I am at the coastline of Foz do Arelho, a seaside town in the marvellous landscape of Caldas da Rainha. To the west of the village, you are invited to take your time, hunch over the wooden seaside pathway and watch the clear-green waves roll slowly against the shore, made of scaterred angular rocks, under valleys that gently fall down. Small pockets of sand appear here and there, only reached by fishermen that set their equipment up and watch the sea. This atmosphere of beautiful sights and quiet sounds really draws one into contemplation.
Here, at the end of the pathway, there is one last viewpoint over the cliffside. With a direct access to the main road, there are many visitors who stop by for a few minutes. I go up, leaving the sea behind and reaching a roundabout. One of the roads goes east, describing a big ramp down the hill, and I am guessing it passes over the upper part of the village. My plan is to go through the town, getting back to the spot I was at the start of this walk, some hours ago - the shore of Lagoa de Óbidos. And so I go down, walking on the available cycling path. There isn't much to see along the tar road, the surrounding landscape is formed of low hills and valleys, covered in dense undergrowth and tight clusters of trees. It's about 4 in the afternoon now, the sun still shines as warm as when I first arrived.
After a few hundred meters I reach an intersection, a new road that leads to the housing. There are ample houses, complete with a garden or a patio. The vegetation of the hills and the farmfields is very close, giving the town a peaceful, countryside feel. Walking the streets, passing by small stores and markets, the few people I find are at the cafe, walking home, or sitting under some shade. To go around a big green hill in the background of the habitation area, I start going right, eventually arriving at a square were many of the traditional events take place, Largo do Arraial. Although it is empty right now, it is a charming spot with a few trees, a bandstand, and enough room for a small market or gathering. In front of it sits a large gate to a mansion, the respectable rural cottage of Quinta da Foz.
The housing extends along the streets, climbing the land. A new intersecting road, a bit wider, sees much more movement than the ones I came from. This is Rua Francisco de Almeida Grandella, leading down to the seaside. On one side is a row of generous houses, their gardens ornate with plants that climb over the walls. On the other, a sidewalk with a row of small palmtrees. I move on, passing by a small stand where someone is selling fruits and vegetables, 'local product'. Further ahead, the road makes a turn, and the lagoon shows up just above it, in light blue. Behind the line of water, with faded colors due to the distance, it's the southern bank. A plane, towing a banner that I can't read, flies overhead.
Just before the curve, there is a checker of grass, a tiny park with paths, benches and fitness equipment. The air is very fresh here, by the green fields across the fence. The landscape has become much more rural. As I approach the final stretch of the avenue, already seeing the rows of camper vans and motorhomes parked ahead, it suddenly opens up in wide fields, and a strong breeze blows. Tall grass, shrubs, trees, and big plantations cover the entire land in front of the hill from before, a big plain that ends only by the lagoon shoreline dunes. I keep walking for a bit more, with the vast fields to my left and a lush hillside with cottages to my right. When the main road turns right towards Praia do Mar, I keep going ahead, passing the motorhome camp and ending my small journey at the Lagoa de Óbidos sandstrip.
Flags, windbreaks and beach umbrellas flap in the wind. The sand and the waters give off a summer afternoon light, the sun is still strong, and the crowd enjoys the beach. Bathers spread at the shore, enjoying the water or exploring the shallows. A few cafes and esplanades line up in the pathway along the sand, and there are plenty of kids, families and couples strolling by. The elderly meet under a tree, or by the pier ramp, talking and laughing loudly. It is crowded, but the beachside still seems to offer a warming and quiet ambiance to me. I take a sit and watch the scene, the last one of my long walk around the beautiful Foz do Arelho. The fishing boats are still here, swaying softly by the red buoys. A seagull hovers over the islets of the lagoon, while the tide slowly recedes.
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