Sagres: Day One

This morning there was a marine layer which burned off by 9:30. I walked through the sleepy village until I found a coffee place at 8:30. I ended up sharing a table with a German guy currently living in Switzerland. He surfs here and gave me some local eating recommendations. We talked a bit about the war in Ukraine and the European energy crisis. What he told me was incredible. One of his friends is an investment banker in Frankfurt. In the current year his annual energy bill is 3,000€. He asked me to guess what the new contract price is, effective October 1. I guessed double. It’s 18,000€! How will Europe avoid falling into a recession? And with the severing of Nordstream? Pretty grim thoughts over a cappuccino.

After dropping by at the hotel, I decided to walk to the Fortaleza de Sagres, built in the 15th century on a commanding promontory above one of the popular surfing beaches.

When I got back to the hotel I grabbed a quick bite and then headed back into town to rent a mountain bike to head up to Cabo de São Vicente, the most southwesterly point in Europe. On the ride up I was struck by how much the area resembles Todos Santos in Baja. Sagres is a little greener, all the roads are paved, and there’s no litter; otherwise there’s a strong similarity. Most of the tourists are from Europe, especially Germany and Holland, with a few Americans and English thrown in.

The cape was spectacular. It’s the beginning of the Atlantic coastline of Europe.

Back at the bike/surf shop I had a nice conversation with the owners, who opened the business in 1994. They’ve seen Sagres grow from a sleepy fishing village to a major surfing mecca. Sagres still retains that small town vibe, with a welcome lack of big hotels and over-commercialization.

On the ride back I noticed an interesting restaurant called Ferment, so I decided to check it out for dinner. It was about a kilometer from my place so I showed up just before they opened at 7:30. It was a bit chilly so I asked to be seated inside. The menu features small plates and was a far different selection than normally seen in Sagres. Shortly after I was seated, a young woman walked in and asked for a table. I thought I should ask her to sit at mine since the place was bound to get crowded when she suggested the same and I joined her for dinner. She was on her third trip to Sagres for the surf camp and was tired of the boring food at the camp so decided to go out for a real dinner. We shared four plates, including an excellent stuffed sardine, a pasta with mussels, a vegetable plate and a grilled octopus with a creamy sauce. It turns out that the restaurant is owned by four young Italians from Milan who serve tables and do the cooking. My dinner partner was a Dutch lawyer living in Lisbon. We had a great and far-ranging conversation over a three-hour dinner. Very Mediterranean! We exchanged numbers and hope to meet in Lisbon to go to her favorite karaoke bar, which should be most amusing.

On the walk back, the local bars were buzzing as they’d be in a SoCal surf town.

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