Sunday, January 16, 2011

rough waters

Saturday. Last day in Sintra. In Portugal for that matter. Castle, or the ocean?

Not hard. The ocean.

Ericeria is up north some, and because I have a childish belief in the wisdom of guide books, I believe it when the book tells me that Ericeria was and continues to be primarily a fishing village. Men, paying the rent by catching fish. (I have never seen a woman taking out a small boat to fish for a living in these fishing towns. Ever.)

Well yes, but Ericeria has grown and expanded significantly. Fishing boats? Plenty. But nothing about Ericeria is remote, small, or quiet. This is the place where, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, many Portuguese come for a good meal (of fish and of Ericeria’s specialty – the Portuguese lobster). Ericeria has in recent years called itself the seafood capital of Portugal.

I did not know that when we found the proper bus to take us there. It’s not a long ride from Sintra (fifty minutes maybe) and I merely wanted to end our stay with a day on the coast. Listening to waves lost in our own thoughts, lost, too in the maze of narrow streets of an old fishing village.

As it happens, the village had long ago expanded into a town. But no matter. It still has the lovely old town center, the fantastic rocky coastline, the thundering waves, the foamy rough waters.




And it certainly has the fishing boats. Out of water today. With men fixing nets and making small repairs.



Ericeria also has a jetty made of boulders and cement and I suppose there are days when the waves are not so large and you can stroll to the end and back. Today, though, there is a warning sign that the waves are dangerous and can knock you down flat.

I stay off. Ed (you are not surprised to read this, I’m sure) walks the breakwater, wistfully almost, as if all that’s beautiful on this planet can be found in the crashing waves.

No wave knocks him down and indeed, he seems pretty dry when he returns. Me, I spend the time thinking about what to have for lunch – the small local lobster or a seafood mixed plate. Like these guys.


I’ve been eating vigorously in Portugal, but not nearly as vigorously in the mornings as Ed, who has loved the abundant breakfasts we’ve had in Sintra (and, too, in Evora). At the Casa Miradouro, if you stay for five nights, one of them is free – hence the decision to base ourselves there (as in Evora, less than $100 for two, morning meal, taxes, services, WiFi included). We’re the sole visitors at the guest house now and our hostess, Ziza, and her assistant, each dressed in starched, embroidered aprons for the morning ritual, prepare an abundant breakfast of eggs, salmon, cheeses, salamis, fruits, cakes and breads. After all this, Ed insists we do not deserve lunch. I don’t disagree, but I cannot say no to enchanting light meals in new places and especially by the sea places, and so at lunchtime he’ll nurse a fizzy water while I eat a second meal. Traveling in harmony requires making room for the whims of your companion.

We join a jovial roomful of diners and after much anguish and deliberation, I choose the small lobster (it actually is more like a very large prawn).

DSC06147 - Version 2

With it – warm, crusty bread, some local wine... my God, is it a good lunch!

We walk some more then, and I shop a little – a bottle of port to take home. Some chocolate -- which doesn’t even make it back to Sintra. More olive oil. Edible things that will recall for me these days by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea...



Late at night we wander up to Sintra’s palace, the upper square, we poke our noses into a few recommended eating establishments and reject them all. Too formal. Too pricy. Too calm. We choose instead a tavern-like place all the way down by the train station where a lively crowd is eating unfussy food.

Portugal is fantastic in its unfussy spaces. The pastelaria where you can get the simple pastries with custard. The wine shop where the great wines are never a great fortune. The little trains and big buses that zip people from one village to another. The fishing boats and the men who fish from them. The rough waters pounding away as we watch, listen, contemplate.



We’re leaving Portugal today, very early Sunday morning – too early for me to write much of a post before departure. I’ll catch up later in the day. In the meantime – a photo for you. From Ericeira.

The old windmill, standing at the edge of town, has seen it all.