Bom dia! Good day! Learn some Portuguese with me, praia means beach, the plural -s is pronounced sh. I want to tell you about the ones belonging to Ferragudo, a village in the Algarve, the southern region of Portugal, situated opposite Portimão, one of the bigger tourist centres west of Faro (where the international airport is).
Our hotel is at the outskirts of Ferragudo (I don’t know if a village can have outskirts) up on the elevated coastline. We walk down through the garden to a big beach ending in front of a high cliff just there. On the first day we climb up some steps hewn into the cliff and follow a path through the scratchy macchia, bushes and low trees, (although Portugal is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the flora is Mediterranean), every now and then we come to a vista point from where we can see the whole coastline, after about half an hour we descend towards a small bay with a restaurant, just right for a refreshment. But after sitting there for some time watching the beach life we feel we can as well have lunch there, sardines, what else? We get eight fat sardines for 7, 50 €, we can’t complain.
Between the big bay and this one there are several smaller ones that can only be reached when the tide is low, we discover them later and a family having a picnic on one of them, they’ve come by boat and stay on the sand as long as the tide is out.
The big bay is the one we walk along regularly during the following days, we turn to the right where the path down from our hotel meets the beach, it’s more then one kilometre long and about 100 m wide with additional 50 m at low tide, there are three establishments where one can rent an umbrella and a sun bed (5, 50 € for half a day), there are no showers on the beach, though, if you want to take a shower, you have to walk up the stairs to the right of the restaurant Praia Grande, you can find showers and (clean) toilets there, both free of charge. Three other, smaller restaurants are situated at the back of the beach under the cliffs.
We see mainly Portuguese people, foreign tourists either stay in their hotel compounds at the swimming-pools or swim in the sea and then walk back to their hotels or hire a car and explore the hinterland. We already studied the Portuguese during two stays in Lisbon and found them the quietest and best behaved of all Romanic peoples. The same number of Neapolitans on a beach and your ears would hurt! The beach is rather clean, every 50 m there’s a bin and every morning some men collect the rubbish and rake the sand.
At about three quarters along the beach in the direction of the village Ferragudo stands a small fortress, not used for anything, pity really, it looks especially nice in the setting sun when its colour is a warm umbra. One can only walk around it when the tide is low, when it’s high, one has to walk up the stairs at the restaurant Praia Grande and then along the street, shortly before the village begins one can get down to the beach again.
Why should there be a fortress on the beach? Why should there even be two fortresses? Right opposite the water stands its partner; now we come to the peculiarity of the beach of Ferragudo, it doesn’t face the open Atlantic, it’s the bank of the mouth of the river Arade, a wide mouth of about 500 m looking like a long bay stretching inland from the sea. The two fortresses used to protect the mouth and the incoming ships going up the river to the town of Sagres.
On the bank opposite Ferragudo is Portimão, an ugly seaside resort with a skyline of high rising buildings. Only in the evenings it doesn’t insult the eyes when the lights go on and at night it can even look rather nice. It has a very large beach and also a big marina for yachts and a fleet of fishing boats, I love boats and ships so this sight pleases me. Of course it must be said that boats mean engines and engines mean oil and petrol in the water, yet the beaches in the area have got the Blue Flag from the EU which is rewarded for clean water. How’s that possible? The people we asked about this pointed out that the tides and the water coming down the river from the hinterland moved the water constantly around and cleaned it in this way.
Talking to the locals is a good thing, but we had a conversation which we’d rather have done without. A man said that tourists sometimes maintained that the water was not clean because they saw dead fish swimming in the water, the reason for that was, however, that the fishermen cleaned their catch returning from a night of fishing and threw the fish they didn’t want to keep overboard. I deffo dislike encountering dead fish when swimming, no matter why they’re in the water! Fortunately the fish I saw when I went swimming the fist time was alive and kicking, in fact it jumped out of the water, maybe it was happy to see me! (Later I saw two dead fish lying on the beach washed ashore by the tide)
We walk up the beach now and into Ferragudo proper, despite many new houses, too many according to a taxi-driver who showed us that the architects hadn’t shied away from building apartment blocks on either site of the cemetery, the village has kept the charm of a small fishing village. All big purchases can be made across the bridge in Portimão, so it caters only for the basic need, all in all there aren‘t more than a dozen shops. The central square has four bars and one restaurant with tables outside, along the waterfront there are three more all offering mainly fish dishes.
I’d recommend visiting the small church on the top of the hill, when we entered, classical music started playing, not religious one, rather unusual. Have a look at the statue of Mary and baby Jesus in a niche in the wall outside, it’s primitive art and looks quite funny. Strangely, Baden-Powell has got a memorial in front of a church, an iron anchor, can’t interpret this.
We walk back on the beach to our hotel discussing the pros and cons of Ferragudo and its beach and come to the conclusion that we like the place, my husband despite the many boats, I because of them.