Click on the tabs below to read a different account of the same experience told from His and Her points of view.

  • WE FOLLOWED the road signs to Arrábida up the hills on a pleasant coastal road, green hills rolling down to the Atlantic. At length, we made a turn to Portinho da Arrábida, a beach famous for its calm and warm waters. The road descended to a cove with a strip of gleaming sand already peppered with people. Parking was terrible and I knew it would be a bad idea to take Kogi in the middle of those people. We continued along the coastline, going past beaches of fine white sand and clear water, with lush green hills rising behind them, painting scenes that reminded me of Croatia. There seemed to be no place where we could safely be with the dog.

    At Galápos, we immediately found a parking space. Natalie was confident we would be able to fit in at the far end of the beach, where it appeared to be less crowded. I felt this was a terrible choice – I know the kind of dog I have -, but I also know my girlfriend and she would be disappointed if we had to double back around Setúbal and drive further South for more than one hour to reach the long stretches of beach at Comporta. Thus, armed with a sports bag, daypack containing sandwiches and water, a beach umbrella, wind breaker and all sorts of beach paraphernalia, we made our way to the far end of the beach. Kogi was pulling hard, getting excited by all the smells and noises: dozens of beach towels to bite on, bags oozing with snacks, kids shouting and balls being tossed around.

    galapos

    We settled in under the shade of a tree. A woman started to assemble her beach umbrella nearby but after a few glances at Kogi changed her mind. A middle-aged couple mumbled between their teeth the minute they saw us arrive with the dog. The man had a big fat belly brown from the sun and a greying mustache and the way he was lying down with his elbows buried on the towel indicated that this was very much his beach. Kogi was getting restless. There was a nervous energy in his muscles, overly excited with all the stimuli; he didn’t understand, but this energy building up inside him was telling him run boy, run… If only I would cut him loose. I took him to play in the water to distract him. As soon as I let him off the leash he dashed off sprinting around in circles, as he usually does when the energy inside him is too much for him to take. The couple blared that dogs were not allowed on the beach and, before either one of us could stop him, Kogi was all over their towels and things. The man exploded, the woman screaming, threatening to call the coast guard. I told him to calm down while I tried to grab the dog and put the leash back on. Now I was the one feeling a nervous energy building up inside. I wanted to land a nice one on his fat lip, right under that ridiculous greying mustache which made him look like a bloated taxi driver — The Umpire of the unwritten rules of beach etiquette of Galápos.

    After that standoff, we relocated about fifty or so meters down the beach. By the time I sat down, Kogi had managed to get sand all over me. Natalie went for a swim while I kept Kogi on the leash. Speedboats zapped across the estuary, cutting through the blue steel of the water. Green ferryboats dragged on slowly from Setúbal towards Tróia. Behind them, on the northern bank of the river Sado, tall chimneys from a power plant and a paper factory and naval dockyards where massive cargo ships were being repaired and serviced provided a stark contrast to the idyllic beaches of fine white sand in the Tróia peninsula. There is something powerful in that name, Tróia, or Troy; it has an appeal and a magical resonance to it, as if it’s a place far removed from reality. Even though the old hotels had been demolished to give way to a more modern hotel and marina, it made me think of Homens da Segurança with Nicolau Breyner, the Portuguese TV show from the late 80s. On the other end of the beach, close to the parking lot, there were two massive speakers set up on poles so high they could be spotted from Tróia; a large stage had been assembled beneath. A boy rehearsed several back somersaults from the edge of the sand to the surf. There was a cacophony in the air of people shouting, laugher and kids screaming. A group of teenagers, boys and girls, strolled down the beach and stopped to take snapshots of themselves with a selfie-stick. Twenty years ago these boys would have been climbing cliffs and plunging headfirst into the water to impress the girls. Now they don’t take chances anymore — they simply post photos online that have the fake promise of cool about them.

    troia

    The rest of the afternoon was spent taking turns entertaining  Kogi. It was around 6 o’clock, the sun still high in the sky, when we left to search for hiking trails. The road went under a thick oak forest and suddenly a grey mammoth of a building rose high into the sky as a grey ghost — it was a cement factory. At the top the oaks gave way to shrubs. We ran into an old abandoned military base. The guardhouse was scribbled with tags. Inside the buildings were in ruins and graffiti had been sprayed all over the walls. A wall of large stone slabs seemed to indicate that a fort of some sort had once stood there. The base had been part of the now deactivated coastal artillery regiment. Outside, facing the Atlantic and the estuary, with a splendid view over the Tróia peninsula and Setúbal on the other bank, were three Vicker coastal guns. The metal turrets were covered in graffiti. Prior to 1998, every morning soldiers rallied in military formation in the yard after a bugle call for the raising of the flag ceremony. Afterwards, they went out wearing white shorts and t-shirts to exercise out in the trails of Arrábida. During the day they would amble around the base, pretending to clean their weapons or talking about girls and smoking cigarettes. And from time to time, they would have target practice and get to fire live rounds at an old barge being towed by another vessel with the very same Vicker guns that are now rotting under the sun — this was the most action they would see in their military careers.

    bataria

    Back in the car, the road descended spectacularly with a view of lush green hills rising and falling all the way to the edge of the water. We drove past the convent. The old spires forming a line on the crest of a hill and the new convent perched on a steep slope overlooking Tróia and the Atlantic. The sun started to descend in the sky and we both felt like having a beer. We headed for Sesimbra, a town famous for its fish. Cobbled alleyways formed an intricate maze that extended downhill all the way to California beach. The smell of grilled fish and salt water gave the town an even stronger holiday vibe. Cafes and bars and holiday rentals made up the first line of buildings at the seafront on California beach. We grabbed a beer and then had a nice dinner of grilled fish. Exhausted, we walked barefoot on the cold sand under the moonlight before heading back home.

