13 April 2009
Coastal Adventure Part One: Sagres
During our brief stint detained at the border, the lovely immigration officer (the one who gave us food, not the one who incorporated the use of homing pigeons) told us “the most beautiful part of Portugal is the southwest coast. You must get there, or else you have not experienced Portugal.” Now, I ask you, with a recommendation like that, how could we NOT see it? As Zeynep is new to driving and I haven’t driven a stick-shift in almost 6 years, we “splurged” on an automatic, deciding to save money by sleeping in the car. More on that brilliant idea in a following episode.
Our first port of call is Sagres, once thought to be the edge of the World (when people thought the Earth was flat, which is the historical equivalent of US religious leaders going on about how equal rights is somehow “destroying democracy;” good one guys). It is also where Henry the Navigator invented navigation, which led to Portugal becoming the World’s greatest naval power for nearly 100 years (they were the first to sail around the World, proving it was round). We visited the massive fort, which led to an hour-long walk to get to the very edge of Europe. This was one enormous fort! We also stopped at Europe’s second strongest lighthouse, which we later saw in action nearly 50km up the coast.
Then, in a snap decision, we took a left off the main road onto what started as a paved side route but quickly became a dirt path complete with enormous rocks, big ditches and lots of dust. While the car may not have liked it so much, we certainly did, as our prowess led us into a traffic jam with a herd of cattle. I have always had this idea in my head that there is no other quintessential European “moment” then getting stuck in “traffic” with either sheep or cows (thank you romantic comedies about Ireland, where they always seem to get stuck behind a herd of something).
From there is was onward and upward, as we bobbed and weaved through one of the nation’s largest national parks, which has meant near total preservation of what I have to say is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the World, and I grew up in California! Jagged peaks, crashing waves, untouched sandy beaches, dunes, inland waterways, marshes, tide pools, pelicans, seagulls and the freshest air you’ll ever inhale. With that, I will close part one. More soon.