The former perched on top of a woody cliff and the latter being the ‘seaside’ half of the pairing. Lynmouth is built on the rocky banks of the East Lyn River which lazily trundles its way down the lushly wooded slopes of the Lyn Valley until it eventually reaches the silty waters of the Bristol Channel.
The towns are connected by an old funicular railway which, over the years, has doubtlessly helped take the weight off the feet of many a weary tourist who may have gently pottered down the leafy pathway from Lynton only to find themselves rather less than keen to tackle the uphill return leg!
Lynton and Lynmouth are idyllic locations to enjoy a relaxing Devonshire afternoon complete, no doubt, with a delicious cream tea taken whilst admiring all the beauty that abounds in this quaint corner of Blighty.
If you've ever visited this corner Devon, you might have already grasped why it was so tempting for me to draw parallels as I focus on Nazaré. Just like Lynmouth, Nazaré is the ‘seaside’ bit of an illustrious duo and is connected to its other half (Sitio) by a more modern version of a funicular railway. In both cases the lower towns are the main tourist traps offering the better choice of amenities.
On the more exposed ocean-facing extremities of Nazaré's cliffs there’s barely a tree or a shrub to be seen. Just a wall of sheer, bare rock. That’s down to the effects of being battered by almighty winter storms. Huge waves conspire to strip these ocean facing cliffs of soil and nutrients. They do nevertheless provide a striking backdrop to one of the most exquisite beaches you’ll ever set eyes on. A sweeping bay of pristine sands, glowing blue sea and clear cloudless skies.
I might briefly sound a bit risqué when I earnestly declare that Nazaré is home to some rather splendid womenfolk. Allow me to explain. You see, these ladies of Nazaré play a very important role in the cultural life of the town. Dressed in their traditional multi layered attire, they are as much part of the town as are the surrounding cliffs and awesome seascapes. These generally more mature ladies wear colourful hand-made skirts made up of seven layers. The layers are said to represent the seven days of the week, the seven colours of the rainbow, the seven waves of the sea and the seven wonders of the world.
Surprisingly, you'll notice that the ladies also wear thick woollen shawls over their shoulders. Quite a handy accessory when cool evening breezes sweep in off the open Atlantic. But on a hot Portuguese afternoon, it’s quite tempting to think that they might be somewhat too well wrapped up? Until, that is, one of those cool sea breezes makes an appearance. Then, local knowledge is clearly still key.
One of the benefits of visiting a town like Nazaré is the pleasure derived from learning a little about the local way of life. Culinary traditions can be explored by simply wandering around the town’s network of narrow streets as well as its expansive seafront. These places are home to many tascas, cafes, beach bars and restaurants - all of which provide a broad variety of tempting local treats.
Nazaré also boasts a very impressive municipal market, brimmed full of produce from all over Portugal. The market sells the freshest fruit and veg as well as locally produced meat and poultry. There's fresh fish, cheeses, magnificent olives, artisan bread, locally produced honey amidst a vast array of other delicious looking produce. This is the kind of fayre that embodies the very essence of Portuguese food culture, bringing together beautiful fresh ingredients which are expertly prepared using traditional methods. It gets no more authentic than this.
Like lots of other places around the Portuguese coast, Nazaré is well placed to offer some exceptional seafood including locally caught shellfish. That good old Portuguese favourite, the cataplana, seems to be a popular lunchtime favourite around Nazaré. They are nothing if not spectacular.
A good Nazaré cataplana is piled high with an impressive array of succulent king prawns, langoustine, clams and white fish fillets. It's all gently steamed together inside the cataplana vessel along with some buttery new potatoes, seasonal vegetables and the Chef’s own shellfish liquor. This Portuguese delight always provides a supreme wow-factor when it arrives steaming hot to the table. As the lid is finally removed from the iconic vessel, diners experience that “voila” moment. An experience complete only when a cork is removed from a beautifully chilled bottle of fine vinho branco. Bon appetit meus amigos.
Before contemplating a chilled out Nazaré evening, it's an absolute must to hop aboard the funicular railway and head up to historic Sitio which resides above the aforementioned cliffs.
Sitio must surely provide one of the most iconic views in all of Portugal. The clifftop path looks as though it's hanging in mid air as it teeters precariously over the crags below. From this amazing vantage point, you'll see the whole of Praia de Nazaré’s golden sands extend all the way to Porto da Nazaré on the south side. See the hustle and bustle of the busy promenade as well as all the red tiled roofs sprawling below. They look quite distant from this bird's eye vantage point but they’re only a few hundred meters away.
Farol de Nazaré (the famous lighthouse) is only a short walk away from these splendid views of the town below or the historic center of Sitio. The lighthouse is a favourite viewing area where so many have photographed the world famous waves of Praia de Norte. These powerful eighty foot giants are, of course, a renowned prime attraction for big wave surfers. Brave souls who choose to risk life and limb to conquer these gigantic freaks of nature.
But a far more genteel pursuit awaits me as I watch the amber sun slowly setting on yet another perfect day in Portugal. Whilst strolling back towards the funicular railway, I continue to admire the unparalleled views of Nazaré and far beyond.
I’m frequently amused by the odd solitary seagull who perch on the edge of the overhanging rocky outcrops, gazing thoughtfully out to sea. They are perhaps sentinels, guardians of this majestic realm, presiding on-high over all the awe inspiring views that extend out as far as the eye can see. They certainly seem to be just as appreciative as are any of us mere visitors.
As the sun finally sinks below the glowing horizon, the bright lights of Nazaré will soon begin to flicker and twinkle into life along with the distinct buzz of nocturnal life. No doubt, this fascinating and beautiful town will have a few more treats up its sleeve before the day is done. Time for a quick shower and perhaps a change of clothing before venturing out once more to discover what delights a Nazaré night might have in store.