At the beaches of Lagos, in southwestern Portugal, the free semi-naked models and sketchable natural landscapes abound. But the scorching sun dries up watercolors and burns backs like a beast, so either take a really fast approach on your sketching and color blending, or take an umbrella.
Nas praias de Lagos, os modelos semi-nus gratuitos e as paisagens naturais desenháveis abundam. Mas o sol escaldante seca aguarelas e queima costas à bruta. Portanto, ou se leva uma atitude rápida e descontraida para os desenhos, ou se leva um guarda-sol.
A couple of friends were spending the weekend in a hotel in Azeitão, in the Setúbal peninsula, the large land platform between the Tejo and Sado estuaries. It is a complex territory, known for being heavily industrialized, but strangely enough, also for its vineyards and for being a haven for sun-seekers and nature-lovers. There are all kinds of small towns and villages, each with its own quirks and traditions.
Further south, either by driving around or by crossing the Sado estuary, lies a strip of shiny thin sand more than sixty kilometers long, starting in the Tróia tourism resort and ending in the port town of Sines. Comporta beach was rich in iodine. The air was thick and fresh. Tróia was dry and silvery, the Arrábida range sheltering it, and the mouth of the Sado from the north wind.
The night was falling on the way back to Azeitão. Our friends took us to the surprisingly affordable Quinta Vítor Guedes, which had a lovely patio and a large dining hall, and served “The best old fashioned duck rice of the world” or, the dish with the longest name in the menus of the world. It was indeed tasty, laden with chouriço and bacon besides the blend of roasted and juicy rice and the dark threads of duck meat. The fine local red wine matched in perfection with the meal. A tiny glass of moscatel in the town’s center heralded the time to head back to Lisboa.
Österlen’s coastal landscape is beautiful indeed. But it looks even better after a nice dinner with friends and a good night’s sleep.
The picturesque crooked roads that lead from Lund to Kivik opened our appetites to the home-made pizza that our swedish-spanish hosts had prepared for us. Champagne and good wines flowed, mouldy cheeses and spicy olives were devoured, the drums rolled.
Board games were set, pseudo-punk spanish kids TV-show music chimed in, bringing in weird childhood memories for those who hailed from those parts. Even a sketching workshop for children was going on, until it was way past bedtime.
The morning after, all residues of the tiniest hangover vanished at the sight and smells of Skåne’s east coast. In Vitemölla Strandbackar nature reserve, just north of Kivik, the calm waters of the Baltic touch the dunes of sand, the dirt of land and the trunks of pine trees, simultaneously. Something didn’t add up, and yet, it was very pleasant to walk around, up and down from the field to the forest and back to the beach in less than a kilometre. It’s as if three different landscapes came together in the very same spot, like three different sentences that don’t belong to the same paragraph, punctuated regularly by the pre-emptive concrete bunkers of the WWII-era. Later, I learned that this type of landscape is known as sand-steppe – something very particular to this area of the Baltic sea, and that the pine forest is actually planted. Our hosts explained that this area generates some discussion because it seems that the pine forest is conflicting with the native sand-steppe landscape.
Oblivious to these reflections on the conflicting landscapes, Jesus picked mushrooms for lunch. And they were slimy-licous fried in garlic and coriander!
The diversity of the shores of Lagos makes up for a large part of the area’s beauty. The east coast, closer to the town, is rugged with sandstone and limestone cliffs that give in winter after winter. A myriad of small beaches of coarse sand can be found in the meanders of the cliffs. These rocky beaches are said to have been havens for pirate ships many centuries ago. Dona Ana is one of these beaches. Divided into two parts by the irregular cliffs, this small beach has micro-atmospheres of their own within itself. The central, crowded area, where mostly families stick around, thrives with the activity of the out board engine boats regularly taking tourists around the nearby grottos. The hidden part, which can be accessed only in the low tide, is usually quieter. But as noon approaches, it becomes hard to find a quiet area. The early peaceful morning haze that comes with the sunrise is quickly replaced by a contrasting sunshine and screams of children and conversations in many different languages. It is one of the few beaches in Portugal where one can enjoy the sunrise while facing the oceanic horizon.
Porto de Mós is a single long beach that takes up most of the south coast. The cliffs are still part of the scenery, but here the softer sand gained the upper hand. This beach is usually the meeting point of many groups of friends which often intermingle. The length of the beach provides ample area for sports, the most usual being raquetes – beach tennis – played with two wooden racquets and a rubber ball that make that ubiquitous characteristic wooden percussion – tak! tak! tak! – like a very lazy, very large woodpecker that takes frequent breaks in his work.
Life is swell in the south.
Lisboa’s outskirts are peppered with suburbs of different shapes, sizes and styles. They range from forest parks to densely packed residential districts, from slums to industrial areas, from bourgeois waterfront mansions to medieval towns that have been absorbed by the city’s ever expanding grid. Queluz is one of those suburbs. It is home to Queluz National Palace, built in the 18th century as a summer home for the royal family. It is but a dwarf variation of the great Rococo palaces of Europe like Versailles. Right next to it rests a tiny urban settlement of old houses and narrow streets. I’ve always admired how in Lisboa great buildings of power are offset by projections of the humbleness of common people. Another example of this is the National Parliament of São Bento and the vernacular buildings that face it. It is in that space between that most political oriented demonstrations of Lisboa have their final checkpoint.
Then, there’s Magoito, a village by the beach in Sintra. Still close enough to be a candidate for the title of suburb of Lisboa, but far enough for people to feel as if they are spending holidays away from the city, if they happen to sleep over. The farthest people in it were engulfed in a thick sfumato of dust and iodine, and the smell of the salty water was instantly invigorating. The sun was hidden behind clouds, so we had to be extra careful not to get burned without noticing. The layers of blue and grey almost melded on the horizon and the body-boarders peppered the waves. The sand was not yellow nor white but in shades of brown and shadowy brown – contrasts lowered by the wind and the clouds. I always get drowsy in the first days of going to the beach.
During the match between Holland and Costa Rica, there was, of course, time for more snails and bifanas and beer.