I find myself in the seaside resort of Nazare or, to be more precise, parked perilously at the edge of a cliff 110m above the town. My main purpose is to visit the Church of Our Lady of Nazare and the memorial chapel nearby. They record the miracle which saved the life of a local lord in 1182 when his horse almost followed a deer over the edge of the cliff.
However, I end up down by the lighthouse, where huge waves are forming and then crashing against the rocks below. I’m mesmerised by the two surfers, aided by partners on jetskis, who are attempting to ride these massive waves. Eventually I tear myself away to visit the church, but as I walk back up to the village of Sitio, a Mercedes emblazoned with ‘North Canyon Project’ logos passes by and the occupant waves to me as if I should know him.
Intrigued, I do a little research and discover that the driver was Garrett McNamara, a famous American surfer who set a world record in January 2013 for riding a 100ft wave at Nazare. So it seems that even though I didn’t know him, he expected that I should. Fame is a funny thing!
The church is very calming, adorned with azelujo tiles and large paintings, including one which shows the stag leaping off the cliff and a rearing horse with rider, perched at the edge. Perhaps the surfers come here to pray and invoke the spirit of the Lady of Nazare to protect them while they battle the big waves. If that doesn’t work, there’s a handy hospital next door.