It is the beginning of September and an intense midday sun covers everything. It makes the atmosphere feel full of light, colours vibrate vividly, and brings a strong heat that is only so often disguised by the wind. I am sitting on a small wall by the pier, near a man with a wide hat and rubber boots, leaned against the wall with his legs stretching in the sand. Ahead of us is the beautiful and immense Lagoa de Óbidos. It spreads over several kilometers, from the softly-pointed hills, smoothed by the distance, to the big dunes that form the beach at its western edge, where it meets the sea.
The village north of here, on a downward slope toward the shore, is Foz do Arelho, one of the most popular of the Caldas da Rainha region. It is as much an inland as it is a seaside village, spreading over hills and valleys until it reaches the lagoon and the sea. Here, in the lagoon, the water is looking like a blue mirror, reflecting the sunshine in millions of bright shrapnel. The waves move silently, pushed by the wind in slow, geometric ripples. The shoreline in front of me is very thin because of the cement pier, but beyond this spot, it widens and stretches considerably on both sides, to the inviting beaches that make this region so popular.
The pier sits in front of a large area with parking lots and a motorhome park. With a quick look you can take a guess at the number of the people visiting the area, a few hundreds for sure. The parks are very close to the sandstrip, and this is where people gather the most, eventually scattering as the beach describes a gentle curve toward the inner part of the lagoon and the village of Nadadouro. Little fishermen boats float by, among red buoys, close to shore. In the water, people can walk a hundred meters away, crossing the shallows that appear a little bit everywhere.
There are plenty of spots where the sand rises to the surface, and toward the center of the lagoon you can see true islands, with traces of low vegetation growing atop the sand. From where I stand, these islets seem to appear and extend throughout the entire area of the lagoon. They are visited by only a few, who reach them by boat or using an inflatable. On the opposite bank, across the islets and the waters, the scenery is shaped by a green hillside populated with housing, the region of Vau, ending on another sandstrip that also spans kilometers. The hills follow the shoreline, ending abruptly on a cliff, sitting tall above the sand.
A sailor arrives at the pier in his motorboat, interrupting my gaze, troubling the waters for a moment. Reaching the access ramp, he quickly secures it with a rope, then leaves it for just enough time to get his van, parked nearby. The waters return to their quietness as the sailor tugs the small motorboat away. I leave the pier aswell, going toward the right, to the beach full of the vivid colours of beach umbrellas and windbreaks shaking in the wind. Under the green flags, the sound of a lively beach crowd enjoying the sunny day echoes loudly.
The parking area under a few trees gives way to the wider sandstrip of Praia do Mar, also called Praia da Foz do Arelho because of the village so near. A thin walkway leads the visitors through the sand to a small bar, heavily ornamented with plants, and to a beach restaurant with an elevated esplanade. The beach then forms a wide, continuous stripe of sand, up to a wall of a few hundred meters, that protect this part of the sandstrip from the changing currents. Beyond that point, the meeting of the lagoon with the sea makes the land change in unpredictable shapes. At the moment, the waters have receded and the near landscape is a huge plain, speckled with hundreds, thousands of people, enjoying their time in the dunes and the shallows.
As for me, this is just the beginning of my walk around this beautiful landscape. I will continue to describe my exploring in a future story on the coastline of Foz do Arelho, so I will see you soon! Meanwhile, don't miss out on this fantastic place if you have the chance!
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