Horses, Dolphins, and Fish (November 28, 2019)

Happy Thanksgiving!

After helping ourselves to what we wanted from a huge breakfast spread laid out just for the six of us, we jumped in the van for the short ride to a seaside stable. We were surprised to pass rice fields but not surprised to pass vineyards. Resident storks were feasting in the rice fields but had no interest in the vines.

No one admitted it ahead of time, but as we were being assigned a horse and figuring out how to mount we slowly started tossing out casual comments about how nervous we were since none of us are riders and the horses had English (no horns) saddles. Come to find out we all had a case of why-didn’t-I-speak-up-earlier? Before anyone managed to chickened out, however, we were saddled up, had our stirrups adjusted, were coached on how to communicate with our trusty steeds, and were blazing a trail in a single file behind our Portuguese leader and his Arabian stallion. The horses were really good and did not give us any trouble, so we all relaxed after the first 15 minutes or so. Murphy and Matt took pictures and shot fun and funny videos, but I did not let go of the reins for a moment. Our route took us onto a deserted beach for part of the ride where we made the first tracks of the day on the damp sand. A magical experience and a luxury of traveling off season. The coastal scenery was beautiful and the weather cooperative. With the tiniest bit of assistance we all managed to get off our horses at the end of an enjoyable two-hour ride.

At almost every meal Josie has commented that so much food is offered it’s like one Thanksgiving dinner after the next. Today proved no exception. By the time we returned to the corral chicken was cooking on the wood-burning grill. Sausage and blood chorizo (delicious! I am shocked to say) were soon added followed by steak. All the while we sat in the shade of a pine tree enjoying cocktails and snacks. The sausage and chorizo were served first followed by the chicken, steak, salad, and the best beans and rice I have ever eaten. Fruit was offered for dessert. We felt like authentic drugstore cowfolk with enamelware, checkered cloth napkins, and wood-handled flatware. What tickled us the most were the enamelware espresso mini-mugs.

One of three communities of resident dolphins in all of Europe lives year round in the Sado Estuary south of Lisbon. Our second adventure of the day was a chilly, wet catamaran ride in the estuary in search of the small pod. We launched from Troia Marina. Our guide explained that the pod of a couple dozen is about half the size it was when the first dolphins were identified (by their unique dorsal fins) in 1981. The sad projection is that once dredging begins in support of future development in the area they will disappear altogether. We were hoping for some frisky Hollywood antics like flips, spins, and spirals, but once our 75-foot catamaran stopped near the pod we had to settle for graceful glides on the water’s surface with their fins dipping in and out. We watched for a half hour and then toured the estuary. Low gray cloud cover and a light mist added an air of mystery to the large estuary. On our way back to the dock we passed the secluded, stately,  five-story Palácio da Comenda mansion where Jackie Kennedy took refuge with her children after President Kennedy was assassinated.

Our last stop of the day was an old, colorful, anything-goes fishing dock on the Sado River. We were brave enough to walk out on the brand new, sturdy, zigzagging main walkway, but there was no way we were venturing out on the small walks leading off it;  they were narrow and looked so uneven, rickety, and unstable. Colorfully painted boats were tied up along them, however, so apparently some folks are brave enough to tippy toe out there. Sheds and storage areas were haphazardly placed, some unpainted and leaning and others whimsically painted in a hodgepodge of random colors. One was stripped, one said Summer of Love, one had the outline of a Gumby kind of guy in a top hat, and another one had a triangular hazard sign and two framed pictures hung near its red door. We watched the sunset from the cute (no doubt not what they were going for) dock and then headed back to the B&B for a delicious pork loin and sweet potato dinner.

… Trivia …

Scotland and Ireland are home to the other pods
of resident dolphins in Europe.

Palácio da Comenda was once a regal palace that hosted Portuguese
royalty and French aristocracy. It is now abandoned with parts in complete ruin, shattered windows, and graffiti everywhere.


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