Setúbal region

A totally chance and serendipitous encounter with an Uber driver in Lisbon led me to contact him again to hear his suggestions for excursion ideas, with him as tour guide/driver. Tiago’s very first suggestion was Sintra, but as we were already going there on Sunday, I asked him for other ideas, preferably those off the usual tourist map. He quickly responded with the Parque Natural da Arrábida and Setúbal region, and proposed a rough itinerary of Azeitão, Setúbal, Sesimbra, and Cabo Espichel. The plan appealed to me as I was keen to see places farther afield of Lisbon and different geographies. Since Scott had to work on Monday, it was just Tiago, myself, and Erich (Scott’s friend who lives in London, who hopped over to hang out with us for a few days).

Península de Setúbal

This map shows Cabo Espichel

We crossed the Tagus over the Ponte 25 Abril (the suspension bridge that makes everyone draw associations between Lisbon and San Francisco) to get to the Península Setúbal, stopping in the town of Azeitão first, to tour the Jose Maria de Fonseca winery, the oldest table wine company in Portugal. Tiago insisted we have some tortas de Azeitão beforehand, making me regret eating a few pasteis de nata for breakfast already.

Tortas de Azeitão. More flour/sugar/eggy/canela combinations

Mahogany barrels on the sides, oak barrels down the middle

Notice the heavy cobwebs. The spiders are actually welcome, to help control the bugs that would otherwise eat at the barrels.

Setúbal is actually an active port and fishing town.

A HAND-le (haha). A typical door handle in Setúbal.

Lunch in Setúbal was a large affair. The town is particularly famous for its choco frito (fried cuttlefish).

Almoço begins…

I had never seen cuttlefish so meaty and fat before. It was delicious.

Look at how FAT those cuttlefish are.

Delicious sardines to wash the cuttlefish down…

After lunch, we made our way towards the beach town of Sesimbra, with a few stops along the way.

Interestingly, the name Sesimbra is of Celtic origin (Cempsibriga). Tiago thinks Sesimbra is actually nicer than the Algarve, although less well known, even amongst the Portuguese.

View of the beach in Sesimbra from afar.

Sesimbra is pretty much your typical, local beach town. It was nice to see it untouched by foreign tourists.

Another view of Sesimbra.

We drove up to see another Moorish castle and the church Nossa Senhora do Castelo, before making our way to the final stop of the day, Cabo Espichel. The chilly, windswept plateau with its deserted church and structures and dark cliffs was quite the contrast to Sesimbra.

These used to be rooms for pilgrims

You can see the different strata in the rock

All in all, it was a long and enjoyable day seeing places not usually visited by tourists. I also got one long Portuguese language lesson out of it from Tiago, who was incredibly patient and took the time to speak slowly and correct me. He said it made him so happy that I was making the effort to learn and speak Portuguese. That kind of response is great motivation to continue to speak and learn a language that isn’t the most common/popular (okay, excluding the 208 million people in Brazil. Brazilian Portuguese sounds pretty different too).