SALEMA: Tucked away where a dirt road hits the beach between Lagos and Cape Sagres on Portugal's southwestern coast, Salema is an easy 25-KM. bus ride or hitch from the closest train station in Lagos. Friendly local smiles will assure you that this is the place to be. Salema has a split personality. Half is a whitewashed old town of scruffy dogs, wide-eyed kids, and fishermen who have seen it all. The other half was built for tourists. The parking lot that separates the jogging shorts from the black shawls becomes a morning market with the horn-tooting arrival of flat-bed trucks selling clothing, fruit, veggies, and fish. The two worlds pursue a policy of peaceful coexistence. Tourists laze in the sun while locals grab the shade. Tractors pull in and push out the fishing boats, young children toddle in the waves, topless women catching a tan, and old fishermen do mend the nets.

Fishing is important, but Salema's tourist-based economy sits on a foundation of sand. Locals hope and pray that their sandy beach returns after being washed away each winter. Salema's sleepy beauty will kidnap your momentum. Grab a table at a beachside restaurant for dinner. Nearby, a dark, withered granny shells almonds with a railroad spike, and dogs roam the beach like they own it. As the sun sets, a man catches short fish with a long pole. Behind him is Cape Sagres, the edge of the world 5 centuries ago. As far as the gang sipping wine and piling olive pits in the beachside bar is concerned, it still is.

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