This past week, I had two friends visiting me in Lisbon, one of whom spent time in Portugal in the 1980s. Back in New York, Christine always talked of a place called Peniche, a quiet harbor village that she had fond memories of. Through her stories, Peniche became a place of almost mythical proportions so I decided to organize a day trip for us to check out how it has changed since Christine’s stay two decades ago.
So we drove out of Lisbon, an hour and a half north, to see what came of Peniche and the peninsula it sits on. Upon approach, we saw unsightly resorts on the outskirts and quite an urban development on the peninsula itself. Christine seemed disillusioned at first, as we parked the car near the harbor and saw quite a number of tourists lining outside the seafront restaurants. But we decided to dig a little deeper looking for Christine’s old Peniche and found a town that, yes, developed into quite a destination in the last twenty years but still remains a charming place.
Meander away from the main strip and you’ll find a maze of narrow streets with a tranquil atmosphere and old men chatting on street benches. Drive out west to Cabo Carvoeiro, a rugged cape with rocky pinnacles, sea caves and an old monastery, and you’ll be treated to panoramic ocean views all the way to the islands of Berlengas across the way. After the wander, we enjoyed an outstanding seafood lunch on the harbor and managed to easily forget about the crowds, the ugly resorts, and the fact things do change. After all, their essence still remains. It was lovely to peer through the surface and see Peniche as Christine once saw it.