What: A weekend in French Castles Where: Loire Valley, France…
What: Alentejo coast and Comporta
I must admit that last summer I was a bit limited in my enthusiasm for my favourite island Ibiza. Apart from the ever-increasing party tourism, the island has developed into a high-priced, overcrowded in-spot. Tables in the restaurant must be ordered weeks in advance. Hotel rooms during the season often cost 500 Euros and more per night. The beaches are full and the streets are congested. Equipped with tips from my Dusseldorf friend Guido, I went to Portugal instead of the Balearic Islands. More precisely to the Alentejo coast, a good hour’s drive south of Lisbon.
First realization: They still exist, the – almost – undiscovered landscapes. Fine sandy, deserted beaches, unspoilt nature. A 60 (!) kilometre stretch of coast that was previously privately owned by Portugal’s largest banking family, Espirito Santo, and since its insolvency a few years ago has been developed gradually and under considerable environmental conditions. Whoever comes to Comporta expects NOTHING. Except pure nature. Hip nightlife, natty restaurants, glamorous luxury boutiques or award-winning seven-star hotels can’t be found in Comporta and its surroundings. Here the motto is: ociosidade relaxada – sweet and relaxed idleness. This special kind of seclusion has attracted some celebrities to the area. The painter Anselm Kiefer, shoe designer Christian Louboutin, the Cinzano family, Princess Caroline von Hannover have their latifundia in or at Comporta. Since it is known that pop star Madonna has an eye on the area, others are taking a closer look as well.
These include investors who have quickly recognized the potential of Comporta and now commercialise it as the Hamptons of Europe. I don’t think the comparison is appropriate. Neither a million-dollar villa is lined up along the coast – it is not allowed to build here within a kilometre of the waterline. Still one gives something on other status symbols in Comporta. The pine forests and sandy soils remind me, as a North German, in their barrenness, rather of the North Sea island of Sylt. Passing cork oak groves, the journey from Lisbon to Comporta leads along endless rice fields in which the sky reflects and gives the impression that the rice is growing in the clouds.
At Praia do Pega in Carvahal I walk in the soft, white sand into infinity, accompanied by the surf of the Atlantic Ocean, until a wave washes me into the restaurant Sal, one of only three beach restaurants in the area. In flip flops and windbreakers you are by no means underdressed here. On the contrary. The other lunch guests don’t care. And the freshly caught sole, which is served here with lemon and delicious olive oil, certainly not at all. I sit with a fantastic view of the sea and in the midst of many French people, whole clans with whom Comporta has enjoyed great popularity since its opening. The atmosphere is relaxed, the service is especially nice, the food is great. So are the prices. In the otherwise rather inexpensive Portugal some restaurants as well as the only hotel near Comporta, the Sublime – a chic boutique hotel in the Cabana style – have already arrived in the upper segment.
But it still exists, this originality, where the village elders sit on the market square and sip their coffees, only observed by the many storks nesting here on roofs and chimneys. In the neighbouring village of Carvahal the espresso is still available for less than one euro and in the small restaurants you don’t pay more than five or six euros for a meal. You communicate with the older villagers with a smile and sign language – if you don’t speak Portuguese. But tourism is on the rise. In Café Eucaylptus Pastelaria, where the French interior icon Jacques Grange also likes to stop by for an espresso, I watch the landlady’s granddaughter. She counts the change in perfect English on the counter. The signs in Comporta are pointing to change. Hurry, before it happens. BvH
How to get to Comporta
An hour’s drive from Lisbon to Comporta. Tip: Take the ferry from Setubal to Troia. This saves time and is also a wonderful experience. Then take the N253-1 towards Comporta.
More tips for Comporta
Breakfast: Colmo Bar in Comporta
More MyStylery travel tips you can find here.