76 – Comporta, Portugal

Comporta is where the storks nest on the chimneys, we’re told. Actually, we see more storks on the way in, a few minutes outside town, when every pylon and lamppost is topped with an irregular bundle of sticks and a regal-looking bird. It’s quite amazing, seeing so many of these birds and their impressive nests at once. It’s the picturesque town that is known for the birds, but the collection of them either side of a major road by a gathering of functional buildings not big enough to be a hamlet, that feels most natural. And so, after a wander, we leave the town and head to the beach.

We’re closer to Lisbon here and the beach is much more developed to those we’ve seen here so far. There’s a fancy toilet block and a chichy restaurant, a huge crowded car park and wooden walkways that stretch along the back of the sand. Though we trudge for a while, there’s no getting away from the crowds here. Still, we find a free spot and settle down.

The sea is steely blue and the sand white and powdery and hot underfoot. A family of seven in front of us run in circles and e can hear them calling in English to each other. I put my sandals back on to walk to the sea, stepping past a rogue dog investigating someone’s picnic basket while his owner sunbathes unawares. The waves are still quite big, but they break in a fairly solid line and it’s easy to get past them and out to a swimmable depth. The water is as cold as I’ve become accustomed to here, but I soon feel comfortable and awake. The surface rises and falls as I kick and I rise and fall with it. It’s my last time in the Portuguese sea as we are catching our flight home in a few hours, and I try to drink it all in – the temperature, the colour, the sand, the families.

I get out and dry off and dress. Just as we’re about to leave, Liam points to the horizon, warning me not to make a fuss and attract everyone’s attention. A pod of dolphins are swimming by, no more than 100 metres out to sea. Their shiny backs rise and fall, fins up, as they surface, disappear, surface again. There are at least six of them, maybe more. Soon, the whole beach sees them and everyone is on their feet, pointing, talking excitedly, holding their phones up to capture the creatures. I can’t believe they are so close and so unbothered by the busy beach. It feels special, the perfect way to end our time in Portugal.

I’m raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Please sponsor me at http://www.justgiving.com/swimbonnieswim

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