Cliffs along Praia de Rocha

Portimao is along the southern coast of Portugal with a strip of beach along a background of beautiful cliffs.

It’s a quiet town relative to Lisbon and Porto but becomes extremely busy in the summer as a tourist destination and a point from where you can explore the Algarve.

For that reason there is a long strip of commercial enterprise above the beaches made up of touristy shops and restaurants.

Fortunately that area is balanced by the beaches and cliffs below.

On my second evening in Portimao, my friend and I had a delicious meal at Casa da Rocha with a view of the ocean at Sunset.

A view from the terrace of Casa da Rocha

A perfect setting for a relaxed end-of-summer meal on a balmy evening.

During one of my walks, this time to see the Vera Cruz, I came across this amazing piece of street art painted on the wall of an abandoned building.

A wonderful piece of street art in Portimao

The Vera Cruz is a replica of the caravels (caravelas) which were ships developed and used by Prince Henry, also known as Henry the Navigator, to explore the Atlantic Ocean and the coast of Africa in search of a spice trade route to India.

Monument to the Discoveries
The Monument to the Discoveries in Belem, Portugal showing Henry the Navigator at the helm with other people significant to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries

The caravelas were unique in design because their sail configurations and relatively light weight gave them the advantage of being able to sail against the wind, stay close to the coastline and being far faster than any other ship of its time.

Because of this design it enabled the Portuguese to be the first Europeans to cross the equator, round the Cape of Good Hope and get to India by sea. It also enabled them to reach South America, land in Australia 200 years before Captain Cook and be the first to trade with China and Japan. Two of the three ships under the command of Christopher Columbus on his in 1492 were caravels, the Niña and Pinta. (I bet you didn’t learn that in school my American friends 😉

The first caravelas were built in the docks of Lagos which is on the western side of the Algarve. Later, the ships departed from Belem where the statue to the first explorers resides. It was Belem where Vasco da Gama departed with a fleet of caravels in 1497 to successfully round the Cape of Good Hope.

The Santa Catarina de Ribamar Fort

The Fort of Santa Catarina was built to defend the peninsula from pirates, privateers and military invasions at the mouth of the Arade River in Portimao and stands out on the beach.

There are many treasures to see in the Algarve and this is just a small bit of the fascinating history of Portugal and Europe in general.

An interesting and recommended source of information that I discovered is on the US Library of Congress website. It’s filled with sources on Portugal, from its history to where it is now politically and economically.

Next stop, Faro.

Dora Taylor

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