In the footsteps of Vasco Da Gama

Our next port of call after delightful Sesimbra was Sines, birthplace and home of the renowned Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama, commander of the first European ships to reach India in the 15th Century.

Driving into Sines and our first sight of the castle

On the road from Sesimbra to Sines we were delighted to see – for the first time ever as far as we could remember – massive storks and loads of stork nests sitting high up on power poles or tall tree trunks. What an incredible sight!

A bit fuzzy but it was definitely a pair of storks in their massive nest
This one seemed to like perching on a solar panel
What a crazy nest!

Sines has been, for centuries, an important port – and it still is – in fact it’s the largest container port in Portugal. It is also a very interesting place to visit.

Looking over to the container port in the distance
Sines is also still an important fishing port

The Romans used Sines as a port and industrial centre and we were fascinated to see the remains of a Roman fish processing “factory“ and a ceramics kiln very close to the castle walls.

Looking across the beach to the castle and town beyond
The remains of a Roman fish processing factory
Another part of the Roman fish processing facility

The castle sits high on a hill with superb views across the bay and beyond. It was surprising to hear that Vasco Da Gama was born here and had actually lived in the castle as a boy. This was because his father was mayor of Sines at that time.

The castle in Sines where Vasco Da Gama was born

There was a fantastic museum in the castle keep – as we walked in the entrance we gained a real sense of how the fortress would have looked and felt all those hundreds of years ago.

The original fortress walls
The fortress buildings
The dungeons had many Roman artefacts on display

In the atmospheric dungeon there were lots of Roman remains on display.

The dungeons were very atmospheric
Some interesting original brickwork
Roman pillars
We loved the stone carvings

On the next level up there were many more exhibits covering a variety of eras and items of interest.

There were many interesting exhibits on the next floor up
….including this mock up of a shop

One of the highlights was the Treasure of Gaio, found in 1996 during an archeological dig 12 kilometres from Sines town. The treasure comprises a magnificent Phoenician-made necklace and earrings interred with a wealthy woman around the 3rd century BC. The jewellery is so beautiful and timeless that it would not look out of place if worn today on a special occasion.

This jewellery would not look out of place today

There was a lot else too look at including information on the growth of cork trees and the manufacture of cork for wine stoppers, flooring, bulletin boards, wall tiles etc. We found this very interesting as we had seen many cork trees on the road from Sesimbra and had wondered about how it was harvested and processed.

Cork trees on the road to Sines
An exhibit showing how cork is processed

Some of the rooms were furnished as they would have been in the time of Vasco Da Gama’s life.

A portrait of Vasco Da Gama
The ceilings were very ornate

After we had looked at the exhibits we took a winding staircase up to the top floor where we enjoyed fine views to the ocean and over the town.

Up the winding staircase
The view from the top of the keep
The outlook over Sines town
Canons guarding the castle
View of Sines from inside the fortress

One of the most enjoyable parts of the day was sitting down in a cafe for a pot of tea and our first ever taste of Portuguese custard tarts. I don’t normally have a sweet tooth but they were truly amazing!

Portuguese custard tarts are delicious!
We were very restrained and only had one each

We left Sines in the late afternoon and drove along the coast for about half an hour to the glorious fishing village of Porto Côvo. Apparently it is full of tourists in the summer season but we had this gorgeous spot to ourselves.

The village of Porto Côvo
There were lots of tiny white and blue cottages
The beaches at Porto Côvo were stunning

From the top of the spectacular craggy cliffs we witnessed the Atlantic rollers building and building and then crashing spectacularly as they came into contact with the rocky coastline.

The Atlantic rollers crashing onto the cliffs
It was a spectacular sight
Those rollers were captivating to watch

There were many long, narrow bays hidden in between the cliffs with gorgeous sandy beaches. As we strolled along – enthralled and thrilled by the noise and power of the pummeling waves smashing onto the land – we noticed that the sun was beginning to set.

There were many long narrow bays
The beaches inbetween the cliffs were minute
Such a fantastic coastline

It was so beautiful that we couldn’t stop clicking away with our cameras.

We couldn’t stop taking photos
It became even more beautiful as the sun set
Sooo beautiful!
Photos don’t do it justice
Nearly dark

Along the cliff top a little we found one very narrow inlet where hundreds of birds were roosting for the night. They made such a racket (if you want to hear them and witness the sunset click on the video below).

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “In the footsteps of Vasco Da Gama”

  1. Another fabulous place! As you said, it looks so atmospheric! It’s making me hanker after a visit to Portugal – haven’t been there for many years so thanks for flagging it up!

    Best love, Sarah xx


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