Portugal Travelog: Salama (Day 3)

June 14, 2013  •  Leave a Comment
 

Day 3 in Salema started with us trying our best to pretend we actually lived there. We were falling in love and didn't want to ruin the illusion. We learned the day before that several trucks pull into town between 7 and 8 including both the fish truck (primarily for restaurants) and the bread/pastry truck. We were able to get down to town and get some absolutely delicious pastries to go with homemade french press coffee and orange juice we made from oranges we found at the mini mercado near the beach. Life was good.


We entertained a visiting cat (Bettina later confirmed it was probably her son's cat) and watched the local fisherman pull their boats out of the water (they must have headed out early!) before we got our act together and started to plan the day.



My friend and colleague Chet had visited southern Portugal not so long ago and was mightily impressed by the area around the town of Sagres (apparently pronounced "Sa-gresh" - lots of soft "s" sounds in Portuguese). This is the westernmost point along the southern coast of Portugal and is home to two promontories which inhabit the tourist route: Cape Sagres and Cape Vincent.


We packed into the Clio again and headed west. Sagres is only 8 km or so away and at the main roundabout we headed north for 5 minutes before coming to Cape Vincent. There is a lighthouse here - purportedly one of the most powerful in Europe - and a small tourist shop and café exactly as you would expect.

What I didn't expect was the impact of this place. Cape Vincent juts into the Atlantic on cliffs rising several hundred feet out of the crashing Atlantic ocean. Despite the tourists and the man-made structures, it's a raw and elemental place.

First we looked south towards the town of Sagres. The little dots on the cliff are people.


Then north towards Lisbon.

 

 

 

Its difficult to describe the impact of the place. Despite the crowds and the "Last Bratwurst before America" food truck, it was sobering, serious and a bit puzzling to me. Faced with this, who climbs on a ship and sails out into that unknown?

 

We walked across the rugged terrain to the south to get out on the point in the picture above. We got a view back to the lighthouse.

 
We finally tore ourselves away from Cape Vincent and started the drive back towards Sagres. On the way to Cape Vincent we had noticed a large stone structure overlooking the water. We stopped to check it out and discovered that it was an apparently abandoned Pousada. It presided over a beautiful sheltered cove and had steps that went down to the water where some folks were fishing.



 
 
 

 
 
 

Back in the car and hungry now. We decided to try to find another restaurant that we had read about which was further up the coast. This involved some maps, navigation, cursing the TomTom, false starts and a very frightening road without guardrails that wound down through the hills to the ocean. It was a rather harrowing journey and we were starving. As we approached, I was giddy as it appeared we had the place to ourselves, like we had found a hidden pearl that nobody else knew about.


 

 

Alas this was not the case. Instead we learned the Portuguese word for "Closed". We had picked the wrong day of the week to visit Restaurante O Castelejo. Regardless the location was transcendent and completely impossible for us to capture with our cameras. The hills along the coastline that create those massive cliffs we had seen at Cape Vincent dip down on either side to an amazing, isolated beach that faces the churning Atlantic ocean.

 
We tore ourselves away from this amazing place and - now seriously hungry - headed back towards Sagres. We toured the town before we found the restaurant we were looking for which was a lovely beachfront place. The weather had turned and we had to hurry through the raindrops before getting a wonderful table overlooking the beach. Heaven - including cold beer.


 

Lunch was delicious. I got the quintessential Portuguese dish known as bacalhau - which is salted cod. The rumor is there are 365 different ways to prepare it in Portugal. This one was baked and paired with garbanzo beans, potatoes (always), a hard boiled egg and other veggies all infused with a bit of garlic. It was stunning. Meg's Salad Algarve turned out (we ordered blind) to be essentially a potato, tomato and onion salad - and did not include any fish as we had wagered.

 

After lunch - again very late in the day - we headed out to visit Cape Sagres. It was once home to Prince Henry the Navigator's School for Explorers (my words) where all the biggies went to train including Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gama. In later years a fort was built on top of it and now it is a tourist attraction. You pay your money and find yourself in a big walled fort on top of a promontory jutting out into the ocean.


 
 
Once inside one of the first things you see is this giant circle - about 100 meters across - which dates back to the Navigator School days. It's not known exactly what it was used for but I found it rather amazing.
 
 

 

View to the north of the waves crashing towards a nearby beach.

 

When we came through the ticket gate, two local folks followed us (without paying) and quickly strode past us. They were loaded down with fishing gear. I had heard from my friend Chet that locals fished off these high cliffs but it was something to see in person. As we took the 45 minute walk around the grounds, we saw this fellow stringing tackle to dangle over the edge of the cliff, with one of the forts cannons in the foreground of this shot.

 

 

On the walk we encountered both snails - and a few people collecting them for dinner it seemed - and cats. This black cat seemed to be beckoning us along the path towards the old charnel house. We did not comply.

 

As we completed our walk around the fort, we came back by the old chapel beyond which we could see the outline of Cape Vincent where we had started the day. Meg took this image as the day came to an end and I couldn't resist converting it to B&W.


 

We climbed back into our now familiar Clio and headed back to Salema all too aware that our time there was running out. As we had eaten lunch so late we were not very hungry but returned to the Mira Mar to have some warm soup outside (it was cool enough that the Mira Mar was handing out blankets for your lap) and toast to the end of another fascinating day in Portugal.


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