Beira Litoral

Coastline. Xávega art. River Valley. Mountain range. Schist Villages.

The extensive sands accompany a large part of the coast of Beira Litoral. Bathed by the Atlantic, the seaside resorts of this region spread over the districts of Aveiro and Coimbra, dominate the list of the most intrepid holidaymakers, or were it not for their mostly cold waters. The same can be said for surf lovers. Fearless, they throw themselves into the icy waves of the beaches of the famous Silver Coast, whenever the scenery is right. The beaches of Barra, Costa Nova, Mira, Tocha, Quiaios, Figueira da Foz, São Pedro de Moel, Peniche, Nazaré and Supertubos are invariable names in the lexicon of these adventurers.

But let's start the itinerary on a fleeting train journey, with our eyes set on Praia de Espinho, located to the north of the district of Aveiro, where its houses “welcome” Art Nouveau. Then, Costa Nova, with its haystacks dominated by the colourful ones, in the municipality of Ílhavo, port of bacalhoeiros and the epicentre of Algaplus, a project developed in 2012 by Helena Abre and Rui Pereira, focused on the cultivation of native algae from the Atlantic and the maternity destined for grass kelp.

Let's enjoy the Dunas de São Jacinto Nature Reserve, a true sanctuary of fauna and flora between the Atlantic and the Ria de Aveiro. This long cove runs through the city that lends it its name, an open-air museum, also characterized by Art Nouveau. Here, the moliceiro boat invites you to take a serene stroll through its waters and the pastry shops are filled with egg jams, Aveiro tripes, cartridges, and the sponge cake from Ovar, the Águeda pastries or the Turks from Albergaria-a-Velha. Take the opportunity to look at Vagoleite, Pedro Simão's milk farm, located in Lombomeão, in Vagos.

Further south, the beaches of Mira and Tocha, this one in the municipality of Cantanhede, converge with the past of the coastal population, also with their haystacks. Let's set foot in Ançã, to discover the old-fashioned party and wedding cake, which was given the name of this parish, stop in Tentúgal, to taste the pastries and cheesecakes with the same name, and explore Penacova, almost next door, to take a ride on the mountain barge Mondego above and eat the snowfalls of Penacova. Further on, with the Serra do Açor as a backdrop, there is the Historic Village of Piódão, in the municipality of Arganil.

Back to the sea. A stage opens to Xávega art, the tradition extolled by the skill of handling the nets, by the fishing communities of Aveiro and Coimbra, is maintained. Here, fish is a highly digested raw material and variety reigns supreme in the recipes along the coast of this region. The fish soup, the eel stew, the fried eels with marinated sauce, the pitau ray are some of the dishes that prove the timeless compilations of regional recipes.

Let's travel to the municipality of Mealhada, where roasted suckling pig is an emblematic dish, to walk through the leafy forest of Serra do Buçaco and its national forest, and explore the thermal spas of Curia and Luso, with their therapeutic waters and architecture built under the trace of the Belle Époque. Let's end this tour with Morgado do Bussaco and the loves of Curia, the sweet duo created during the first half of the 20th century. And here is the heart of Bairrada, land of the culture of vines and wine.

Let's go to Figueira da Foz, to talk to Jorge and Vítor Norinho, representatives of Irmãos Norinho, whose activity focuses on the sale of eels. Montemor-o-Velho, with its castle, is the next stop. Let's meet Vitor Martinho, the producer of Arroz da Ereira, the small village flanked by and the rice fields of Baixo Mondego, and Carlos Plácido, who, at his Quinta do Matoutinho, in Santo Varão, dedicated to raising cattle of the marine breed.

Next stop: Coimbra. The Portuguese Athens is bathed by the Mondego River, with its Porta de Barbacã and the Torre de Almedina. Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2013, Rua da Sofia, Alta and the University of Coimbra bring together monasteries and convents, which gave rise to two handfuls of sweets, such as the Santa Clara pastries, the nun's belly, the white manjar or the high cavacas from Coimbra.

The almost neighbouring Vila Nova de Poiares deserves a visit, for the preservation of the black clay caçoilo, where the chanfana made of an old goat is roasted. The same recipe is maintained in Miranda do Corvo, a municipality located a few kilometres from Condeixa-a-Nova, which has its goat and its escarpiada tradition at the table.

The time has come to discover 13 of the 24 Schist Villages, beautified by the enigmatic landscapes and the mists of the evenings and mornings, and to stroll through Lousã, with its trails, its fauna and flora, its river beaches and waterfalls, and heather honey, so common in these parts.

Let's go back to the coast, for another swim and, who knows, to resume this route more slowly.