Saturday 29 June 2013
Whenever we mentioned that we were going to Nazaré, we seemed to get an equivocal reaction from locals. We knew that there was some kind of stigma attached to it, but our language ability was too poor to figure out what kind of stigma it was. We had mentioned to the waiter at Flor dos Congregados the previous evening that Nazaré was our next destination, and he proffered the opinion that Nazaré was “stuck in the 1970s … or the 1990s”. This seemed like an odd assessment because there is a fair bit of history between the 1970s and the 1990s. So what precisely was he hinting at?
With hindsight, we have surmised that people were trying to tell us that Nazaré was an unsophisticated destination. Coming from a waiter at a trendy slow food restaurant, that is not an entirely unsurprising assessment. Nazaré did indeed turn out to be patchy in terms of its culinary offerings. But it had other charms which are well worth highlighting.
After cleaning up our apartment in Porto, we visited a farmacia to stock up on essentials like paracetamol, pseudoephedrine and vitamin C. We then decamped to a dowdy bus station around the corner and boarded a bus. As we were leaving, we briefly enjoyed from one of the bridges the best view of the city that we had seen.
The journey to Nazaré was a long one. Even though our bus line was called Rede Expressos, there were frequent stops, and the driver was cranky and uncommunicative. When we finally arrived in Nazaré, we took a taxi to our apartment because it was located in the old city, or Sitio, which is located on a high bluff to the north of the modern town centre. The taxi driver had some difficulty pinpointing the location, and we were somewhat surprised to be dropped off right next to the famous lookout near the top of the funicular railway. We were expecting to be greeted by our host, Tina, but we were greeted instead by an old Portuguese man who spoke no English. He seemed to be expecting us, and he ushered us into an apartment was perched on top of a small café on Ruo de Horizontale, right next to the lookout.
When we walked inside, our jaws nearly hit the floor. The apartment was diminutive, but it looked out over the beach at Nazaré in one direction, and out over the ocean in the other. The view of the city was almost axonometric: if you were prone to vertigo, it might be genuinely difficult to stay there without wearing a blindfold or at least harnessing yourself to the kitchen bench. The beach scoped away to the south, and we could clearly see the concentric circles of hills and, beyond these, mountain ranges that formed a basin around the town. This was the most stunning view we had seen in Portugal, and it was spilling off the balcony of our apartment like a slippery-dip into blue infinity.
We settled into the apartment very happily, wondering if we would ever be able to tear our eyes off the view long enough to go out. So we went for a beer in the café below—which had more or less the same view—and we then took a brief stroll around the old city to get a feel for the place. Susie was feeling the wrath of Santiago’s Revenge, however, so she decided to stay in for the rest of the evening. Since my health was improving somewhat, I eventually drifted out into the old city in search of dinner. I opted for a restaurant that was perched on the edge of the city with panoramic views of the ocean in one direction and the town in the other. I was also attracted by a particular item on the menu that held fond memories from the day before: barbecued Dourada (“golden fish”). This turned out to be a good choice, and even better washed down with half a litre of vinho verde whilst watching the sky turn from light blue to lilac over the ocean. It was strange to be eating alone, without my beloved travel companion. But it was a good thing that we had not borne the brunt of illness at the same time. Now it would be my turn to drag a zombie around for a few days.