Nazaré – fashion capital of Portugal

There is a long tradition of trend-setting in this central part of Portugal, and you are seeing the hottest fashions here now, just in time for the fall season.

This old fishing village on the Atlantic is famous for its women who wear skirts at a very saucy length with seven petticoats, which supposedly kept them warm over generations of waiting for the men to return with their fishing catch. To be totally au courant, one must accessorize with house slippers, an apron, a small woolen cape, head scarf and flamboyant jewelry of your choosing. The best part is that you can be wildly inventive with patterns – the more, the merrier. (Widows, of course, can stick to traditional black.)

It’s a style whose time may have come.

When the catch does come, the women are responsible for stretching and arranging the fish for sun drying on frames under bird-proof nets. Once ‘cooked,’ they are then sold by the same ladies. Atmospheric, but not too enticing…

Not far from the fish frames are volleyball and soccer nets, indicating the other life going on in Nazaré, now a modern beach resort. All the normal water toys abound, along with a big focus on surfing, as this is considered a major destination for the surfer crowd.

There is also an old marketplace, filled with produce, butchers, and fishmongers, though we caught it a bit too late in the day for the maximum activity.

Sitting high above the cliffs is the Sítio neighborhood, reached by funicular. The views from here are spectacular, especially on a glorious sunny day like today.

There is a lovely plaza at the center of Sítio, whose church contains the famous Black Madonna brought here by two fishermen in the 7th century from Nazareth, after which the town was named. It was hidden for centuries during the Muslim rule, and was rediscovered in the 12th century. The tiny chapel marks the spot where the Black Madonna hid for 400 years. It is covered with beautiful blue traditional tiles.

Our hotel room faces the ocean, so we expect to be lulled to sleep by the Atlantic tonight.

Don’s Food Corner

Yesterday we were near the sea. Today we are nearly in the sea. That meant trying the fresh catch of the day.  After making our way up to the Sítio area of Nazaré via the funicular, we passed the rear of a restaurant that had an outdoor grill filled with hot, glowing embers. Time for some grilled fish. Later when we walked around the square we could smell the smoke from other grills hanging over the entire area.

And, like yesterday, I ordered a whole grilled sea bream — today at $12 instead of yesterday’s $13. I guess there’s a handling charge for transporting the fish inland a little. Today the fish was grilled filleted and the head discreetly hidden under a lettuce leaf on the plate. Surprisingly, the fish was not dried out via this method. It was as succulent and sweet as yesterday’s method of grilling the fish whole. It was served with the usual plain boiled potatoes — not a whiff of butter or seasonings in sight. And there was a little salad, with the fish head hidden inside.

Jo went for some grilled fish as well – a huge piece of salmon steak. Nicely grilled with perhaps a drizzling of olive oil to get that great charred coloring.  She also got the boiled potatoes and salad, but without a fish head underneath.

I had a half bottle of “green wine.” It’s refreshing and light, not as sweet as rose. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in the U.S. but  I’ll have to look for it when we return.

All in all, a very good meal.

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