We loaded into the SimplyB mobile, waved goodbye to Óbidos and with a hop, skip and a jump we were in the seaside town of Nazaré. For those of you who would prefer to know the journey time factually, it was a mere 30 minutes. No time at all!
For a relatively small town, its got enough to put it prominently on the map. Nazaré is widely known to be a surfer’s paradise, but it’s longstanding traditions and fresh delicious seafood definitely hold their own.
A famous Nazaré tradition is that of the 7 petticoats. The story goes that the women of the town would wait on the beach in the cold for their husbands or sons to return from a day at sea, and would wear 7 petticoats to keep warm. People say the 7 petticoats represent all sorts of things. The days of the week, the seven seas, the colours of the rainbow. A lot of women still dress this way to keep the tradition alive. Not a bad idea, right? All that extreme layering. I’d imagine a fair few women (and men) would benefit from 7 layers on Portmarnock beach or Dollymount Strand (or indeed any part of the coastline) back home on the Emerald Isle.
Another Nazaré tradition is found along the beach (Praia do Nazaré). Ships come in around midday and unload their catch, and the famous Portuguese fisherwomen known as peixeiras clean and gut the fish and sell, sell, sell like nobody’s business. Much of the catch that comes in includes mackerel, which are also a big part of local tradition. The peixieras hang these lil’ fishies on wire racks to dry in the sunshine and of course, sell them too.
Many of these women dress in black to represent the loss of many a fisherman to the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them at work but it looks a little something like this.
Surfing is hugely popular in Nazaré due to its monstrous waves. It received a lot of attention back in 2011 when Hawaiian surfer Garret McNamara surfed a huge wave over 23 metres high, breaking the world’s record for the largest wave ever surfed. The XXL waves form due to the Nazaré Canyon, the biggest underwater ravine in Europe. The canyon runs miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, and currents through the canyon combined with the swell driven by winds and create waves at different speeds that swell toward the lighthouse (O Sitio). This particular area is popular with experienced surfers and during winter you’ll find the biggest swells. Local surfers are currently experimenting with a prototype you attach to the surfboard that registers the surfer’s height so they can get a better sense of the waves.
When you’re that close to the sea, you know the seafood is gonna be goooood. There’s a little sneak preview up the top there, some of the famous dried mackerel was on the menu. It was such a beautiful lunch and we were really spoiled.
Hang tight and you’ll soon see! You can’t miss this spot if you go to Nazaré! Everything’s better with a rhyme.
Moments after we got out of the SimplyB mobile at Nazaré port, we were brought down to the dock to meet our two lovely guides (guys who have saved surfers in trouble with the mighty waves, so true heroes!) put on our life jackets (safety first!) and boarded the Os Paus for our maritime adventure. I say boarded, but I really meant flailed. There were limbs going in every direction.
We went for a little spin (to discover where the magic happens) but for wintertime, the seas were very calm. It was a beautiful day so I wasn’t surprised, but a little wave to give us some action would have been nice. Our helmsman did go pretty fast sometimes, which was fun. We got to see the canyon and the lighthouse and the whole area looked like a completely different place compared to some of the action you can find on YouTube.
Thar she blows in the distance! The town of Nazaré! Since we were on our way back to shore, we knew it was time for lunch. I could almost smell all that fresh fish. I was also so glad that Sandra and Vitor arranged for us to have lunch after our seafaring adventure. The SimplyB team are all about the details; they consider everything! And there’s nothing quite like a bit of sea air to perk you up, eh? Especially after morning ginja.
Lunch was at Taberna d’Adelia, and it was such a lovely meal on the trip. Every dinner and lunch we had throughout the week was really something special, but this felt so beautifully simple. Everyone was so happy to be there, and whatever way we were all sitting, the conversation was flowing and everyone was having a fantastic time. We, of course, have to thank the restaurant for that too. The atmosphere was great, very relaxing and in no way fussy. This spot lets the food do the talking. That being said the little touches were fitting; shelves with model boats and a simple nautical theme. Quite a collection of letters sway gently overhead, compliments from happy diners.
We started with cheese, olives bathed in oil and garlic, tuna pâté and fried tender and crispy mackerel which naturally we ate whole; head and tail included. It’s the only way you guys.
And of course, BREAD! Sweet, sweet broa bread – which is very much like its American cousin, cornbread. I love when I’m eating in good company and the bread arrives. It’s a rite of passage. It always makes me think of the Cervantes quote, “All sorrows are less with bread.” or as some like to translate it, “Bread is relief from all kinds of grief.” Both are more than fine with me.
Isn’t this just beautiful? I just had to make it the main image. The famous dried mackerel, known as carapaus enjoados. Tender, salty, crispy…slick and smooth from the oil and smattered in chopped garlic. In short, a delight.
Dish two was tostada de Patarroxo. Fish with tomato sauce, onions and cilantro on crusty bread. The bread soaked up all the sauces which was a nice little surprise underneath!
I normally don’t drink white wine (give or take one or two pretty special ones) as I generally find it highly acidic and lacking in depth. Portugal changed my mind for sure; their white wines are bursting with flavour. I figured the wine we had during dinner at CampoReal was just a really good one, but so was the one we had during this Nazaré lunch with the first two courses, Quinta dos Plátanos. No fluke here. The centre of Portugal is a winos paradise.
Dish three, the main event! This dish was like a hug for the soul. Arroz de tamboril (à moda da Adélia.) Monkfish rice stew. Simple, warming and like a lucky dip. The restaurant’s style had chunks of all kinds of tender flaky fish and my favourite little shellfish pals, prawns. Filling and full of flavour and served family style. We had the stew with another Quinto dos Plátanos wine, this time red, the Tour Noir. Red wine and stew. Warm, hearty and perfect for winter.
We were content and satisfied. Relaxed and lost in conversation. I remember thinking (aka lying to myself) that I couldn’t eat another bite. Then trays appeared. A medley of desserts! So much happiness in one rectangular wooden box. Mousses, cheesecakes, flans…all kinds. I went for a mousse (which to me tasted like dulce de leche) but the exact flavour I couldn’t figure out. Either way, it was some good mousse. We all ended up sharing and guessing what any peculiar one might be over cups of delicious Portuguese coffee. Did I tell you I’m obsessed with Portuguese coffee now? Just kidding, I know this is at least the third time I’ve mentioned it! It really is that good, and I love how much the locals need and love it. It felt like I found my people.
Bellies full and hearts happy, we went to the beach for some fresh air. We arrived just as the sun was setting, the perfect time to take in the views and see the traditional and wonderfully coloured fishing boats along the sand.
We then went up to Sítio Belvedere, the very best spot for views of Nazaré along the Praia. Just look at all those beautiful lights below! A day well spent in a special little town.
For more information on the seaside town of Nazaré, click here.
For more information on SimplyB tours, click here.
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