche were incredibly generous, and we will remember that generosity for a long time to come. Although I wonder whether the generosity was borne from Julian, when asked to provide photo ID, giving his shot firer card. This led to a conversation with the marina employee about Julian’s explosives training and the 2 tons of explosives he once took to Antarctica. When a huge bearded man tells you he’s handy with explosives, I guess you’re going to err on the side of extreme generosity!
As I write, we are anchored in the harbour at Cascais, a few miles outside of Lisbon, in the mouth of the Tagus. We arrived last night amid a beach concert (more loud music!) and are looking forward to exploring this very well-to-do Lisbon suburb today and Lisbon itself over the next few days.