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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the atmospheric dungeon there were lots of Roman remains on display.
On the next level up there were many more exhibits covering a variety of eras and items of interest.
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.
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.
Some of the rooms were furnished as they would have been in the time of Vasco Da Gama’s life.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It was so beautiful that we couldn’t stop clicking away with our cameras.
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).