When you’re dazed by what the human race has put forth, overwhelmed by evidence of struggles for power, and deflated by visions of ill will and indifference to the plight of others, you can take a bus (the 441 from Sintra) and ask to be dropped off by the sea. The ocean actually. There, the mighty heave of waves and water will remind you that in time, all this will pass.
The beautiful sea. It draws you, it draws most anyone. I watch older men with tired eyes come to look at it for a long while, as if it may offer clarity at times when there is so little of it elsewhere.
True, we weren’t looking for clarity or even necessarily tranquility when we decided to catch the bus to the village of Azenhas do Mar. It happened because our other plans fell through in the most tiresome manner.
We wanted to go to Obidas (which is not by the sea). That’s a two hour train ride from Lisbon. But you needn’t go al the way back to Lisbon; you can, say the books, catch a train from Cacem. We walk the familiar route down to the train station (and to give you a fuller sense of Sintra – it is the kind of town where a homeowner may have this in her back yard...)
... and we board the train in the direction of Lisbon. But when we arrived in Cacem, we find that the train for Obidas wouldn’t be for another four hours. So that we would arrive in Obidas after dark. And it’s not as if you can go to Obidas from Cacem anyway. The schedule says you can, but the agent assures us that you must first go from Cacem to Mira Sintra and only then might you be able to connect with a train to Obidas.
Confusing? Exceptionally so.
And so after a failed attempt at train travel to Obidas, we retreated back to Sintra and considered our options.
Not that getting to the sea is without its own maze of complications. Take the 441 bus. From here? No, from Portela de Sintra. You can take a bus or train to that Sintra. Which is really an extension of this Sintra. Or walk. From there, just take the 441.
Eventually, we made it to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Just north of the western most point of the European continent.
We half follow the GR hiking trail, and partly our own inclinations, going from one village (Azenhas do Mar)...
...to the next (Praia das Macas), along a rocky coastline that fights constant battles with the sea. The sea always wins.
We watch fishermen cast lines, very long lines to the waters below. In Madison, the fishermen are drilling holes through the ice to cast their lines into the waters of the lake. So much effort there, here too, just to cast a line and wait.
Oh, but what a wait. We pass a few old cars parked by the cliffs. The pole is set against the rocks, the owner of one sits in his small, dented van and listens to the strains of opera. Another takes out his pipe and holds on to his line. No one is rushed, no one is bothered.
Foam. As in Cascais, the ocean spews foam. Ed looks at it and wonders where it comes from.
The sea makes you wonder about things. Quietly. You may as well be quiet. You can’t be heard over the noise of the waves anyway.
We stop at an oceanside place – an eatery called 1888. A seafood dining room. I order a simple salad with shrimp and tomatoes and it is so good – drizzled with an olive oil, so simple, so delicious.
At the bus stop, people help us figure out the time of the next 441. To take us back to Sintra. Or rather Portela de Sintra, So that we could walk back to our Sintra and the small guest house on the hill.
Late at night we walk down the hill, eat a basic and good dinner at a very basic, very traditional, regional place (it’s called Restaurante Regional de Sintra) and when we emerge, the world is hidden and made silent by fog. Dense, wet fog.