Sightseeing in Sesimbra

Last year, our visit to Portugal was specifically intended to help us figure out if we would want to move to Portugal, so we didn’t do much sightseeing. We checked out prices at the grocery and other stores, wandered throughout Lisbon just to get a vibe of the place, visited Cascais as a possible nesting place, and hired a couple of people to help us with the move.

Since it doesn’t appear that they do as much house shopping on the weekends as we do in the US (and apparently they don’t do open houses at all), during our house-hunting phase we will experience what it’s like to do something different on a weekend again. One of the main things we’ve learned about being retired is that you often have no idea what day it is, nor is there any reason to care. Now we’ll have to a little bit.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-1-02-37-pmYou’ve probably never heard of Sesimbra (pronounced SezzEEmbra, with a rolling ‘r’). It’s a seaside town of about 50,000 people, certainly a lot more than that on weekends or during the holidays or summer. It’s a popular destination for many Lisbions (okay, I know that’s not the official word, but I like it) as a holiday spot. It’s only about 30 minutes south of Lisbon, although it doesn’t look that way on a map. But in fact, Cascais is also 30 minutes away from the center of Lisbon; it just doesn’t seem as far away as Sesimbra because the metropolis sprawls from Lisbon through and past Cascais without interruption.

To get to Sesimbra, you have to go over the 27th largest suspension bridge in the world, called Ponte 25 de Abril, or the 25th of April Bridge. We’ve noticed that the Portuguese name their streets not only after a lot of people, but also they use dates. The 25th of April moniker commemorates the Carnation Revolution, which is very similar to the War of the Roses. Or maybe it was just over spilt milk. Okay, it really was when a military coup overthrew the regime of Estado Novo, which was a fascist regime described in Wikipedia as: Opposed to communism, socialism, anarchism, liberalism and anti-colonialism, the regime was corporatist, conservative, and nationalist in nature… If that sounds in any way familiar to some of today’s politics, congratulations, you’re paying attention!

Anyway, standing guard over the bridge is a Christ the King statue, which was modeled after the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

img_3513After a 20 minute drive through a sparse forest, you reach the outskirts of Sesimbra. Outside of town and up on the highest point is Castelo de Sesimbra, also known as Castelo dos Mouros. It’s a sleepy little national monument, but it reminded us of all the castles we saw while in Ireland and England last year. We like castles.

Once again, the below pictures illustrate Portugal’s laissez-faire attitude toward safety. The stairs and ledges pictured are open for all to walk upon, but they don’t bother with adding railings or the like. I kind of like that approach; it only helps to thin the herd. Of course, it was only about a 20-foot drop, so maybe it only thins the herd by breaking limbs, making it easier for the lions to catch them. We just need more lions.

There is a small church on the grounds. Inside the church is covered with Portuguese tile, which is beautiful and seems very durable.

A dolphin and a mermaid stand guard at the entrance of the church, one symbolizing the beauty of nature and the other about the importance of keeping abreast of the news. I’m not sure which is which. Although I believe the mermaid’s name was Sesim. Someone hid a piece of her clothing near the beach, which is how the town got its name.

As you might imagine, standing on top of the tallest hill in the area affords some spectacular views. And when it comes to looking at Sesimbra, it can be nothing but spectacular; it’s a beautiful town. It reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of seaside towns in Greece.

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After driving into town and navigating through a labyrinth of narrow one-way streets, we enjoyed a nice stroll along the beachfront. It was a comparatively balmy 60 degrees (vs. the low 40’s in our homeland). The forecast calls for pretty much nothing but 60 degree weather for the next week or two. We can get used to that in January.

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The beachfront is bordered by lots of little shops and restaurants. Being the estupido Americans that we are, we ordered hamburgers. However, there wasn’t much in the way of identifiable Portuguese cuisine in their other offerings, and we were hungry, so there you go. But the funny thing was it appears that the Portuguese misunderstood the word hamburger when they came up with their version (although I have to admit it actually makes more sense). They put ham on the burger. Maybe it’s the Americans who took the ham away, although that’s hard to imagine since we’re so good at dumping food on top of food on top of more food. But it may also be because we were told Portuguese beef isn’t the greatest. Indeed, the hamburger meat itself was rather bland. Oh well; Carolyn and I don’t eat much beef anyway.

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After walking around town a bit and checking out property values, there’s a chance we could end up landing in Sesimbra. It’s a laid back, friendly town, with spectacular views of the Atlantic almost no matter where you go. This is the view of Morocco from the beach. Okay, you can’t actually see it, but that’s what you’d run into if you started paddling.

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We have to research further as to the pros and cons of living in a town that is heavily touristed. It also looks like there are few expats who move here, which is no problem for us. We’d just as soon get cozy with Portuguese people, who thus far have been very friendly and helpful. Our experience is that many Portuguese say they speak very little English when asked, but then when they speak it anyway, they’re completely understandable and reasonably fluent. I like that basic humility about them.

And so, the sun set on an absolutely delightful day, leaving us dreaming of living in a place where we can enjoy this kind of scenery day after day. Not a bad location to retire to, wouldn’t you say?

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