  • HOT AND CLEAR SKY, perfect combination for our trip to Arrábida. We hit the road by 11:30, after a speedy overview of the beach gear, picnic prep and Kogi’s toys and food. It was a Saturday morning, there we were finally on the road getting in the holiday mood with an air of anticipation. My mind went wondering towards those sandy stretches but suddenly came back to reality with Kogi’s breath fanning my ear. As I opened the window to allow fresh air to blow in my face, there we were. It was the same feeling of when I’m close to landing in Palermo. I saw the sea and smelt it, the salinity in the air captured me and brought me back home. I had to really stretch-out to see it, distracted by the evergreen wild hills which summarised the mood of the day. Poor Kogi, restrained by his leash, at Praia de Galápos. We finally found a relatively secluded area where we could let him run about. Of course this is how we thought it would’ve been. Once freed, in two seconds flat, he had run on top of all the towels he could find on the beach and I could see all those bathers from close to far standing in ovation. I would’ve loved to see them start laughing about having been swooshed by a sudden typhoon. Thanks God, a lady wearing a light blue bikini stood up and stopped the turmoil. Apparently, she had had 11 dogs in her life, and acted as the entertainer of the beach. I also saw her help out a couple to squeeze out their towel, cleaning the beach from little bottles and sticks to bring to Kogi, holding a child’s hand while attempting to get out of the pebbly sea shore and definitely saved us from a fine and a crowd of angry lobster-colour people.

    vista

    That was it, for the rest of the day we took turns in holding Kogi on a leash. We made up all sort of games for him to keep him entertained till our joints couldn’t take any longer. All around us was a forest of pine trees which well hid this beautiful bay and on the far western side there was a well equipped beach with a restaurant, cafè and a stage in construction – there would’ve been a festival in the evening on the beach. As we left, the beach turned back into it’s idyllic mood, where typhoons or any other natural threat wasn’t allowed, because it was now populated. A destination of complete relaxation for couples and topless ladies. Far from Robert Southey’s imagery (1774–1843).

    At a relieved easy paced we followed the signs to Arrábida. We stopped right in front of a gate that allowed enough space to leave the car, while we set out for our trekking around the natural park which surprisingly hosts a cement factory at its feet. Once again I was astounded by what we’d found. There was a fortress right in front of us, a Moorish looking castle in a perfectly polished white stone. We soon discovered it to be a closed down Coastal Artillery Regiment – “7a Bataria”. We shot some amazing pics there with Kogi highjacking our pics.

    These now useless weapons had lost their threatening status because of the stunning wild nature and view he had all around us. Rui read my mind -as usual- and imagined a lost in-the-wild elite B&B. This graffiti covered artillery resembled Bordalo II’s masterpieces, which our imagination turned them into huts with small windows open towards the ocean and the nearby Tróia. I’ll never forget that place. Ruins, clutter, burnt rubber, gave a meaning to that place, where nature defeated human’s destructive nature.

    Our primordial needs led us back to reality with the need for refreshments and precisely two cold beers.

    We got back in the car and drove in the direction of Sesimbra. At one point it got really hard to take in all that beauty around us, and Kogi by then was no distraction as he’d crushed out in the back seat with his tongue sticking out because of the heat.  It was time for romance and loving exchanges between us while taking in those stunning  images coming before our eyes. We stopped to fully admire the mystic and soothing atmosphere. Just like the Nativity Scene with the crib Being the valley itself. Cradling the old and new convent of Arrábida surrounded by 7 meditative flat conic towers each one well distanced from the other.

    convento

    The fresh taste of a beer and crisps distracted me once again from that pensive state of mind.

    We soon reached Sesimbra, a very pretty holiday beach place. Well equipped beaches that recall the ones seen in California, in fact the Praia took its name from there.

    We aimed for a pub/cafè which had tables outside and preferably placed on the promenade, so that Kogi would enjoy staying with us. We found that as well! But not only that, we sat at the casually  friendly looking Onda Bar Restaurant and were welcomed by Rodrigo – the waiter. The restaurant was already full, still the delicious fresh octopus salad, barbecued squid and peixe espada preto – a local delicacy, were all served in 10 mins. We paired our meal with vinho verde “Muralhas”. As I looked at the long train of tiny, rising bubbles, I thought to myself, “this simply crowns the flavour and aromas of the day.”