-the world as I see it
“Rain, rain go away, come again another day”, and I so hope that day doesn’t come anytime soon. After weeks of grey and gloomy skies, the incessant rains started getting on my nerves. My social life was becoming close to non-existent as I preferred being under house arrest rather than getting drenched and coming back dripping wet to a damp and dank house. With Easter approaching, I presumed that the Sun had gone away on Spring break. It definitely wasn’t a well-deserved vacation as he hadn’t being doing his job very well for the past couple of weeks. Sometimes I think that the only way to survive the rain in Guimaraes is to switch places with the hamster from the movie Bolt.
The weather during the Easter break was no exception, so I stayed in indoors, moping around until the forecast for Saturday showed clear skies and a shiny yellow sun. I got out my travel guide for Portugal and skimmed through the pages, looking for a nice place to spend the day and I finally settled on ‘Nazare’ – Portugal’s toponym for Nazareth. The town was named so after a statue of Mother Mary from the Holy land of Nazareth was brought here and kept in a cave. Nazare is a coastal village and the primary occupation of its inhabitants is fishing. It was recently in the news because of McNamara, a world famous surfer who supposedly surpassed his previously held record by surfing a 100 ft wave. If you’re craving good seafood , the many restaurants, cafes and bars in this place won’t disappoint you. The sandy beaches also draw a lot of tourists, especially during the summer, where finding a quiet spot on the beach can be quite a tough task.
I arrived in Nazare at about 10 am and sat down at one of the cafes close to the seaside to enjoy a traditional Portuguese breakfast. I dug into a pao de chourico which is basically a spicy sausage typical of the Iberian peninsula, ensconced in bread and washed it down with a galao ( the Portuguese equivalent for ‘milky coffee’). After breakfast, I headed towards the tourism office and picked up a map of the town. The section of the town right by the sea is called Praia. Walking along the beach, one can see the region of Sitio perched atop a cliff and the region of Pederneira among the hills. Until the 17th century, only Sitio and Pederneira were inhabited as the entire portion of Praia was covered by the Atlantic Ocean.
The area of Sitio is most easily accessible by the funicular from Praia. On getting out of the funicular station, you can see a lot of souvenir shops all the way up to the square outside the Church of Nossa Senhora. The original church of Nossa Senhora at Nazare dates back to the 14th century. With time, the church underwent successive renovations and the present structure consists of two baroque bell towers and an extensive facade with semicircular steps leading up to the entrance. The nave and transept of the church have traditional blue tile work (azulejos). The altar is flanked by Solomonic columns (a.k.a. barley sugar columns) which in simple terms can be described as helically twisted columns . The apse is covered by ornate gold leaf work that adds to the richness of the interior. The church houses the image of Our Lady of Nazare- a dark skinned, Gothic version of the Black Virgin.
Across the square is the Chapel of Memory, also built in honour of the Virgin Mary who came to the rescue of the knight Dom Fuas by timely stopping his horse from riding off the cliff while he was pursuing a stag. The azulejos that line the inside of the chapel depict the entire incident. The viewing terrace near the chapel affords brilliant views of the town below.
I then proceeded to the fort of St. Miguel Arcanjo more famously knows as the Fort of Nazare, which was erected for defense purposes about 400 years ago. The fort is a work of irregular stone masonry and is dedicated to Archangel Michael, with an image of him set in bas relief.
There are steps leading down the cliff, where you can stop to watch the waves crash into the rocks . If you continue further along the cliff, it will lead you to yet another beach with rocky outcrops. Don’t forget to take a book along as the place is an ideal reading spot. I felt so close to nature and at least for a bit, I had this feeling that I was in a perfect world.
By about 2 pm, I was ravenously hungry, so I took the funicular and went back to Praia as that’s where the best seafood selling restaurants are located. My meal consisted of grilled polvo (octopus) and batatas a murro ( potatoes baked in their own skin soaked in olive oil) accompanied with a bottle of vinho verde (green wine/ young wine).
Post the delicious lunch, I lazed around on the beach and fell asleep under the warm afternoon sun. After a while I was awakened by some singing coming from the direction of the street. A crowd had gathered at the sidewalks and fisher-folk dressed in traditional attire were dancing, prancing, singing and clapping, much to the delight of the onlookers. The men were dressed in checked shirts and plaid pants ( fashion police, buzz off 😛 ) with a black cummerbund around their waist and black berets on their heads. The women were more extravagantly dressed with more layers and more colours. They wore blouses with a floral print and basket-like fluffy skirts with several inner layers. On their heads they had black scarves topped with brimmed hats.
At Nazare, you will feel like you have gone back in time. It’s a place where traditions are still followed and people are genuinely warm and loving. In today’s fast-paced world, it feels nice to have such places which have managed to retain their cultural identity.