Yesterday was National Portugal Day – Dia de Portugal. The day is amed after Luis de Camoes who was one of the Portuguese language’s greatest poet. Comoes is often compared to the likes of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil and Dante. Camoes wrote Portugal’s national epic poem Os Lusiadas (The Lusiadas) that celebrated Portuguese history and achievements that mainly focussed on its 15th Century explorations which brought fame and fortune to the country. In particular the work celebrates the discovery of a sea route to India by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (1469–1524).
Due to Camoes’ birth date being unknown, the celebration of National Portuguese Day occurs on his death, 10 June 1580. We’re very fortunate to have celebrated this special day at the end of the world Sagres.
Steve and Charlie head out for a run this morning. Charlie is now running 5km and Steve is doing 8km. We have created our internationally traveling SRG (Start Running Group) here in Portugal! I stay back in our apartment in Lagos and start packing and doing a general tidy up of the apartment before our departure.
I haven’t stayed in many Airbnb places before (this stay in Lagos marks our third), so I’m not too sure how clean I have to leave the place. Part of the Airbnb deal is that users pay for accommodation as well as a cleaner to come in and tidy up for the next users. The philosophy of being good Airbnb tenants is to treat someone else’s house/apartment as their own. So I don’t get too particular with vacuuming or anything like that, and head upstairs with my lap top and jump back into bed to do some much overdue writing.
In the quiet of the morning, I notice the amazing place this apartment and location actually is while the door leading out to the bedroom balcony opens up to the gorgeous blue sky and the thunderous crashing sound of distant waves from the Sao Sebastiao beach. I take a moment to lie on the bed, a sort of meditative state and feeling an enormous amount of happiness, joy, and gratitude. What a life we lead.
Steve and Charlie return and we make breakfast, take showers and start packing the car. Within an hour we are backing the car out of the driveway and heading back along the coast to stop off at some random beaches along the southern coast and stop off and visit some of the towns.
1st Beach Stop: Salema
Salema is an old sleepy fishing village turned upbeat tourist destination and we climb up the hill to get a better look at it. The beach is a beauty – long and wide with plenty of white sand and turquoise water. On the other side of the hill are hundreds of apartments, with a couple of large cranes arching over a construction pits. We back track and head off the beaten road and get to see some of the countryside from a much slower pace than what we have been used to travelling on the 120km/h motorway.
2nd Beach Stop: Luz
We drive through a couple of other coastal towns until we arrive at Luz. Here there are streets of stark white apartments cascading down the gentle slope towards the beach with all bright colours of Bougainvillea creeping along the front fences or nicely established and shaped into private hedges. The sight is a captivating contrast against the whiteness of the buildings. We find a car departing their car parking space, so we’re quick to claim the spot. It costs 1.50 euros to park here, and an elderly man approaches Steve asking for payment and gives us a white ticket to display on the dashboard of the car.
We walk towards a cafe that has plenty of outdoor tables for diners under magnificent old trees that spread their shade far and wide. The temperature is climbing and it’s already in the mid-30s. It’s unbearable when there’s no breeze, but being closer to the ocean there’s always a refreshingly cool breeze to enjoy. We sit down and order lunch and afterwards take a wander to nearby shops. Charlie and Ash visit the local surf shop and we follow them inside. Surprisingly there are no young surf dudes at the counter but an elderly couple. We strike up a conversation with them and discover they’re meet a Welsh couple – Mike and Mrs Mike (I can’t recall Mike’s wife’s name) and they have been operating the local Luz surf shop for 31 years. It’s prime real estate on the beachfront and close to all the lovely cafes and tourist action. They share with us that in the beginning they were selling newspapers and Portuguese pottery but when the weight constraints and charges for excess luggage came in the pottery was no longer an attractive option for visitors. Somehow they changed their retail offering from newspapers and pottery to bikinis and board wax!
They’re such a friendly couple with a dry sense of Welsh humour especially after telling them we’re from Australia. Steve and Mike talk cricket, as Mike is a keen follower and mad about the sport.
I ask them if we can drive the car up to the look out on the very top of the hill overlooking the ocean and the township of Luz and they both shake their heads and reply, “no you have to walk that one.” After glancing down at our footwear, Mrs Mike informs me that I’m the only one prepared to do the walk, and then tells us it’s a walk she hasn’t done since first arriving into Luz 30 odd years ago.
After they ask how long we’re staying in Portugal, we say “we’re travelling for the entire year” they are more keen to know where we have been and where we’re going. Our next destination is Morocco and they too have visited Morocco but Mike says quietly on the side that Mrs Mike didn’t particularly like it, “but I’m sure you guys will. It’s certainly a different country and we needed a body guard bigger than your husband to get us through the souk (market) and out again.” The experience for them was one of being stifling hot and crowds of people everywhere in the souk. He seemed excited about the experience but not so much for Mrs Mike.
I realised after doing a Google search that Luz was the Portuguese resort town where 10 years ago Madeline McCann was snatched from her ground floor apartment. Many people will recall this horrific case, as it’s probably one of the world’s greatest unsolved and media covered missing person cases. I ask Mike and Mrs Mike that it must have been a sad time when it all happened here. They both agreed it was such a tragedy and added how crazy it was with the media coming in and wanting to take pictures and interview anyone and everyone.
We purchase two pairs of swimming goggles for Steve and Charlie as now these two are taking up swimming in the ocean as part of their fitness regime, we leave Mike and Mrs Mike feeling somewhat sad for a lost little girl who is still unfound.
We walk back to the car, and set the GPS TomTom to home. We’re Lisbon bound taking the A22 along the southern coast and then the A2 north and finally crossing over the Ponte de 25 Abril bridge in Lisbon’s peak hour traffic. As we drive along the motorway the temperature gauge of the hire car hits 40.5 degrees and the speedo clocks 885km for our round trip to Lagos and back.
