Having just visited a couple of really impressive religious buildings, that of Fatima and Batalha, it was again time to feel the ever-soothing effect the sea gives. So Hans and I drove to the coast, specifically in Nazare to have a few days rest. Nazare, located on the Atlantic coast on the district of Leiria, was once a small fishing village . Nowadays, aside from its huge waves which draw many surfers to the village, Nazare is famous for its picturesque village with labyrinth-like small narrow streets and the women who wear traditional clothing of headscarf and embroidered aprons over skirt with many layers while selling their products of dried fish, souvenirs, and different kinds of nuts. The village is divided into three neigborhoods : the Praia (beach), the Sitio (old part uphill) and Pederneira (also a mountain village).
COMING TO NAZARE
We were already in Nazare before, but that was some 12 years ago, when we first had our camper adventure. But sadly, the only remaining memories we had about the village was the dried fish along the promenade and the sitio which we couldn’t see then because of a thick fog. So this time, we would like to come back to check what we have missed.
It was Dec. 3, 2015 when we drove to Nazare, coming from Alcobaca (more about this later). We wanted to park on the place where we were before, but crazy enough, we couldn’t find it anymore. Worse is, upon driving on the roundabout going to the village center, there was a board that stated that campers are not allowed to park. Anyway, we drove through, ignoring the board, and hoped to find something by the port or somewhere by the beach. But just about 200 meters, we saw about 4 campers parked on a vacant lot near the municipal Library. We decided to park here also, and check the other areas later. After talking with a Portuguese camper owner, we learned that it was okay to park here and further no problems with police. We stayed here for four days. The parking is about 200 meters from the main road along the beach, near to many restaurants, shops and supermarkets. There were however no other facilities. We could however make use of computer and internet services at the municipal library nearby for free.
Campsite : Avenida do Municipio
Coordinates : N: 39.59721 W: 9.06991
COMBINATION OF RELAXED AND EXCITING DAYS IN NAZARE
Our stay in this charming touristic village of Nazare was both relaxed and exciting. Relaxing because we were able to explore more of the village and enjoy its beaches and scenes. Exciting because of the wonderful news we received back in Holland while we were here.
Upon arriving, and after having some rest, we began to explore the village. It was a beautiful day; we walked the long boulevard of Praia de Nazare, with its beautiful sandy beach, watching with awe the waves that dominated the coast. We saw also the remaining models of the traditional boats which are unique in Nazare, exhibited on the beach. There were some informations about them on the promenade, and it was already late when I read the request of not going aboard the boat, as I have already done it during some of our photoshoots. Walking further in the direction of the port, we passed the area where fishes were being dried and where old women were selling dried fish. I bought some of the dried fish. We then walked up to the lighthouse. By this time was the sun already slowly setting down so we had the chance to witness yet another wonderful colourful sunlight. And that ended our first day in Nazare.
The next day, Friday, we were planning to go up to the Sitio but the plan was altered. We learned that it was market day and it was being held just about 300 meters from us. So we went there and mingled with the locals, examining some things for sale, and even buying something. It was a big market, mostly with clothes, shoes, bags and textiles being sold. And it was really noisy! One vendor shouted harder than the other! I wondered if they didn’t have throat problems after a day’s market though! Anyway it was already late when we returned to the camper. There was no use to go up to the sitio. We spent the rest of the day, walking around the village, getting lost in its labyrinth-like streets, and whenever we wanted to find our way back again, we would just walk down to the direction of the sea. We spent much time strolling in the beach and looking at the many souvenir shops or stalls found on the main road. A minor setback was it was cloudy that day, thus, no good sunset.
Saturday, Dec. 5, Hans received a message from Holland that our daughter-in-law was in the hospital about to give birth. We were also excited about the news, and postponed our plan to go to the sitio again until we heard more news. A little before 12.00, Tom, Hans’son called to share us the wonderful news : Jayson was born. We wanted to have a nice remembrance for that day so we bought from a local vendor a model of Nazare boat with Jayson’s name and birthdate on it. However, we learned later that the name was misspelled. So the following day, we returned to the vendor and asked if the name be corrected. Luckily yes. But hours later, we realized that the birthdate was also wrong! Was it because of excitement, or confusion? Too bad, we couldn’t ask that to be changed anymore.
