Eurotrip Day 44: Life’s A Beach

Didn’t study the train timetable the night before, so woke up and realised the next service to Figueria da Foz, a nearby beach town, was only 2 hours later. Climbed the hill to the university again and this time, found the main university square, and wandered around for a bit, seeing some lecture theatres (pleasantly retro) and then descending through the ancient maze of streets.

About this ancient maze of streets – they’re pretty dirty, but really atmospheric. This part of town was cobblestoned and hilly, and the streets just made no sense on a map. Some houses looked like college fraternity houses, with party banners and assorted cool stuff hanging outside, and others were simply student flats I guess. The walls were all vandalised with graffiti, and though I don’t understand Portuguese, some of it looked pretty fascinating though not of top street art quality like those I’ve sometimes seen besides the railroads in Spain.

Figueria da Foz was the WIDEST beach I’ve ever seen in my life. On one side was the town, and then on the other was the Atlantic Ocean, and separating them was what almost looked like a desert. Really. There were boardwalks leading from the esplanade to the beach, and these were very long, but even they only led to halfway down the beach, and to cover the remaining distance, you'd have to trek across a long stretch of sand to finally get to the water. I couldn’t believe how a beach could have so much sand. And it didn’t matter whether it was high or low tide (I was there from 2pm to 10pm) – there’s still a huge lot of sand.

The thing about beach resorts that puzzles me is, why are they always so similar? The presence of a good beach always seems to inspire condominium towers and overpriced seafood restaurants. Figueria da Foz was no different; a generic beach town with a casino, hotels and holiday apartments. No soul except for tourism.

You can’t deny the appeal of the beach though. Had a nice time there just soaking up the warmth of the sun and walked up and down the entire length of this huge beach. Then struggled internally for a bit to decide whether I should catch the 8pm or 10pm train back to Coimbra – if it was the former, I’d miss the sunset and the latter, a little too late and cold after the sun has set. Oh, the decisions you have to make while on holiday! In the end I settled for the last train back at half past ten.

My first time seeing the sun set onto a perfectly straight horizon. There were no large cargo ships, tall buildings, islands in the distance or a visible faraway land to block the view. The horizon was completely flat. Went into one of those overpriced restaurants and ordered the cheapest item on the menu, a 4-euro meal which turned out to be a terrible version of a chicken chop. Sat facing the sea and watched as the sun set, its red ball of light easing into the waters beneath. Beautiful, but not breathtaking. The sky did not turn pink or become swathed in layers of crimson and orange, or whatever writers use to describe sunsets. But there was a perfect gradient of blue from to orange where the sun had just gone down. It grew gradually darker, and very soon, it was pitch black.

Walked out of the restaurant, bracing the cold, and looked up into the sky. Stars blinked overhead. Strolled onto the boardwalk towards the sea and felt as though I was entering a magical world. As I got further and further away from the bright lights of the restaurants on the promenade, the stars seemed to shine brighter than ever, and more of them became visible, stretching on and on in the clear dark sky. Enchanting. My imagination raced and for a while I felt as though I was in a magical land of wizards and witches, of fantasies and dreams.