Steve is up early to take the hire car back to Cascais and return via the train. It’s been very very hot here in Portugal recently and the hot conditions seems to be staying. Our Airbnb apartment is a little hot box without the coolness in the breeze.
After spending an extra day down south in the Algarve it was time for me to get some writing done and for the girls to get some school work complete. Since Charlie and Billie are ahead in their work, they accompanied Steve into Lisbon on the train as Steve needs to order a new pair of sunglasses after he lost his in the ocean in Lagos.
Unfortunately, Distance Education are having a two-day maintenance program on their website and portal so the girls cannot submit any work online today or tomorrow. And what makes this a little worse is that we’re leaving Thursday morning for the northern town of Porto via country train. Dacey has English and Maths off line (printed sheets) so she can complete that for the week, and due to it being so hot inside our apartment lately we head outside under the shade of the palm trees just outside our apartment block and she completes her English work sitting at the wooden beach seat. It’s much more pleasant out here, so I think we’ll do this more often when the temperatures soar to 40 degrees!
Then we hit Carcavelos Beach that afternoon along with everyone else in these extremely hot conditions.
Running and walking again on the beach. Charlie is now running for 50 minutes! She’s loving it too but says Steve talks too much on the runs. Charlie is happy to put one headphone in and chat a little bit but not as much as Steve! Afterwards we sit down at our favourite cafe along Carcavelos Beach and enjoy a cool water and Acai bowl.
Tonight is all about packing and getting organised for our three-day stay in Porto departing early tomorrow morning. Again we pack all our clothes and bits and bobs into the one red suitcase on wheels. It’s easier with just one piece of luggage especially travelling by public transport and it means the girls are limited in what they take along.
Steve has again done an amazing job researching which train stations we need to go to and by what time in order to make the country train to Porto.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday
We’re up early this morning – 5.30am to be exact and we get ready to make our country train trip up to Porto. It’s a 3-hour train journey from Lisbon to Porto so I have bought along a book I’ve been carrying around with me for such a long time – The Alchemist. I’ve started it many times before, but never finished it. So on this train journey I’m really looking forward to starting it again with a plan to complete it!
Steve walked into Billie and Dacey’s room to wake them up at 5.30am, but Dacey wasn’t in bed. She had set her own alarm and woke up at 5.10am so she could get up earlier to have some breakfast and not be in too much of a rush. Of dear, all I could think about was that she’s going to be one tired girl at the end of today!
There are quite a few train stations we need to get to and we also need to catch a variety of trains to get to the country train. It’s a touch on (but not off) metro system which we are trying to get used to. There are green cards for metro train travel but you can only load up for metro for metro lines and country for country lines. It gets a little confusing but thankfully Steve has it all worked out. By 6am we’re out the door and walking up the street to our local train station Carcavelos Station where we take the 6.15am train into Lisbon’s Casa de Sodre station. We arrive at 6.45am and then make our way to Santa Apolonia station where we get the Porto country rail at 7.30am. So far so good.
The sun is yet to rise, and the still and quiet suburban streets of Carcavelos makes for a pleasant walk up to the station. Since all the footpaths are made from square blocks of stone, they’re uneven and rough and the noise made by the suitcase’s wheels is excruciatingly loud. Steve moves over onto the road pulling the case behind him and the peacefulness is restored.
We are all relatively happy to be up this early (as could be expected from teenagers), and organised to go. Ash forgot her computer, and had to run back and get it, but overall we’ve got this down pat now. We are professional packers when it comes to weekend getaways with a family! Yesterday we purchased croissants from the supermarket for emergency hunger pains that are bound to come from the kids. This immediate need for food often occurs when traveling with our four children, so we’ve learnt to be prepared with something to pull out and nibble on as it’s not easy finding food that they like or want at railway stations for everyone all of the time.
We arrive at Porto’s Campanha country railway on time at 10.40am and we have arranged to meet our Airbnb host at the apartment so we can check in, leave the bags and get out and about exploring Porto.
We catch the Porto metro line to the magnificent Sao Bento Railway Station. It’s just like a museum with all the intricate historical stories tiled on the walls. We’re instantly gobsmacked. It’s beautiful already.
Steve calls Ana as we are on the Porto metro train from Sao Bento to Casa da Musica metro station where we get off and walk to the apartment. Google Maps once again assists us in finding our way from train station to apartment efficiently and without hassle. We walk down the street and meet Ana. She’s there and waiting for us! Perfect.
The Airbnb is a smaller apartment – realistically it’s two bedrooms, but a third created with a good quality pull out couch bed in the lounge room. It’s quaint and homely and has everything we need for a three-day stay. Ana is very helpful, giving us a map of Porto and suggesting some places to go and things to see. Before Ana and her partner leave, she tells us there is some Porto Wine for us to enjoy is we’d like.
Ana leaves telling us that if we need anything to just give her a call. So lovely. All of our Airbnb hosts have been amazingly friendly and super helpful. I love Airbnb over hotel rooms – I feel it gives us a much more authentic travelling experience.
The girls are happy to chill for the rest of the day, but little do they know that we are actually planning on exploring some part of Porto today. Steve and I relax and pour a small glass of the Porto wine that’s sitting on the wooden buffet of the lounge room near all the maps and things to do and see in Porto. For the next two hours we are all happily relaxing which is indeed the nicest thing to do right now for our tired minds and weary bodies.
If you would like to read about our three days in the northern town of Porto please read post titled Days 179-181 | Two: Parts of Portugal in Porto | 15-17 June 2017.