May 25, 2021

Catarina, by the sea. 5 days somewhere in the Southwest.


A journey of relaxation, gastronomy, nature and adventure.

The splendid Costa Vicentina includes about 400kms of land, from Santiago do Cacém to Lagos, with relaxing landscapes that impress us with their grandeur. Ideal to free our mind from everyday evils, this paradise in the West of Portugal makes us fall for the sturdy presence of wild nature.

In my trip report, I want to share with the reader a 5-day experience in the Portuguese Southwest. A trip that became, above all, a rediscovery of the passion for my homeland, a journey to the memories of a young girl and an evocation of the possibility to absorb unique and different experiences traveling throughout Portugal.

First of all, let’s be clear, this is not a guide for people in a hurry, since I covered about 100kms of the length of the coast and ¾ remained to be done. Let's say I found it impossible to discover the formula for visiting its wholeness in 5 days; to do so, I would either feel indifferent and insensitive to what my eyes saw, or I would have to recover quickly from the shock effect caused by the sights.

For me, part of an authentic and sustainable tourism lays in the route planning - without overexploiting the places on the internet, so as to keep the surprise effect once in situ -, favoring an open arms reception at the locals’ homes as well as the choice for the region’s typical taverns and cafés. Let’s then get started with this journey direction north-south.

I watch myself leaving the city of Porto through the mirror of my old car, offered by grandfather Nani. Early in the morning, I embark on an adventure searching for the unknown, for the Atlantic serenity and for an empty mind with a suitcase full of snacks and half a dozen of June’s fresh clothes. After 3h45 min. of travel, we make (p.s.: I came with my better half!) a pit stop at the most western point of Continental Europe, Cabo da Roca. From here, we can see the Serra de Sintra over the coast, while holding our hats against the wind. Craving for a little snack and the wish to drink a "blonde", which means, it’s time to get started inside the car, facing the sea - Oh! How beautiful it is to enjoy a simple sandwich and a beer in this place!

He secretly tells me that we have a spectacular adventure “trail” nearby, at Praia da Ursa. I knew this route, which each one has to do in their own way, would not be for everyone (a fact that I confirmed when I got there). The path is steep and made of rocks, pebbles and nettles, but we know it pays off as soon as we get down there, and we feel so small in front of those rocks shaped by coastal erosion. The most beautiful natural stone sculpture is Ursa (Female Bear), a rock shaped like this animal.

Resuming the road towards Alcácer do Sal, we stopped at one of the largest estates in the country, which was State-owned at the time of Oliveira Salazar. With infinite hectares, we stayed at the caretakers home, who told us stories of their lives while they cooked us dinner. We then went for a night walk along the bank of the Sado River and came across a popular party, where we drank for the first time a renowned Alentejo gin - the Black Pig.

We wake up with a wonderful breakfast at the table and Mr. João asks us permission to take a picture in front of the house. A photograph that he insisted on sending us later, in the hope that we would never forget them and return one day.

We then continued to Sines, more precisely, Praia de São Torpes, where the waters were, at the time, heated by the Power Station located in front of the beach (in the meantime, deactivated), which made us “soak” for longer. We had some snacks from the sea: squids and prawns with a beer to go with. It's time to head further south.

“There was a peach tree on the island

Planted by a Vizier of Odemira

It’s said he killed himself for love

Here, in the place of … ”

 

Do you know where we are? Porto Côvo, of course. A fishermen's place where white and blue stand out, where the old doors turn red. We admire those imposing cliffs that bring us the feeling of wanting to stay forever in that quietness and we finish the day with a homemade ice cream. We found accommodation in a large house with nine rooms, which we shared with other travelers that we greeted with a “hello” from the neighboring balconies.

The next day, I could only think of Ilha do Pessegueiro (Peach tree Island), we spent all morning sunbathing and contemplating the view to the Island. We had lunch at the restaurant A Ilha, mouth-watering snails along with Alentejo bread toasts to dip in the delicacy sauce.

We left the island and headed to Vila Nova de Milfontes, where we had great fun and a very happy stomach. At Tasca do Celso we had the house clams, sliced black pork loins and pepper steak. As we leave the restaurant, we’re attracted by the sound of Rock hovering in the square, full of people jumping and applauding a talented garage band.

A new day is born and we stop by at Praia do Carvalhal to enjoy the cliffs from the highest point and; from the side of a road, we could see a farm with an impressive variety of animals, among them ostriches, horses, lamas and a wildebeest-like specimen. We then arrived at another trail on Amália's private beach, which is at the back of her property. And off to Azenha do Mar only to snack at the Bar do Palhinhas.

After checking-in in Odeceixe, in a typical and picturesque villa of the region, we went to the center to dine at Chaparro Restaurant: black pork chunks with sweet potatoes, fish and prawns pasta and a bottle of the house red to go along.

To end the night, we took a good walk to the famous Moinho de Odeceixe (Odeceixe Mill). And here, for the farewell, I let myself go in the silence of the heights and in the starry sky that I watch, already missing it, lying on a stone bench that is older than me.