Saturday, January 08, 2011

from Cascais, Portugal: break

We got it today – a greatly appreciated pause in the rains (to resume tomorrow, and the next day...).

 our guest house against a partly blue sky

...even as Ed continues to struggle with the sprained (thankfully not broken) ankle, vacillating between being in denial (no, I’m fine... of course we can hike) to the delay (can we pause for a few minutes while I elevate my foot?) to the discouraging reluctance to so much as get out of bed (you sure you want to set out already?).

Margarida gives us a ride to the coast, pointing out various ways we can attack a trek along the water’s edge. The waves are fantastic! The wind has stirred up the hornet’s nest within the Atlantic – the might of the heaving masses of water is palpable, as it all crashes against cliffs and rocks, with a fine spray that makes the shoreline path take on a perpetual salty haze.


My camera is not happy with the sudden attack of salt. It is like wiping salty tears from a child’s face, only to have to do it all over again a minute later.

We start our walk up the coast, in the western direction, indeed, aiming for the point of Portugal which marks the farthest western tip of the European continent.

But shortly into our walk, we turn back. We’re tempted by the bikes that Margarida tells us are available here. Cascais will hand over a bike for your use for free. All you need is an ID and it’s yours until sundown. Ed thinks he may fare better pedaling rather than stomping and I'm happy to be covering longer distances.


There is a bike path that continues up the coast , with mild ascents and descents, and it is somewhat amusing to be handling these on one speed bikes. Ed reassures me – you actually have two speeds. Where do you see a second? You can push the bike and walk.

When the wind blows at our backs, my hair, delicately salty, blows in every direction, but I like the push from behind. When it hits us in the face, it feels brutally strong and fast, almost as if we're biking at great speeds (even as we’re not).

And all the time, we are aware of the crashing waves.


I think the term itself – the crash of a wave – has never been more apt. Often the wind picks up puffs of foam and sends them flying. And everywhere, there is the white, lathering foam from broken waves – coming, going, mixing together. Ed tells me – I’ve seen many an ocean front (this, the sailor in him), but I have never seen so much foam at the shore.

...with the most western tip of Europe, in a haze of sea mist

The weather holds up and after our bike ride, we have time for a stroll through, first along the shore, back to town...


...past a craft market...

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...past fishing boats and lobster traps...


...then on to the old part of Casais.


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I’m hungry for a late lunch. Ed, who eats mammoth breakfasts when we’re traveling, is satisfied with a bowl of fish soup. I order the catch of the day – sea bream.


As we hike back to the guest house, we pause at one café for an espresso and a local pastry (very sweet, with shaved egg on top)..


...and then at a bakery to take some cookies back to our room.

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We’re walking through a residential part of town...


...lost in a maze of streets that  seem to be always shifting directions. As the afternoon sun disappears, the air cools down ever so slightly.  I have a jacket, but Ed remains in short sleeves.  It's been a most beautiful day.

In the evening we again stay in the neighborhood for dinner, returning to the now open place Margarida favors -- Redes do Ma ("sea nets").


We know to ignore the menu and ask what’s available today. Fresh sea bass, or red mullet. I’m beginning to recognize the fish of the season here. I’ve had them all now. Each roasted in crunchy salt, with handfuls of garlic, each one delicious.

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We pass on dessert. There are cookies back in our room. And we’re working through the bottle of Portuguese Port that Margarida left in our room.