Cape Saint Vincent (Cabo de Sao Vicente) in Portugal is the precipitous and spectacular tip of southwestern Europe. Henry the Navigator established his famous nautical training school here and so began the age of Portuguese exploration, which resulted, as we all know, in the Rio Olympics.
Cape Saint Vincent: a watchtower
The Cape has history – lots of it. For the Greeks and Romans, it was literally the end of the world, the place where the sun went down into the sea. Neolithic peoples erected standing stones on the site. Who knows what rituals and mysteries were enacted here all those thousands of years ago. A number of famous sea battles were fought near the Cape too, including one involving Horatio Nelson. And Francis Drake plundered the place 200 years before that.
The Fortress: the one remaining wall
Most of the buildings here are modern, or nearly so. For a place with such great significance, there’s not much here to attract regular tourists though. The great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 destroyed pretty well everything. For birders, it’s a wonderful place to watch migrating raptors when they cross from Africa to Europe. We missed this by a few days, I think. Some Black Redstarts are here though, some to nest on the rocky slopes and others moving off in their turn to northern Europe.
The Jackdaws are here too, a pair building a nest somewhere below the rim. I like these mini-crows with their grey heads. Anyone who has watched an English mystery on television, or a Scandinavian one for that matter, will recognize their calls. When we hear the Jackdaws during the opening titles, we know darn well that somebody has been murdered and that the likeable detective with personal problems will soon arrive on the scene.
Jackdaws on the edge
It’s been bright and sunny at the Cape though windy, and surfers are already in the sheltered bays 300 feet below us. They’ve got more nerve than I have. We search the skies for raptors but the wind is from the northwest and certainly not favourable for migrating birds. In any case, we see exactly none. Luckily, a shop that sells those delicious Portuguese custard tarts is not far off. My mother made two kinds of pies from scratch – jam pie and custard pie. I’m not sure how they got her custard pie recipe here in Portugal.