We had arrived in Sesimbra in Portugal at the dead of night so when we woke in the morning it was wonderful to discover that our parking spot had the most magnificent panoramic view of the Atlantic ocean.
Behind us we could see a lighthouse that was apparently built within the walls of a 17th century Fort.
We set off to explore the little town and on the way met three street cats that looked at us hopefully as we walked by. On the way back later we were glad to see a local man feeding them.
There were some nice looking yachts in the snug harbour and next door were scores of fishing boats. We were intrigued to see fishermen winding their long lines into barrels ready to be hooked and baited the following day.
As we walked passed we noticed fish split open and hung out to dry on the fence. In the little bay next door hundreds of seagulls and other seabirds waited on the sand poised for any opportunity to grab the parts of fish that the fisherman threw away.
A little further along we saw an enticing boardwalk snaking it’s way on to a beach. We followed the inviting path along around a headland on to a stunning sandy beach stretching all the way to the small town of Sesimbra in the distance.
As we came closer to town we could clearly see, right in the centre of the beachfront, the 17th Century Fort – Fortaleza de Santiago – constructed in response to attacks by the Spanish navy during the Restoration War (1640-68) and to defend this important fishing port from pirates.
The solid looking structure now houses the Sesimbra museum of the Sea but originally the interior area was divided into the Governor’s residence, the garrison barracks, cisterns, a warehouse and a chapel dedicated to Saint James.
We really enjoyed our visit to the museum which was stacked with interesting exhibits relating to fishing methods and boats. Some of the rooms were furnished to show how the Governor and his family lived and the tiny chapel of St James was still preserved and open for viewing.
The town itself consisted of a maze of small streets and passageways with lovely marisquera (seafood) restaurants displaying their freshly caught wares to entice the customers in.
We chose one with a view of the sea and between us shared a delicious freshly caught fish cooked over hot coals with all the trimmings.
One of the things we really loved about this town were the glorious Azulejo tiles on the exterior of many of the buildings. These beautiful glazed ceramic tiles made the buildings positively glow.
Traditionally, azulejos tended to have simple geometric patterns and be in blue and white, gold or green and this simple colour palette was in very much evidence in Sesimbra.
It had been a perfect day but Sesimbra wasn’t done with us yet! As we arrived back at the van we were treated to a most magnificent sunset.
What a great spot we had inadvertently picked to park at, especially as the following day we were treated to a glorious sunrise.
I think that’s the first time that I’ve viewed both the sunset and sunrise over the water from the same place. Surely there can’t be too many places in the world where you can do this? Shh it’s Sesimbra’s special secret!