Monday 1 July 2013
On Monday we woke to find that we were looking out over a completely different view of Nazaré. The terracotta roofs of the town below were shrouded in a white mist that was blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. It left a cool, wet kiss on our cheek as we walked past the open bathroom window. The temperature had plunged from the high thirties to the low teens, and we were both sick. It was a good day to stay locked up in our eyrie on the clifftop and watch the world float by.
We Skyped our household at home in Sydney, which on that day consisted of our daughter Clare, her boyfriend Jason, and our friends Jeff Evans and Hannah Stenstrom. Skype certainly beats the main method that we used during our youth to stay in touch with home. This required the home contingent to post a hand-written letter addressed to Poste Restante in the next big town that the traveller would pass through, hoping that the letter would arrive before and not after the traveller. For the traveller it required waiting in a long queue, then pleading with the postal officer to check one more time under a different letter, just in case there was something filed under your first name; and then either joyfully feasting your eyes on what was by then old news from home, or resentfully walking back to the hostel to re-write your Christmas list.
Fell weather days are also good for taking care of business, so we booked some tickets online for a later leg of our journey. In the late evening, we ventured out into the Sitio in search of dinner. We made the mistake of straying from the seafood, and had what the waiter in Porto might have called a “1970s” culinary experience.
We thought we had ordered steak, which was not entirely wrong. But what arrived on the table was somewhat unexpected. It was a clay dish with a rather tough cut of beef lying in the bottom—possibly blade steak. It had been cooked in the oven with potatoes, vegetables and a watery soup. It was not cooked long enough to make the meat tender (that would have taken a day or two). But it was cooked long enough to make the broccoli look like something that had been involved in a recent nuclear accident. There was no garlic, herbs, spices or even salt to give it any flavour. It suited the weather rather well, since the clay pot was almost glowing red when it hit the table, and the meat remained capable of inflicting third-degree burns for at least half an hour. But it was relentlessly bland.
Back in the apartment, Susie tried valiantly to find some televised soccer to distract herself from the unrelenting and rather revolting symptoms of sinusitis. Alas, she found only endless soapies in Portuguese, or dreadful American dramas dubbed into the same. At length we retreated into one sure source of comfort for the sick and wretched traveller: a bottle of vino tinto.