Nazare in Portugal

Nazare on the Atlantic Coast of Portugal – July 24 and July 25, 2012

With the exhibition well under way, we headed off to explore more of Portugal. Our first stop was Nazare on the coast about 2 hours north of Lisbon. First, we navigated our way down back lanes to Quinta das Rosas, a Bed and Breakfast that had a great rating on Trip Advisor.  What a find! The host, AnnaMarie had lived in Canada for many years when she was a girl. In fact, her father had been an engineer in Kitimat working on a project that Gregg is pretty sure his father was involved in back in the fifties. Small world.

Quinta das Rosas is a large white home with a huge enclosed veranda overlooking Nazare and the Atlantic Ocean. The property has lemon trees, masses of bougainvillea, a peacock that periodically strutted across the yard in front of our room, and even a donkey. We stayed two nights enjoying AnnaMarie’s hospitality and the amazing view.

Urn with flowers at Quinta das Rosas
Quinta das Rosas
An orchard of lemon trees grew in the back yard

After getting settled in our room, we drove down to Nazare for dinner. Nazare has got to be one of the strangest beach resorts I’ve ever been to. The streets heading into town and the main drag itself along the beach front are lined with ladies selling rooms in the town and beach tents on the sand.

Thousands of beach tents on the sands of Nazare

The ladies are famous in Nazare for wearing seven petticoats. According to Rick Steves, the petticoats were used to keep the women warm as they waited on the beach for the fishermen to return. Nowadays the ladies still wear skirts that are bulky with at least a few layers of material – perhaps not seven petticoats but who knows! When we mentioned Nazare to people we met in Portugal, they all immediately said “Seven petticoats” so obviously the tradition lives on. The ladies also shuffle along in bedroom slippers and wear head scarves and a great deal of heavy gold jewelry. As you walk or even drive by, they wave small signs advertising rooms. Every so often, the ranks of slipper-clad ladies is broken by a widow dressed completely in black. One nice moment was seeing a widow who had to be well into her eighties with her white hair covered with a black shawl talking on her cell phone.

The beachfront at Nazare was thronged with what sounded like mostly French tourists. We noticed that a lot of French people come to Portugal’s “silver coast” for their vacations. Many of the Portuguese people we met spoke French as their second language rather than English. We wandered along the beachfront admiring the endless rows of beach tents and had beers at a cafe. We then found, with a bit of hunting, the restaurant recommended to us by AnnaMarie. Almost as soon as the place opened at 7:30, it was packed. We were told to tell Carlos the owner that we were from Quinta das Rosas. He spoke English and immediately sat us down and brought us olives, bread, fish paste, and of course wine. We ordered grilled fish (pretty much the only choice!) which came on a huge platter accompanied by plain boiled potatoes and broccoli. We have noticed that the Portugal, vegetables are not fancied up. I confess they could have used a bit of a sauce! Anyway, the grilled fish was firm and succulent and very fresh.

After dinner, Carlos came by with a bottle of port and three glasses. He poured each of us a glass and then himself a glass. We toasted, he knocked his back in one gulp, and then went back to work.  The port didn’t appear on the bill! t was fast discovering a taste for port. We had it several times more in the next few days in Portugal.

On our second day in Nazare, we drove up the coast a ways to some secluded beaches where the Atlantic Ocean pounded in and swimming was impossible. We managed to stick a toe into the foam – pretty cold but not as cold as Bowen Bay.  The stretch of coastline with rugged cliffs and crashing waves was spectacular.

Gregg on the Atlantic coast north of Nazare

We enjoyed a good lunch in a much quieter beach town a little farther south and had great conversation with the waiter who was off to Calgary soon to get a job with a friend’s construction company. He spoke perfect English and had lots to say about the state of the Portuguese economy.

We took a drive a bit father south to Obidos, a perfectly preserved walled village that had, apparently, been a wedding present from the king (Dom Dinis) to his wife Isabella. The village is too cute for words and was pretty crowded with souvenir stores. But we had a good time wandering around the little streets and climbing the walls to see the view.

Pottery in Obidos
Ancient tower in Obidos
Ancient walls completely surround Obidos
Lovely, atmospheric lanes and archways in Obidos
On our second night in Nazare, we decided not to venture back down to the town but to spend our evening in the B & B enjoying a picnic lunch on the wide porch. It was lovely and relaxing to enjoy our bread and cheese and pate and salad in peace and quiet.
We left Nazare after much good will with AnnaMarie and her daughter, along with a chance to pet the donkey. Our next stop – Coimbra.
Donkey at the B & B in Nazare

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