Lagos & Lisbon, Portugal

Stepping off the plane in Faro, Portugal we were greeted by a wave of hot, sea air and we knew we were now “on holiday”.

We’re loving our trip so far but the reality is starting to kick in…traveling can be tiring. We were pretty exhausted, looking forward to spending days lounging poolside and having time to work on the travel plans. I know you’re thinking “are you kidding me? These guys are on a permanent holiday for a year, what do they know about being tired?!”, but honestly, it takes a lot of energy (mentally) to plan and budget and to be continually asking each other “have we got everything? Did we book that place to stay tomorrow? What visa do we need for the next country?”. That said, we know we’re on the trip of a lifetime so we wouldn’t have it any other way!

In Lagos, we were staying at the Tiny Whale Surf Lodge, 5 kilometres out of town on the Algarve Coast and a little gem of a hideaway. Anyone looking for a relaxed getaway in the Portuguese country, as oppose to a resort or hotel, we highly recommend this spot. Set high on the hills behind Lagos, there’s nothing but farmland and small local villages surrounding you. It’s very peaceful.

The Tiny Whale had everything we needed (apart from water and electricity one night but that was OK as it was an open bar until it was fixed, which wasn’t until 9am the next morning!) – swimming pool, yoga classes, surf lessons, free breakfast and a good mix of fellow travellers. We met people from England, Wales, Canada, America, Austria and of course, Germany and Australia. Those guys get everywhere.

Most of the workers at the lodge were either English or Irish. They have a sweet set up; teaching surfing in the summer and in colder climates, heading to the alps to teach snow boarding. If that’s not an ideal life, what is?

We signed up for surf lessons and were driven to Praia Da Bordeira, a large, white sandy beach on the west coast, where I spent the day in the smaller waves and managed to stand up, finally! Tim was out the back in the advanced group but had more of a paddling endurance session than a surf session. There was a very strong offshore wind so the conditions weren’t in his favour. For the learners, the white water was surf-able.

We rented a moped one day from Lagos and drove out along the ocean road towards Sagres. This was our favourite day in the Algarve as we had the freedom to explore at our own leisure, hopping off when we found a beach we liked for a quick swim. No need for the leathers in Europe when you’re riding a motorcycle, we were hot enough in our shorts and t-shirts.

That night we ate the best dinner in Lagos at ‘Os Lambertos’. It was incredibly good for the price. Tim ordered the veal steak and was plated the entire animal (sorry vegetarians) and I ordered the sea bass which was equally enormous. Each plate came with two sides, plus we had bread and olives to start and beer. We feasted like royalty that night. All for a meagre 30 euro!

Yoga classes with Miri were great. In a secret garden area around the back of the lodge, Miri runs a morning and afternoon yoga class to soothe those aching surfer bodies. She’s a great teacher  and has some interesting stories to share, having grown up in Kuwait, lived in Brazil, studied in England and now living and teaching in Portugal. Pretty cool!

By the end of the week we were in Lisbon. We love this city. It’s lively, arty, scenic, clean, not overcrowded and the people are so friendly. There was nothing not to like about it.

We were staying in the Alfama district, the oldest part of the city and a delightful maze of narrow streets which you get lost in instantly. This area used to house the red light district back in the 18th Century but when the Great Earthquake hit Lisbon in 1755, all of the city was destroyed apart from Alfama, which sat undisturbed, high on the hill. A lot of Portuguese back then questioned the existence of God as they wondered “why did he save all the prostitutes and criminals and not us godly folk”?

We learnt that fun fact on our walking tour of Lisbon with Sandemans and our tour guide Jorge, who you can read more about on our favourite face of the week. It was a fantastic tour and a great way to get our bearings of the city.

On our last day in Lisbon we spent the morning at a huge flea market in Alfama.

Anyone that knows me, knows I love a good car boot sale and this was a car boot on steroids! People were selling everything from old phones, laptops and watches, to hand painted pottery, to books and records and interestingly, a collection of Duracell bunnies. Some sellers had thousands of items, some had three. You had to question where those sellers of three items got their goods…

As tempting as it was to buy a lot of other peoples junk, we don’t have room in the backpacks so instead, headed to the beach at Costa De Caparica.

We spent an hour in the sea, trying to catch some waves but the conditions were light. Oh well, it was a enjoyable end to a fantastic few days in Lisbon.

Just as we’d hoped, we felt very relaxed after Portugal, probably because the people are so relaxed…and happy. Everyone seems very content and peaceful, whether it’s their slow ambling along the cobbled streets, or spending their mornings leaning over their balconies, watching the goings on below, or gathering to hear and share the neighbourhood gossip around the lottery kiosks (quiosques de refrescos) on every street corner. A final fun fact, also learnt from Jorge: these kiosks are used to be the heart of public life in the city but were closed down during the long dictatorship of Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar. When the dictatorship ended in 1974, the kiosks were the first things to be reestablished in the city as it symbolised a return to old Portugal and the ability to have freedom of speech and movement; being able to gather publicly with your neighbours, converse and buy your lottery tickets.

We wish we could have stayed longer but it was back to the airport to board the next flight.


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