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Beyond the seafog: unveiling Nazaré’s low key Charm

I was sorting out some photos to submit for another project and found these shots from our Portuguese travels last year. Nazare, about 120km north of Lisbon, is well-known in the surf community for its large swells and that was the main reason we visited. I’d already picked out a headland from which I could photograph these huge waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean.

However, as we approached the coast in the mid-afternoon we were enveloped in a thick, heavy, wet sea fog. (It was definitely more than a mist!). Apparently this is a frequent occurrence, but visibility was very poor and besides all that, the waves were small and choppy. Even the next morning the fog clung stubbornly to the coast making it seem difficult to breathe and dulling the noises of everyday life.

So I had to restrict myself to photographing life on the beach, which went on regardless of the fog.

As it turned out, there was plenty of interest as there was an open-air museum of old fishing boats and the unusual vertical racks used to dry the fish they caught. They still use this same approach today, with a display of the somewhat smelly fish clinging to the racks lining the edge of the beach.

I was intrigued by one elderly woman, dressed all in black, who accosted a passerby and did her best to sell her some of the smelly fish. The young woman asked how much one piece would be and before she could blink, it was weighed, wrapped and presented to her along with an outstretched hand. After her refusal, came a tide of what I can only imagine were Portuguese expletives, curses and general ill wishes. The young woman scampered away as the black-clad fishwife subsided to her seat waiting for more potential buyers. I never worked out if this was part of the theatre of the open-air museum or just a pushy saleswoman.

Our visit was completed by finding a parking ticket on our windscreen, which necessitated a visit to the local police station to pay the fine!! That in itself was an experience. We sat in front of a genial, overweight policeman who was endlessly apologetic about having to fine us. It took about an hour to write out all the paperwork, actually hand over the money and get a handwritten receipt as he kept having to answer the two-way radio and respond to requests from the steady stream of uniformed police who passed through the office. Eventually we escaped, thinking ourselves lucky it only cost a relatively small amount of euros and some time.

And yes, I’d still return to Nazare. But perhaps check the weather forecast first and always keep a watch out for fishwives clothed in sinister black.

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