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Nazaré and Sítio
The beautiful seaside town of Nazaré was the perfect place for us to wander without any kind of plan. Our feet seemed to be moving in slow motion today, and that was just fine with us.
The narrow streets twisted this way and that, between white-washed buildings with red-tile roofs. Occasionally, we would see a local woman dressed in a plaid skirt and argyle knee socks or stockings:
This type of outfit had its roots in the many layers of skirts, socks, and shawls traditionally worn by fishermen’s wives who would bundle themselves against the frigid winds and wait by the Nazaré shore for their husbands to return from the sea.
(When I took the above photo, I had been so fixated on the woman in the plaid skirt that I hadn’t noticed the oh-so-casual, bathrobe and slippers attire of the woman in pink. She is hard evidence supporting our perception that Nazaré had a laid-back vibe.)
On the edge of the sidewalk, Sebastian found a small ride-on animal:
We soon found ourselves at the base of the funicular that stretched up the hillside to the old district of Sítio.
Here is a distant view:
The funicular (called the elevator or “ascensor” by the locals) began operating in 1889 to provide a more fluid connection between the fishing village below and the farming community above. We hopped on board the modern coach cars and headed upwards.
A view from the top of the tracks, looking back down:
Genevieve, Sebastian and Ben, at the top:
The view of Nazaré was stunning. Here is a panorama, looking from the left to the right:
Our apartment was the second rooftop down in a diagonal row of five modern townhouses:
The cliff underneath the walkway had eroded considerably, as shown in this photo of Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian (who squeezed his eyes shut in most of today's photos):
We followed the wall out to the front point. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian, with a seagull flying by:
Genevieve, with a better view of the beach below:
Near this point was a small chapel, called Ermida da Memória:
The chapel marks the spot where a miracle allegedly occurred in the 12th century. Local legend recounts how a nobleman was out hunting a deer in the dense fog. His horse was almost at the cliff edge and would have plummeted over the edge but for the sudden appearance of the Virgin Mary, who stopped the horse in its tracks. The noble built the chapel to thank her. The horse’s hoofprints from the sudden stop are supposed to be embedded in the soil within the crypt area.
Here is Sebastian, next to a small memorial post near the chapel—he actually asked to have his photo taken (a rarity), and he has his eyes open!
On the edge of a small plaza was the grand Nossa Senhora da Nazaré church (Our Lady of Nazaré), built in the 14th century but remodeled a few times over the centuries since then:
Many of the old buildings in Sítio were just brimming with character. Look at these doors!
An old window:
The façade of this home was covered in beautiful painted tiles, called alentejos, that we had first seen in the Alfama district of Lisbon:
The area around the church plaza had a few restaurants. A server in one gave a curt wave of his hand to indicate an outdoor table where we could sit. There were a few other tables with tourists who looked like they were waiting for food. None of them were smiling, and some looked downright unhappy. With still no menus or service after a few more minutes, we saw the writing on the wall—and it said, “Time to leave.” So we did.
We headed for the backstreets of Sítio to find another lunch place:
A woman in traditional garb:
We were delighted to find the Olé Café:
It was named for its location across the street from the local bullfighting ring (the white, circular building):
We had fresh squid, chicken, potatoes, fries, and salad—all delicious!
Sebastian was happy!
So was Genevieve:
After lunch, we headed back to the top of the cliff overlooking Nazaré. Ben pointed out a winding trail that we would be following down the hill:
(Those who follow our stories know that I have a heart connection with images of laundry hanging to dry. In the photo above, I just loved the fact that someone living near the cliff top hangs their laundry, undergarments and all, next to the public sidewalk.)
In the distance, we could see the modern harbor, built in the 1980's to improve the lives of the local fishermen:
Before the harbor had been constructed, the fishermen used to have to drag their boats up onto the wide beach every night, often requiring the help of oxen.
Sebastian and Genevieve led the way down the winding, stair-stepped path to the beach area of Nazaré:
Near the bottom of the path was a white sculpture showing a traditional fishing boat, with waves, and a man holding his head in his hands as if he were distressed:
The beach was cold and windy—the same as yesterday—and the water was still too chilly for swimming:
Genevieve and Sebastian still had fun digging in the sand and playing ball:
Sebastian was chilled to the bone afterwards:
Looking up at the Sitio cliff, where we had been earlier today, we could see severe erosion that has occurred underneath the viewing wall:
The street facing the beach had a small tiled church and some old buildings with lovely architectural details.
An old photo of the waterfront shows the church, the two turreted buildings, and some of the other original structures:
(Photo credit here.)
Even with the modern structures and new areas of town, Nazaré still made us feel as if we had stepped back in time, into a world with a slower pace. We had read that summer crowds descend like ants and transform this place into a bustling tourist town, with little elbow room. Without the masses, however, there was an abundance of charm and a peaceful tranquility that was just what we needed.
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