Somewhere along our travels we met a fellow who told us the Portuguese were hoping to make Portugal “The Florida of Europe.”
I responded with a weak, nervous laugh.
From the tiny slice of the country I saw, who wouldn’t want to live in the sunshine and raw, natural beauty of Portugal? But it’s the old Catch 22 … “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Sure, the Portuguese economy could use a boost, but with Florida as a reference, all I can envision is concrete condo castles and lots and lots of traffic. No storks, no cork forests, no empty beaches. No dirt roads leading to seaside cliffs or ancient monoliths.
Luckily, that doomsday projection was not reality in March 2016.
A large “i” sign in any town was a gold mine for us. It is the universal symbol of the Posto de Turismo (tourism bureau), filled with brochures and maps in several languages, and helpful clerks who speak English. In Odemira we picked up a wonderful map of the southwestern coastal region, from Malhao in the north to Odeceixe in the south. The map shows locations of Moinhos de Vento (windmills—used for grinding flour used in wonderful Portuguese breads), Ninhos de Cegonhas (stork nests), Miradouros (good views), Postos de Combustivel (gas stations), Portos de Pesca (fishing ports). Also listed are popular Praias (beaches) and whether they are appropriate for surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing, or romping in the nude.
Portugal has almost 600 miles of shoreline. We focused on a small portion in the southwest, turned the corner at Sagres, headed east to Lagos, and simply ran out of time. Most of the beaches we encountered came with the drama of steep, rocky cliffs; southern beaches are wide and sandy and lined with golf courses and resorts. Here is a quick view of our beach exploration—from the black schist (sheets of black rock similar to slate) beaches of Almograve to the shifting sands where the River Seixe swirls into the Atlantic at Odeceixe, to the golden cliffs of Praia Dona Ana on Portugal’s southern coast. Laurie Lynch
Written on Slate: “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” e.e. Cummings