We’re finally emerging from the physical and mental cavern that is winter. In Portugal, winter is the rainy season. For two months, our whole world sits under a somber gray blanket of rain. Our sleep at night is disturbed by the pounding of water falling on the roof, sounding like it’ll crash through at any moment.
It’s nothing like where we came from; there’s no snow in Portugal except in one isolated area of highlands in the North, and the temperature never goes below the upper 40’s F/8-9 C. Still, winter is winter and it’s designed to be unpleasant.
Barbara detailed her experience a few weeks ago getting caught in a downpour when our friend Rita came to visit. We’ve been caught out a couple of times like that when it took only a minute or so to become completely drenched and no apparel short of a deep sea submarine could keep the water out.
This is a Mediterranean, that is semi-tropical, climate. There’s nothing but rain for two months a year and then the sun comes out for the remaining ten. Just in the past few days, the heavens have cleared and we return to the brightest sky we’ve known anywhere in the world.
We celebrated with the first opportunity we’ve had for an excursion. That’s courtesy of Max, a young man we met on the Americans in Portugal website who also happens to live here in Setúbal. He’s been in this country going on four years — came to wander around Europe for a few months and met a girl while passing through. Now he’s got a three-year old daughter, in-laws in Azeitão and a thriving chiropracty practice.
Max was horrified to learn we hadn’t spent more time outside of Setúbal exploring the surrounding countryside. He announced that he loves introducing visitors to his favorite places and invited us to come along with him for a drive along the coast the following Sunday.
He took us on the national road through the Arrábida Natural Forest to Cabo Espichel, right where the Sado River empties into the ocean. The view was spectacular. We stood over a cliff a good 4000 feet dropping straight down to the water. Like what seems everywhere in Portugal, the site is inhabited by a 17th century convent surrounded by conical chapels covered in tiles spread over the landscape. The city of Lisbon was laid out before us to the North, the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South. It was one of those days when the sky seemed to suck up all the colors of the universe as the imprisoning grayness fell away.
We took a different route back home, along the top of the Serra da Arrábida , stopping to overlook the Convento do Arrábida, and enjoy a breathtaking view of Troia nestled in the river. It’s no Rockies, but our ears popped on the way up.
Portugal is supposed to be a small country, about the size of Indiana in the USA. It didn’t feel like that at the Cabo. Rather, it felt like we could see the entire world from where we stood. Given that, Max’s comment was striking.
“This is nothing,” he proclaimed. “The whole country looks like this. This is just a drop in the bucket.” We’re looking forward to exploring the rest of the bucket.
Conversely, if there’s anything that can top the beauty of the landscape, it’s the warmth and generosity of the people. People like Max, a charming individual who chose to devote an entire Sunday to playing tour guide for a couple of yokels like us. We keep running into such people. Some of whom we’ve previously mentioned on this site, and a number of others overdue for citation.
Kinda makes a body humble.