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A few days south of Lisboa

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craigandmicki
4/15/2011 05:22 EST

Craig and I took another road trip...we thought that Porto was next for us, but instead we headed south of Lisboa to learn more about this rocky Atlantic shoreline noted for its fishing villages and long stretches of sandy beach. We visited Costa da Caprica, Sines, Setubal and Sesimbra as well as Viila Nova de Millfontes. We'd heard so much about this area, surrounded by natural preservation and much less traveled. We were seeking an alternative to the pricier area we're living in, Estoril. The trip not only provided many highlights, it reinforced that Cascais/Estoril is our preference--we adore each day here.

Highlights of this excursion start with being in the forests and preserves. We drove along serpentine roads that followed the backbone of the small mountain ranges, with views to the ocean peaking through at points. Stopping for views, we found hiking trails through dunes and foliage, leading we knew not where, to reach the tip of land and find ourselves perched high above the rocky coastline with waves bursting in a torrent of mist far, far below us. Other times, we found inland lakes separated from the ocean by perhaps 200 feet of dune, and confirmed that the area boasts many long stretches of sandy, pristine beach. Small villages with forts or castles and the kindest people and delicious food were at just the right intervals. Throughout, the air was infused with an unusual aroma--a mix of the aromatic forests and flowers with an acrid undertone, carried on a cool breeze wherever we went. I grew tired of breathing so deeply through my nose to take it all in! Of course the pictures are stunning but there is nothing like being hundreds of feet above the sea, mist and sun on your face, buffeted by the wind and hearing the crash of the surf.

Our stay at our furthest destination, Villa Nova de Millfontes, was in a former mill house. Tucked away in a preservation area and alongside the wide River Mira, we had to traverse the worst possible road, so full of potholes we thought--we hoped--we were in the wrong place. We lurched, we rolled, our heads hit the car roof, even at a crawl. At the end of this sandy roller-coaster ride we were presented with a narrow, single lane path between two fish hatching ponds to the hotel entrance. Ah, beautiful. We barely wanted to leave this place because of the road in and out, and were thankful that our little house was comfortable, our hosts (a couple from Netherlands) were gracious and lovely to their only guests at this time, our breakfast was made fresh just for us and served outside where again we inhaled the sweet and acrid air with deep breaths.

Costa da Capirica was suggested to us for the beaches and proximity to Lisboa...but to us, it felt like the worst of Virginia Beach or an old part of Florida, no matter how deeply we searched for a personality of its own. The "door" into Sines is a wide, curving highway with well-kept green space and palms along the way, flanked by the sea on one side and the towering town walls on the other. Money from its pipeline industry keeps this town prosperous, but the haze of pollution hanging over it diminishes all.

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