THE O SITIO
On the northern part of Praia de Nazare, up in the hill, about 318 meters high, lies the old part of the village, O Sitio. It could be reached via a somewhat long and steep concrete way and also via the furnicular. The first manner is a bit tiring and exciting, as you would first try to discover the right street in going up. It is also a better way because you have the chance to enjoy the views of the village below at different heights, and also free. On the other hand, riding the furnicular (which costs 1.20 euro per rit) is easier and faster. The furnicular, which was inaugurated in 1889 is a fast connection from O Sitio to the main town by the beach. We took the furnicular the first time we went up to the Sitio, but then took the road the second time.
Upon arriving at the Sitio, we went directly to the Santuario de Nossa Senhora da Nazare, the church dedicated to the Our Lady of Nazare. The high altar could be visited by paying a fee of 1 euro. The way to the high altar is beautifully tiled, and on the high altar itself is the wooden image of Lady of Nazare, which is believed to be original and is almost 500 years old!
After that, we walked up to St. Michael Archangel Fort and Lighthouse. From here, there were magnificent views of the famous waves of Nazare, and also a wonderful view of the town below the cliff. Upon visiting the Fort, we came to learn more about the famous waves of Nazare, the highest recorded wave was 30 m high! How I’d love to witness it someday and also see the daring surfers who try to defy danger just to ride the monstrous waves!
After admiring the grand views, we went back below and spent the rest of the day again by strolling on the beach. We returned however on the next day, being Sunday, to attend the mass in the church. And I would say, it was by far the best mass we attended to in Portugal : there were many churchgoers, the participation was good and the sounds too!
Nazare is a nice fishing village and we were glad we returned here. It has captured our hearts, we felt safe and comfortable here. And we would like to come back again someday to enjoy more of the town and its famous beaches.
A SHORT VISIT TO ALCOBACA
Alcobaca , whose name is derived from the confluence of two rivers Alcoa and Baca, is a small village in the district of Leiria. It is especially famous because of the gigantic monastery with a romantic background found in the village . It is found in the middle of the town; entry is 6 euro per person, for 65+s, half the fee.
The Monastery of Alcobaca, classified as a World heritage Site by UNESCO in 1989, is an impressive religious monument whose construction began in 1178. What made the monastery especial is the fact that the tombs of the lovers Dona Ines de Castro and King Pedro I lie here, placed opposite each other in a way that according to belief, they would see each other immediately when they rise from the dead. Their tombs are lavishly decorated with engraveworks that narrate their life stories. The love story of Dona Ines and Don Pedro could be compared to that of Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, and Florante at Laura. A love against all odds. It was romanticized in the country especially in Alcobaca, where they even have a park called Garden of Love where for 20 euro one can rent a key and locket for three years where to place love desires. Aside from the love story of Don Pedro and Dona Ines, the monastery has lots to offer. The church which was built between 1178 and 1252 has vaults with almost the same height over 20 meters; the main façade itself was impressive; there are the Tomb’s Hall or pantheon, The King’s Hall decorated with blue tiles where statues of kings of Portugal are are to be found, the Chapter House which is the monastic room, the dormitory, kitchen and refectory. All of which were equally impressive!
After visiting the monastery, we spent the rest of the time here just walking around time. There are quite a few restaurants around the plaza by the monastery, and also some souvenir shops. One tip : if you are planning to buy some souvenirs, you have to buy it here as the prices are a lot lower than in nearby towns of Fatima, Batalha and Nazare. There are also more choices on ceramic products, Alcobaca as being famous for old ceramic works. Here we came to stumble upon an antique shop where we spent 100 euros for some old vases and ceramic products.
Again, we prized ourselves lucky to have visited these two lovely Portugal villages. Our tired bodies were somewhat refreshed by our visit on the beach; and we were culturally enriched upon learning a bit of Portuguese history in Alcobaca. That is what we call combining pleasure with cultural enrichment.