Clinging to the side of a hill, far from the bright lights of Lagos, is the small fishing village of Burgau.
White houses with blue trim are layered down the hill along the crooked narrow streets like a crazy baker’s wedding cake, colorful wood boats lie in rows on the beach. Piles of crab traps and octopus pots tucked away in a corner. The crescent moon shaped beach comes and goes at the whim of the tides. Ideal for the village fishermen as the sea lifts the boats gently off the sand, with little effort they climb aboard and cast off.
One beautiful November day, the citizen and I grabbed our bus passes* for a day trip to Burgau. It has been a long summer for my hard working busker; time to relax with a good meal and a nice bottle of wine. Forty-five scenic minutes later, the number four bus dropped us at the top of the village. I was charmed, it had all the small Portugal village things I love best; the clump of old men gossiping on the corner, window boxes filled with flowers. Fruit sat in crates and a rack of postcards in front of a little market.
The ocean was gorgeous that day, so calm that when it met the horizon I could see a dark blue stripe. It was as if nature’s felt tip marker wanted to make certain I knew where the sky started and the sea ended. We watched two men in a small dingy make their way out to a fishing boat. Empty benches lined the seafront. Empty benches, empty beach and except for the locals, empty village.
The closed cafés on the charming streets, the beach bar I heard was fabulous, uh, shuttered tight. Maybe it was naptime in town or we came in the wrong month.
We saw a café, a fabulous view, a menu posted and umbrellas unfurled. The umbrellas may have been open but the kitchen was closed. They would serve us olives, but bread and cheese, tough luck. Two blocks down, a restaurant with waiters standing ready. No, in a couple of hours, they would open. No, you can’t have olives, cheese, bread or wine; they just stood there and just looked open.
I suggest the cute little market to pick up a picnic. The citizen politely asked in Portuguese where the wine was. The owner rapidly fires out (in Portuguese of course) “YOU THINK YOU SPEAK PORTUGESE, YOU CAN’T SPEAK PORTUGESE!” He had bottled olives, processed bread and cheese, gas station food, rude gas station food. Our Euros weren’t going anywhere near that guy. The only fishing going on in Burgau now is for Euros and fishing season was definitely over. Hungry and longing for Lagos, we wander toward the beach. The bus would come, eventually.
“A Prateleria” is a little wood café sitting just above the sand. We saw mellow looking people and three dogs relaxing, enjoying the day. Fingers crossed, we asked if they had anything to eat, YES! Moments later, we gratefully settled in, glasses of white wine filled to the brim. Fresh oregano, onion and cheese sandwiches were on the grill.
No problem, they had the food and happily made it. A small piece of Nirvana disguised as a beach bar, I almost wanted a later bus. Smiling people and friendly dogs, food served with a side of fun.
Go back to Burgau? A place with a beach that disappears at high tide? What kind of beach day is that? “Hurry up, we only have half and hour of beach time, the tide’s coming in! Quick, into the café and spend money before we all drown!” A great beach is Praia do Porto de Mós, it has cliffs, tide pools, (and has the gay beach if you walk far enough) a good café is open all year. I can walk to Praia da Batata, it’s right in Lagos and Condé Nast Spain called our Praia Dona Ana “ the most beautiful beach in the world”. Meia Praia is four kilometers long; you can go by foot, ferry, bicycle, car, bus or train. Those beaches stay put at high tide.
Thank you “A Prateleria” for saving my birthday. Now, whenever I ride the number four bus, the last stop is Praia da Luz.
* WAVE, Urban Transport in Lagos, was ranked third in the “Accessibility to Transportation Award,” a national initiative organized by the Institute for Mobility and Land Transport (DMV). For information to bus routes go to: