Torres Vedras: at the forefront of European struggle
The West Portugal, the region at north to Lisbon, has an intense light, a mild climate and offers a unique opportunity to experience the sea and the countryside, the rustic and the contemporary. An city example of this area is Torres Vedras. Areias do Seixo, a magical place in a magical setting where anyone can experience originality, sublime comfort and an inerrable sense of style that seamlessly blends in with the natural surroundings of the land, the sea and the shore, is located near to Torres Vedras and it is also situated on this rugged coastal region of northern Lisbon which plays three roles, each of them well: respected wine region, aquatic playground and historic stronghold.
Torres Vedras is a pleasant if fairly nondescript town, though for a short period during the Peninsular War against the French it was at the forefront of a desperate European struggle. Back in the early 19th century, the Duke of Wellington used this seaside city as a pawn in his martial chess-game with the French. At Wellington’s command, clusters of fortresses, the Lines of Torres Vedras bristled along the coastline, repelling the would-be invaders.
The three Lines of the Torres Vedras covered a total distance of some 100km. The mind behind them was Wellington’s, who feared Napoleon’s plans for General Masséna to attack Lisbon, and the management was in the hands of the British. The labour force however was Portuguese and construction was completed in minimum time (1809-1810) and with almost total secrecy. As a defence, the Lines were entirely successful, but were left abandoned for almost 200 years.
There’s little evidence of this drama on display in the modern town, bar some surviving fortress ruins nearby. Still, there’s a pleasant kernel of cobbled lanes in the centre, at its best around the central Praça 25 de Abril, where an obelisk commemorates the battles. The village and the county grew, becoming a tourist destination, especially from the early twentieth century. Since then, many elect Torres Vedras as a destination, either in search of spa or the beach of Santa Cruz. Today, Torres Vedras is a far more peaceful proposition. Where Wellington trod, the surfers followed, bringing their boards to the glittering beaches, and revelling in the sandy seclusion. The landscape is a visual tapestry: green-gold vineyards, shimmering turquoise coves, golden sand dunes, windmill-topped hills and crumbling castles. You could come here for the region’s ruby-red and sparkly white wines alone, like the landscapes, they’re intoxicating.