Day 19

Sun 5 Sep 2010 14:44
Sun Sept 5
The portuguese coast has two characteristics of interest to the sailor in the summer months.  first, a northerly trade wind speeds the southbound vessel on her way, especially after mid-day till sunset when force 6 to 7 winds can set in. secondly a southbound current touching on .5-1knot.  we had the benefit of both the first day of passage but precious little of either yesterday.  as a result and after 36 hrs of diesel assisted passage we were up for a rest today.  for three of us this meant heading into lisbon's most famous custard pie retailer on a mission to beat the prevailing record of consuming 9 in one sitting.  we'll see with what outcome.  from the fourth member, there follow a few anecdotes on the enchanting town of cascais.
cascais lies at the mouth of the river tagus (rio tejo).  it's wonderful railway into lisbon's heart provides a commute and allows it to be a suburb of the capital. 
while on the subject of railways one word of warning.  portuguese railways may let you on without a ticket but they don't let you off.  this carries the risk of an eternity in railway limbo till the great sweeper ends the process and presumably the authorities finally relent in a deviation of policy.  let's not discuss how i came by this particular nugget.
anyway the first joy on arriving at cascais is a most wonderful marina, no doubt built with eu funds.  stone and marble adorn the inner infrastructure and a massive mole provides protection from the elements.  the marina is embedded into cascais' ancient fortress, and beyond, the old city runs wild through turning and twisting alleys all made of cobbled stones.  the old sits comfortably beside the new bringing architectural joy to the heart. 
the pace of life is measured, even to the point that the local disco hasn't reached beyond the 80's in its musical choice.  for those of such a mind, it is a haven of welcome r&r.
because the summer sun is relentless, flora is limited.  where it is to be found in the periodic park, however, it is treated with tenderness and reverence and well worth visiting.  for those who find it impossible to pass by small tracks which ascend (and cascais is hilly) you may even be fortunate enough to stumble on little wild cat colonies.  i say wild in that they scatter on your approach, but not so wild in that they allow caring neighbours to leave trays of food for their well-being.
one feature of cascais is the magical seminary and church of st anthony.  while the church is small and simple it has magnificent carvings, paintings and tiling  upon which to feast the eye.  i can vouch for this, following an unexpectedly prolonged visit.  in times of great heat it makes sense for the human animal to find shelter and none more so than around mid-day.  as it happened i was on the doorsteps of st anthony around this time and so was driven inside to find shelter and a seat.  to my amazement the church was filled to the gills with people of a similar mind.  as i sat happily whiling away the minutes i happened to notice some particularly frenzied criss crossing and genuflecting in front of the altar, followed by a gong or two and the arrival of five grandly attired men of the cloth.  as my fellow heat absconders clambered to their feet the realisation dawned that today is sunday and i'd absent mindedly wandered into mid-day mass.  well, there then followed an hour of ritual all either spoken or sung wihout reference to prayer or hymn book by either cleric or congregation alike.  in the absence of an organ, a sole guitar and wonderful acoustics prompted singers into full throat.  the pull of mass was strong, but then the fact that only the clergy get to glug the wine and my attire had borne the brunt of a week at sea it seemed wiser to retain my low profile rather than risk being booted back whence i came.  had it been so, no doubt i would have met for a second time the artful, if ageless gypsy who was also in the business of collecting alms, albeit on the doorstep rather than the inner sanctum. i'm not sure who made out better, but as the church didn't speak in tongues and so an hour's monologue flew completely over my head, the gypsy got my vote.     
the food on offer is delightful, it being a little more simple and less varied than next door (spain) where just about everything get served up and in 50 different ways. for those accustomed to a more bland menu it is possibly the better of the two.
well dear reader, if you have made it this far it's maybe time for a nap 'cos that's where i'm heading.