(Video after story)
Here, in Portugal, we had been on COVID lockdown for a total of 10 very long weeks. It wasn’t much fun, but, it looks like it paid off. Now that our numbers have improved so much, (and in fact, we have the fewest cases in the EU), the government has eased up on many of the restrictions, including some that pertained to travel. We are now able to travel to other municipalities within the country. I didn’t need to be told twice!
The first thing I chose to do with my new found freedom was hop on a bus to Nazaré; The sleepy, little fishing village with the ginormous waves!! It’s located just a few hours north of Lisbon, on what is known as “The Silver Coast.” The town of about 15,000 residents is rich in culture and tradition, and as I found out, the locals are super friendly and inviting.
Many of the town’s women, especially the elders, choose to wear their traditional Portuguese attire – colorful, long skirts, shoulder sweaters and leather shoes. Some can be seen selling dried cod, squid, octopus and other fish that the town’s fishermen harvest from the ocean, daily. They set up and sell them directly from their drying racks along the stone boardwalk. This isn’t a show for tourists – it’s a way of life. It’s tradition and heritage that’s been passed down from generation to generation, and started long before surfers began challenging their skills on the largest waves in the world.
Some of you know that I’m a surfer. (Well, I guess all of you know, now!) One of my bucket list dreams has been for these eyes just to see the globally recognized, iconic 80-100ft waves. Unfortunately, because of the lockdown, I could not get to Nazaré during the peak season, between November and February. But, even in the off-season, the waves were just incredible to watch! One day, while I was there, they swelled to about 20 feet. I’m really looking forward to a return visit, hopefully near the end of this year, to view a hundred footer in peak season! Who knows; maybe you’ll see me riding one of these giants, (or not)!
There’s a stone hiking path from the town to the top of the cliff, where Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo (Fort of St. Michael the Archangel), is situated over 300ft above the beach. The spectacular, scenic mountain and ocean views along the climb are simply breathtaking.
The fort, originally built in 1577, has been used as a lighthouse since 1902. There’s a 1€ admission fee to a museum inside where autographed surfboards, donated by professional surfers after surviving the “Gigantees of Nazaré,” are displayed on the ancient stone walls. 3-D models that explain the formation of the colossal waves are also featured. Surprisingly, as dangerous as it is, there is no record of a surfing death here.
I walked that mountain hike every day. At the beginning of the video, you can see that one day, I even climbed down the north side to get a closer view of the majestic rock formations created by the pummeling of the Atlantic.
I stayed at a fantastic AirBnB, (story/video next week). My hosts, a Portuguese couple, Nelli and Vitor, are also the proprietors of the ground-floor restaurant, Rosa dos Ventos. Luckily for me, and anyone else that can’t speak fluent Portuguese, they both speak perfect English. And it was obvious from the time of my arrival the amount of pride they take in the restaurant, which they opened in 1992. It just happens to be one of the best and most popular restaurants in town! I ate there… no, I was fed… NO, I was treated like a king every day!! Zero exaggeration! I feasted on red snapper, sea bass, clams and various types of sea bream. They even let me use their restaurant grill for a T-bone steak!! If you get a chance to visit Nazaré, I highly recommend staying here! I can’t say enough good things about my hosts, Nelli and Vitor! Tell them I sent you!
It’s easy and fun just to get lost in these narrow alleys and streets. They have so much history and character. Walking through these backstreets gives you a sense of how things might have been for hundreds of years, before the age of modern convenience. Although, by the amount of laundry hanging out of the windows and on the balconies to dry, I’m thinking that there aren’t too many clothes dryers around, even today!
The friendly people, the narrow streets, the laundry, the centuries old buildings, some seemingly in need of attention, others, a patchwork of repair, and still others, renovated – it all mashes together to give this beautiful ocean side resort town a charm that will leave you wanting more.
On one of my evening walks to the beach, I was lucky enough to meet a guitarist named, Duarte Nuno, and his friend, Carolina. I recorded him performing a beautiful song, “Te Amo,” on the boardwalk. It was perfect for the background music of my video. I really think Duarte’s version is better than the one from the original artist, Calema, who won the MTV Africa Song of the Year with it!! Judge for yourself and let me know if you agree or not in the poll below! The video by Calema is under my video. Hope you enjoy!