It’s mid November and my intention is to see the local parish church of Our Lady of Remedies and to visit the Carcavelos indoor market. The church’s panels of tiles proved such an attraction to the famous Portuguese writer, Jose Saramago, in 1979 that he made a special detour from Lisbon to see them when he undertook a tour of his homeland. He then wrote about them in ‘Journey to Portugal’. That book was translated into English in 2002.
The weather is beautiful and a lot warmer than we northern Europeans are used to at this time of year – (20C) and perfect for wandering in. The village is quiet and the tree leaves are turning. Luckily the church is open -it isn’t always. A service has just ended and worshippers, mostly older, smartly dressed women pour out. The 17th century tiles are every bit as spectacular as I’d been led to believe. The wall panel above the sacristy door represents the Stigmatisation of St. Francis, and the vault depicts the Adoration of the Magi and scenes of Christs’ Passion. Above the confessional niche is a blue and white tableau of St. Antony preaching to the fish. This is attributed to Gabriel del Barco. I managed to take some photos before the lights were turned off.
I also find the nearby tile shop (Ceramica Artistica de Carcavelos) open. The scenes on display vary from copies of traditional Portuguese friezes to modern patterns and old tiles. An exhibition space downstairs was worth a visit. The owner has worked in the shop for thirty years and until recently employed four people. Today he employs one. Sales are not so good. Nevertheless he wraps my postcards depicting the stations of the cross from the church as though I’d bought an expensive item and then applied a shop label. A courteous encounter.
I wander on, past cafes with people sitting outside them in the sun, chatting. I’m looking for the only Internet cafe in the village – Cafe & Companhia, Rua Dr Joaquim Almeida 507a. It’s not really an Internet cafe. The owner allows people to use his business computer. I sip a delicious, freshly squeezed orange juice as I check my email etc.
Refreshed, I head to the indoor market. It’s midday, the rush is over and the stall holders, mainly women, hang about, chatting. They are welcoming and friendly. A lovely smell of fresh fish assails the senses and there are beautiful displays of locally grown produce. I ask if I can photograph the fish stalls and they agree, even offering to include themselves in the photos. They laugh at themselves in the finished product and suggest that not only are they good looking, they’re also beautiful. I can but agree.
Time for a look at the sea so I leave the village and head down the beautiful tree lined avenue towards the beach. The sea is relatively calm and ten surfers are in there doing their thing, watched by a few others from the promenade benches. I sit in the sun and enjoy absorbing the warm rays.
The long beach has a single sunbather. Surfers leave their belongings unattended on the beach trusting that they’ll be left untouched. And they are.
A heavily laden barge sails by on the horizon. The sun is glistening on the surf making me squint. Should’ve brought my sun glasses. More surfers arrive -young Portuguese women in their early 20’s. They quickly head into the surf.
The beach bars are quiet. Hawkers loiter, waiting for the lunchtime rush. Although few, they continue to try to eke a living from flogging beaded and metal jewellery, watches etc. A few cyclists and walkers pass by.
Lunch by the sea is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. More people appear and the cafe next to the surf shop gets busy. The hawkers try their luck but are not too pushy.
Two young men appear with boogie boards. They change into swim wear, not wet suits and practice by the shore. They also leave their clothes unattended.
In the afternoon, I decide to walk westwards towards Sao Pedro. As the tide comes in, the fishermen come out. Dotted along the coastline, perched on rocks, they cast and catch. They seem oblivious to all else, intent on the job in hand. Others watch, hang about and chat. All men.
More surfers are dotted along the coast, but standing on their boards while they paddle with what appears to be a single oar. Looks from a distance as if they’re walking on water!
In the many car parks overlooking the sea, young men sit alone in their cars not doing anything in particular. Waiting. For what? For whom? A few couples stroll, hug and chat. Others, men predominantly, stand, watching the sea or strolling.
I head into Sao Pedro village when I reach a tunnel underneath the railtrack and follow a path on the other side of the track for a while, then the signs to Parede village. It’s busy with commuters, mothers taking kids home and teenagers hanging out.
A haze of smoke takes me to a street vendor busy selling roasted hazelnuts. Queues of people wait for buses to take them home after work. I recognise where I am and head to a souvenir shop close to Parede station passing a fusion Sushi bar. Sushi is common here. There’s a wonderful restaurant on Carcavelos beach. I guess the fish is plentiful and relatively cheap. How can I resist?