Portugal. It’s a destination I have wanted to make happen for quite a number of years. First plans to take steps on that soil were devised back when I was visiting my good friend Seraina in Switzerland over ten years ago. We had schemed. We had plotted. But alas, it wasn’t a trip meant for my Swiss Miss friend and I. Portugal as destination resurfaced a couple of months ago and it was to that blessed sun baked land where Jimmy and I found ourselves having a smashing good time.
The second I felt the dry heat hit my face when I left the aircraft, I thanked all the things that I believed in for making this trip happen. Thank God. Thank you to Jimmy for making it happen by acting on ideas, turning them into plans then adventure. Thank whatever string of events that took me there. Thank a fluctuating work schedule and a overly hectic last few months. I was happy. Although I have an affinity for Edinburgh (you dark, brooding beast of a city with your sturdy architecture and inspiring skylines) it was nice to vacate the darkening premises and seek some heat and sun.
Hello Peniche and Baleal, surf camp central. I had never gone to a surfers destination before.
I am happy to report that I did not die in my attempt to boogie board. Let me lay it down like this: The first time I saw the ocean was on a family trip to California when I was 8. The second time I saw the ocean was when I went to the east coast at the ripe old age of 22. When I moved to the UK ten years ago, the fact that I could see the sea so easily and frequently nearly made my head explode from the possibility. My trip to Portugal was perfect opportunity to not only step out into the ocean, but to try to swim around in it a bit. And perhaps flail about on a board and hope for the best. Attempting to upright myself on a broad spear of death (surfboard) was a bit too much for this midwestern girl, so instead I attempted the body board.
Jimmy developed a 3 step programme to help me to come to grips with the waves that, when viewed from the beach seem beautiful and calming, but when standing in the water watching them approach with force seem anything but peaceful. After a couple of days of swimming through waves and torpedoing through the water, I was ready to wet suit up and get on that board. I was taken down, spun around like I was trapped in a washing machine on super spin cycle, but every time I popped back up. I did have one good day of boogie boarding, happily being washed up on shore after riding moderately impressive waves. Go me. Go surf lingo. Unfortunately, the ‘swell’ was too ‘gnarly’ on my last day. I was battered around a bit then retreated. No shame in it. I’m still learning.
To aid in mobility, we rented for ourselves a groovy little scooter from Wildside Surf rentals. They were ace and you should go there for all your moped and surf gear needs. Oh, how that was a game changer for our time in Peniche. Instead of it just being time in Peniche, it was also time around the rocky coastline of the peninsula where Peniche is nestled, over to Baleal and its sandy causeway, on inland to the medieval town of Obidos, complete with castle, through forest and through village. It. Was. Ace.
Usually when going away on holiday, I try to think what I can take back with me when I return to normal life. I try to tune in more to the new surroundings, try to take in as much as a wee little tourist can, try to take in the weather of it, the colour of it, the flavours and the feel. The buildings were often painted in zinging lemony yellow shades, fresh greens, or decked out in tiling that seemed to be reminiscent of patterns from the 70s. Perhaps tiling your house was THE thing to do in the 70s there? I don’t really know.
I wouldn’t say that the food in Peniche was a culinary delight, however, I am using this space to give a shout out to a favourite seafood cafe, makers of fine seafood toasted sandwiches. Marisqueira-Bar-Grill was a provider of such sandwiches as well as a view of a family of dolphins swimming in the bay one fine day. Ferral (which leads on from Baleal) is home to a fine Italian restaurant Cantina. The MOST delightful discovery, however, was that of the pastelerias. They must be a local delight as well because those babies are everywhere. Baked goods to make you drool and so many choices that you will need weeks to attempt them all. I also befriended the espresso shot, which I may have had too many of and nearly caused myself a permanent twitch from too many caffeine highs.
Thanks to Jimmy’s brother, Alistair, for the heads up on Portugal’s surf capital of Baleal.
So here we are now, back in Scotland. I feel well rested and ready for the next string of challenges and adventures. Come on Edinburgh, let’s see what you’ve got.